Dierks, who opened the show with The Band Perry in a tribute to Johnny Cash, was nominated for Best Country Solo Performance for "Home." While it was the Arizona native's 13th career Grammy nod, Hunter, who also performed on the live show, scored his very first three. The reigning CMA New Artist of the Year is nominated in the all-genre New Artist of the Year category, as well as for Best Country Album for his self-titled debut disc and Best Country Solo Performance for "Wanted."
"I am still processing the nomination," Dierks told a group of media gathered backstage at the concert. "One of the best things about being nominated is you get to go to the show. As a fan, it is so cool because there are all different genres on one stage. It's a special awards show. To be nominated is cool, but as soon as I'm in my seat, I'm a fan. So the best part of being nominated is to get to watch a great show and be a part of music history."
Of his three nods, Hunter says being included in the New Artist category surprised him the most. "I am honored to represent country music in this category," he said. "I'm still kind of speechless and struggling to find words. I am fans of all the people in this category, and I have bought their albums. As a new artist, you hope people will like your record and what you do. All I ever wanted to do is make music, and to be recognized in this category lets me know I am doing something right. It lets me know that my dreams can come true."
Both artists admitted to a case of the jitters for their performances on the Grammy concert. Hunter actually sang a medley of songs to announce the nominees for Best Pop Vocal Performance, which were tunes by Kelly Clarkson, Florence & The Machine, Fun., Maroon 5 and Pink.
"It was a nerve wracking performance," Hunter confessed, due in large part to the fact that he didn't get the names of the songs until shortly before show time. "They wanted me to do a brief version of each song, and then I found out there were two of the artists in the audience (Maroon 5 and Fun.) For the Grammy folks to put that trust in someone and allow me to make it my own and announce it that way was fun in the creative sense."
Dierks said performing "Jackson" with The Band Perry as the opening number to the concert made him nervous, but was also the highlight of his evening. "Kimberly (Perry) and I texted back and forth, and we both agreed that we wanted to honor the spirit of the song, which always had a unique interplay between Johnny Cash and June Carter. We also wanted to make it new and fresh. It was fun being out there with a fireball like Kimberly; she steps it up. We must have sang it 60 times, working on the arrangement. We were both excited, and it was a lot of fun out there."
Given that his latest Grammy nomination is his 13th, Dierks joked that the Academy had just made a new rule that when you reached 13 nominations you automatically win. "Receiving a nomination never wears off," he added. "It's always nice to be invited to the party, because the Grammy show is one of the coolest parties of the year. I'm always grateful to receive the recognition. This is a pretty tough category of people I'm up against (Eric Church, Ronnie Dunn, Hunter Hayes, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood), and I am very respectful of everyone who is nominated."
Hunter says to be nominated in the same category with Dierks and the others is unbelievable to him. "I remember writing that song ("Wanted"), it was just a letter, and having people start connecting with it. Then to be nominated for that song blows my mind. As a songwriter, it's a huge accomplishment and you dream of making that kind of impact."
This was the first time that the Grammy Nominations Live concert was held in Nashville. Hosted by LL Cool J and Taylor Swift, it also featured performances by Maroon 5, The Who, Luke Bryan, Fun. with Janelle Monae and Ne-Yo. The venue, city and the Nashville music community drew rave reviews from those involved with the show, including NARAS head Neal Portnow and Recording Academy Chair Emeritus Jimmy Jam.
"I know I'm biased, but I feel like this is good opportunity for the rest of the world to get a sneak peak of this town," says Dierks. "I think what makes this town great is its community of people who support each other, the relationships and friendship among singers and songwriters. Having the Grammys here reflects the fact that the secret is getting out about Nashville."
The 55th annual Grammy Awards will broadcast live from Los Angeles on Feb. 10 at 9:00 PM ET on CBS.