You know you’re at the Grammys on the Hill Awards when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hugs Dionne Warwick and name-drops Miley Cyrus. Or when Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee takes a photo with a member of Hanson. Or when Rep. Steny Hoyer gets on stage and rocks out with country trio Lady Antebellum.
It was a wild mix of all those things Wednesday during the private event at The Hamilton, as the Recording Academy’s annual ceremony featured performances and awards spotlighting artists’ rights. In addition to a giant congressional sing-along at the end of the night — when legislators grabbed tambourines and maracas to accompany Lady Antebellum on stage — another congressman got a moment in the musical spotlight.
That would be Rep. Doug Collins, who surprised the audience by joining veteran songwriters Gary Burr and Victoria Shaw to perform an original tune called “Fair” that the three wrote together. A sponsor of the Songwriters Equity Act — urging fair compensation for songwriters and artists — Collins flew to Nashville earlier this year for a songwriting session about similar themes. (“It’s tough trying to rhyme ‘equity,’” Burr remarked.)
With Burr on guitar, Shaw on piano and Collins on back-up vocals, lyrics included, “I’ve got the soul of an artist/I’ve got the bills of a working man.” Collins, who joked that his only instrumental experience was “radio dial,” got wild applause.
“I think the lesson is that creating with your mind is just as taxing as creating with your hands,” Collins told us before the ceremony. “It’s just a reminder that what songwriters do is very valuable and very difficult.”
It was a delightful evening for politicos in the crowd, which included Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Aaron Schock, among many others. Pelosi and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (who at the VIP reception eagerly snagged a group photo with his son and Lady Antebellum) were honored for their support of “music creators’ unique role in American life.” Warwick helped introduce Pelosi, who seemed starstruck by the legendary singer.
Lady Antebellum, the Nashville trio of Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood, also appeared overwhelmed as they accepted the Recording Artists’ Coalition Award for their advocacy on behalf of the Recording Academy.
“This is the heart of music,” said Kelley, adding that he and his bandmates were once struggling songwriters in debt before they got their big break. “Obviously, we’re here now, but we’ve been there. And this is about those people and what’s fair.”
The group closed out the show with acoustic renditions of their hits “I Run To You,” “Need You Now” and “Compass. During the latter, invited all the members of Congress to join them.
“We thought this song was kind of appropriate. There are a couple lines in this song — one of them is, “Yeah, it’s been a bumpy road.’ And I think they could agree it’s been a bumpy road at times,” Kelley said. “But I think we can all come together tonight and have a good time.”