Lainey Wilson, Kenny Chesney Pay Tribute to BMI Icon Matraca Berg

Matraca Berg’s indelible impact on the songwriting community was celebrated on Tuesday (November 7) during the 2023 BMI Country Awards in Nashville. Berg, who was presented the BMI Icon Award at the ceremony, was honored through standout renditions of her hits performed by Lainey Wilson, Ashley McBryde, Kenny Chesney, and Grace Potter.

Videos by American Songwriter

A video message that featured Berg’s co-writers, producers, and publishers highlighted her prowess as a songwriter. “I cannot express how grateful I am that Matraca and Gary Harrison wrote my story,” Deana Carter said of “Strawberry Wine,” a two-week No. 1 for the singer in 1996. “Matraca is the master of being able to put our experiences into timeless words.”

[RELATED: Red Carpet Ready—Songwriters Lainey Wilson, Luke Combs Show Off Red Carpet Looks at BMI Awards]

Wilson then took the stage for a memorable cover of the song. Later, Ashley McBryde covered another song penned by the BMI Icon—Trisha Yearwood’s “Wrong Side of Memphis.” 

“I can’t imagine my career without songs like ‘Wrong Side of Memphis’ and ‘X’s and O’s’ and countless other songs that I recorded,” Trisha Yearwood said. McBryde agreed. After her standout rendition of “Wrong Side of Memphis,” McBryde thanked Berg for her songs.

“When I first decided to move to Nashville, a very good friend of mine said, ‘I’d like to send you off with my most prized possession.’ It was a record called Sunday Morning To Saturday Night. Matraca, thank you for setting the bar.”

Chesney closed out the tribute with Potter for a stripped-down duet of “You and Tequila.” He shared that he was driving up the Pacific Coast Highway when he heard the song for the first time. “I thought, ‘Wow, this song is going to bring a lot of people together,’” Chesney said, “and it brought me and the wonderful Grace Potter together, that’s how powerful it was. Thank you Matraca, I love you, congratulations.”

[RELATED: Lainey Wilson Talks Career Rise Ahead of CMA Awards]

A BMI writer since she graduated high school, Berg was visibly emotional while accepting her award. “All I’ve ever wanted to be was a songwriter, it’s a dream,” she said as she choked back tears. 

The 2023 BMI Songwriter of the Year was a tie, with both Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs being recognized with the honor. Each songwriter was recognized for writing four of BMI’s most-performed songs in country music. Combs co-wrote his No. 1 singles “Doin’ This,” “Going, Going, Gone,” and “The Kind of Love We Make,” and Zac Brown Band’s “Out in the Middle,” while Wallen penned his chart-toppers “Thought You Should Know” and “You Proof” as well as Keith Urban’s “Brown Eyes Baby” and Corey Kent’s No. 1 hit “Wild as Her.” 

In celebration, Combs performed Wallen’s “Thought You Should Know” while Wallen played Combs’ “Going, Going Gone.” Ahead of their performance, the pair shared their journey to Nashville and thanked the songwriting community for its support.

“I moved here in 2014 and people ask me all the time, ‘When did you know that you made it?’ Combs said. “The answer was when I could just pay my rent, and have food in the fridge doing music, whatever that looked like. Whether it was sweeping floors or working at a publishing company, it didn’t matter to me. To be up here now, in a room with people who I have looked up to for 15 years is unbelievable. … All my songwriting buddies, everybody that’s ever written a song with me, thank you for letting me be the worst guy in the room and allowing me to be up here. … It’s a night I’ll never forget and to get the share with Morgan is pretty damn cool too.” 

Wallen then added that he was “honored to be here with you tonight.” He said since the moment he heard “The Old Rugged Cross” at his parents’ church at three years old he knew he wanted music to be part of his life.

“I didn’t know how much it was going to be a part of my life,” he said. “It’s been there for me in some really dark places. God and music and my family, those three things have meant the entire world to me at a lot of different times in my life.” Wallen also thanked his co-writers for inspiring him. “I know I’m the one up here tonight on the stage, but I’m really just standing on y’alls shoulders,” he continued. “So I appreciate you lifting me up and as long as you’ll have me up here, I’ll keep standing.”

Wallen’s “You Proof” was named 2023 BMI Country Song of the Year while Publisher of the Year was awarded to Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., which published 25 of the 50 most-performed songs of the year. A complete 2023 BMI Country Awards winners list is available HERE.

(Photos by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for BMI; Morgan Wallen/Luke Combs photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BMI))

Leave a Reply

3 Ways Taylor Swift Has Disrupted the Music Industry