Guest opinion: Tucson Grammy nominee takes on Academy

2013-02-10T07:00:00Z 2013-02-10T14:06:29Z Guest opinion: Tucson Grammy nominee takes on AcademyLinda Chorney Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Anybody watching the Grammys today? Most likely, if you are, it will be the evening show. But during the day, where the less profitable categories’ awards are presented, like Jazz, Blues, Classical, Children’s, Folk, and Americana, I look most forward to watching. Just my personal taste, but I find these genres more musically pleasing. Maybe because I’m getting old. Of course there are exceptions in the evening extravaganza.

Please read the following in an old-timer accent, “In my day, I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Miles Davis, and Burt Bacharach!”

Last year I was lucky enough to attended both shows for the first time…as a Grammy nominee! I was thrilled to see Tony Bennett, Chick Corea and the Allman Brothers during the day program, only aired online. That’s when one might see a completely unknown walk the red carpet, like me! You certainly won’t see Justin Bieber or Nicki Minaj there. Just good organic music in its purest form, no giant productions and auto-tune.

This year there will be a couple of “who the heck are they?” walking that red carpet, but maybe for the last time. Why? Because The Academy has changed the rules since my “controversial” nomination.

Last year around this time, my husband and I jumped in the truck and drove from Tucson to Los Angeles to walk the red carpet. (No glamorous jets or limos.) I’m a completely independent artist, who made history last year — excuse me while I blush — by getting nominated without a label, manager, publicist (or big budget) for a Grammy for Best Americana Album for "Emotional Jukebox."

Historically, this category’s nominees have been legends like Bob

Dylan, Robert Plant and Willie Nelson, to name-drop a few. So I was

shocked and elated to be nominated!

Today a couple of other Indies beat the odds. Al Walser from L.A. and Arun Shankar coming all the way from Singapore will walk the red carpet. (And when I say Indie, I mean sans label.)

It may not make a hill of beans to most to see new faces and voices.

But, it’s a Cinderella story for any Indie to get nominated!

However, not everyone is happy about us taking up space where some label spent big bucks to get their artists. They want to poop in our glass slippers. As a result, a big story of the “controversy” gets manufactured by the powers that be, simply because we are not well known.

And what do they do about it? They manage to get stories out in the

press, insinuating that we gamed the system somehow.

The “system” we used is a special Grammy site called Grammy 365. If you are a musician reading this, and you have enough credits on albums, you can join for a hundred bucks a year, or $260 for three years. Then you have access to voting members and can ask them to listen to your music online, and vote for other artists, too. This gave you a shot an actually getting nominated! But that is changing.

This week I was mentioned in The Associated Press, Huffington Post, NPR and The Los Angeles Times as a side note in the nomination of Al Walser, who was nominated for Best Dance Recording. This has caused a kerfuffle in his genre’s community, just like mine caused a riot in Americana. (I thought it was a riot, too!)

So they are comparing his tactics of using Grammy 365 to mine. And in conclusion, because an indie actually got nominated, The Academy has been quoted, looking to “tweak” the system. My interpretation? Find a way to keep us out. And just to be clear, I’m not writing as a sore loser who did not get nominated this year. I did not submit. I was too busy writing my book about this whirlwind experience. I just want the truth told. I am defending the Indie, and what is supposed to be a democracy.

What has been neglected to be pointed out in any of the press is that the Academy has actually already “tweaked” the system, and the members were not informed of the changes made. I found it dissembling. I am all for transparency.

And I am pleased to live in a community where the daily newspaper (Arizona Daily Star) gives me the opportunity to share this story. (I was spending half of the year in New Jersey, but Sandy wiped out my town of Sea Bright, so I’m here full time now.)

Three days after Sandy, I received this letter, showing me this decline in democracy of the Grammys.

This was sent by Louis Meyers, a former screening committee member of the Grammys, a founder of South by Southwest and the Director of Folk Alliance:

November 3, 2012 7:36 p.m.

Hi Linda,

Don’t know if you heard that they changed the rules on the Roots

Category this year, but have not told anyone yet. This year, the first round voters will not determine the final five in each category. They will determine the top 15 and a committee will determine which records make it to the final five.

I had lunch with a National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences director and he told me the story like everyone knew. He appeared quite surprised once he realized that they have never informed the Grammy members of this major change. So, the voting process now has zero integrity and all the praise the Neil (*academy president) gave your efforts was complete BS. He made sure that you and every other regular hard-working artist will never have a chance to get in the final five again.

Thought you should know.

Best, Louis

First of all, I must personally commend and thank Louis for wanting to go on the record for this, and sharing it with me. It obviously goes against the machine, and that takes integrity.

And I have since confirmed the information of the change. Hey, it’s their club. They can make the rules. But aren’t they obligated to tell their paying members beforehand?

It wasn’t until this Jan. 5 when Billboard released a special edition for Grammy members, revealing the new committees in various categories. This was way after new members had signed up, paid their dues and spent ions of time asking voting members for consideration for this year’s Grammys. And within the same edition, they used my name as an example of the benefits of memberships opening doors, even though they just closed them on Americana!

Why did the couple the Indies get in this year? Because those categories have no secret committees … yet.

Louis seemed nice enough, so I shared some of the rollercoaster ride I went on after my nomination. This including being bullied and even receiving death threats. (For music?)

My adventure included phone calls from Fred Boenig, a former board member of the Americana Association, providing secrets about how the Americana Radio Charts are purposely fudged. And he showed me the proof. (Another person I’d like to thank for his integrity.)

That’s when I thought, this is a book! And I started a writin’!

I told him that I was surprised that the real story, which was about a man who was kind enough to gift me a huge budget to make the album of my dreams, and then having it nominated, got twisted into, she gamed the system.

I said to Louis that I was borderline paranoid that a force was out to get me. He actually told me that my hunch was right on. He told me when he announced supported my album last year, someone very high up in the Americana Association, on the committee, lobbied to dissuade him. Louis was removed from the committee this year. He told me he would not have gone along with putting the special committee in place for Roots.

In addition to writing the book, I also wrote a blog, documenting the experience. But it was not completely honest. I pretended to laugh at most of the bullying, when some of it really hurt. There is some unspoken rule in the biz that you can’t reveal that you are … human.

After playing in bars for 30 years, I couldn’t believe I was finally getting my break, and the reaction was not what I expected. So I wrote a song, “When I Sing.” Although it was inspired by the let down, I also tied in memories of messed up relationships. (Everyone can relate to those!)

I premiered it live, when I had the honor of being invited to speak for TEDx Talks!

And today, I am pleased to present the song and video.

I thought the ending of my book would be the thrill of going to the Grammys, even posing on the red carpet with one of my musical idols, Gregg Allman, and having the honor of losing to the late great Levon Helm! And then to top it off, having the honor of singing the National Anthem at Fenway Park on the 100-year anniversary against the Yankees! (Of course it was no honor watching the Sox blow a 9-0 lead in the second inning.) But it was also fun singing the National Anthem right here in Tucson for the Arizona Wildcats. And they won!

But now, certainly the changing of the rules is the ending of my book. And maybe the ending of a truly independent artist to get discovered with a Grammy nomination. Sorry, I didn’t mean it.

Maybe no one really cares. “That’s just the way it is.” Although many Grammy members are really upset by these new rules, unbeknownst to them, some folks shrug their shoulders and say, “That’s just the way it is”.

When I discovered the foul airplay and told some folks in the biz, they just chuckled, and said, “That’s just the way it is.” I guess I just don’t like the way it is. When you know something is wrong, and you just can’t change it,

what can you do? Sing and/or write a book!

Linda Chorney, who lives in Tucson, was nominated for a Grammy in

2012.

See her at the Tucson Festival of Books on March 10, sharing a booth with fellow Grammy member, acclaimed writer and music mistorian, “The Rock and Roll Detective” Jim Berkenstadt. He’s also a Beatles expert, and consultant on Martin Scorcese’s film on George Harrison. For the Beatles enthusiasts, Jim will be signing his new book “The Beatle Who Vanished.”

Website: www.thebeatlewhovanished.com

When and where; East Tent U of Arizona Mall from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. March 10.

Linda will be signing her limited edition writer’s cut of her new book as well.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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