Though an award is "not what we live for," Mark Wystrach told PEOPLE, the nominations still "put fuel in the tank to go back and keep trying"


How’s this for a first-time Grammy experience: Sitting across the aisle from Bruno Mars. Shooting the breeze with Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) and Jamie Foxx. Hanging out in the beverage line with blues master Taj Mahal.

So who cares that Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, and Jess Carson lost in both of their nominated categories? The band known as Midland definitely had a night to treasure at January’s Grammy Awards.

Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, and Jess Carson of Midland at the Grammys
| Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

And if you’re wondering where Donnie Wahlberg and Hailee Steinfeld got those groovy cowboy hats they were wearing on stage, look no further than the sartorially resplendent trio.

Their trademark western hat wear was on temporary loan to the two presenters, who handed out the best country album trophy to Chris Stapleton.

“I gave mine to Hailee Steinfield, who’s also an old friend,” said Duddy, 33, who is also an accomplished music videographer. “I shot her first music video when she first wanted to be a singer. My family and her family are old friends. It was weird. It was like ‘six degrees’ [of separation] of Midland being at the Grammys.”

Universal Music Group's 2018 After Party To Celebrate The Grammy Awards Presented By American Airlines And Citi On January 28, 2018 In New York City - Inside
| Credit: Brian Ach/Getty

Duddy’s video career also tightly connects him to Mars, the evening’s big winner with six Grammys; Duddy was co-director of Mars’ video for Grammy-winning record of the year “24K Magic,” among many others. Of course, that meant the two colleagues were doing double takes when they discovered their seat assignments put them across the aisle from each other.

“We kept looking at each other like, ‘How are you in the front row because I’m in the front row over here?” Duddy told PEOPLE. “I think he was kind of tickled … I went up to him and talked to him a couple of times between the breaks … He was just, ‘I can’t believe you’re here already. Man, it’s really wild.'”

Midland’s breakout hit “Drinkin’ Problem” was what got them to the Grammys this year: It was nominated for best country song (losing out to Stapleton’s “Broken Halos”) and for best country duo/group performance. That Grammy went to “Better Man” by Little Big Town, the group that just happens to be taking Midland out on tour now.

So did the band feel some consolation that their headliners snagged the trophy?

“No, it made us furious,” Duddy deadpanned.

“Yeah,” Jess Carson, 38, said, piling on the drollery. “We’re actually trying to get off tour.”

| Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

(Hey, what do you expect from three guys who sing, “People say I got a drinkin’ problem, but I got no problem drinkin’ at all”?)

Wystrach, 38, finally pulled his bandmates out of their doggerel dive. “No, they’re great,” he said of LBT. “They deserve it.”

In fact, Duddy said, the band didn’t even bring up the win – or the loss – after the show when they partied with the quartet. “I ended up spending most of the night with Jimi [Westbrook] and Philip [Sweet],” he said.

“They’re totally like our brothers,” Carson added.

Though Midland went home empty-handed this year, Wystrach said the Grammy experience offered an important moment to “reflect back on how far we’ve come on our entire journey” and to relish that “you’re going through this experience with two of your best friends.”

And though an award is “not what we live for,” he said, the nominations still “put fuel in the tank to go back and keep trying.” They’ll have additional chances at April’s ACM Awards, where they won new vocal duo or group of the year and are nominated for vocal group of the year and single record of the year.

The night also gave the three artists the thrill of being among some of their idols. Just after Carson met rock icon Sting at an after-party, he ended up in conversation with Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Paul Williams, who reminded him, “The great part about being a musician is that you don’t have to give up your fan card.’”

The Texas-based band will continue to tour with Little Big Town, along with Kacey Musgraves, through the spring, and they’re set to join Thomas Rhett on his tour this fall.