By Jane Smith
“Surreal” is how Luke Laird, a former Atlantic resident, described his feelings when he won a Grammy as co-producer of the country music album by Kacey Musgraves, “Same Trailer Different Park.”
Laird became only the second Crawford County native to ever win a Grammy award. The first was Jeannie Seeley, formerly of Townville, who won in 1966 for her recording of “Don’t Touch Me.”
Laird, whose parents are Jim and Susie Copeland Laird, moved to Nashville in 1997 after graduation from Grove City Area High School. When Laird and his wife, Beth, learned the album was nominated, “I think we just looked at each other and screamed like little kids.”
To win the Grammy was a totally difference experience.
“(It was) so surreal,” Laird said. “We put a lot of hard work throughout the writing and recording process of the album. Kacey is an extremely talented artist, and I feel blessed that she asked me to help her in the making of the album.”
After winning the Grammy on Jan. 26, Laird learned of two other honors later that week. He has been nominated by the Academy of Country Music for the songwriter of the year award. The song is also up for ACM Song of the Year. The ACMs air April 6 on CBS.
Although he is a record producer, Laird is perhaps best known for his songwriting skills, having had 14 of his songs become No. 1 hits. Among the hits from 2013 are “Pontoon” performed by country music group Little Big Town, “One of Those Nights” performed by country artist Tim McGraw and “Somebody’s Heartbreak” performed by country singer Hunter Hayes.
Laird has also had hit songs recorded by such stars at Carrie Underwood, Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts and Rodney Atkins, who recorded “Hillbilly Bones,” which became a big hit as well.
Asked where he gets his song ideas, Laird said, “Song ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes I’ll be just drinking coffee and reading the paper in the morning and I’ll get an idea from something I’m reading.
“A lot of times it comes when I’m by myself in my truck driving. Sometimes during hunting season, I’ll be in a tree stand in the peace and quiet just thinking and a song idea will come to me. I have a lot of song titles and just fragments of song ideas that I keep on my iPhone. You never know when inspiration will strike.”
His advice for others who have considered starting on a quest for a music career is simple.
“I think the best thing is you have to have a true love for music and be extremely passionate to pursue this as a career,” Laird said. “I have loved music since I was a kid and have written songs ever since I could play an instrument in kindergarten. This is definitely not a business to get into if you are just looking at making money. You can make money, but I feel like if that’s your only driving motivation you won’t be happy anyways. I would do this even if it wasn’t my job.”
Laird was recognized by Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) for his songwriting skills in 2012 when Laird was named “songwriter of the year” and received an award for “song of the year” as the writer of “Take a Back Road” performed by Rodney Atkins. Laird had five songs in the top “play list” that year.
Laird’s parents, who now have a home in Nashville, were thrilled for their son. However, his mother was asleep when the Grammy-winning announcement was made.
When the announcement was made earlier in the show that Musgraves had won “Best Country Song” for “Merry Go ’Round,” “Susie’s (Luke’s mother) phone starting going off,” Laird’s father, Jim, said. When an artist wins one award, it often is indicative that more may be coming. “Merry Go ’Round” was a single on the “Same Trailer Different Park” album.
Susie woke up when Jim became vocal about Laird’s Grammy-winning moment.
“I screamed and she just got up and ran into the room,” Jim explained.
“We are happy for him and pretty proud, but it is pretty humbling” when you think of all the great people who have had great careers but have not won such an award, Jim said.
The couple knew about three weeks ago that their son was going to Los Angeles to attend the Grammys. Musgraves had asked him and the other co-producer, Shane McAnally, to attend. “If” the album won the coveted award, she wanted “the two of them” to go up on the stage with her. Laird, his wife and their son made the trip to Los Angeles.
Susie said Laird has been writing songs since he was in elementary school. She said he often wrote songs about books she had read to him.
She recalled seeing Laird win a talent contest while playing piano at a young age at Conneaut Lake. She said Laird started playing piano in first grade and then began playing the guitar in second grade. He also won a talent show playing the piano, harmonica (around his neck) and guitar all at the same time. He played a song he had written, his mother recalled.
“We are humbled as much as proud,” Jim said.
Laird said he enjoys coming back to Conneaut Lake and driving past his grandparents’ house, noting he has “good memories” of life with them and growing up at Conneaut Lake.