On Saturday, Feb. 9, CBS will broadcast "The GRAMMYs Will Go On: A Death In The Family," which tells the behind-the-scenes story of last year's GRAMMY Awards telecast. As someone who's had the pleasure of working on the GRAMMY telecast for more than a decade now, I know a very important part of that story came down on the big shoulders of GRAMMY telecast host LL Cool J. His charismatic and heartfelt presence as our first host in many years helped allow Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich and our whole GRAMMY team to turn the telecast on a dime to reflect the loss of Whitney Houston just 24 hours before.
Yesterday, as we were going over the script for this year's 55th GRAMMY Awards telecast — another great musical gathering that will feature Justin Timberlake's return to music and a segment featuring Bruno Mars, Sting and Rihanna that you won't want to miss, to name just a few of many new GRAMMY Moments — I briefly broke with my usual role as GRAMMY writer and asked our host a few questions about being a big part of the GRAMMY telecast for the second time. And no, don't call it a comeback.
So how does hosting this show feel different the second time around?
One thing that hasn't changed is that I am honored to do it. It's an honor for any musician to stand on the biggest music stage in the world — the biggest platform for music in the entire world. And that's what the GRAMMYs is. And now to be a part of it in this show in this way is an amazing feeling. Look, some of the faces may change, and what I say may change, but that sentiment doesn't change for me.
You're clearly a pretty cool customer who showed a lot of grace under fire last year. Does having been through that experience calm any nerves for you might have this time?
No, because the GRAMMYs are a live show with all the possibilities and problems that go with that. So not to feel any anxiety associated with this event would mean that I'm taking it for granted and just automatically thinking that I've got it covered. And I don't think that's a healthy approach. I am confident that I can deliver, but I'm not going to say that I don't feel some nerves, because I do. This is an important job.
The two of us have been to a lot of music award shows over the year. But we've discussed how this show is different somehow. What do you think gives the GRAMMYs such a special atmosphere?
I think it's because you are surrounded by so many people who are hyper-creative. You're around some of the very best musicians in the world, and all the conversations, and the clothes and the combinations of styles create electricity in the air that's hard to define. You get that many charismatic people in one space and the mood is bound to be charged.
You have a new album, Authentic Hip-Hop, coming, a big hit TV show in "NCIS: Los Angeles," among so many other things you do, so you're already a busy man. I know why we need you, but why do you need the GRAMMYs in your life?
I need this because I love music, and the GRAMMYs allows me to be close to music and embrace the culture that is my first love — and that's the world of music. It's comforting to be in my zone. I truly love music and for me, the GRAMMYs equal music. It's a mathematical equation that's proven.
Collaboration seems important to you in everything you do — whether it's at the GRAMMYs, as an actor in film and TV, and clearly in your own music. What is the upside of collaboration?
It's very simple — teamwork makes the dream work. That's really the answer. This world is moved by enthusiastic people. And when enthusiastic people work together in good faith and good spirits, they can do anything. They can pray together. They can build a skyscraper together. They can write a song together. It's all about collaboration. That's why I have My Connect Studio, which is a piece of technology that we put together with Sony that allows musicians all over the planet go online and collaborate in real time. Collaboration and community are very important. We get that sense of community from music too — it's not just the great song or the big show or the screaming fans, it's also about feeling a part of something bigger.
Do you like the fact that your musical community keeps becoming more eclectic? In just the past few weeks, you’ve worked with everyone from Brad Paisley to Tom Morello. Some people would say those are people from two different communities.
I just like working with great people, period. That's true whether it's Brad Paisley or Z-Trip or Tom Morello. I love the chance to collaborate with anyone great and who's committed to doing something great together.
Thanks LL for collaborating with us on the GRAMMYs again. You have brought so much to the party.
Thank you for letting me collaborate with you guys. Much love. And everybody watch!
The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards will take place live on Sunday, Feb. 10 at Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). The show also will be supported on radio worldwide via Dial Global, and covered online at GRAMMY.com and CBS.com, and on YouTube. For GRAMMY coverage, updates and breaking news, visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook.
(David Wild has written for the GRAMMY Awards since 2001. He is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, a blogger for Huffington Post and an Emmy-nominated TV writer. Follow him on Twitter.)