Alumni are ‘Messengers’ with Grammy so...

Alumni are ‘Messengers’ with Grammy songwriting win (+VIDEO)

One song carried the message of Grammy gold for a pair of former MTSU students Sunday night, Feb. 8.

MTSU alumni Lecrae Moore and Torrance Esmond, left and second from left, accept the Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song Grammy for "Messengers" Sunday night in Los Angeles with co-writers Ran Jackson of The Daylights, Joseph Prielozny, Kenneth Chris Mackey and Ricky Jackson of The Daylights and presenter Gloria Gaynor. (photo courtesy of

MTSU alumni Lecrae Moore and Torrance Esmond, left and second from left, accept the Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song Grammy for “Messengers” Sunday night in Los Angeles with co-writers Ran Jackson of The Daylights, Joseph Prielozny, Kenneth Chris Mackey and Ricky Jackson of The Daylights. Presenter Gloria Gaynor is at far right; co-writers Joel and Luke Smallbone are not shown. (photo courtesy of

“Messengers,” co-written by 2003 music business graduate Torrance Esmond and former student Lecrae Moore for Moore’s latest album, won the 2014 award for best contemporary Christian music performance/song during the 57th annual Grammy Award ceremonies at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The win was the second career Grammy for Moore, who’s known professionally by his first name.

“Messengers,” which featured fellow Christian artists For God & Country, is part of Moore’s album “Anomaly.”

He won the best gospel album at the 2013 Grammy Awards for his 2012 release “Gravity” and also was a co-writer of another of this year’s best gospel performance/song nominees, “Help” by Erica Campbell, on which he was a featured artist.

Moore was nominated for a 2014 best rap performance Grammy for “All I Need is You,” another cut from the “Anomaly” CD.

“Love and respect to everybody out here because this a celebration of gifts, and … you can’t celebrate gifts without celebrating the giver of all gifts,” Moore said Sunday night while accepting the award. “I want to celebrate Jesus for gifting us all with the gift of love and sacrifice.”

Grammy 2015 logo webHe also joked about the number of people on stage to accept the Grammy as he and Esmond stood with four of their other six co-writers.

“It’s a basketball team!” Moore said.

Moore attended MTSU in 2000 and 2001, majoring in electronic media communication. A rapper, songwriter, record producer and actor, he also is the president, co-owner and co-founder of the independent record label Reach Records and co-founder and president of the nonprofit ReachLife Ministries.

He’s so far released seven solo studio albums, including “Anomaly,” which was the first to chart simultaneously atop Billboard’s Top 200 and gospel listings. Moore has been nominated multiple times as Artist of the Year at the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards.

Moore’s 2012 “Gravity” debuted at No. 1 on iTunes. His 2013 Grammy win was the first in that category for a Christian hip-hop artist.

Esmond also was a co-writer on a second album cut on “Anomaly” and co-wrote nearly half the songs on “Gravity.” He served as executive producer on Moore’s 2013 “Church Clothes, Vol. 2” release, was a co-writer on albums by Andy Mineo and Derek Minor and contributed to Keyshia Cole’s 2008 best contemporary R&B album Grammy nominee, “Just Like You.”

Torrance Esmond

Torrance Esmond

Lecrae Moore

Lecrae Moore

Esmond, who’s known professionally as “Street Symphony,” was succinct in his celebration, tweeting “Thankful” with a photo of himself and his colleagues backstage after accepting the award.

“I have to thank Lecrae for the opportunity to work on the album,” Esmond said in a brief post-award interview. “Thank you to Reach Records for allowing us to have the opportunity, and thanks to the original ‘Messenger’ as well.”

The other songwriters included Ran and Ricky Jackson of The Daylights, Kenneth Chris Mackey, Joseph Prielozny and For King & Country’s Joel and Luke Smallbone.

Gloria Gaynor, beloved disco diva and a 1979 Grammy winner for the classic “I Will Survive,” presented the Grammy to the men in the pre-televised ceremony. Gaynor also was a nominee this year for best spoken word album for the audio version of her book “We Will Survive: True Stories of Encouragement, Inspiration and the Power of Song.”

You can watch their acceptance appearance in the video above.

MTSU alumnus Luke Laird and former student Jaren Johnston were nominated for Grammys in the best country song category — Laird for co-writing both Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids” and Eric Church’s “Give Me Back My Hometown” and Johnston as a co-writer on “Meanwhile, Back at Mama’s,” a cut by Tim McGraw that features Faith Hill.

Luke Laird

Luke Laird

Jaren Johnston

Jaren Johnston

Music icon Glen Campbell won the best country song Grammy — the sixth of his more than six-decade career — as co-writer of “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.”

The chart-topping Laird, who won the Grammy for best country album in January 2014 for co-producing Kacey Musgraves’ “Same Trailer, Different Park,” also co-wrote a second song on Church’s best country album Grammy nominee “The Outsiders” and an album cut on Miranda Lambert’s Grammy-winning “Platinum.”

Laird earned his MTSU music business degree in 2001 and has had more than 14 No. 1 singles since he signed his first publishing deal in 2002.

Johnston attended MTSU in 2000 and studied percussion. A singer and guitarist for The Cadillac Three and former front man for American Bang, Johnston also played, sang and co-wrote two songs on Dierks Bentley’s Best Country Album nominee “Riser.”

His “You Gonna Fly” was a No. 1 hit for Keith Urban. He’s also written for Chesney, McGraw, Meatloaf and Sara Evans.

Almost 20 MTSU alumni or former students and faculty from around the university have been nominated for Grammy Awards in the last decade. Eight, including Moore and Esmond, have won Grammys so far, including some repeat recipients, in categories from classical to gospel to country.

You can read about more MTSU adventures during Grammy week here and here.

— Gina E. Fann (