CMA Awards week in Nashville got off to a rousing start with the 2017 Nashville Music Awards, Sunday night (Nov. 5th), at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The annual event, presented by music rights organization SESAC, honors the songwriters and publishers behind the year’s most-performed country and Americana songs.

Country Music Hall of Fame member Kenny Rogers also shared in the big night, receiving the SESAC Legacy Award for his contributions to entertainment and his support of songwriters. Several artists paid tribute to Rogers with performances of his biggest hits during the awards show and dinner. Lee Brice sang “Twenty Years Ago,” while Craig Campbell crooned the romantic “Lady.” The tribute would not have been complete without Rogers’ iconic “The Gambler,” which Dustin Lynch performed to much applause.

“Tonight is a big night. This is truly a family and that’s why we’re here. This is a night where we get to honor songwriters and that is extremely important to me,” Brice said on the red carpet. “When I first came to town, I met so many people who were only songwriters. And they are still my heroes. They need to be honored. This night means a lot to me because I know it means a lot to them.”

Hillary Scott accepts the SESAC Humanitarian Award on behalf of Lady Antebellum. Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images, courtesy of SESAC

Old Crow Medicine Show kicked off the show with their rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” album, recorded in Nashville. On the red carpet prior to the show, the band’s lead vocalist Ketch Secor told Sports and Entertainment Nashville, “We chose that song because we thought it was a good show starter. It’s got the right attitude for Nashville 2017. Also, we put out an album this year celebrating 50 years of ‘Blonde on Blonde,’ which was such a milestone record.”

Jamie Floyd, who’s penned tracks for Miranda Lambert, Ronnie Dunn and more, told us she and John Martin will release a new single “Regifting” as their duo Stranger Friends on Nov. 24. “It is absolutely tongue-in-cheek,” she said of the song. “We thought it would be the perfect day to release it. We just released our debut EP and we’re going to be playing a lot of shows and introducing people to our music.”

Additional awards went to Justin Ebach, who scored a No. 1 hit this past year with Brett Young’s “Sleep Without You,” named SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year, and “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To,” the SESAC Song of the Year. Lady Antebellum was honored with the SESAC Humanitarian Award for their philanthropic efforts. “This night is special because the main purpose is to honor songwriters. And only in Nashville will you see something like this,” Jim Lauderdale said. “They don’t do it in other cities.”