Dierks Bentley is a walking, talking Chamber of Commerce for the city of Nashville. Visits by him and newer country star Hunter Hayes left favorable impressions on members of the national and local press gathered backstage at last night’s Grammy nominations concert. Other country stars, who appeared on the show but didn’t stop by the press parade, missed a wonderful opportunity to welcome the media to their hometown.
Bentley is so proud of Nashville that he thinks non-residents are lucky to visit. “It’s a good opportunity for everyone else to get a peek of Nashville,” he said. “Our town’s really special.” He also elaborated on the enormous talent pool, and community of support and respect among the industry, artists, musicians and songwriters. He received his twelfth career nomination for Best Country Solo Performance for “Home.” Of the hit, he said, “At the live show, it is great to have a song that gives the singer goosebumps night after night.” After years of nominations without wins, he joked, “They’re starting a new thing next year, where if you’re nominated 13 times it’s an automatic win.” Surrounding the February Grammy ceremony, Bentley is considering hosting his annual special-guest-packed show at the Troubadour. As for his performance of “Jackson” with The Band Perry, he explained, “We really wanted to honor the song’s original spirit but also wanted to make it new and fresh. The Band Perry came up with the arrangement. It was career highlight. Kimberly’s a fireball.”
“I’m proud to wave the country flag in the new artist category,” said first-time nominee Hayes, who will compete in the all-genre category. He appeared on the show to announce the nominees for Best Pop Vocal Album by performing a snippet of each song. Because he couldn’t find out the nominees until the last minute, he admitted the reveal “was nerve racking, fun and a little challenging.” He was nominated for Best Country Album and will compete against Bentley for Best Country Solo Performance for his hit “Wanted.” “It’s what you dream of as a songwriter,” added Hayes, “to connect with that many people. I came to town to be one crazy dreamer and to get this kind of recognition is [unbelievable]. I spent years writing this record. I want to keep evolving and searching, that’s what I live for musically.”
Performer and nominee Ne-Yo was lively. “I would absolutely make a country album, and follow one of my idols, Lionel Richie,” he told the press. “I tell everyone in L.A. that Nashville is the place to be.” The r&b star, who collaborated with Tim McGraw for the country singer’s upcoming album, added, “The fact that he’d even step down off the country music throne [to work with me] means the world to me. He’s a super open-minded guy.” Ne-Yo shared how welcoming McGraw was, inviting him over for dinner for Faith’s homemade chicken after one of their first meetings.
The Recording Academy President/CEO Neal Portnow declared, “Nashville gets an A-plus tonight. There’s not a city like Nashville, and the warmth we felt, the collaboration and enthusiasm, it was a beautiful night.” As for the nominations show or awards ceremony returning, he added, “We have a fresh canvas, and no rules that say we have to be in a certain city. We’ve had a great experience here.” He also noted that the awards take up a week at an arena due to the extensive production and, of course, the economics of a move have to be considered.
First time nominee Rhett Walker received a nod for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song for writing the Rhett Walker Band hit “When Mercy Found Me” with Jeff Pardo. “I’m blown away!” he said. “I’m here at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the Grammy nomination event with my wife and our six-week-old daughter and I could not be more overwhelmed. I’m just a kid from the South that writes songs about life.”
Other first time nominees The Lumineers credited label home Dualtone as a major factor in their success. Wesley Schultz said, “In this whole process we’ve felt like underdogs, but our label has done a tremendous job.” As for the revival of roots-driven music, the band thanked Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers for “kicking down the door.”
Based on the nominations, Fun.’s Jack Antonoff noted, “There’s a change coming in music. If you turn on the radio it is pretty obvious.” As for their own nominations? “These things that we have no control over, we try not to think about them.”
The musical talent of rising success stories The Lumineers and Alabama Shakes is apparent, but in person their star qualities are ready-to-be-polished.
When asked about wardrobe, Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard drew friendly chuckles with her frank explanation: “I got these shoes at Burlington Coat Factory.” After making their debut album here, the Shakes are enthusiastic about Music City. “Nashville is a town with all kinds of sounds, there’s a lot of hidden things here,” she explained. As for the band’s nominations, she summed it up: “I’m happy and my Nana’s happy.”