What SOTY Shane McAnally’s Parents Still Ask Him

There’s probably no higher honor for a country songwriter than being named the ACM Awards songwriter of the year. But even then, it doesn’t mean your parents will understand your job any better.

After Shane McAnally won the SOTY award out in Las Vegas over the ACM Awards weekend, he came backstage during the broadcast to talk to reporters about what the win means to him.

“I grew up loving country music,” McAnally explained of his early life in Mineral, Wells Texas, “but I didn’t know that writing songs was a job. And didn’t know that the songs I loved were written by people besides the singers. A lot of people still don’t know that.

“You know, my parents don’t understand how it works. They’re asking me, ’Did you sell songs today?’”

And as a songwriter, publisher, producer, collaborator, that’s exactly what McAnally does every day. Now. But there was a time when he had his sights set on being an artist. In 2000, he released his first (and last) album, a self-titled debut from Curb Records. He recalled working really, really hard chasing that dream for a long time.

Having literally been there and done that might be what makes him so good at all his other jobs. “Going on a radio tour, playing to crowds that don’t know you, trying to win people over one person at a time,” he said, “that is a change in country music. It is still the grassroots genre, and people fall in love and then they stay in love.”

(A quick search of McAnally’s songwriting and composing repertoire reveals that he has been a part of at least 707 songs.)

And even after about 25 years in the music business, McAnally’s still not over the fact that this is his job: that country stars sing the words he wrote for millions of people. So when Miranda Lambert took the ACM Awards stage to sing a medley of her hits, one of which was “Mama’s Broken Heart,” McAnally was moved by it, eight years after it landed on Lambert’s Four the Record album.

“I never, ever get tired of that. It was like I’d never heard it before,” he said. “And my mom’s in the audience, and she inspired the song, which tells you a lot about my mom. It really is one of those things that happen and I look around and I look at (my husband) Michael and I’m like, ’How is this happening? How is this our life?’”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.