MTSU graduates are making noise in the music industry once again as the annual awards season begins.
The 53rd annual Country Music Association Awards nominations include two alumni on the official list, and five more are celebrating as part of CMA Award-nominated projects.
The awards show will air Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. Central on ABC from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Carrie Underwood will host with guests Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton.
Multi-Grammy and CMA winner F. Reid Shippen, a ’94 recording industry grad, is back in the nominees’ seats for mixing Dierks Bentley’s single of the year collaboration with the Brothers Osborne, “Burning Man,” and 2016 music business alumnus Rob Williford earned a song of the year nod for co-writing Luke Combs’ “Beautiful Crazy.”
The MTSU contingent also includes some repeat honorees facing friendly competition in the CMA’s album of the year category:
• Clarke Schleicher, who engineered Dan + Shay’s self-titled album nominee.
• Luke Laird, who co-wrote “Things You Do for Love” on Thomas Rhett’s “Center Point Road” nominee.
• Dave Barnes, who co-wrote “Kingdom” on Underwood’s “Cry Pretty” album.
• Jason A. Hall and Jimmy Mansfield, who engineered Eric Church’s “Desperate Man” project.
“Our alumni continue to make us proud with their award-worthy work, and this year’s nominees are no exception!” said Beverly Keel, chair of MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry and the newly announced dean of the College of Media and Entertainment.
“Our students look up to our alumni not only as role models, but as proof that they can be successful in achieving their dreams. I love that our alums are getting recognized in the audio production and songwriting fields, and many of our graduates are playing instrumental roles in the careers of other nominees.”
MTSU’s Shippen, who’s won four Grammys since 2001 and been a part of six other Grammy-winning projects and multiple CMA winners during his career, also brought home the Academy of Country Music’s 2019 audio engineer of the year honor in August. His credits range from Kelsea Ballerini and India.Arie to the Backstreet Boys and Robert Randolph and the Family Band.
Williford, who’s been on tour with Combs as the artist’s guitarist and band leader, earned his first No. 1 single, “One Number Away,” in August 2018 with Combs and two other co-writers. “Beautiful Crazy” went gold before it was released as a single.
Schleicher, a 1980 recording industry alumnus and multi-award nominee, is best known for his three Grammys and CMA win and nominations for engineering Lady Antebellum’s 2010 and 2011 releases. He’s also a three-time ACM engineer of the year nominee whose credits include work with artists ranging from Chris Isaak to the Dixie Chicks.
Songwriter-producer Laird, an ’01 music business grad, carried home his second Grammy earlier this year for co-writing “Space Cowboy,” the 2019 best country song, for and with Kasey Musgraves. The CMAs gave him its Triple Play Award — given to songwriters with three No. 1 songs in a 12-month period — for five consecutive years from 2013 to 2017.
Singer-songwriter Barnes, another 2000 recording industry grad, was nominated for the 2012 CMA song of the year with Shelton’s version of “God Gave Me You.” He’s also written for Maren Morris and Marc Broussard and released his 10th album, “Who Knew It Would Be So Hard To Be Myself,” in 2018.
Fellow 2000 alumnus Hall has tripled up on CMA, Grammy and ACM nominations in recent years, most significantly with his engineering on Little Big Town’s “The Breaker” release. He’s also worked with LANCO, which includes two more MTSU grads, as well as the Brothers Osborne and Brandi Carlile.
Mansfield, a 2014 audio production grad, has had a stellar year, receiving dual Grammy country album nominations for his assistant engineering on Ashley McBryde’s “Girl Going Nowhere” and the Brothers Osborne “Port Saint Joe.” He’s also worked with Devin Dawson and LANCO.
— Gina E. Fann (firstname.lastname@example.org)