2011 Grammys: Washingtonians to watch - Malachi, DeVaughn, Carpenter, Brown

A look at Grammy nominees and winners who have a connection to the Washington region.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011; 9:58 AM

Remember when a Grammy was worth something?

Before file-sharing crippled the music business, it was worth plenty. In 2000, when the record biz was enjoying its sunniest skies, Santana sold 583,000 copies of his comeback disc, "Supernatural," the week after scooping up eight Grammys, including album of the year. The week prior, he had sold 219,000.

Now, with album sales down by more than half since 2000, a big Grammy win doesn't mean big sales. Taylor Swift's "Fearless" won album of the year in 2010 and saw a modest bump with 53,000 copies sold the week after the awards, up from 34,000 sold the week before.

At Sunday's 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, those little gramophone statuettes might be most valuable to the names on the undercard: lesser-known artists hoping to raise their profile, seal deals or increase their asking price on tour.

"Your stock goes up,"says local R&B crooner Raheem DeVaughn of a Grammy nomination. "Even with the decline of sales, there's still money out there to get. I think it's about setting realistic goals."

For some of this year's local Grammy nominees - go-go legend Chuck Brown, up for his very first Grammy; DeVaughn, a three-time nominee; multiple Grammy winner country-folk singer Mary Chapin Carpenter; and little-known R&B newbie Carolyn Malachi - those goals are as disparate as their music.

The rookie

Malachi's smile barely fits into the corner booth at Colonel Brooks Tavern in Brookland. The 26-year-old grew up just a few blocks away from here, and will soon make her first trip to California in hopes of bringing home a Grammy.

Never heard of her? You're not alone. The R&B singer and great-granddaughter of late Washington jazz musician John Malachi, is up for best urban/alternative single with her spacey soul tune "Orion." Before the nomination, she was almost completely unknown. So how'd she do it?

"Everyone knows that the Grammys are a peer-voted award," Malachi says. "I had just joined the Recording Academy and I thought, 'Okay, I'm going to shoot for the highest honor this organization can offer.' "

So without any radio play and barely any albums sold - Malachi's "Lions, Fires & Squares" has only sold 65 copies since its release, according to Nielsen SoundScan - the singer began networking with the 400 voting members of the Washington chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which also includes Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

The organization's national membership includes more than 20,200 musicians, producers, engineers and other recording professionals who vote for Grammy nominees and winners. Malachi hobnobbed with some of them at a Washington mixer in 2009, one of the numerous artist development events the Washington chapter holds each year.

Simply putting "Orion" on their radar helped her score the nomination, Malachi says.

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