When Amy Allen goes to her first Grammy Awards ceremony Sunday night, odds are high she’ll bump into somebody she knows from back home.

That’s because the Portland music scene is extremely well represented this year among the nominees for the music industry’s biggest night. At least four Mainers are up for awards, and three of those plan to be there, bringing family members for support. And to share the walk down the red carpet.

Allen, who is nominated for the first-ever songwriter of the year Grammy, will be there with her two sisters – Ashley Kent and Amanda Nurse – and her parents, Jim and Melissa Allen. Dave Gutter wrote the song “Stompin’ Ground” by Aaron Neville, which is nominated in the best American roots performance category, and he’ll be there with his 16-year-old daughter, Kani. Mastering engineer Adam Ayan, who is nominated for best engineered album for his work on Father John Misty’s “Chloe and the Next 20th Century,” is bringing his wife, Allison, and sons Zach, 15, and Evan, 12.

Mastering engineer Bob Ludwig, who works with Ayan at Gateway Mastering Studios in Portland, is up for his 13th Grammy this year, in the best historical album category for his work on the 20th anniversary edition of Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Ludwig, who has been to the Grammys several times, is not going to the ceremony this time, out of concern for the continued spread of COVID-19.

Adam Ayan, right, and Bob Ludwig in the lobby of their mastering studio in Portland., with some of their Grammy awards. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


But there will still be plenty of Mainers at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, mixed in among music stars from all over the country and the world. Those nominated say the Maine presence is just another validation of how vibrant and talented the state’s music makers are. The awards will be seen live nationally on TV, beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS.


“It makes me super proud of the artists we have here,” said Ayan, 47, of Portland. “It shows the world is catching up, finding out about the Dave Gutters and the Amy Allens and all the talented people we have here.”

Ayan has been a mastering engineer for some 25 years. Mastering is the final creative process in making a record, and artists send their recordings to mastering engineers like Ayan and Ludwig, who make fine-tuning adjustments in an effort to “enhance the sonics in any way we can,” said Ayan. Both Ayan and Ludwig, while working in Portland, have gained national reputations and work with major stars from around the world. 

Ayan has been nominated for Grammy awards twice before and won in the best historical album category for the 2005 work “Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax.” He has also won five Latin Grammy awards.

Allen, 30, began performing and singing around Portland as a teen, and has been working as a songwriter for some of the biggest names in pop music the past few years, including Halsey, Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes and Harry Styles. She’s been nominated for songs or albums she worked on for other artists as well, but this is her first nomination alone, as a songwriter.

Maine native Amy Allen is bringing her two sisters and her parents to the Grammy Awards. Photo by Caity Krone

Allen was nominated on the strength of a slew of songs she wrote or co-wrote that were released in the past year or so, including “Matilda,” by Styles; “If You Love Me,” by Lizzo; “For My Friends” by King Princess, “Move Me,” by Charli XCX and several others. She’s excited to catch up with old Maine friends Sunday night and, with any luck, fellow Maine Grammy winners.

“I’ve always loved the Portland music scene and have always looked up to Dave and Adam, so I was psyched to hear they’ll be there, too,” said Allen, who grew up in Windham and South Portland but now lives in Venice, California. “I’m for sure gonna try to track them down at the ceremony and give them a big congratulatory hug.”


Allen also worked on songs that are on two of the album of the year nominees, “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles and “Special” by Lizzo.

Gutter, 48, began performing around Portland professionally when he was just 11, and a few years later his band became Rustic Overtones, one of Maine’s best-known rock groups. He’s continued to perform with Rustic, as lead singer, as well as solo and with other groups. He’s also written song lyrics for well-known artists like Neville, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton.

He got the gig writing with and for Aaron Neville – who has already won four Grammys – with help from his longtime friend Eric Krasno of the band Lettuce. Gutter looked over hundreds of Neville’s poems to find inspiration for song lyrics. The poems were about Neville’s life and his view of the world. The song “Stompin’ Ground” was written from a poem about growing up in New Orleans. Gutter said when he read the poem, he could hear the horns and New Orleans-style percussion that eventually became part of the song. Gutter, Krasno and Neville are all credited as co-writers of the song.

Gutter says writing a Grammy-nominated song – or a Grammy-winning one – will help him “stay afloat and get more work” as a songwriter. But he’s also proud of his fellow Maine Grammy attendees and nominees. He joked that he’s “sick of” Ayan’s Grammy awards, but says he wants to touch them when ever he goes to Gateway Mastering. As a fellow songwriter, he can relate to the work Allen has had to put into her career to get it to this point.

“I’ve known Amy ever since she was Kani’s age. She’s been going at it super hard, and for Portland to have someone like her, writing all these huge pop songs, makes me super proud,” said Gutter, of South Portland.

Adam Ayan, wife Allison and sons Zach and Evan are all going to the Grammys. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer



Ludwig has been a mastering engineer since the 1960s, working with the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Beyonce and dozens of other major music stars. From 2013 to 2015, Ludwig won three consecutive album of the year Grammys, considered perhaps the most prestigious, for recordings by Mumford & Sons, Daft Punk and Beck. In 2014 alone, he won four Grammys, including three for the album “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers and best historical album for “Charlie is My Darling – Ireland 1965” by the Rolling Stones.

So who are the Mainers competing against this year?

The song Gutter wrote lyrics for is competing against an eclectic mix of songs, as “roots” includes a variety of styles and genres. The other nominated songs include “Someday It’ll All Make Sense,” a bluegrass tune by Bill Anderson with Dolly Parton; “Life According to Raechel” by Madison Cunningham; “Oh Betty” by Fantastic Negrito; and “Prodigal Daughter” by Aoife O’Donovan and Allison Russell.

In the brand new songwriter of the year category, Allen is facing Nija Charles, Tobias Jesso Jr., The Dream and Laura Veltz. Charles’ nomination is based on songs by Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion and others; Jesso’s songs this year included work for Styles, Adele and King Princess; The Dream has worked on songs by Beyonce, Brent Faiyaz and Pusha T featuring Kanye West and Kid Cudi; and Veltz’s nomination is based on songs by Marren Morris, Demi Lovato and others.

In the best engineered album category, the album Ayan worked on is competing against “Adolescence” by Baynk, “Black Radio III” by Robert Glasper, “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles and “Wet Leg” by Wet Leg.

In the best historical album category, Ludwig’s work is going up against “Against The Odds: 1974-1982” by Blondie, “The Goldberg Variations – The Complete Unreleased 1981 Studio Sessions” by Glenn Gould, “Life’s Work: A Retrospective” by Doc Watson and “To Whom It May Concern” by Freestyle Fellowship.


Grammy awards belonging to Bob Ludwig in the lobby of Gateway Mastering, where he works with Adam Ayan. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


Because it’s pop music’s equivalent of the Oscars, the Grammys draw a ton of media attention, and with that comes glitz and glamour. There’s the famed red carpet for nominees to walk down, for instance, with photographers snapping photos and fans yelling and cheering for everyone and anyone.

Ludwig has taken both his daughters – now adults – to the Grammys with him at some point, and let them experience the red carpet and the VIP experience first hand.

“The (Grammys) have a shuttle bus that picks you up at the hotel, then you walk down the red carpet and there’s a big cheering section – maybe kids who are hired to be there? – yelling at the top of their lungs,” said Ludwig. “It was a hoot, because there are some people who are really full of themselves, showing off for the camera.”

If anyone asks Kani Gutter who she’s wearing, she can answer with pride that it’s a Maine designer: Portland-based seamstress and tailor Kelsey Parker. Speaking before the dress was made, Kani said she had no real preference about what it should look like, she was just proud to be wearing something local. She said she didn’t quite believe she and her father were actually going to the Grammys until her father showed her the tickets.

“At first, I didn’t believe it, but it’s slowly sunk in. This whole process is crazy,” said Kani, a junior at Falmouth High School.” I’ve watched it on TV every year. But I really don’t have any expectations. I just know it will be fun.”


Gutter said he wanted to thank Kani for putting up with “a narcissistic, ego-driven, music-obsessed father” who has taken her to lots of not-so-glamourous events over the years, like long recording sessions and band rehearsals. Now, she gets to go to a very glamorous event, because of her dad’s work.

Ayan will wear a tailored, black Calvin Klein suit and will probably walk the red carpet, so his family can see what it’s like. When he’s gone to the Grammys before, he’s taken a side entrance into the ceremony, feeling it was a little awkward for him as an engineer to be sharing the spotlight with singers and stars.

Allen said she hasn’t yet figured out what she’ll wear, but if she could find a formal dress or pant suit from L.L. Bean, she’d “100 percent be proudly wearing that.” She’s walked down a red carpet only once before, at a London music awards ceremony called the Ivors, and said she had a “blast.”

“I think as a songwriter, I’m not really used to being in the spotlight and dealing with photographers, but I also think that allows me to not take it too seriously and just have fun with it,” said Allen.

As someone who has made music most of her life, Allen says it would be a dream come true to win a Grammy. But win or lose, she’s excited that some songwriter will get the honor and spotlight that comes with winning a Grammy.

“To win would of course blow my wildest dreams out of the water, but truthfully, the fact that this category finally exists is the biggest win I could ask for,” said Allen. “It’s so long overdue for songwriters to be given credit for sharing our stories and emotions with artists and with the world, and I think the more the general public learns about the people behind their favorite songs, the more doors will open for the future generations of songwriters.”

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