Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise appearance, via a pre-taped video, at the 64th annual Grammy Awards on April 3, 2022, less than six weeks after Russia invaded his country. He could play an even larger role at the 66th Grammys early next year – he could be a nominee as a featured artist on Brad Paisley’s “Same Here.”
The song, which was released Friday (Feb. 24), the one-year anniversary of the start of the war, ends with Paisley and Zelenskyy in conversation, recorded during a video call. Zelenskyy talks about Ukrainians’ desire for freedom, noting, “There is no distance between our two countries in such values.”
The Recording Academy confirms that Zelenskyy would be eligible for a Grammy nomination if the track were to be nominated. The most likely category for it would be best country duo/group performance.
There is a precedent for a world leader receiving a Grammy nomination. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev won a Grammy in 2004 for best spoken word album for children, alongside former President Bill Clinton and screen legend Sophia Loren. This most unlikely collaboration won for Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks.
While “Same Here” doesn’t mention Ukraine specifically, the song’s theme is that people are more alike than they are different, despite distance and surface differences in language and customs.
“I think he understands that art is how you reach the most people, especially in the heart,” Paisley told The Associated Press of Zelenskyy. “He can give as many speeches as he can give, but it’s a lot easier to hear something with a melody maybe.”
Zelenskyy didn’t just sign off on the song; he also suggested some changes to it, Paisley told The AP.
Paisley’s royalties for the song will be donated to United24 to help build housing for thousands of displaced Ukrainians whose homes were destroyed in the war, Paisley also said.
Paisley co-wrote the song with frequent collaborator Lee Thomas Miller (co-writer of such Paisley hits as “The World,” “I’m Still a Guy” and “Perfect Storm”) and Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith.
Zelenskyy’s appearance at the 2022 Grammy Awards included a brief speech which led into an introduction of John Legend and three Ukrainian artists. Zelenskyy urged those in the audience to continue offering support in whatever way they could to his homeland. “The war — what is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people,” he said. “We defend our freedom. To live. To love. To sound. On our land, we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs — the dead silence. Fill the silence with your music.”
Legend then took to the stage, bathed in white light and seated at a grand piano to perform his song “Free.” Legend was joined by two Ukrainian artists – Denver-based musician Siuzanna Iglidan, originally from Odessa, Ukraine, and Mika Newton, a Ukrainian singer. Finally, they were joined by Lyuba Yakimchuk — a Ukrainian poet who offered a prayer-like stanza to close the performance.
“Same Here” is Paisley’s first single from his upcoming album, Son of the Mountains, to be released later this year on Universal Music Group Nashville. This will be Paisley’s debut on UMG after moving over from Sony’s Arista Nashville label, for whom he recorded 12 studio albums from 1999 to 2017.
Paisley has received 18 Grammy nominations since 2000. He has won three times.