Though it often feels like Chris Stapleton, Little Big Town and Sam Hunt each exist at totally different points on the country spectrum, all three acts made a particularly strong showing when the 2016 Grammy Awards nominations were revealed earlier today, December 7th.
Stapleton's heralded Traveller was nominated in the all-genre Album of the Year category, where it will vie for the night's top prize with the cream of pop, hip-hop and rock in Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, the Weeknd and Alabama Shakes. As the final round of nominating for the Grammys ended August 26th, it appears that Stapleton's huge night at the CMA Awards in early November didn't benefit him — Traveller was on voters' radars well before the singer-songwriter's breakout Justin Timberlake duet.
Additionally, Sam Hunt garnered a spot in the all-genre Best New Artist lineup with Courtney Barnett, James Bay, Tori Kelly and Meghan Trainor. Stapleton was reportedly ineligible for Best New Artist due to his prior recordings and nominations as part of the Steeldrivers, who earned a Best Bluegrass Album nomination for The Muscle Shoals Recordings in their current Stapleton-free incarnation.
Stapleton also sang his way into three of the Grammy Awards' four country-specific categories, including Best Country Album (for Traveller), Best Country Solo Performance ("Traveller") and Best Country Song ("Traveller"). Traveller producer Dave Cobb nabbed an all-genre Producer of the Year nomination for his work with Stapleton, A Thousand Horses and Jason Isbell and is up against pop heavyweights like Diplo and Jeff Bhasker.
Hunt's beat-heavy Montevallo will compete directly with Traveller and Little Big Town's Pain Killer in the stacked Best Country Album category. Two albums from sharp solo females — Ashley Monroe's The Blade and Kacey Musgraves' Pageant Material — round out the category.
On top of their nomination for Pain Killer, Little Big Town's mega-hit "Girl Crush" earned songwriters Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose an all-genre Song of the Year nomination. The enduring smash reappeared in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance alongside recordings by Brothers Osborne, Joey+Rory and others.
In Best Americana Album, nominees included Jason Isbell's Dave Cobb-produced Something More Than Free, along with the Mavericks' Mono and projects by Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, and Punch Brothers. Isbell, the Mavericks, Punch Brothers, and Harris and Crowell also scored nominations for Best American Roots Song along with the Don Henley and Merle Haggard collaboration "The Cost of Living" from Henley's Cass County.
The 2016 Grammy Awards will be held February 15th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Here are the nominees in the country music categories:
Best Country Solo Performance
"Burning House," Cam
"Traveller," Chris Stapleton
"Little Toy Guys," Carrie Underwood
"John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16," Keith Urban
"Chances Are," Lee Ann Womack
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
"Stay a Little Longer," Brothers Osborne
"If I Needed You," Joey+Rory
"The Driver," Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay
"Girl Crush," Little Big Town
"Lonely Tonight," Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe
Best Country Song
"Chances Are," Hayes Carll (Lee Ann Womack)
"Diamond Rings and Old Barstools," Barry Dean, Luke Laird and Jonathan Singleton (Tim McGraw)
"Girl Crush," Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose (Little Big Town)
"Hold My Hand," Brandy Clark and Mark Stephen Jones (Brandy Clark)
"Traveller," Chris Stapleton (Chris Stapleton)
Best Country Album
Montevallo, Sam Hunt
Pain Killer, Little Big Town
The Blade, Ashley Monroe
Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves
Traveller, Chris Stapleton