Midland Says 'Drinkin' Problem' Grammy Nominations 'Came Out of Left Field'

Harper Smith


At this time last year, Midland (Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy) had put their alcohol anthem "Drinkin' Problem" out into the world with their self-titled EP, which was released on Oct. 28, 2016. Little did they know that 13 months later, the song -- officially released as a single in February -- would break the country trio into the genre in a major way: Almost exactly three months after hitting No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart, Midland received two Grammy nominations for "Drinkin' Problem."

Adding to the prestige of their first-ever Grammy nods -- one for best country song and one for best country duo/group performance -- the news of the nominations was sandwiched between a performance on Late Night With Seth Meyers Monday night and the Today show Tuesday morning.

"It just seems like every day for this band is a next 'holy cow' moment," Wystrach tells Billboard. "We were just doing Seth Meyers and we were super focused on doing the Today show. We’d never done the daytime morning rounds, that was a rush. To be honest with you, I think we just hadn’t gotten any sleep. So it really did come out of left field, and was completely unexpected."

While on their way to another performance, the Midland guys chatted with Billboard to detail why their nominations were so surprising as well as what makes "Drinkin' Problem" so special -- aside from the No. 1 and Grammy noms, of course.

How did you guys find out that you were nominated?

Wystrach: We were in the car at like 8 o’clock in the morning on our way to record the Today show, and all of our phones systematically lit up. It was really special. We kind of just grabbed each other and had a big group-hug moment.

Who was the one that told you guys?

Wystrach: Our publicist, Jake, who has been in the trenches with us for the last year -- one of our dear friends -- he’s the one who called us with the news. And right after that, it was just one after the other. No one could really believe it. We’re a brand-new artist, you can’t imagine that for yourselves. Maybe in the back of your mind, but certainly not in conversations.

Did you guys go to bed last night or wake up today thinking, "Maybe we have a shot"?

Duddy: The last thing I thought of last night was switching [hotel] rooms because there was a God-awful pipe noise right next to my head and it made me get up at 4 a.m. Those were the last thoughts on my end.

So you were more concerned with the pipe noise than the Grammy nominations.

Duddy: I couldn’t figure it out! You should’ve seen me. I was like Howard Hughes when he’s lost, walking around my room trying to locate the source of the sound.

Wystrach: It was actually me outside his room with an old-timey giant crescent wrench. I just wanted to keep his mind off the whole thing.

Duddy: He’s a good friend.

It is kind of crazy that you guys received these nominations in the middle of performing on Seth Meyers and right before the Today show. You’ve got to feel like rock stars a little bit, no?

Wystrach: When we woke up this morning, I just took like 30 grateful breaths, and I sat there thinking seriously about all the things that I’m grateful for. And one of the first things that comes to mind is Jess, Cameron, this band, and this entire team, just how fortunate we are to be able to do this for a living, and to touch people with the music that we write, record and get to perform. When this stuff happens, we’re definitely celebrating it, and these are the surreal moments where I think it’s gonna take a long time for us to really process.

Duddy: When I woke up this morning, I immediately tried to locate the dripping pipe noise in my room, which I never found. I’ve been told by our manager, “That’s just New York. There’s just leaky pipes in hotel rooms.” It’s unsettling, to be honest with you.

At least you didn’t have any cockroaches.

Wystrach: I’ve got plenty of those back home in Austin. I could bring cockroaches from Austin that could scare the shit out of New Yorkers. They’re not just normal cockroaches. They’re Grammy-nominated cockroaches. They’re gonna get even bigger. They’re gonna be like, “Oh, well now you’re gonna leave us, Mark. You’re gonna get too cool for us cockroaches back here in Austin.”

I feel like you guys have to cover “La Cucaracha” now.

Wystrach: Wow. I’ve never thought of that actually. That’s a good idea.

So back to “Drinkin’ Problem,” did you think it would be the song to kickstart it all for you?

Wystrach: When we wrote that song, we did the little work tape on the iPhone. I know I listened to It over and over that night, and I knew there was something really special about that song. It was the first time that we had written with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. We just really clicked with them, and there was definitely this inspiration in the moment of writing that song -- it came together pretty quick. But it was kind of everybody sort of agreed that that was gonna be a great song for us to kind of come out of the gate with.

Would you say it's a quintessential Midland song?

Wystrach: Yeah, because it does a lot of different things. It has different meanings, there’s a tongue-in-cheek-ness to it. there’s a seriousness to it. There’s a bit of humor to it. It’s a song that’s very true to us. I think it’s an authentic song. It’s in the tradition of drinking country songs that we love and that we grew up on. People like Gary Stewart, George Jones, stuff like that.

Did you think it was Grammy-worthy?

Duddy: We don’t sit down and go, "This is a Grammy song!" We were trying to get a record deal at the time. So there were plenty of steps ahead of us when we wrote that song. In fact we had that song in our pocket about a year before we even got a record deal or formed the rest of our band. It was the three of us kind of harmonizing in our garage and occasionally saving up our money and going to Nashville to write with people that were willing to write with three guys with absolutely no credentials to their name from Austin, Texas. So it’s been with us for a long time and that’s also why it’s a particularly important song to us.

Wystrach: The first time we got together to record at the Sonic Ranch and came away with those records was the same feeling we did come away with when we cut “Drinkin’ Problem” and “On the Rocks.” There was just an immense sense of pride that the three of us, this music was emanating from us. This music was representative of us, and this music inspired us, and it continues… also “Drinkin’ Problem,” a testament to the song is that we’ve been playing it for two and a half years. And I don’t think any one of us personally gets bored with the song. We’re excited to sing it every time. I think that’s a true testament to a song for an artist, if you write it, that you can sing it night after night and it still really resonates with you.

Who insisted you even send the song in for Grammy consideration?

Duddy: Our manager, Matt Graham. It was his incredible idea. We didn’t know how anything worked, so somebody on our team submitted it.

Wystrach: But it’s our first single and it went No. 1, so obviously it was an effective song. The reason “Drinkin’ Problem” has been very special for us and maybe for country radio is that it’s just kind of totally different from anything that’s on mainstream country radio. Maybe that’s why it’s the obvious choice.

Who do you think your biggest competition is in each category?

Wystrach: [Little Big Town's] “Better Man” is a great song. I think that’s a well-written song. But it’s hard to say. They’re there for a reason. Let’s just say there’s not a song in there that doesn’t deserve to be in that category.

It’s funny that “Better Man” is in both categories with you guys.

Wystrach: Well, Taylor [Swift] can make room for us. [Laughs.]

If you guys were to win, what would you want to say in your acceptance speech?

Wystrach: It would be so emotional. Honestly we would just cry.

Duddy: Yeah, Mark would be crying. I’d have to shake him. We’d be hugging and crying and thanking everybody. I don’t know, that’s hard to say.

Wystrach: For us, where we’ve come in over 15 years of being artists and creating music, we’re so fortunate we have just one of the most incredible teams behind us. We’d thank everybody that we had the privilege of working with, and all of our families, and all the artists that have inspired this band. Those people would be at least in our hearts and our minds as we’re going up there, along with just a complete ocean of emotions. I can personally tell you that I would just probably be in tears. That would be too much.

That would be amazing. Not to see you cry, but to see the raw emotion.

Wystrach: Well, you only get one first time to do it. And it’s gonna be a night to remember for us.

2018 Grammy Awards