NASHVILLE- It will fly by in an hour when it's broadcast live Wednesday on CBS, but The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!! has come a long way to make its Music City debut.
A few years ago, announcing the nominees wasn't nearly this complicated - or exciting. The Recording Academy would traditionally reveal the nominees at an early morning news conference. In 2008, Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the Grammy Awards, and Recording Academy President Neil Portnow were ready for a change.
"It was my feeling, and Neil shared that feeling, that the announcement of the Grammys was an event on its own," Ehrlich said. "And it deserved more than just 60 media people in a room with some cameras."
Since then - with the inaugural show co-hosted by Taylor Swift and LL Cool J, who reprise those roles Wednesday - the Grammy Nominations Concert Live!! has been an annual prime-time event. Now in its fifth year, it's seeing its biggest changes. The move to Nashville marks the first time the show has been outside of Los Angeles, and Bridgestone Arena is its largest venue to date.
Many factors to move
Portnow said several factors made this year's move possible, including a "landmark" 10-year agreement the Grammys struck with CBS last year, which also ensured the continued annual broadcast of the nominations concert.
"It gives us the liberty and, frankly, the incentive to think about what's next for this project," he said.
What was next was Nashville, and among those helping Portnow and company reach that conclusion was a multipronged effort by Mayor Karl Dean, the Music City Music Council, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau and others.
"It was just serendipitous that we could find the right place, the right time, the right circumstances," Portnow said. "And to the city's credit, they stepped up and helped us with any economic and business issues that would be a concern, which it would be for us, anytime that we're outside of Los Angeles."
Wednesday's event marks the closest thing to a Nashville-hosted Grammy Awards since 1973, when Music City hosted the awards for the first and only time. Just as Wednesday's show will see rappers, rockers and country singers sharing the stage at Bridgestone, the Nashville Grammys brought together the likes of Johnny Cash and Aretha Franklin, and Ringo Starr and Curtis Mayfield at the former Tennessee Theatre on Church Street.
Ehrlich, executive producer of the nominations concert, said Wednesday's show will make a nod to its return to Nashville, airing a clip from the 1973 Grammys in which Cash sings a Grammy-themed spoof of Rock Island Line. The late Cash will be a part of Wednesday's show, too, as Nashville-based country stars Dierks Bentley and The Band Perry will team up for a tribute to the "Man in Black."
Bentley, who was impressed by last year's nominations special, said he was "thrilled" to be invited to perform Wednesday. While city officials believe the show is a big win for Nashville's image, Bentley thinks the national TV audience is the real winner.
"It might sound biased, but I think it's a wonderful opportunity for the rest of the country to see what Nashville's all about," he said.
In February, the Grammys will once again be staged at Los Angeles' Staples Center, marking 40 years since their stint in Music City. But the main event's return to Nashville - or moving to another music hub - is still on the table, Portnow said.
"Every year is more or less a fresh canvas to paint on," he said. "We have complete discretion and options to be wherever we want, and to do whatever we think makes sense. So the simple answer is, it's certainly possible. And that's something that we certainly would be looking at in the coming years, as we would for other major music cities."