Tom T. Hall is a bit of a loner, so he found the red carpet at the BMI Country Awards a little overwhelming Tuesday night.
Truth is the newest BMI Icon is a homebody.
“I’m missing the second episode of a two-part ‘Gunsmoke’ tonight,” Hall joked. “That was bad. But I was very proud of the fact I could get back in my tux. I don’t think I’ve had it on in 12 years.”
The performing rights organization honored the 76-year-old Country Music Hall of Fame member with a wide-ranging tribute that was hard to categorize. Toby Keith represented mainstream country with “Faster Horses (The Cowboy & The Poet).” But folk rockers The Avett Brothers were there, too, playing “That’s How I Got to Memphis.” Bluegrass stars Dailey & Vincent sang “Can You Hear Me Now” and rising Americana singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle sang “Homecoming” for Hall, showing how far-reaching his music has become.
“I think a song is just a song,” Hall said. “They can do it with all kinds of different bands. It’s just a lyric and a melody. I was talking to Kris Kristofferson one time. They asked him what was country, and he said, ‘If it sounds country, it’s country.’ So that’s my philosophy.”
Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent said they were on hand to pay back Hall for his support of bluegrass.
“I just really love his heart,” Vincent said. “The bluegrass industry doesn’t really have big budgets ... and he’s been so gracious to the bluegrass industry. He’s got a studio in his home and he has helped so many bluegrassers get started. He just gives them a shove to get started and it’s just so kind.”
Songwriter Luke Laird said Hall’s style of songwriting is immediately identifiable.
“His songs, they call him ‘The Storyteller,’ and they really do just suck you in,” Laird said. “It’s like a 3-minute movie. He really has mastered the art of that.”
Laird doesn’t have a nickname yet, but he’s also come up with a winning songwriting formula. The Nashville resident was named songwriter of the year, tying for the honor with 2011 winner Dallas Davidson. He also won song of the year for Rodney Atkins’ “Take a Back Road,” written with Rhett Akins.
He said it felt strange walking the red carpet and giving interviews.
“It’s not what I’m good at,” Laird said. “The stars are good at that. But it’s really cool that they would honor songwriters. There’s such a high regard for songwriters in Nashville and just to get to be part of that community, I feel really fortunate.”