Roots rocker John Butler became the first independent artist to win Australia's most prestigious songwriting award last night in a ceremony where there was plenty of love in the air, Olivia Newton-John was in the room and 1960s icon Joni Mitchell also took a prize.
The young American-born, Perth-based musician's hit song, Zebra, taken from his No1 album, Sunrise Over Sea, took the Song of the Year title at this year's awards, held this year at the Regent Theatre's Plaza Ballroom in Melbourne.
Butler, who releases his music on the independent Jarrah Records label, which he shares with Perth band The Waifs, became the first artist without major record label backing to take out the coveted Song of the Year title.
He was also the dark horse in the pack, beating Delta Goodrem, Melbourne rock band Jet, The Waifs and Silverchair to the top prize.
"I saw myself as someone who wrote songs that were close to me, but not as a great songwriter," the 28-year-old performer said.
"It's so cool ... to be acknowledged by my peers as having written a decent song, particularly on this latest album, where I was looking into songwriting a bit more. It's nice to get something back from people I respect."
The APRA Song of the Year is voted for by the 13,000 members of the Australasian Performing Right Association, which looks after the interests of local songwriters.
Brisbane rockers Powderfinger took the other main trophy of the evening, when the five members received the Songwriter of the Year title.
Butler was joined by music industry elite for last night's gala. Among the performers were John Butler Trio, The Cat Empire and John Paul Young, who sang his hit Love Is In The Air, which was voted most performed Australian song overseas for the second time.
Olivia Newton-John presented the most performed Australian work trophy to 24-year-old Sydney singer Amiel, in recognition of her hit Love Song.
Goodrem, who is in Europe, missed out on the main prize, but was acknowledged by the APRA breakthrough award for her million-selling album Innocent Eyes.
Canadian singer songwriter Mitchell grabbed the most performed foreign work gong, courtesy of her 1960s song Big Yellow Taxi, which was a hit for US band Counting Crows last year.
Also on the winners rostrum were Disco Montego, for most performed dance work, Carter and Carter (most performed country work) and Sharny Russell (most performed dance work).
Veteran jazz musician Don Burrow received the Ted Albert award for outstanding services to Australian music.
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Added to Library on May 24, 2004. (3063)
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