Amythyst Kiah: Grammy nomination 'the beginning of so many more things to come'

Jonathan Roberts • Dec 2, 2019 at 8:56 AM

Waking up in her hotel room in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Johnson City’s Amythyst Kiah was expecting Nov. 20 to be like any other weekday on tour.

Then, she checked her cell phone.

“Up until this point, I hadn’t been keeping up with nominations or voting — I wasn’t keeping up with any of that stuff,” Kiah said. “I opened my phone and saw there was a million notifications and I was like: ‘What the heck is happening?’

Kiah, as she’d soon find out after checking messages from her manager and booking agent, had just scored her first Grammy nomination for Best American Roots song as a songwriter on “Black Myself” for her group, Our Native Daughters.

“I’m laying in bed half asleep and I’m sort of like, ‘what?’,” Kiah joked. “It was a very surreal moment.”

For Kiah, the Grammy nomination is “an amazingly pivotal moment,” and the latest award in a year that’s seen her music receive recognition both at home and abroad. In addition to the Grammy Award, Kiah and Our Native Daughters were also nominated for Best Duo/Group at the Americana Music Awards and International Album of the Year by the UK Americana Awards for their album, “Songs of Our Native Daughters.”

“When you’re creating music, you never think about awards or anything of that nature,” Kiah said. “To wake up to this Grammy nomination for a song that I wrote for Our Native Daughters, alongside of the other two awards — it really kind of hit that this is the beginning of so many more things to come.”

There is, however, one small problem: with both the Grammys and the UK Americana Awards happening four days and more than 5,000 miles apart, Kiah and the rest of Our Native Daughters -- Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell — aren’t sure they’ll be able to make both shows.

“We’re all trying to figure out a way to get there, because it’ll mean the world for all of us to be there, and whether we win or not, just to be there together would be a special thing,” Kiah said, noting that “it’s not the worst problem to have to pick which award ceremony you’re going to go to.”

Regardless, the nominations have been a long time coming for Kiah, 32, who began her music career in her room with a guitar her parents got her at just 13 years old, and credits her family for getting her as far as she has.

“(My father) has been hearing (me) plink around (on that guitar) in my room since the very beginning, and having somebody like that in your life who’s always been supportive and is always willing to give constructive criticism and help in any way possible is really important,” Kiah said. “I was very fortunate to have that.”

And heading into 2020, Kiah already has her second solo album, “Weary and Strange,” “totally recorded and mixed,” with hopes to release it around spring. Before that though, she still has one more show to get through in 2019, performing at the Cameo Theatre in Bristol on Dec. 20. In 2020, she’ll be opening up for country-soul singer Yola in January and February across the United States.