MTSU honors alumnus, 2016 Grammy-nominee Luke Laird at pre-event reception in L.A.

 Middle Tennessee State University honored one of its own, Grammy-winner and 2016 nominee Luke Laird, at a special reception held Sunday, the day before the music industry’s biggest awards event.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, chats with alumnus, Grammy-winner and 2016 Grammy nominee Luke Laird at a reception held Sunday in his honor in Los Angeles by the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment as part of the Grammy weekend festivities in Los Angeles. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, chats with alumnus, Grammy-winner and 2016 Grammy nominee Luke Laird at a reception held Sunday in his honor in Los Angeles by the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment as part of the Grammy weekend festivities in Los Angeles. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

Laird, who graduated from MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry in 2001, was recognized for his accomplishments by President Sidney A. McPhee, Media and Entertainment college dean Ken Paulson and Beverly Keel, chair of the Recording Industry department.

“This is a really special day for us — and especially poignant for me, personally — because we are here to honor Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer Luke Laird,” said Keel, who taught Laird as a student in one of her classes.

“He continues to make country music history year after year,” she said. “Indeed, our students, who will take our History of Country Music class in 20 or 30 years, will study Luke’s accomplishments and be inspired by how he shaped country music’s sound for more than a decade.”

Laird, in thanking MTSU for the recognition, talked about the encouragement and support he received from the faculty — starting when he first visited the campus as a prospective student.

“Everyone there was so welcoming, I knew I was going to go to school there,” Laird told the audience. “I dreamed to be a songwriter and they never discouraged me. … The people there encouraged me, still to this day.

“My time at MTSU is a time I look back on very fondly.”

Laird is up for Best Country Song in the 58th Grammy Awards on Monday for “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” which was performed by Tim McGraw, and Best Country Album, as producer of Kasey Musgraves’ album, “Pageant Material.”

He has written 20 Billboard No. 1 hits and was recently named BMI’s Songwriter of the Year and the Academy of Country Music’s songwriter of the year. He won a Grammy in 2014 for producing Musgraves’ debut album, “Same Trailer, Different Park.”

McPhee applauded Laird’s accomplishments and his devotion to his alma mater.

“Luke’s professional success and deep devotion to MTSU makes him a stellar example of the hard work and spirit we strive to instill in all of our students,” McPhee said. “We are proud of him.”

Other Grammy nominees with MTSU ties this year include:

  • Sam Hunt, who is up for Best Country Album for “Montevallo” and Best New Artist.
  • Eric Pasley, who was nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “The Driver,” along with Charles Kelley and Dierks Bentley.

Last year, at a similar event before the Grammys, MTSU honored Alicia Warwick, executive director of The Recording Academy’s Nashville chapter.

Later Sunday, McPhee hosted an evening dinner with Southern California alumni.

On Monday, the university is among the presenting sponsors of a Leadership Music alumni reunion at a venue less than a mile away from Los Angeles’ Staples Center, the site of the Grammy telecast that evening.