Molly Tuttle Talks Best New Artist, Best Bluegrass Album Grammy Nominations: ‘I Was Shocked’

When the Grammy nominations were revealed on Tuesday (Nov. 15) for the upcoming 2023 ceremony, Nashville-based artist and first-time Grammy nominee Molly Tuttle found herself among the 10 artists nominated in the all-genre best new artist category. Tuttle is also nominated in the best bluegrass album category, for her Nonesuch Records-released album Crooked Tree, recorded with band Golden Highway.

“I was just in complete shock. I’m still shaking a little,” Tuttle tells Billboard.

“I was hoping for the bluegrass album category because that community means so much to me. I was trying to keep my expectations reasonable, like, ‘Well, if I don’t get it this year, I can try again next year,'” she adds. “But this means so much to me because I grew up playing bluegrass and going to bluegrass festivals. Then this whole new flood of messages came in that were like, ‘Holy s—, that’s crazy! Congrats!’ And I was like, ‘What happened?’ I had to look it up again and then I saw the best new artist nomination.”

She will compete for the best new artist title against Anitta, Domi & JD Beck, Latto, Måneskin, Muni Long, Omar Apollo, Samara Joy, Tobe Nwigwe and Wet Leg.

Of course, Tuttle is no stranger to upsetting an awards category–in 2017, Tuttle made history at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s IBMA Awards in 2017 when she was the first woman to be nominated for—and win—the IBMA’s guitar player of the year honor.  She won the honor again the following year, and was also named instrumentalist of the year at the 2018 Americana Music Awards.

For her now-Grammy nominated album, Tuttle worked with co-producer Jerry Douglas, recording the album live at Nashville’s Ocean Way Studios. The album features collaborations with Billy Strings, Margo Price, Old Crow Medicine Show, Hull and Douglas’ Alison Krauss & Union Station bandmate Dan Tyminski.

“Jerry was one of the first people to call me and it was so cool because we worked so hard on it together. And my band, we were all on a text thread together today, and then old friends like Sierra Hull, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’ Donovan, who was also nominated for quite a few things today. Those are all people I’ve known since I was really young and it makes me proud to be part of that bluegrass community, but also the general Nashville music community as well.”

Old Crow Medicine Show guests on the unifying, folksy “Big Backyard” (“Come on out to the big backyard/ It ain’t mine it ain’t yours it’s all of ours”) which Tuttle wrote with Old Crow member Ketch Secor.

“We wrote it with them in mind, and then reworked the lyrics to make it fit my voice,” Tuttle says.

Price appears on “Flatland Girl,”  a song about the farm Tuttle’s father grew up on in Illinois, the farm that helped launch the Tuttle family tradition of bluegrass. 

“That’s where my grandfather used to play banjo and got that love of bluegrass started in my family,” Tuttle says. “I’m a fan of Margo’s songs and I read in an interview that her family had a farm as well, so it kind of tracked with the story of the song I was writing, about the family selling the farm and moving. So I wanted to have a fellow Midwestern farm girl on the song.”

Tuttle herself grew up in Northern California, playing at bluegrass festivals and becoming known as a deft guitar picker. She moved to Nashville in 2015, and her keen songwriting and the fleetness of her guitar picking quickly garnered attention in music circles. She released her debut full-length album, When You’re Ready in 2019, followed by the covers project But I’d Rather Be With You in 2020.

Tuttle says she’s written most of her next record and is getting ready to head into the studio.

“People can definitely expect some music coming out next year,” she says. Though she says she hasn’t completely set all of the details of the upcoming album, she says that working with Douglas again is “a high probability.”

With her awards accolades, Tuttle says she hopes young female musicians will take inspiration in forging their own careers.

“I would hope for young women who wanna make this a career to just see that the sky’s the limit, and if you set your mind to something, you can achieve it. It might feel hard at times. I know it is a hard life sometimes when you’re out touring so much and it doesn’t feel like things are moving forward, but sometimes it just takes time. The biggest lesson I’ve had to learn is just to be patient, because everything adds up. So many of my favorite bluegrass singers and songwriters are women from Hazel Dickens to Alison Krauss. They were people who really inspired me. I don’t know if I’d be doing this without them.”

Jessica Nicholson