MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — It's probably inappropriate to bet on who'll win a Grammy for a gospel album, but if the odds are ever in anybody's favor, this Sunday, Jan. 28, will be MTSU alumnus and producer/songwriter Wayne Haun's night.
The 2000 grad of MTSU's School of Music in the College of Liberal Arts, who produced three of the five best roots gospel album nominees for the 60th annual Grammy Awards, isn't alone among alumni and former students being recognized this year for their considerable talents.
The Secret Sisters — MTSU '09 College of Media and Entertainment alumna Laura Rogers and her sibling, Lydia — are nominated for a best folk album Grammy for "You Don't Own Me Anymore," their third release.
Jason A. Hall (B.S. ‘00), who engineered Little Big Town’s “The Breaker," is included in the Grammy nomination for best country album.
Former student Sam Hunt’s chart-busting “Body Like a Back Road” is nominated for best country solo performance and best country song Grammys.
And country trio Lady Antebellum, which includes former MTSU student Hillary Scott, is nominated for Grammys in the best country duo/group performance and best country album for "You Look Good" and "Heart Break," respectively.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and College of Media and Entertainment Dean Ken Paulson will be in New York City this weekend to congratulate the nominees and recognize MTSU's ties to the Grammys. It’s the fifth year MTSU’s held pre-Grammys events at the site of the music industry's biggest ceremony.
“One day you wake up with your phone buzzing and you realize you forgot to watch the Grammys announcement because you worked late on a session and slept in … and your phone's blowing up with yfééeour friends all saying 'Congratulations!'” says Haun with a laugh. “And you're like 'What's up with ... oh, the announcements. Hey, one of ours must have gotten one!' And then you see your three albums in the same category. But if you're going to be in competition with somebody, it's okay to be competition with yourself.”
Haun's Grammy projects, released between October 2016 and July 2017, are "The Best of The Collingsworth Family, Volume 1," a collection of classic recordings with new vocals; "Resurrection" by Joseph Habedank; and "Hope for All Nations" by Karen Peck & New River.
He also co-wrote five songs on "Hope for All Nations" and two on "Resurrection." He’s been nominated for four prior Grammys and also is a 31-time Gospel Music Association/Dove Award winner and three-time BMI Music Award Winner.
“I had always had hopes of being in the music industry, and that may have been partially why I chose MTSU, but ... deep down, I chose music education and the School of Music because I really enjoyed the staff and it really seemed to feel like home,” Haun says.
“When I got there I was … well, I have some talent, and I have what many consider a great ear for music, but I still needed to be whipped into shape. I would never be able to do what I do had I not gotten the training from my MTSU professors: the music theory classes, the composition classes, private lessons and everything from the Wind Ensemble to the Band (of Blue) to the Schola Cantorum, to music history and formal analysis and counterpoint classes. I took that counterpoint class that most people would say I was crazy to take, and that literally taught me to orchestrate. If I hadn't done that, I would have never had the courage, if you will, to orchestrate my first chart.”
The Rogers siblings worked with producer Brandi Carlile and collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth on their crowdfunded third CD, earning heavy Americana airplay for the album's first single, "He's Fine," and plenty of critical acclaim.
They, too, are in fine company in their nomination category, included among artists Aimee Mann, Yusuf/Cat Stevens, Laura Marling and Offa Rex in the folk Grammy list.
The Secret Sisters released their debut album in fall 2010, featuring classics like “Why Baby Why” and “Something Stupid” as well as music business grad Laura’s original “Tennessee Me” and “Waste the Day.” They’ve since toured with Bob Dylan, sung with Elton John and Elvis Costello, and recorded with Jack White.
Alumnus Hall's engineering on the Little Big Town CD, released last February, also put him on last fall's Country Music Association's album of the year and single of the year list with producer Jay Joyce, with whom Hall’s worked on dozens of successful albums.
The Department of Recording Industry grad also was nominated for a 2011 best country album Grammy for engineering Eric Church’s “Chief” and won a 2005 best rock gospel album Grammy for his work on Audio Adrenaline’s “Until My Heart Caves In.” He’s also engineered projects for a list of artists that includes Carlile, Carrie Underwood, The Head and the Heart, and Cage the Elephant.
Hunt, who co-wrote his nominated song, broke a 55-year-old-record previously held by Leroy Van Dyke's "Walk On By" when “Body” hit 20 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs in June 2017. The song, which is part of Hunt’s upcoming sophomore album release, broke records again in late July 2017, becoming the only song in the history of the Hot Country Songs chart to stay at No. 1 for more than 24 weeks, and remained there for a record 34 weeks before it was bumped off by Kane Brown the week of Oct. 21. The tune also was nominated for single of the year and song of the year at this fall's CMAs.
The Georgia native attended MTSU 2003-04 and played football for the Blue Raiders. He saw his 2015 debut album "Montevallo" nominated at the 58th annual Grammy Awards as well as a best new artist nomination that same year. He also was nominated for 2015 CMAs for both single of the year and song of the year for his co-written hit “Take Your Time.”
Scott and Lady Antebellum also received a CMA album of the year nomination this fall for “Heart Break," as well as its ninth consecutive listing for the CMA’s vocal group of the year.
The College of Media and Entertainment will honor The Secret Sisters at its annual pre-Grammys event Saturday morning, which typically draws alumni along with supporters, artists and recording industry leaders with ties to MTSU.
MTSU also will again partner with the Americana Music Association for a pre-Grammys event, serving as one of the presenters of a Saturday night concert billed as an all-star salute to Americana artist Emmylou Harris.
The 60th annual Grammy Awards return to New York City for the first time since 2003 for Sunday night’s broadcast from Madison Square Garden. It airs beginning at 7 p.m. Central on CBS. For more Grammy information, visit http://www.grammy.com.