Oct 11, 2021 - News
Christian music gets top songwriting honor
Headshot of Songwriter Ethan Hulse.
Songwriter Ethan Hulse. Photo courtesy of Essential Music Publishing

For the very first time, Nashville's top songwriter is from Christian music, serving as a reminder of the genre's importance to Music City.

  • Ethan Hulse, with Essential Music Publishing, was honored last month as the Nashville Songwriters Association International's Songwriter of the Year.

Why it matters: The award isn't a popularity contest. It's based on a songwriter's performance on the charts and other metrics, meaning Hulse beat out fair and square better-known writers from the country genre fair.

  • "He more than deserves the honor based on his incredible songs and creativity," NSAI executive director Bart Herbison told Axios. "But it is also important that the genre receives this recognition because of the economic and musical contributions it makes to Middle Tennessee.”

Details: Hulse is your typical overnight Nashville success that actually was a lifetime in the making.

  • He began performing in church, leading worship when he was just 10 years old at Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif.
  • He moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting, then signed with Essential in 2016 and scored his breakthrough hit with Zach Williams' chart-topping "Old Church Choir." Hulse has earned seven Billboard No. 1 songs since then, including three in the last year.

What they're saying: Hulse said it was "a bit mindblowing" when he found out he won the top songwriter award.

  • "My goal coming to town was to just do this for a living," Hulse told Axios. "So everything feels on top of all that."
  • Hulse has recently expanded into producing songs in addition to more writing opportunities for pop and country music.
  • "This Christian music stuff and the worship stuff definitely occupies a lot of my time," Hulse said. "I feel my best creative self when I'm able to be a chameleon."
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