Little Big Town and Rep. Steny Hoyer (center)
Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage.com
Little Big Town, Lawmakers Champion Music Modernization Act: 2018 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards
Buoyed by hope for an industry entirely in step with the modern age, the 2018 GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards gala convened a who's who of Capitol Hill heavyweights and music creators joining forces in a celebration of the power of advocacy, creativity and music.
Taking place at Washington, D.C.'s The Hamilton, the Recording Academy honored GRAMMY winners Little Big Town in recognition of their advocacy efforts on behalf of their fellow music creators. Additionally, this year's congressional honorees — Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), author of the Music Modernization Act and vice chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet — were recognized for their longtime support of the creative community.
"The time is now," remarked Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow to a room that featured the likes of event host and GRAMMY-winning producer Peter Asher, Recording Academy Chief Industry, Government and Member Relations Officer Daryl P. Friedman, and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Also, impressive was the roster of GRAMMY winners and nominees in attendance, including Erika Ender, co-writer of "Despacito"; Brann Dailor and Bill Kelliher from GRAMMY winners Mastodon; "Stay" singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb; Ben Tanner of blues-rock band Alabama Shakes, former "American Idol" contestant and Christian artist Danny Gokey; and producers Patrick "9th Wonder" Denard Douthit and Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins.
The "time" was a reference to the Music Modernization Act, a comprehensive package combining three previous bills that was unanimously passed by the United States House Judiciary Committee and is now awaiting consideration by the full House of Representatives.
Regarding the MMA, Pelosi noted, "It was through [the Recording Academy's] tireless advocacy that this has happened, and we look forward to the bill's speedy passage into legislation."
Speaking to the need to update outdated music policy and protect the future livelihood of the industry's numerous creatives, Collins said, "The creative spark inside of us is as important as anything that is made with hands, and is worth protecting, in this case, by updating. If we ever get to the point in our society where we take away the creative spark, we have failed the soul and heartbeat of music, of books, of our creative output as Americans. [That creative output] is America's greatest export."
"Congratulations on 20 years of working to advocate for the rights of music creators," said Chu, who also shared a sobering story with attendees. "I especially appreciate what you do because I get the opportunities to meet artists like Kevin Kadish, who told me the story of writing 'All About That Bass' with Meghan Trainor. Then he told me that, despite it being a megahit and being played over 37 million times online, he only received $964."
Notes like those underpinned an evening that closed with Little Big Town being surprised by songwriting trio behind their hit "Girl Crush." Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose — collectively known as the Love Junkies — performed a spirited acoustic take on the song that netted them the 2015 GRAMMY for Best Country Song and the Homewood, Ala.-based quartet Best Country Duo/Group Performance honors.
Ender's plaintive take on "Despacito" and GRAMMY winner Jerry Douglas' stirring dobro-aided rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" provided for additional music highlights.
Upon taking the stage to both receive their honor and play a live mini set, Little Big Town's Kimberly Schlapman related the story of how McKenna was a Boston-based mother of five and independent songwriter who spent many years honing her craft before becoming an award-winning writer. "[It's] hardworking people like these who make the songs that define our lives and need greater support," said Schlapman, offering a compelling exclamation point on the proceedings.
"If we ever get to the point in our society where we take away the creative spark, we have failed the soul and heartbeat of music, of books, of our creative output as Americans." — Rep. Doug Collins
Speaking of Little Big Town's set, the highlight was a true "only at the GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards moment": a rousing run-through of "Boondocks" during which the group was joined onstage by a group of lawmakers. Pelosi, Chairmen Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Chu — who played mean maracas — were among the group who danced and sang along.
Fun aside, the awards gala served as a true reminder of how music and politics can blend to ensure and preserve a sustainable future for music creators.
"No industry survives generations of not changing," said Gokey. "America is an industry innovator, and ideas like the Music Modernization Act ensure that this will remain the case.”
(Marcus K. Dowling is a world-published journalist, broadcaster, and entrepreneur with 15 years of experience. Also, he was the concept development lead for Decades, a retro-themed 12,000-square-foot nightclub in downtown Washington, D.C.)