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He hopes to be walking on clouds when show's over

An Eckerd College alumnus will be waiting to hear his album's title called at tonight's Grammy Awards show.

By MARLON A. WALKER
Published February 8, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Just like the title of his album, Stuart Hyatt is in the clouds.

Hyatt, a 1997 Eckerd College graduate, could become a Grammy-winning artist thanks in part to his project, The Clouds, which is up for an award in the Best Recording Package category at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards show, which airs tonight on CBS.

"It's totally exciting," the 31-year-old said Monday evening from his home in Indianapolis. "My wife and I are going to be like the Beverly Hillbillies on the red carpet."

Hyatt was noted for his creativity at Eckerd with his thesis project, said Arthur Skinner, a professor of visual arts who worked with Hyatt while he was a student. Skinner said the project was sort of a solar system of sound. Large fiberglass spheres were suspended from the ceiling of one of the campus buildings. Each contained a tape deck that, when earphones were plugged in, would play different types of music.

The package for The Clouds is made of recycled materials, including corrugated cardboard and recycled cotton.

The Clouds was the culmination of several months spent in York, Ala., in fall 2004. Hyatt said he was invited by the Coleman Center, a group that sponsored his trip, to come down and do a project on the community.

York, with a population of about 2,600 people - and about 78 percent black, according to 2004 census figures - was deeply rooted in the church, giving insight into the gospel feel found in the album's music, Hyatt said.

"Gospel music is a large part of it," he said. "That was kind of the approach. Go in the churches and find music there. Meeting the folks (at the churches). Just kind of inventing these songs. Writing things around how I thought they performed."

In all, 88 people contributed to the album's work, which he described as "avant gospel" for, among other things, its roots in Southern gospel.

"As an outsider, I stuck out like a sore thumb," he said. "I was welcomed and looked at as someone eager to make music. Within a few days, I felt like I was at home. It's the old cliche that (music) is a common language to speak."

Tonight, he will take to the red carpet to compete with the likes of Ani DiFranco and Aimee Mann for the Grammy in his category. Either way, he said, he's happy to just be going.

"Of course it'd be great to win," he said, "but just going out there and having a good time and enjoying the hors d'oeuvres is what we're excited to do."