Clint Black’s Emotional Reaction to Receiving ACM Honors: “I Can’t Help but Take it to Heart”

Country icon and prolific songwriter Clint Black was recently honored as the 2023 recipient of the Poet’s Award at the ACM Honors event (taped on August 23) –and it’s not hard to figure out why. Black has 13 No. 1 hits on Billboard‘s Hot Country Chart, which is made all the more impressive given that Black has written or co-written all of his songs.

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His authentic lyricism and powerful musicianship have made him an icon in the country space and revered among songwriters. Though Black has received many awards throughout his lauded career, he says the ACM was particularly moving.

“I’ve never craved awards,” Black tells American Songwriter. “What I love most about this award is that people I either don’t know or don’t know well, decided, ‘That guy gets it.’ [These] are people who aren’t attached to me in the business, who want to honor me that way.

“I can’t help but take it to heart,” he adds. “I’m always careful about what I let my ego do, but that one got me. It really got me feeling like I’ve done good work.”

[RELATED: Exclusive: ACM Songwriter of the Year Ashley Gorley Calls Music a “Magical Thing”]

During the ceremony, Black was honored by Lady A who sang a stunning rendition of “A Bad Goodbye.” It’s not a song Black plays live often. The choice was “a great surprise” for him.

“My manager did a really good job of keeping me in the dark,” he continues. “I’m glad he did. It was a great surprise. I love them and they did a fantastic job. It’s a song I don’t do on tour, so it was nice to hear their rendition. It choked me up.”

The Poet’s Award going to Black is apt in many ways. Particularly so, given that he first fell in love with poetry before he added any musical elements to it. In high school, Black was a “terrible student” enrolled in a drama class, and given the task to recite a poem to the class.

“I fell in love with poetry,” Black says. “I loved the rhythm of it. I’d been exposed to it through songs I listened to, but seeing it on paper had a different kind of impact on me than listening to songs did.”

Black read off the poem during his acceptance speech at the ACM Honors, creating a full circle moment.

It would be a little while later that Black would think to add a melody to his poems. At 15, he wrote a song he self-described as “total crap.” Even after honing his skills further, he called his songwriting “accidental” and claimed it took a while for it to develop into a craft. The turning point for Black came via a Reba interview.

“She was talking about how many songs she listens to to find 10 and the number was about 1000,” Black explains. “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to be in that position, I’d rather write them.’ I knew if I didn’t keep up, I was going to be listening to hundreds of other people’s songs trying to put together an album.

“I really went to work trying to make it a craft,” he continues.

The ACM Honors will air on Fox on Sept. 18. Other award recipients throughout the night include Ashley Gorley, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and K.T. Oslin. Find 7 of our top moments from the ACM Honors, HERE.

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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