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MTSU performers, nominees help turn 55th annual CM...

MTSU performers, nominees help turn 55th annual CMAs ‘True Blue’ [+VIDEOS]

Middle Tennessee State University alumni and former students helped turn Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena True Blue again Nov. 10 with featured live TV performances and plenty of award nominations — but, unfortunately, no wins — at the 55th annual CMA Awards.

55th annual CMA Awards logoVocal powerhouse Brittney Spencer, a public relations alumna, stunned the audience with multi-award nominee Mickey Guyton and acclaimed newcomer Madeline Edwards in a heart-rending version of Guyton’s “Love My Hair” about 90 minutes into the ceremony.

The song was Inspired by then-11-year-old Faith Fennidy, who was sent home sobbing in 2018 because her short braids, swept up into a high ponytail, were “a distraction” that allegedly violated her Louisiana school’s hairstyle policy.

Spencer and her fellow musicians performed Guyton’s anthem of encouragement for Black girls and women in a Supremes-reminiscent homage, holding hands and harmonizing in elegant ivory gowns and clouds of their natural hair.

The video of their performance, introduced by Fennidy, now a graceful teenager who proudly wore her braids with her similarly elegant gown and stole, is below.

About an hour earlier, commercial songwriting grad Hardy performed with Dierks Bentley and Breland to celebrate Hardy’s nomination as new artist of the year. Their live version of Bentley’s new single featuring the mononymous pair, “Beers on Me,” may have been a preview of the jovial “oh, well” reaction to what would become the night’s shutout of MTSU’s slate of CMA nominees.

The trio’s litany of everyday grievances solved by name-dropped brews and generous pals, which Hardy co-wrote with Bentley, Breland and three other songwriters, is available below.

Former student Chris Young, a triple CMA nominee with his “Famous Friends” single and video, took advantage of the live opportunity, about an hour into the show, with his usual good humor.

The Murfreesboro native turned his performance with colleague and buddy Kane Brown into a walk through a country music “yearbook,” complete with childhood photos of fellow artists and “superlatives” like “Keith Urban: Most Likely to Shred Guitar Professionally,” “The Brothers Osborne: Most Likely to Need an Alibi” and the laid-back Bentley’s “Most Likely to Sleep Through a Job Interview.”

Their video, which also includes crowd reactions, is below.

During the three-hour ceremony that aired on ABC, the CMAs also welcomed, but didn’t reward:

• Audio engineering grad Jason A. Hall, who had four engineering nominations across two categories, album of the year and single of the year.

• Music business alumnus Rob Williford, who made a return trip to the song of the year competition.

• Former student Hillary Scott and her Lady A bandmates, who were nominated as group of the year.

MTSU public relations alumna Brittney Spencer (photo by Nicki Fletcher)

Brittney Spencer

Spencer, a singer-songwriter who’s provided background vocals for artists ranging from Carrie Underwood to Christopher Cross, graduated from MTSU with a degree from the College of Media and Entertainment’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media in 2017.

She released her debut EP last year, earning acclaim for the single “Sober & Skinny” from both Rolling Stone and American Songwriter magazines. A member of CMT’s Next Women of Country class of 2021 and a 2021 Artist to Watch in 2021 on lists compiled by both Spotify and Pandora, Spencer is opening for Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit on their U.S. tour this fall.

Singer-songwriter Hardy, a 2013 graduate of MTSU’s Commercial Songwriting Program. (photo submitted)

Hardy

Michael Hardy, who uses only his last name professionally, earned his degree from MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry in 2013 and quickly became a No. 1 songwriter, then added a recording deal in 2018 to his resume.

Hardy’s debut CD, “A Rock,” was released in September 2020, two years after his first EP, “This Ole Boy.” His songs have so far accumulated more than 668 million career on-demand streams, and 2021’s seen his “One Beer” single go platinum and a second top songwriter nomination from the Academy of Country Music.

entertainer Chris Young, former MTSU student (photo courtesy of Jeff Johnson)

Chris Young

Multiplatinum artist Young was recognized for doing dual duty as performer and producer on “Famous Friends” in its nomination in the single of the year, music event of the year and music video of the year categories.

In January, Young celebrated the grand opening of an MTSU learning lab and live entertainment venue on campus that bears his name.

The renovated cafeteria near the university’s library also features an eye-catching “Famous Friends” outdoor mural honoring influential MTSU graduates, former students and faculty, plus a new Tennessee Music Pathways marker unveiled at the ceremony to mark Young’s success.

MTSU recording industry alumnus and Grammy winner Jason A. Hall

Jason A. Hall

Hall, a 2000 recording industry alumnus, has engineered multiple Grammy- and CMA Award-nominated projects and has won two Grammys, including the reigning best country album, Miranda Lambert’s “Wildcard.”

He was nominated this year for engineering two of the CMA’s top album nominees, Eric Church’s “Heart” and the Brothers Osborne’s “Skeletons,” and competing with Young — and himself — in the top single category for engineering Church’s “Hell of a View” and Ashley McBryde’s “One Night Standards.”

Jimmy Mansfield, 2014 MTSU audio production graduate and multiple Grammy nominee for his audio engineering work

Jimmy Mansfield

MTSU 2014 audio production grad Jimmy Mansfield, Hall’s partner in the Lambert Grammy win, also served as assistant engineer for each of those four projects. He wasn’t credited in these CMA nominations, but he certainly shares the acclaim for their success.

Robert “Rob” Williford, 2016 MTSU music business alumnus

Rob Williford

Williford, a 2016 MTSU graduate, was nominated for song of the year for co-writing the newly crowned CMA Entertainer of the Year Luke Combs’ platinum-selling “Forever After All.”

Serving for the last several years as Combs’ guitarist and band leader, Williford earned his first No. 1 single, “One Number Away,” in August 2018 and his first CMA songwriting nod in September 2019 with “Beautiful Crazy.”

Hillary Scott, former MTSU student, multi-Grammy winner, member of the country trio Lady A and nominee at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards

Hillary Scott

Scott and her bandmates, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley, began their successful awards-show adventures in 2009.

Their multiplatinum-selling “I Run to You” and “Need You Now” launched an awards-show winning streak that also earned 1980 MTSU recording industry alumnus L. Clarke Schleicher three engineering Grammys. They’ve been nominated as the CMAs’ top vocal group every year since then.

Called Lady Antebellum since its 2006 founding, the group changed its name in June 2020 to remove slavery-related connotations in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.

The complete three-hour CMAs ceremony is available to watch anytime on ABC On Demand and on Hulu + Live TV.

College of Media and Entertainment logoFor more information about the Department of Recording Industry in MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, visit https://mtsu.edu/recording-industry. Journalism school information is available at https://mtsu.edu/journalism.

The college, which also includes the Department of Media Arts, has a website at https://mtsu.edu/media.

More information on the 55th annual CMA Awards, including all the winners and nominees, is available at https://cmaawards.com.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

 


 

MTSU nominees, performers will help turn CMAs ‘True Blue’ for Nov. 10 broadcast

(published Nov, 5, 2021)

Middle Tennessee State University alumni and former students will be turning Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena True Blue Wednesday night, Nov. 10, with featured live TV performances and stacks of award nominations at the 55th annual CMA Awards.

Vocal powerhouse Brittney Spencer, a public relations alumna, is set to trade notes with multi-award nominee Mickey Guyton and acclaimed newcomer Madeline Edwards. Songwriting grad Hardy will be performing with Dierks Bentley and Breland to celebrate his nomination as new artist of the year. 55th annual CMA Awards logo

And former student Chris Young will be joined by pal Kane Brown to perform their triple-nominated “Famous Friends” single on the awards broadcast, set for 7 p.m. Central Nov. 8 on the ABC network.

The CMAs’ MTSU love continues with audio grad Jason A. Hall’s four engineering nominations across two categories, album of the year and single of the year; music business alumnus Rob Williford’s return trip to the song of the year category; and former student Hillary Scott and her Lady A bandmates’ nod as group of the year.

Spencer, a singer-songwriter who’s provided background vocals for artists ranging from Carrie Underwood to Christopher Cross, graduated from MTSU with a degree from the College of Media and Entertainment’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media in 2017.

She released her debut EP last year, earning acclaim for the single “Sober & Skinny” from both Rolling Stone and American Songwriter magazines. A member of CMT’s Next Women of Country class of 2021 and a 2021 Artist to Watch in 2021 on lists compiled by both Spotify and Pandora, Spencer is opening for Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit on their U.S. tour this fall.

MTSU School of Journalism and Strategic Media alumna Brittney Spencer holds a note while performing veteran songwriter Gretchen Peters’ classic “Independence Day” in a tribute to the Academy of Country Music Poet’s Award winner at the Aug. 25 ceremony for the 14th annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The show will be broadcast on Circle TV on Tuesday, Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. Central with an encore presentation at 11 p.m. Central. (photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Academy of Country Music)

MTSU School of Journalism and Strategic Media alumna Brittney Spencer holds a note while performing “Independence Day” at the Academy of Country Music’s 14th annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium in August. Spencer is set to perform at the 55th annual CMA Awards Wednesday, Nov. 10, beginning at 7 p.m. Central on ABC. (file photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Academy of Country Music)

Michael Hardy, who uses only his last name professionally, earned his degree from MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry in 2013 and quickly became a No. 1 songwriter, then added a recording deal in 2018 to his resume.

Hardy’s debut CD, “A Rock,” was released in September 2020, two years after his first EP, “This Ole Boy.” His songs have so far accumulated more than 668 million career on-demand streams, and 2021’s seen his “One Beer” single go platinum and a second top songwriter nomination from the Academy of Country Music.

MTSU Department of Recording Industry alumnus Hardy, center, raises his hand to recognize his co-writer, Hillary Lindsey, after performing their platinum-selling "One Beer" with guests Lauren Alaina, left, and Devin Dawson Aug. 25 Aug. 25 at the 14th annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Both Lindsey and Hardy were nominated as the Academy of Country Music's songwriter of the year. The show will be broadcast on Circle TV on Tuesday, Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. Central with an encore presentation at 11 p.m. Central. (photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Academy of Country Music)

MTSU Department of Recording Industry alumnus Hardy, center, raises his hand after performing his platinum-selling “One Beer” with featured artists Lauren Alaina, left, and Devin Dawson at the 14th annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium in August. He’s nominated as the Country Music Association’s new artist of the year and is set to perform at the 55th annual CMA Awards Wednesday, Nov. 10, beginning at 7 p.m. Central on ABC. (file photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Academy of Country Music)

Multiplatinum artist Young is nominated for doing dual duty as performer and producer on “Famous Friends” in its nomination in the single of the year, music event of the year and music video of the year categories.

In January, Young celebrated the grand opening of an MTSU learning lab and live entertainment venue on campus that bears his name. The renovated cafeteria, tucked amid MTSU dormitories alongside the university’s library, also features an eye-catching “Famous Friends” outdoor mural honoring influential MTSU graduates, former students and faculty, plus a new Tennessee Music Pathways marker unveiled at the ceremony to mark Young’s success.

Multiplatinum country artist and former MTSU student Chris Young, left, performs "Famous Friends" with fellow musician Kane Brown in this screen shot from the video. Young is nominated in the upcoming CMA Awards for doing dual duty as performer and producer on “Famous Friends” in its nomination in the single of the year, music event of the year and music video of the year categories.

Multiplatinum country artist and former MTSU student Chris Young, left, performs “Famous Friends” with fellow musician Kane Brown in this screen shot from the video. Young is nominated in the upcoming CMA Awards for doing dual duty as performer and producer on “Famous Friends” in its nominations in the single of the year, music event of the year and music video of the year categories. Click on the image to watch the video.

Hall, a 2000 recording industry alumnus, has engineered multiple Grammy- and CMA Award-nominated projects and has won two Grammys, including the reigning best country album, Miranda Lambert’s “Wildcard.”

MTSU recording industry alumnus and Grammy winner Jason A. Hall

Jason A. Hall

He’s nominated this time for engineering two of the CMA’s top album nominees, Eric Church’s “Heart” and the Brothers Osborne’s “Skeletons,” and competing with Young — and himself — in the top single category for engineering Church’s “Hell of a View” and Ashley McBryde’s “One Night Standards.”

Jimmy Mansfield, 2014 MTSU audio production graduate and multiple Grammy nominee for his audio engineering work

Jimmy Mansfield

MTSU 2014 audio production grad Jimmy Mansfield, Hall’s partner in the Lambert Grammy win, also served as assistant engineer for each of those four projects. He isn’t credited in these CMA nominations, but he’ll certainly share the acclaim for their success.

Williford, a 2016 MTSU graduate, is nominated this year for song of the year for co-writing Luke Combs’ platinum-selling “Forever After All.”

Serving for the last several years as Combs’ guitarist and band leader, he earned his first No. 1 single, “One Number Away,” in August 2018 and his first CMA songwriting nod in September 2019 with “Beautiful Crazy.”

Robert “Rob” Williford, 2016 MTSU music business alumnus

Rob Williford

Scott and her bandmates, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley, began their successful awards-show adventures in 2009.

Their multiplatinum-selling “I Run to You” and “Need You Now” launched an awards-show winning streak that also earned 1980 MTSU recording industry alumnus L. Clarke Schleicher three engineering Grammys. They’ve been nominated as the CMAs’ top vocal group every year since then.

Hillary Scott, former MTSU student, multi-Grammy winner, member of the country trio Lady A and nominee at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards

Hillary Scott

Called Lady Antebellum since its 2006 founding, the group changed its name in June 2020 to remove slavery-related connotations in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.

For more information about the Department of Recording Industry in MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, visit https://mtsu.edu/recording-industry. Journalism school information is available at https://mtsu.edu/journalism.

The college, which also includes the Department of Media Arts, has a website at https://mtsu.edu/media.

More information on the upcoming CMA Awards is available at https://cmaawards.com.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

Former MTSU student and scholarship creator Hillary Scott, center, speaks while her bandmates in Lady A, Charles Kelley, left, and Dave Haywood listen while they accept the Academy of Country Music's Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award for their philanthropic work at the Aug. 25 ceremony for the 14th annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The show will be broadcast on Circle TV on Tuesday, Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. Central with an encore presentation at 11 p.m. Central. (photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Academy of Country Music)

Former MTSU student and scholarship creator Hillary Scott, center, speaks while her bandmates in Lady A, Charles Kelley, left, and Dave Haywood listen as hey accept the Academy of Country Music’s Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award for their philanthropic work at the 14th annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium in August. The trio is nominated as the top vocal group in the upcoming 55th annual CMA Awards, airing Wednesday, Nov. 10, on ABC. (photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Academy of Country Music)


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