MTSU-trained engineers bring home 2 Grammys for wo...

MTSU-trained engineers bring home 2 Grammys for work on Carlile, Nelson albums

MTSU Department of Recording Industry alumni Brandon Bell and Tony Castle, shown at top and bottom left, received Grammy Awards Feb. 5 for their work on albums by Brandi Carlile and Willie Nelson, respectively. Both are now multi-Grammy winners for their music engineering work. Also shown are the covers for the winning CDs and the MTSU and 65th annual Grammys logos.

Two pairs of the music industry’s best “ears,” trained at Middle Tennessee State University, will be hearing plenty of congratulations as they figure out the best locations for their newly acquired Grammy Awards for engineering two spectacular albums.

2023 Grammys logo

Both Brandon Bell and Tony Castle, graduates of MTSU’s internationally recognized Department of Recording Industry, have already won Grammys for their expertise in getting records to sound right.

At the 65th annual Grammy Awards Sunday night in Los Angeles, they added to their collections: Bell received the best Americana album award for engineering Brandi Carlile’s “In These Silent Days,” and Castle earned his latest Grammy for perfecting icon Willie Nelson’s new country album, “A Beautiful Time.”

Carlile’s project received seven total nominations, including album of the year. The second single from it, “You and Me On the Rock,” released last summer, got nods for record of the year, best Americana performance and best American roots song.

She also won the best rock song and best rock performance Grammys for “Broken Horses” from the same album.

Brandon Bell, multi-Grammy-winning MTSU recording industry alumnus. (MTSU photo pre-2023 Grammys)
Brandon Bell

Bell, a 2004 graduate who’s engineered projects for artists ranging from Amythyst Kiah to The Lonely Island to the Zac Brown Band, earlier won the bluegrass album Grammy for mixing “Nobody Knows You,” the Steep Canyon Rangers’ 2012 release.

cover of Brandi Carlile's October 2021 album "In These Silent Days," winner of the best Americana album Grammy on Feb. 5, 2023

He was singled out for recognition this weekend by MTSU leaders for his successes in a special reception held on a hotel rooftop near Hollywood. That story is available here.

Castle, a 1995 MTSU alumnus, has won two Grammys for engineering Nelson’s projects featuring the songs of George Gershwin and Frank Sinatra, respectively.

cover of Willie Nelson's 2022 album "A Beautiful Time," winner of the best country album Grammy on Feb. 5, 2023

He was also among the 64th annual Grammys’ best traditional pop vocal album nominees with “That’s Life,” Nelson’s second tribute collection of Frank Sinatra’s music, and in the traditional blues album category that same year for engineering Blues Traveler’s release “Traveler’s Blues.”

Under Grammy rules, awards for best album and record of the year go to the winning artist, producers and/or engineers. The song of the year award goes to the songwriter, and performance awards go to the artist.

MTSU alumnus and mutliple Grammy winner Tony Castle
Tony Castle

Additional MTSU-connected nominees at the 65th annual Grammy Awards included:

Music business alumnus Rob Williford, right-hand band man and songwriting partner of reigning two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year Luke Combs, who was nominated as a co-writer for best country song.

• Grammy-winning Master of Fine Arts in Recording Arts and Technologies alumnus Aaron Raitiere, whose songwriting and singing are integral to Ashley McBryde’s best country album nominee.

• Multi-Grammy-winning former student Hillary Scott, who’s won her awards as part of the band Lady A and for her solo contemporary Christian music performance work and was back in that category with the sibling duo for KING & COUNTRY.

Videos from both the Grammy-winning albums are featured below.

The 2023 Grammys aired live Sunday from the Arena in Los Angeles. The nominees were announced last November.

MTSU once again took a contingent of College of Media and Entertainment students, faculty and administrators to LA for a long weekend of gathering with local alumni and attending backstage and pre-show Grammy events. Stories from the weekend are available here.

Talented nominees

Robert “Rob” Williford, 2016 MTSU music business alumnus
Rob Williford

Williford, a 2016 MTSU graduate from Gastonia, North Carolina, earned his first No. 1 single, “One Number Away,” in August 2018 and the 2019 CMA Song of the Year award for the quadruple-platinum-selling “Beautiful Crazy.”

2009 alumnus Raitiere won his first Grammy at the 2020 ceremonies for co-writing “I’ll Never Love Again” for “A Star is Born” in the best song for visual media category.

MTSU alumnus and Grammy winner Aaron Raitiere
Aaron Raitiere

Lady A — Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley — won the first of their seven Grammys in 2009 for “I Run to You,” then commenced a two-year sweep through the country album, performance, group, song and record of the year categories that also earned 1980 recording industry alumnus L. Clarke Schleicher three engineering Grammys.

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’s 2016 independent album “Love Remains” also won her solo Grammys for best contemporary Christian music album and best contemporary Christian music performance/song.

39 Grammys and counting since 2001

The Department of Recording Industry at MTSU, part of the College of Media and Entertainment, trains song creators and performers in its Commercial Songwriting Program, experts in recording live music and audio in its Audio Production Program, and music entrepreneurs, including managers and publishers, in its Music Business Program.

NBC News in 2019 began calling MTSU a “Grammy-winner factory” in the wake of its alumni students’ and staffers’ multiple nominations and wins.

MTSU alumni, former or current students, and faculty from across the university have been a part of more than 134 Grammy Award nominations in the last two decades.

Department of Recording Industry logo

The number of MTSU-connected Grammy winners since 2001 currently stands at 15 people with a total of 39 Grammys, including 10 repeat recipients, in categories from classical to pop to rock to country to gospel.

The Department of Recording Industry and the College of Media and Entertainment are currently marking an eighth year on Billboard‘s latest international list of top music business schools, once again earning acclaim for the program’s diversity, depth and longevity.

For more information about the Department of Recording Industry at MTSU, visit

More details about the 65th annual Grammy Awards are available at

— Gina E. Fann (