Exclusive: mtvU unveils Woodie Awards noms

 Sam Smith may want to clear some space on his mantle — that is, if he has any left.

After bringing home four Grammys last week, the British troubadour is in the running for two mtvU Woodie Awards, including artist of the year and best cover song (Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know).

Smith is joined by other multi-nominees Sia, Charli XCX and Ed Sheeran at the annual awards show, hosted by MTV’s 24-hour college network. For the first time in primetime, nominees will compete for the wooden statuettes on an hour-long TV special, airing live from the SXSW Music Festival in Austin March 20 (MTV, 9 p.m. ET).

Among the other superstar nominees up for accolades are Drake, Skrillex and Childish Gambino, competing for the next-level performance prize honoring innovation, as well as J. Cole, Run the Jewels and Porter Robinson, in the running for artist of the year.

In the mix for best emerging artist are James Bay, MisterWives and Rae Sremmurd (all spotlighted by USA TODAY as On the Verge acts), and fresh faces Years & Years, Kygo and Raury.

Raury, in particular, is one to keep an ear on. Since releasing debut project Indigo Child last summer, the genre-defying 18-year-old has opened for OutKast, collaborated with Lorde and SBTRKT, and rubbed elbows with the likes of Kid Cudi and FKA Twigs. More so than picking up a Woodie at next month’s show, the Georgia native hopes to introduce himself to many of his fellow nominees, including inspiration Gambino, whom he’s never met.

“It’s an awesome thing them nominating me, but to be completely honest, when it comes to accolades and things like that … it doesn’t mean everything,” Raury says. “I appreciate everything, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, what I mainly make music for is my fans.”

Talking with the singer, rapper and multi-instrumentalist, it becomes clear just how much he values his bond with fans — taking time to host late-night get-togethers with them before shows, where he’ll sit, chat and “kick their (butts) at Super Smash Bros.” on Wii U, he says. Aiming to make music for the soul in an industry that’s driven by profit, Raury sets the bar high for himself for his formal debut album, expected out this year.

“I’m aiming to release the best album of the year, dammit,” he says. “I know I’m new and I have a lot more to prove, but I always bite off more than I can chew, I don’t care. That’s always the goal: to release the best anything of that year. Young Raur is going to go for it.”

The full list of 2015 mtvU Woodie Awards nominees:

Woodie Of The Year (Artist of the Year)

J. Cole
Sam Smith
Charli XCX
Run the Jewels
Porter Robinson
FKA Twigs

Artist to Watch Woodie (Best Emerging Artist)

Years & Years
Rae Sremmurd
Raury
MisterWives
Kygo
James Bay

Best Video Woodie (Best Video of the Year)

Pendulum, FKA Twigs
Sober, Childish Gambino
7/11, Beyoncé
Never Catch Me, Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar
Salt, Bad Suns
Down on My Luck, Vic Mensa

Cover Woodie (Best Cover Song)

Drunk in Love, Ed Sheeran, Sia, and Grouplove (covering Beyoncé)
Take Me to Church, Kiesza (covering Hozier)
Don’t Tell ‘Em, Lorde (covering Jeremih)
Shake it Off, Charli XCX (covering Taylor Swift)
Riptide, Taylor Swift (covering Vance Joy)
How Will I Know, Sam Smith (covering Whitney Houston)

Next Level Performance Woodie (Finding New Ways to Reach Audiences)

Drake and Lil Wayne

  • Created an app that allowed the audience to decide who performed first on their joint tour.

Childish Gambino

  • Created an app that allowed users to display messages onto his tour stage.

Big Data

  • Used social media during their performances to acknowledge specific audience members in real time in front of the entire crowd.

Sia

  • Performed in several TV appearances without showing her face by utilizing performance artists and actors to serve as a proxy for her.

Skrillex

  • Performed Bonnaroo SuperJam session fusing EDM and live instrumentation with numerous surprise guests.

Co-Sign Woodie (Best Collaboration Between Artists)

Heroes (We Could Be), Alesso featuring Tove Lo
All About It, Hoodie Allen featuring Ed Sheeran
Take Ü, Jack Ü featuring Kiesza
Arrows, Fences featuring Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Tuesday, iLoveMakonnen featuring Drake
Detroit vs. Everybody, Eminem featuring Dej Loaf

College Radio Woodie (Best College Radio Station)

Arizona State University (KASC)
Boston University (WTBU)
Eastern Illinois University (WEIU)
Hofstra University (WRHU)
James Madison University (WXJM)
Loyola University Chicago (WLUW)
Marywood University (WVMW)
St. Edward’s University (Topper Radio)
University of California, Berkeley (KALX)
University of Pittsburg (WPTS)