Grammy Nominees Celebrated at Annual Nashville Party

Maren Morris, Thomas Rhett, Kelsea Ballerini Among Country Artists Attending

An especially wide range of 2017 contenders flocked to Loews Vanderbilt Hotel Thursday evening (Jan. 26) for the annual Grammy nominees party.

Among the earliest to inch past television crews on the brightly lighted red carpet were members of the Time Jumpers, whose Kid Sister is up for best Americana album, and Doyle Lawson, resplendent in a black jacket with gold brocade, whose Burden Bearer is vying for the best bluegrass album prize.

Also attending were Maren Morris (best new artist, best country album for Hero, best country song and best country solo performance for “My Church”), Kelsea Ballerini (best new artist), Thomas Rhett (best country song for “Die a Happy Man.”), Cassadee Pope (best country duo/group performance for “Think of You” with Chris Young) and Lori McKenna (best country song for “Humble and Kind,” best American roots song and performance for “Wreck You” and best Americana album for The Bird & the Rifle).

The gauntlet of interviewers strove mightily to find new ways of asking each Grammy aspirant, “How does it feel to … ?” and “What did you think when … ?”

The Nashville chapter of the Recording Academy — the organization that awards the Grammys — has nominees in 24 different categories this year, ranging from best new artist and album of the year to such relatively arcane divisions best classical instrumental solo and best engineered album.

Winners will be announced on the CBS-TV Grammy special Feb. 12.

Once past the red carpet, guests entered an enormous party room, there to mingle around the three bars and long food table, the latter of which bore such prettily presented comestibles as Kobe beef sliders, barbecued chicken, hot chicken, mushroom and truffles flat bread, fig and duck confit flat bread, truffled mac ‘n’ cheese and apple, pear and walnut salad.

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 26:  General view of atmosphere as seen during the Nashville Chapter Nominee Celebration at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on January 26, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Anna Webber/WireImage for The Recording Academy) Anna Webber/WireImage for The Recording Academy

We need not dwell unseemly on the table of miniature fruit pies — some so tiny that a single blackberry and half a strawberry filled them entirely — other than to observe they tended to clog the throat when ingested by the handful.

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 26:  General view of atmosphere as seen during the Nashville Chapter Nominee Celebration at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on January 26, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Anna Webber/WireImage for The Recording Academy) Anna Webber/WireImage for The Recording Academy

This year, instead of being exiled to a remote corner of the room, the oh-so-cool Birdsong jazz trio entertained from an elevated stage, much to the delight of the crowd.

Facing the stage on the opposite side of the room was a gigantic replica of the Grammy award, beside and in front of which many a picture was being taken.

To seasoned Music Row partygoers, this is the best bash of the year, a chance to drink hard, eat intemperately and rub shoulders with the people who actually make the music.

Near the end of the evening, Grammy representatives took to the stage to praise the artists, musicians and songwriters being spotlighted.

“There’s a reason the Grammy is considered the industry’s highest honor,” Susan Stewart, the Academy’s southern regional director told the crowd. “It’s a peer-voted award. Your competitors are also your collaborators, your mentors, your friends.”

Songwriters Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin were recognized for having co-written “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 recording of which is being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Addressing his remarks to young songwriters, Reid said, “What I wish for you is to write something you love and have absolutely the best artist to sing it.”

Shamblin added, “I wish every young songwriter who comes to Nashville could have a mentor like Mike Reid.”

Both Reid and Shamblin are members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

By the time the stage cleared, the TV crews were starting to pack up their gear and head toward less glamorous assignments.

And nearly all the fruit pies were gone.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.