Keith Urban, Tyler Hubbard & More Honor Jon Nite as Songwriter of the Year at SESAC Awards

When Jon Nite took the stage at the 2023 SESAC Awards at the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday (November 5) to accept the award for Songwriter of the Year, he had an important message for young writers: keep writing. The hit songwriter—who’s also behind such hits as “Strip it Down” and “What She Wants Tonight” by Luke Bryan, “We Were Us” by Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert, and “Beachin’” by Jake Owen—was honored with a video tribute featuring some of his all-star collaborators Urban, Dierks Bentley, Tyler Hubbard, and Gabby Barrett.

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His family also appeared in the celebratory video, including daughter Ashley Nite, who followed his footsteps into the music industry as head of A&R at Eastside Avenue Publishing, who praised him as, “My favorite songwriter, my mentor, the man who taught me everything about life.” 

“You’re just such a great songwriter and such a humble, great guy,” affirmed Bentley of the man who helped write his hits “Living” and “Tip it On Back.” “I respect you so much,” raved Barrett of Nite, who helped her write her massive debut No. 1 single, “I Hope,” along with recent single “Pick Me Up.” “I thank you for everything you’ve done for me and for so many other people. Thank you for being an inspiration to myself and so many other songwriters in Nashville,” said Hubbard, who co-wrote his most recent hit “Dancin’ in the Country” with Nite, Urban, and Ross Copperman.

[RELATED: Songwriter Insider: Sitting Down With Jon Nite]

When accepting the award, Nite opened with a story about how his wife taught him how to two-step when they met as 16-year-olds, a memory that inspired “Dancin’ in the Country.” “It sounds like we made it up, but that’s really what happened,” he shared of when they were parked on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere in Texas, those little details shaping the song that Hubbard took to the top of the country charts.

“I don’t deserve this,” Nite said with humility. “All of my co-writers are amazing, all these artists up here, it’s unbelievable.” He recalled how he moved to Nashville in 1998 with only $500 in his pocket and wrote at least a thousand songs before he got his first cut. But it was writing those thousand songs that taught him that the key to the best songwriting is telling the truth.

“Now I’m here,” he reflected. “Just keep writing the songs that are a part of your life because that’s what I’ve been doing and those are the only ones that ever work.” He then advised aspiring songwriters to “be true to yourself” and keep “writing truth” while maintaining faith that it is possible to have success as a songwriter.

“It just feels like it’s never gonna happen because it takes forever,” he acknowledged. “Everybody loves music and it’s an amazing opportunity just to be able to get up and do this every day. We get to do this crazy thing we would do for free and SESAC’s up here paying us money to do the thing we love the most in the world,” he cheered. “It’s unbelievable.” 

Thank God” by Kane Brown and his wife Katelyn was named Song of the Year. Fellow honoree Megan Moroney opened the show with a stripped-down performance of her breakout hit “Tennessee Orange,” while Jamey Johnson‘s distinct voice filled the room on a stunning cover of the gospel standard “I’ll Fly Away” in honor of its writer, Albert E. Brumley, who received the SESAC Heritage Award. Rising star Dillon Carmichael also got to shine with a performance of his sentimental hit “Son of A.

See the full list of 2023 SESAC Awards Honorees:


Written by: Josh Hoge, Christian Stalnecker

Published by: Blunts and Bonfires Music, Feels Like Friday, Sony Music Publishing, Chorus 2 Music, RMM 416 Publishing

Recorded by: Kane Brown and Katelyn Brown


Written by: Jon Nite 

Published by: Cuts Like A Nite Music, Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Tyler Hubbard 


Written by: Megan Moroney

Published by: Georgiamo, Sony Music Publishing 

Recorded by: Megan Moroney 


Written by: Justin Ebach

Published by: Phat Racoon, Universal Tunes

Recorded by: Jon Pardi 


Written by: Jon Nite

Published by: Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Brett Young


Written by: Jon Nite

Published by: Cuts Like A Nite Music, Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Gabby Barrett 


Written by: Casey Brown

Published by: Track & Feels, Warner Chappell Music, Tape Room Tunes

Recorded by: Parmalee


Written by: Chris LaCorte

Published by: Card Tables Music, Hang Your Hat Hits, Concord Tunes

Recorded by: Sam Hunt 


Written by: Josh Hoge

Published by: Blunts and Bonfires Music, Chorus 2 Music, Sony Music Nashville 

Recorded by: Kane Brown


Written by: Ben Simonetti, Zac Brown 

Published by: Simonetti Music Publishing, Day For The Dead Publishing

Recorded by: Zac Brown Band


Written by: Josh Jenkins, Pete Good

Published by: Follow Me Where I Go, SMACKWORKS Music

Recorded by: Walker Hayes


Written by: Dillon Carmichael 

Published by: Riser House Tunes, Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Dillon Carmichael 


Written by: Jared Keim

Published by: Twelve6 Sequoia, Warner Chappell Music 

Recorded by: Dustin Lynch 


Written by: Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey

Published by: Peach Pit, Fisheye, RMM 416 Publishing, Good Songs We Love

Recorded by: Margo Price 


Written by: Jim Lauderdale

Published by: Wudang Mountain Songs, Critter City Music

Recorded by: Jim Lauderdale


Written by: Kelsey Waldon

Published by: MyKaintuck Publishing, Do Write Music

Recorded by: Kelsey Waldon


Written by: Ed Jurdi

Published by: Three Pisces Music

Recorded by: The Band of Heathens


Written by: Henry Brill

Published by: Kobalt Group Publishing 

Recorded by: Devon Gilfillian 

Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for SESAC

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