CMAs Tipping Their Cowboy Hats to Nashville’s Local Musicians and Songwriters

Even the banners have rhinestones.

This past Thursday, the Country Music Association held its 46th annual CMA Awards Ceremony at the Bridgestone Arena in the heart of Nashville. Since I’m not the biggest fan of country music, I’ll be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to the event. However, when my girlfriend came home from working it as a talent escort and recited to me the list of folks she had met that night, I was surprised to find that I recognized every single name. Intrigued, I looked up the list of nominees and winners this morning and did some (light) background research into each of these folks.

What I found was that while many aspiring country artists moved to Nashville to evolve into successful country stars, only a few of those who became household names were Nashville natives. The result was that Nashville became inundated with talented musicians and skilled songwriters (such as Taylor Swift, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, and Blake Shelton) who were drawn to the city as a artistic and musical epicenter — all of them hoping that, in this creative hotbed, something would spark their individual careers. While it’s interesting to hypothesize about what might have happened to those stars had they not relocated to Nashville, or had Nashville not welcomed them in, or had the city had a different vibe altogether, I’m inclined to believe that the music world is still better off by having known them, their music, their lyrics, and their stories.

Tangential trains of thought aside, seeing these local folks make it into the limelight of the biggest country stage is quite the honor for them, as well as a testament to Nashville’s thriving pool of homegrown talent. It’s also worthwhile to mention that these artists have been nominated for and won other awards previously, such as the Grammys, CMT Music Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, and Billboard Music Awards. So, check out these three featured 2012 CMA nominees who came straight from Nashville, and don’t forget to buy local.

The Civil Wars

Nominated for “Vocal Duo of the Year” and “Musical Event of the Year” at the 2012 CMAs.

They do angelic harmonies as easily as they breathe.

This duo is absolutely divine, and they make music unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. To quote from the About section of their website, “In some ways, music doesn’t get much more modest or minimalist than it is in the hands of The Civil Wars, a duo comprised of California-to-Nashville transplant Joy Williams and her Alabaman partner, John Paul White. They travel without a backup band, and on their first full-length album, Barton Hollow, the bare-bones live arrangements that fans hear on the road are fleshed out with just the barest of acoustic accoutrements. Each song is an intimate conversation, and no third wheels or dinner-party chatter are going to interrupt that gorgeous, haunting hush.”

I’ve mentioned the greatness of The Civil Wars before on this blog in relation to the new Nashville TV series, but I think it bares repeating that this duo first met and came into existence at a Nashville songwriters’ writing camp back in 2008. Sadly, they won’t be returning to play in Nashville anytime in the near future since they’ll be touring in the United Kingdom to sold out shows, but here’s my favorite song of theirs , “The Girl with the Red Balloon,” to hold you over until they come home.

Lady Antebellum

Nominated for “Vocal Group of the Year” and “Album of the Year” at the 2012 CMAs.

Hard. Country hard.

Lady Antebellum formed in 2006 when they decided to try writing together after a chance meeting at a local Nashville music spot. I first heard these guys two years later playing at Vandy’s annual Rites of Spring music fest in 2008. I had no idea who they were and found out only minutes before they started playing that they were a country group. I stayed for the sake of getting my money’s worth out of my ticket, and boy was I happy that I did. Great vocals, a different sound for country music, and pretty good showmanship. Fast forward a few months and I get a call from my mom telling me about how Lady Antebellum had just won “Top New Group” at the ACM Awards and “New Artist of the Year” at the CMAs in 2008. I felt country-indie for the first time in my life.

You can catch Lady Antebellum playing live again in Nashville on December 3rd at the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall. If you can’t wait until then to see them any longer, watch the music video for their hit “Need You Now” right here, right now.

Dave Barnes

Nominated for “Song of the Year” at the 2012 CMAs.

One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Barnes, a graduate of MTSU, back in 2007 as a first-semester freshman at Vandy. I had enrolled in Professor Deanna Walker’s Songwriting 101 course in the Blair School of Music, and she had brought in her friend Dave as one of our inspirational guest speakers. Dave shared his wisdom as a young songwriter with us and was a hoot while doing so. He played a song or two for us and handed out free copies of his latest album, Chasing Mississippi, to everyone who attended the chat. Once again, I’m not the biggest fan of country music, but something about Dave’s lyricism stuck with me when I listened to the CD back in my dorm room later that night. Fast forward five years and I’m seeing Dave’s name nominated for big-time songwriting awards. I felt songwriting-indie for the first time in my life. I guess that Nashville just has that effect on people.

As a songwriter, Dave has both written and co-written songs for Blake Shelton, Marc Broussard, Bebo Norman, Matt Wertz, Andrew Ripp, Billy Currington, and many other singers. Dave’s biggest song to date, “God Gave Me You” was later covered by Blake Shelton, whose rendition was also nominated for “Single of the Year” at the 2012 CMAs. Stay tuned on Dave’s website for when you might catch him live in Nashville. To watch and listen to Dave’s hit song, click play below.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hQK6GIrpYU]