DFW Music News

North Texas Artists Weigh in on Why the Grammys Still Matter

Gayle had one of the biggest hits of the year in 2021 with "abcdefu." Now the Plano native is up for a Grammy.
Gayle had one of the biggest hits of the year in 2021 with "abcdefu." Now the Plano native is up for a Grammy. Rachel Parker
Last week, nominees were announced for the 65th Grammys, and several Dallas-Fort Worth artists are up for awards at next year’s ceremony. The biggest night in music always seems to tear our news feeds (and soon-to-be-nonexistent Twitter timelines) apart, and despite all the naysayers who claim year after year that the Grammys never get it right, they still hold massive weight in the recording industry world.

Though Dallas is primarily known as a “behind-the-scenes city” that mostly breeds prolific producers, songwriters and audio engineers, many locals say the Grammys open doors to a promising, long-lasting career in music.

Excited for her first-ever Grammy nomination is Plano native Gayle, who is nominated for Song of the Year with her kiss-off anthem, “abcdefu.”

“I was in complete shock,” the singer says of learning of her Grammy nomination. “I started crying and then I FaceTimed my best friend, who I wrote the song with, and we both started crying, then I called my mom and started crying more and so did she.”

This year, Gayle released two EPs, A Study of the Human Experience, in volumes one and two. Her music gives her all the motivation she needs as she works on her full-length debut and gears up for her tour.

Back in February, Erykah Badu’s debut album, Baduizm, turned 25. This album earned Badu her first Grammy nomination — the track “On & On” won the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and the album as a whole won Best R&B Album. “On & On” was produced by Dallas’ Jah Born, who also earned Grammys for his contributions to the track and the album.

According to Jah, once he won these Grammys, he received “a lot of love and respect” for the career milestone.

“Winning a Grammy at the onset of my music journey helped pave the way for me to work with so many great artists and bands,” he says. “I learned tons of information about the music business, and also got my music heard and placed worldwide.”

Guitarist Mark Lettieri, who attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, and got his start in Dallas’ music scene, won his first Grammy in 2013 as a member of jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy. The band won for Best R&B Performance for its song, “Something,” which features Lalah Hathaway.

In following years, the band won Grammys for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for its album Sylva in 2015, and in 2016, it won the same award for the album, Culcha Vulcha.

“I believe [winning these Grammys] was a big moment for the band, and the individual members,” Lettieri says. “For many avenues in the industry, having 'Grammy-winning’ or ‘Grammy-nominated’ [in your name] can translate to new or different opportunities.”

Lettieri says that while his friends and family still treat him the same, he believes that the Grammys do hold significance among industry peers. But he insists that he continues to make music for the same reasons he always has.

“It's a true honor to be recognized with a win or nomination,” Lettieri says, “but it's not why we make our music.”

Still, Lettieri cherishes the accolades and remains active in the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy.

“The Recording Academy as a whole does some really great work for musicians and those in the industry,” Lettieri says, “like healthcare and benefits through MusiCares, education initiatives in schools and even in Washington, D.C., on behalf of finding more comprehensive and fair ways of getting creators compensated for their art.”

“For many avenues in the industry, having 'Grammy-winning’ or ‘Grammy-nominated’ [in your name] can translate to new or different opportunities.” – Mark Lettieri

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Producer Symbolyc One, also known as S1, is up for two Grammys at the 2023 ceremony for his work on Beyoncé’s Renaissance album. The album itself is nominated for Best Electronic Album, as well as for the coveted Album of the Year. On the album, he produced the tracks “I’m The Girl” and “All Up in Your Mind.”

S1 is no stranger to the Grammys. In 2012, he won his first for work on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. Since then, he’s won for his contributions to Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, for which Dallas singer/songwriter Sarah Jaffe also won a Grammy, and for his work on Kirk Franklin’s album, Long Live Love.

“It’s just great to be a part of that prestigious club,” S1 says, “and have that stamp on my name and brand.”

Over the years, the Recording Academy has been criticized for its predominantly white, male voters. This year, the Academy reported that its new group of voters will include 44% POC voters and 32% women voters — though the Academy says it's hoping to pull in 2,500 women voting members by 2025.

Though some remain cynical of the Grammys, S1 is happy to see change within the institution and believes it's on the right track to growth.

“It’s always evolving,” S1 says, “and changing to make things better for the creatives.”
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Alex Gonzalez has been a contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2018. He is a Dallas native whose work has appeared in Local Profile, MTV News and the Austin American-Statesman. He has eclectic taste in music and enjoys writing about art, food and culture.
Contact: Alex Gonzalez

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