Five Announced To Enter Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame

Meet your Nashville Songwriters Class of 2021!

Five Announced To Enter Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
Pictured (L-R): Sarah Cates, John Scott Sherrill, Amy Grant, Buddy Cannon, Rhett Akins and Mark Ford; Photo credit: Bev Moser

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (NaSHOF) announced it’s the songwriters who will be inducted as its Class of 2021 yesterday (7/13):  Amy Grant, Toby Keith, Rhett Akins, Buddy Cannon and John Scott Sherrill. 

Songwriters enter the Hall of Fame in different categories. This year’s songwriter category is Rhett Akins and Buddy Cannon. John Scott Sherrill joins in the veteran songwriter category. Toby Keith is the songwriter/artist and Amy Grant is the veteran songwriter/artist.

When Grant is inducted, she will be half of only two married couples in the membership of the Hall of Fame. She is married to Vince Gill, who was inducted in 2005. The other married couple are Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who were inducted in 1972. Among Grant’s hits are “Baby Baby,” “That’s What Love Is For” and “Tennessee Christmas.”  Her songs have crossed into several genres, including Christian and pop.

Grant went on to say she is so inspired by her husband because of “his ongoing commitment to writing songs every day with young songwriters.” She continued, “I’m so grateful to be in a town that celebrates creativity. I’m so grateful to be a part of this community and want to encourage anybody that’s had a creative thought, your voice is unique to you and the world needs your stories.”

Cannon’s resume runs through several decades of hit songs. Vern Gosdin had “Set ’Em Up Joe” in 1988 and George Strait recorded “Give It Away” in 2006. The Strait tune was named the Academy of Country Music’s Song and Single of the Year and the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year in 2007. Other hits include “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore” by Billy Ray Cyrus and “Look At Us” by Craig Morgan.

Cannon told Sounds Like Nashville that he was “pretty jacked up and nervous” when he got the news about the honor. “All I ever wanted to do when it comes to songs was write better, and I guess it was a great feeling to realize that whoever the voters are for this, (they thought) some of my songs are as good as other people in the Hall of Fame.”

Cannon says if it weren’t for Mel Tillis, he wouldn’t be being inducted into the Hall of Fame. “He recognized something in some of my songs and just started recording them. I didn’t know they were any good. One night he called me and said he had cut one of my songs. The next day he cut three more. So Mel steered me this direction but so did Hank Cochran, Dean Dillon … there are just amazingly talented people under this umbrella.

“It is a competitive thing, writing songs. Everybody is out to beat the other guy because that’s how you make a living. But when it really comes down to it, it’s a family. Everybody competes against each other but they root for each other too. This is a great group of people … Amy, Rhett, Toby and John Scott … I couldn’t have chosen a better bunch to go into the Hall of Fame with if I was going to be in there.”

Cannon added, “Some of my favorite times have been at these induction dinners – it’s the best of all the award shows that we do around town. I am just so humbled and grateful to be going into the Hall of Fame. I will always support the songwriters.”

Sherrill’s hits include “Wild And Blue” by John Anderson, “The Church On Cumberland Road” by Shenandoah and “How Long Gone” Brooks & Dunn. “To say this is an honor is to put it mildly,” he says. “I’ve loved this town ever since I first set foot here. It’s true my van broke down as soon as I arrived here and I had to get a job to get it fixed. I worked tearing down the songwriters’ favorite restaurant, the Natchez Trace Steak House and Burger Joint. There I met a bunch of songwriters and they told me where to go to hear some good fresh new songs.”

Sherrill says he was blown away by the songs he heard. “In New Hampshire I was in a bunch of hippie bands that had songs that were 10 minutes long, changed tempo and key and subject matter. The songs I heard the first few days here changed my world. A song done in two minutes and 30 seconds just blew my mind at how powerful it could be. I’m very honored to be going into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.”

Keith has always said that songwriting is the favorite part of his career. He has written or co-written most of his hits, including “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” “How Do You Like Me Now?!” and “As Good As I Once Was.” Although he could not attend the announcement, he sent a video to is fellow inductees, saying, “I love being a songwriter; it is the most important part of my whole career.”

Rhett Akins’ songwriter credits include his own “That Ain’t My Truck,” as well as “Honey Bee” for Blake Shelton and “It Goes Like This” with his son Thomas Rhett.  “I am overwhelmed that I am here,” he said during the press conference announcing the soon-to-be inducted songwriters. “When I saw my name on the ballot I told my wife ‘I don’t even have a shot.’

“I grew up on Hank Williams Sr. and Hank Williams Jr, Willie and Waylon, and Dean Dillon and Hank Cochran. They inspired this kid who sat in his bedroom with a guitar and never thought I’d go any farther than that. I want to thank all of you because you have paved the way for me and other future songwriters. This is something I never thought would happen.

“I take it seriously; I want to keep the flame of country music songwriting burning as long as I can. I just want to thank everybody out there who felt I should be nominated, period, much less be inducted.” 

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala features tributes and performances of the inductees’ songs by special guest artists. In recent years artists such as Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Jimmy Buffett, Earl Thomas Conley, Ronnie Dunn, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Little Big Town, Tim McGraw, Thomas Rhett, Blake Shelton, Marty Stuart, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner and Trisha Yearwood have performed at or participated in the event. 
The Hall of Fame Gala benefits the nonprofit Nashville Songwriters Foundation. Starting in September, select public seating may be purchased as available by contacting NSAI Executive Director Mark Ford at or calling 615-460-6556.

Since 1970, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame has enshrined more than 200 of the greatest writers from all genres of music including Bill Anderson, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Don & Phil Everly, Harlan Howard, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Bob McDill, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Dottie Rambo, Jimmie Rodgers, Don Schlitz, Cindy Walker and Hank Williams.  Operated by the non-profit Nashville Songwriters Foundation, the Hall of Fame is dedicated to honoring Nashville’s legacy of songwriting excellence through preservation, celebration and education.  More information is available at