Carrie Underwood will be looking at Sunday night's (Feb. 10) Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles as an awards show veteran who's ready to pass the best new artist torch to another country singer.
"I'm very excited once again to be nominated," Underwood said recently. "The Grammys are extremely well recognized in all genres of music all around the world, so it's really amazing to be in the company that I'm in.
"It's really cool also to see Taylor Swift being nominated in the best new artist category. It's kind of like, 'Wow, that was me last year. I'm not a newbie anymore.' It's cool to go back kind of more seasoned, I guess."
In addition to the best new artist Grammy -- which includes nominees from all styles of music -- Underwood also won the best female country vocal performance award last year for her recording of "Jesus, Take the Wheel."
Swift, who won the Horizon Award at the 2007 CMA Awards, says she has no expectations of following in Underwood's footsteps in winning the best new artist honor at the Grammys.
"I never go into anything expecting to win at all," Swift says. "I had my CMA moment. I'm good to go for a couple of years on awards. I mean, I'm blown away by how lucky I've been this year. It's really good news, you know. I'm glad that I get to walk down the Grammy red carpet for the first time."
Also nominated in the best new artist category this year are Feist, Ledisi, Paramore and Amy Winehouse.
"It's really cool, considering the fact that it's not an obligation for them to have country music in the best new artist category," Swift says. "It's pretty much whoever they vote [for] in that category. ... I want country music to be the best music. I want country music to be first-rate music, and I think being in the new artist category says a lot about people's opinion on country music."
Swift, who will presenting one of the awards during the CBS telecast from the Staples Center, also sees the Grammys as a prime opportunity to bolster her career and meet other artists she admires.
"It's really exciting to realize that there are so many people in other genres of music -- so many fans of rock music and pop music and everything -- that don't even know my name," she notes. "I'm really excited that there are so many things that I haven't done yet. It would be kind of discouraging thinking that I've met everybody I was going to meet."
Dierks Bentley is setting low expectations, too, although he's in some heavy company in the best long form music video category. His concert film, Live & Loud at the Fillmore, is nominated alongside videos by R. Kelly, Madonna and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
"The highest I ever really set my sights was writing songs, getting a chance to play around [Nashville], maybe getting a record deal one day, maybe get a chance to play the Opry and tour for a living," says Bentley. "So this is really above what I imagined I'd get a chance to be part of, but it feels great."
His "Long Trip Alone" resulted in two other nominations -- for country album of the year and best country male vocal performance.
"When someone might win a bunch of awards, once they've won a Grammy award, they're always introduced as 'Grammy Award-winning' so and so," Bentley says. "I think that speaks volumes about the amount of credibility that people give this awards show. To get a chance to represent all the songwriters I write with, the guys I make records with and all our fans, it's a big honor."
Miranda Lambert's "Famous in a Small Town" is nominated for best female country vocal performance.
"The Grammys are great because they embrace all music, and it's not necessarily who's popular at the time," she says. "It's what they think is good -- and what's not good. It's not about who's got the biggest hit out or who's the hottest right then. ... I don't even know how you guess who is going to get a nomination for a Grammy ... because they don't have a popularity contest. And I really appreciate that about it."
If anyone would agree with Lambert's observation, it's Montgomery Gentry -- whose "Lucky Man" is nominated for best country performance by a duo or group with vocals.
"You don't have to have a No. 1 selling record or have a No. 1 song or be a top-selling artist to be nominated for a Grammy," Troy Gentry says. "It recognizes the art of the music and the performance of the artist. ... You don't have to be the politically correct one all the time to win one, so it means a lot to us. We've been waiting 10 years for this. Eddie [Montgomery] and I have been fortunate enough to win one of the other three awards -- ACMs and CMAs and the AMAs -- but this is, I guess, like the mack daddy of them all for what it means musically."
Montgomery Gentry are nominated in a category that also includes the Eagles' "How Long," the Time Jumpers' "Sweet Memories," Brooks & Dunn's "Proud of the House We Built" and Emerson Drive's "Moments."
"We're still in awe that we're in the same category as the Eagles," Emerson Drive lead vocalist Brad Mates says. "We're nominated for a Grammy. We're a bunch of dudes from Canada that love playing music, and I still don't believe it."
Brooks & Dunn have won two Grammys, and they say it's always interesting to see how the votes were ultimately cast by the diverse membership of the Recording Academy, the organization that decides the winners.
"You have all the pop-rock guys vote," Kix Brooks says. "With CMAs and the ACMs, it's pretty much country music people voting, so it's a little more predictable." Citing Lyle Lovett as a past Grammy winner in the country category, Brooks added, "Those guys all of a sudden are showing up -- who are great artists or whatever -- but don't tend to be in mainstream country music but are great country music artists."
Ronnie Dunn laughs, "They're just good at music in general. We're not."
CMT Radio and CMT Insider contributed to this report.