Entertainer of the year is undoubtedly the highest honor that any country music star can receive at the CMA Awards.
But, for Vince Gill, the biggest achievement of all is winning top prize for song of the year.
The legendary artist currently holds the record as the singer with the most CMA “SOTY” wins. But for him, it was always a challenge getting people to acknowledge his songwriting talent over his powerful voice.
“I struggled for a long time and people were not welcoming of me being a songwriter,” says Vince in the latest installment of the CMA’s 50/50 video series. “My voice always overshadowed my song [writing], and musicianship. To me, once they kind of put that brand on me it made me want to write better songs. It was an inspiration to have that.”
In 1996, Vince wore his heart on his sleeve at the 30th Annual CMA’s when he accepted his fourth “SOTY” trophy. That time, it was for his deeply personal and emotional ballad “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” It was then that an audience witnessed his teary-eyed reaction. A choked up Vince could only mouth out the words, “Thank You,” before walking off the stage.
“To me it meant the most,” says Vince. “Everybody would kind of look at me like the RCA dog and go ‘What are you talking about?’ But, that award meant more to me than Entertainer by tenfold.”
Vince adds that artists will come and go, but the spirit of Nashville’s community of songwriters will live on.
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“I really believe that we as artists kind of even flow and have our periods of being popular and not popular, but those songs and this town has a true love and history of honoring those songwriters,” says Vince. “This town wasn’t built on all singer-songwriters. We needed those songs. A lot of artists needed these songwriters to write these great songs. Because of the magnitude of the songwriter in this community, that meant way more to me.”
Be sure to catch the 50th Annual CMA Awards when they air live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 2 on ABC.