BMI brass congratulate HARDY, vowing to go all caps with their names at the next photo op. From left: BMI President & CEO Mike O'Neill,
VP of Creative Clay Bradley, HARDY, Assistant VP, Creative Leslie Roberts and EVP, Licensing & Creative Mike Steinberg

BMI named HARDY Songwriter of the Year at the performance-rights organization's Country Awards Tuesday night. It’s his third Songwriter of the Year award, having already won the ACM and AIMP trophies.

“I want to thank every songwriter in this room—Casey Beathard, Ashley [Gorley],” HARDY said in his acceptance speech. “I see so many people in here tonight who took a chance on me when I had nothing. You guys saw something in me and gave me a shot as a songwriter because you thought something I was doing as a writer had a little meat on its bone. You have no idea how much that fueled my fire and how much that inspired me to know that what I was doing was something worth believing in."

HARDY makes his CMA Awards debut tonight. Will he add more hardware to his trophy case?

Besides HARDY, the BMI Country Awards celebrated the songwriters and music publishers behind the 50 most-performed country songs of the year. Sony Music Publishing, involved in 25 of the 50 songs, was named BMI Music Publisher of the Year.

Toby Keith received the BMI Icon Award on the 30th anniversary of recording "Should've Been a Cowboy," which Carrie Underwood performed. Eric Church sang Keith’s 2003 hit "I Love This Bar."