The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame welcomed Hillary Lindsey, David Malloy, Chips Moman, Gary Nicholson, Shania Twain, and Steve Wariner into its Class of 2022 Sunday night (Oct. 30) at Nashville’s Music City Center. The indelible impact of each songwriter was evident throughout the evening’s countless performances and speeches.
“Songwriting has been and still is a wonderful way of life,” Nicholson said during the ceremony. “It’s always been the power of song that brings everything else along. I always like to say, it all begins with a songwriter.”
The evening served as a celebration of the honorees and their revered songs. Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Clint Black, Vince Gill, Delbert McClinton, Shawn Camp, Michael Rhodes, The Isaacs, and Rhett Akins paid tribute to the inductees with performances throughout the 52nd Anniversary Gala.
“I’m grateful for songwriting because it got me through a lot of hard times in my childhood, in my teens, all through my life, actually, and still today,” Twain said in a pre-taped acceptance speech. “It’s my saving grace a lot of the time. I’m really, really honored to be a member of this year’s class.”
The Isaacs performed a bluegrass-inspired medley of “Forever and For Always” and “You’re Still the One” ahead of Twain’s video message. Unable to attend in person as she was in London working on her new album, the singer thanked the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the industry, and her supporters for the honor.
Malloy received his award from Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame 2015 inductee and longtime co-writer Even Stevens. 2021 inductee Rhett Akins performed “Drivin’ My Life Away,” a song he recorded in 1998 that was originally popularized by Eddie Rabbitt.
Malloy credited his father, Jim, for encouraging him to keep writing and thanked his co-writers for the trust they had in each other. Malloy garnered his first publishing deal at 18, and his songs have been recorded by Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, and Kenny Rogers.
“We were having the time of our lives and I’m still having the time of my life,” Malloy said. “I thank all of you for this great, great honor tonight. Thank you for opening the doors and letting me in here with so many of my sweet friends.”
Rodney Crowell helped enshrine Nicholson into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and said the songwriter, “just might be the most enjoyable human being in all of music business.”
After a spirited performance of “One More Last Chance” by 2005 inductee Gill, McClinton, Camp and Rhodes, Nicholson accepted his honor. The Hall of Famer thanked Barbara, his wife of 50 years, and their four sons for “a lot of reasons to stay busy.”
“I’m still amazed by my good fortune that songwriting supported us,” Nicholson said. “We all know there is no greater songwriter community in the world. I cannot begin to name everyone I’ve learned from and been influenced by in this room tonight.
“I’ll just say, here’s to all my friends that have shared their talent with me through the years,” he added. “Half of this honor is yours, or maybe sometimes a third. … Tonight is a celebration of the miracle of making a living doing exactly what you love to do.”
Performance highlights included a poignant tribute to the late NaSHOF inductees Dallas Frazier and Loretta Lynn. Jon Randall sang Frazier’s “If My Heart Had Windows” while Jessi Alexander covered Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Black later performed a memorable rendition of Moman’s “Luckenbach, Texas,” and mimicked Willie Nelson’s version of the standard.
Historian and journalist Robert K. Oermann presented the award to Moman’s widow, Jane, daughter Monique, and son Casey. “He never really cared much for praise, but we’re sure that he’s with us tonight and humbled for this honor,” Monique said. “This means much to our family, his co-writers, and his friends.”
NaSHOF 2008 inductee Matraca Berg was visibly emotional as she presented Lindsey with her honor. Ahead of her acceptance speech, Lindsey was celebrated with standout performances by Underwood and Urban for her award-winning songs “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”
Lindsey said she felt her history and her youth in the weeks leading up to the awards. She then thanked the songwriting community and her co-writers for continually “making me fall in love with music all over again.”
“You’re the ones that truly make up the pulse of this town and I’m beyond lucky to be a part of it,” she said of her colleagues. “They all say it starts with the song, but for me, it starts with you.”
Wariner was the final songwriter inducted into the NaSHOF Class of 2022 on Sunday and was praised by both 1975 inductee Bill Anderson and 2011 inductee Brooks. “Underneath his great singing, his great guitar playing, Steve Wariner is a real, professional songwriter,” Anderson said.
Brooks, who also performed Wariner’s 1998 CMA and ACM Song of the Year “Holes in the Floor of Heaven,” added: “I put him on the same level with James Taylor. Once you meet these two guys you realize they’re even more talented than you thought they were, but the greatest thing is they’re sweeter people than you could even imagine they’d be.”
Wariner shared gratitude for his wife and publisher, Caryn, his sons, and his father, Roy Monroe Wariner.
“My dad wrote songs, he was a Kentucky fiddler, guitar player … I used to watch him write songs,” Wariner remembered. “I tried to be like my dad. I was 13, 14 trying to write songs and rhyme words. I owe him so much.
“This is what you dream of as a songwriter as a kid in Indiana,” he continued. “You only dream of being on stage nervously talking like this in front of all your heroes. I’m looking out here and there are so many great songwriters that are my heroes that I grew up just in awe, wanting to do that, wanting your approval. … I always wanted to be accepted into your club and I feel like I finally may be there tonight.”