The Recording Academy has teamed with Pepsi to provide an intimate look at the nominees for Best New Artist for the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards. In the first of two video installments of the Best New Artist Series, the nominated artists share their initial reactions in learning that they were nominated for music's most prestigious honor, as well as their upcoming plans.
Athens, Ala.-based Alabama Shakes comprise lead vocalist/guitarist Brittany Howard, bassist Zac Cockrell, guitarist Heath Fogg, and drummer Steve Johnson. Combining elements of retro soul, gritty blues and hard rock, the quartet released Boys & Girls in 2012. The album, which features 11 tracks penned by the group, peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200. In addition to their Best New Artist nomination, Alabama Shakes also received a nod for Best Rock Performance for "Hold On."
"To be nominated for Best New Artist, it's kind of hard to talk about it because it's almost like it's still surreal," says Howard. "It's not real yet."
The infectious pop/rock stylings of Fun. come courtesy of guitarist Jack Antonoff, keyboardist Andrew Dost and lead vocalist Nate Ruess. The trio's sophomore album, 2012's Some Nights, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. Their breakthrough hit, "We Are Young," which features Janelle Monáe, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and was the No. 3 best-selling song of 2012. Fun. netted nominations in each of the four General Field categories, including Record and Song Of The Year for "We Are Young." Overall, Fun. received six GRAMMY nods, tying them for the most nominations in the 55th GRAMMY field.
"Being nominated is always a thought the way that you would dream about going to the moon or being a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, or anything like that," says Antonoff, "just because it's the ultimate honor for our field."
At 21 years old, Hunter Hayes is the youngest nominee in this year's Best New Artist category. The Louisiana-born artist released his self-titled debut album in October 2011. Hayes co-wrote every song, shared producer duties and played some 30 instruments on the album. Hunter Hayes, which received a nomination for Best Country Album, spawned the multi-platinum-certified single "Wanted," which reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is among the nominated songs for Best Country Solo Performance.
"After the five [nominees] were called, I realized that I was sort of the only country guy in the category," says Hayes. "It's an honor. I'm proud to be the 'country music guy'."
The Lumineers formed in 2002 in Ramsey, N.J., when childhood friends Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites turned to writing music to cope with the drug-related death of Fraites' brother, Josh Fraites. The duo subsequently relocated to Denver where they met classically trained cellist Neyla Pekarek, who responded to an ad on Craigslist. Mixing Americana, country, pop, and folk textures, the trio released their self-titled debut album in 2012. The set, which garnered a nomination for Best Americana Album, features 11 tracks co-penned by Fraites and Schultz, including the Top 5 hit "Ho Hey."
"I think it feels really, really good that we're recognized for a body of work versus one song," says Pekarek. "We made a whole record and I don't think there were any afterthoughts on that record."
Also nominated for Best New Artist is New Orleans native Frank Ocean, who was previously a member of the wild hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. As a songwriter, he has penned songs for artists such as Justin Bieber, John Legend and Beyoncé. Following the release of a mixtape, 2011's Nostalgia, Ultra., Ocean released his debut studio album, Channel Orange, in 2012. The album ascended to No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the Record Of The Year-nominated "Thinkin Bout You." Ocean received six 55th GRAMMY nominations, including Album Of The Year and Best Urban Contemporary Album for Channel Orange, tying him for the most nominations in the 55th GRAMMY field.
Who will take home the award for Best New Artist? The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be held Sunday, Feb. 10 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, and will be broadcast live in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). For updates and breaking news, visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook.