Too often, “Mainer wins big national award!” stories can ring a little hollow. A kid who grew up in Damariscotta won a Tony for a show in Chicago, or a dude who just moved to Scarborough won an Oscar for some sound editing. Sure, cool.
But perhaps no such victory has felt like a collective one more than Dave Gutter’s win of a Grammy as co-writer of Aaron Neville and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s song “Stompin’ Ground” in the Best American Roots Performance category this week (though Neville is the one to get the trophy).
The win feels like our win. The notion wasn’t lost on Gutter either.
“I definitely felt that,” says Gutter, on his way to IHOP with daughter Kani in Los Angeles on the morning after accepting the award. “I thought it was just me feeling that. I felt like I was being narcissistic, and it was just me experiencing this overwhelming power and hope, but then people were calling me and saying they were in the Old Port and every car going by was bumping my songs and bars full of people were getting together and watching the Grammys to see if I won, and I called my friends and they said whole households were gathered around and all screaming when we won, and it did feel like a win for the whole state and everyone.”
Gutter said he wasn’t able to respond to all the messages he received.
“I felt so much overwhelming love from everybody,” he said. “They’ve literally been making me cry for the past week, just because of that feeling I got from Maine and how proud people were of me.”
We are accustomed, after all, to having Mainers experience success and then move away to pursue more of it, from Ray LaMontagne to Anna Kendrick to Patty Griffin to the white-hot talent that is Amy Allen, who won her own Grammy this past Sunday. Gutter, however, has always been ours, from his first days mucking around in Gorham in middle school (RIP Aces Wild) to the phenomenon that was Rustic Overtones when they burst on the scene 30 years ago at Granny Killam’s, before Gutter was old enough to drink, to Paranoid Social Club and “Wasted” and the “Beerfest” movie soundtrack and his most recent visually oriented solo work filmed on the St. Lawrence Arts Center stage.
He was on the cover of the Portland Phoenix’s second-ever issue in the fall of 1999, and he was on the cover of our Sept. 22, 2021, issue, and he was on the cover a number of times in between (including a legendary shoot with now-elsewhere old-Portland legend Darien Brahms where we convinced her to jump on his back). There is no way to tell the story of Portland’s musical community without Dave Gutter being a part of it — and you will have a very hard time finding someone to say a bad word about him.
As for Allen, she moved to Boston for school and then out to L.A. to pursue her career in music — so we as a music community don’t feel quite the same sense of possession — but it is undeniably cool that she got her musical start with Jerks of Grass banjo player Carter Logan helping her put together a band at Waynflete (the Phoenix was the first to ever give her ink, writing up a practice in the long-dormant “Sibilance” column). How talented is she? While she won her Grammy as part of the writing team on Harry Styles’ “Harry’s House” album, it’s worth noting she was also nominated as part of the team on Lizzo’s album in the same category.
And that’s probably why she was nominated alongside only four others as Songwriter of the Year. Might want to put some money on her in the same category for 2024.
Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering Studios in Portland also won a Grammy, his thirteenth, for Best Historical Album for his work mastering the 20th anniversary reissue of Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”
Correction: A previous version of this story had a typo in the song title “Stompin’ Ground.”
Dave Gutter plays a celebratory gig at Bayside Bowl, with current backing band Male Pattern Eagles, on Feb. 10.