Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Stringer / Getty Images
6 Deep Insights From Jacob Collier & Jessie Reyez' GRAMMY U Masterclass Conversation
The GRAMMY U Masterclass powered by Mastercard and hosted by GRAMMY-winner Jacob Collier and GRAMMY-nominee Jessie Reyez was dedicated to excellence in music and the development of talent through the industry.
Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs, like every year, GRAMMY U student representatives studying to pursue careers in music have gathered together in Los Angeles for GRAMMY Week, many to attend or help out at the GRAMMY Awards.
On Feb. 2, at the Novo venue in downtown L.A., GRAMMY U hosted its own Masterclass dedicated to excellence in music and the development of talent through the industry. Passion and creativity shined bright at the event powered by Mastercard hosted by GRAMMY-winner Jacob Collier and moderated by GRAMMY-nominee Jessie Reyez.
Collier and Reyez presented a rich and rollicking conversation, as well as a musical demonstration, that showcased their admiration for each other and for music-making. The Masterclass also highlighted the dedication, skill and vision of the GRAMMY U students themselves, who made the event and all its magic happen.
Read on for insights and advice from the GRAMMY U Masterclass.
Collaboration is key
"The GRAMMY U representatives work together to help build the vision of the program, including the featured panelists, conversation topic, venues, and overall vibe,” explained GRAMMY U Director Jessie Allen. “The most rewarding part of the events we produce is seeing the pride each Rep has as they see their vision realized."
And the vision for this Masterclass was impressive. The pairing of past collaborators Collier and Reyez was fantastic (Collier tapped Reyez for "Count The People" on Collier’s GRAMMY-nominated Djesse Vol. 3) and led to a deep, lively and illuminating conversation filled with live music and music theory 101. The musical components, which included a stunning demonstration of the audience choir Collier has been performing on tour, felt organic, spur-of-the-moment, and deeply captivating.
"For this Masterclass, we all knew that including live music was a top priority in how we created the event. Once we had Jacob on board, the program direction became clear pretty quickly and the Reps wrote all of the questions and script for him and Jessie. One of the first things they asked was for Jacob to do an audience choir segment, which was such a special part of the event. I was so proud to see them all soaking in every second, knowing that they helped to create it," Allen added.
In addition to shaping the event itself, other GRAMMY U students prepared great additional questions for the audience Q&A portion of the talk. A vibey selection of R&B, Afrobeats and house grooves, ala Beyoncé, Steve Lacy, Doja Cat and Black Coffee was provided by GRAMMY U student DJ, Anastazja before and after the main event as guests mingled and ate sweet treats of fresh churros, fluffy mini donuts, and paletas. The culmination of these collaborative efforts elevated the energy of the entire event.
Rules (and tools) were meant to be stretched
"I've always been interested in stretching all the rules. I've always felt they're quite arbitrary," Collier said toward the beginning of the chat, rocking a chevron-striped sweater and bright yellow Crocs that serendipitously coordinated the oversized chairs both artists perched in. "That gave me a lot of clarity."
The GRAMMY-winning singer, songwriter and composer took the captive audience back to the beginning of his musical journey, where the creative seeds for his GRAMMY-winning debut album In My Room were planted, with a mic and his first Casio keyboard in his childhood London bedroom. He explained that he loved to take apart classic songs he loved, like those of Stevie Wonder and play with them. He also explored all his keyboard had to offer, relishing in its presets which sounded out waltz and polka and horn instruments he'd never played before. This began when he was 10 and through his teenage years, and was a very inspiring and fun period of musical play, learning and experimentation for him. This was his happy place.
That bedroom musical experimentation was "a crucial part of my learning… What you like is one of the most important questions you can ask [yourself]," he said, emphasizing the importance of following your joy and the things and sounds that excite you.
Intuition is a superpower
Learning to trust and listen to your intuition was a recurring theme that both Reyez and Collier brought up when discussing the creative process and navigating the music industry.
"You have to make sure the little voice in your head is on your side," Reyez stated.
She continued, telling the audience not to accept “no” or let others convince them something won't work when they know there's a way. She stressed the importance of nurturing connections with themselves and their intuition, which is always the best guide.
When Reyez gets a no, she checks in with her intuition. When she gets stuck in indecision, instead of letting time continue to pass her by, she flips a coin. For her, this classic trick is a great gut-check and gives her initial insight into her emotional reaction to any decision. Either way, making a choice and moving forward is always more rewarding than doing nothing.
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Stringer / Getty Images
Effective leadership creates harmony
Collier led the "presence and effortless flow" of the audience choir, which he demonstrated to powerful effect, a beautiful chorus of angelic voices that he conducted with simple hand motions and vocal demonstrations.
The demonstration sounded flawless and appeared nearly effortless. He expressed that leading the audience choirs has been a great learning experience for him, understanding how to boil it down to the simplest sounds and give instructions with clear and precise hand signals to result in unified sound.
Drawing parallels between conducting a choice and building out his creative and professional team, Collier mused, "How do I lead in a way where everyone's voice feels important when creating a team?"
Collier indulged the audience with one of many “music nerd moments” of the afternoon as he discussed and demonstrated triadic harmony, concluding with "Harmony's my ultimate crush from day one."
"Think about every problem as an unresolved chord"
Collier offered a great piece of advice someone on his team had once shared with him: "Think about every problem as an unresolved chord." For him, finishing a chord is second nature, so if he can "transpose that [knowledge] to other situations," he understands that all challenges have solutions, eventually.
"When you believe that it can happen, the universe does transpire to help you," Collier asserted, adding that the solution doesn’t always have to come through your mind. Striking the balance between head versus heart and learning to listen to both was a point the dynamic pair emphasized.
He related it back to the power of having a good team and openness for collaboration, which can support in making magic happen. "[It's about] reaching into your peripheral vision knowing something will be there," "The Sun Is In Your Eyes" artist said.
Reflect a perspective through song
"I'm longing for all that is already here," Collier said poetically, in one of his many musical demonstrations. "Longing and abundance…how do you express all that with a chord?" he mused from the piano, playing around with expressing that nuanced feeling, which was truly powerful to experience and let wash over you. "I love the feeling of transposing my experience to [song]," he said.
He activated the audience choir once again as he bounced around the stage which had become his musical playground, moving from the big yellow chair to the front of the stage to conduct, and back to the piano. It's clear that Collier thinks (and moves) in musical form. Speaking to the audience, his choir, he reflects: "The feeling of being a note in a chord, it's an interesting state, it's like being a person."
A question from a GRAMMY U student who is a voice major offered more illumination into Collier's music making mastery. Collier explained that when he was younger, he thought that writing lyrics was meant to be a personal monologue, but as he's developed in his songwriting, he sees it as a chance to share a perspective, and not just your own. It could be a dance between two characters, or a chance to explore a viewpoint completely different than your own.
"Embrace the weirdness of your perspective and others' perspectives," he encouraged. "And don't be right…being good is boring… push into the crumbly, strange, dark corners of your imagination." For him, that's the most exciting creative space to be in.
There were so many mic drop moments during the lengthy conversation, and if that wasn't enough, there were two more cherries to top it off. Collier closed out with a big, heavens-gracing performance of the classic "Can’t Take My Eyes Off You" just for the IRL audience (sorry livestream guests!). His interpretation of the song ended with one more audience choir.
Find out if Collier and your other favorite artists will take home a golden gramophone this Sunday, Feb. 5, at the 65th GRAMMY Awards.
Music’s Biggest Night will be broadcast live from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles Sunday, Feb. 5 (8:00 - 11:30 PM, live ET/5:00 - 8:30 PM, live PT). It will air on the CBS Television Network, stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Overheard Backstage At The 2024 GRAMMYs: What Jack Antonoff, Laufey & Other GRAMMY Winners Said
Get an exclusive glimpse inside the 66th GRAMMY Awards press room, where Jacob Collier, Natalia Lafourcade, Brandy Clark and others spoke with GRAMMY U about their big wins on Music's Biggest Night.
Backstage at the Recording Academy’s media center and press room, GRAMMY U spoke with several GRAMMY winners just as they stepped off the stage. Each spoke about the vital role of collaboration in the studio, and the role they played in their GRAMMY-winning Categories.
Read on for insights from Jack Antonoff (Album Of The Year and Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical), Laufey (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album), Jacob Collier (Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals), Natalia Lafourcade (Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album ), and Brandy Clark (Best Americana Performance).
Jack Antonoff Can Truly Fly Free With A Collaborator
The 10-time GRAMMY winner took home several golden gramophones on Feb. 4, including the prestigious Album Of The Year for Taylor Swift’s Midnights as well as Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical for the third consecutive year.
Antonoff told GRAMMY.com that, as a producer, collaboration is simply "everything."
"The visual I have is a balloon. When it's your words, lyrics, and your life, you have to be able to fly free without being scared of drifting away," Antonoff continues. "I see the producer holding that string, and I know both ends."
When he’s not creating hits for other artists, Antonoff delves into his own artistry as the founder and lead singer of indie rock band Bleachers, known for their hit single "I Wanna Get Better."
"When I’m making the Bleachers records, I’ll have these crazy thoughts and then [producer] Patrik Berger will ground me in it. I think it’s really about trust," Antonoff reflects.
Laufey Won In The Same Category As Many Idols
Laufey first wowed audiences with a live performance of her hit song "From the Start" at the 66th GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony. Later in the day, the 24-year-old won her first GRAMMY on Sunday in the Category of Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Bewitched.
"This category means so much to me, so many of my inspirations and idols have won in this category before," she tells GRAMMY.com.
Laufey transcends the boundaries of genre, blending jazz and pop into her original music. With 18 million likes on TikTok and 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, the Icelandic singer/songwriter effused awe an gratitude.
"It feels so cool to make the kind of music I make today and still get recognized for it," she shares.
Jacob Collier Shared His Imnprovisiation Techniques
Collier won his sixth GRAMMY Award this year, taking home the golden gramophone for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals for his feature on "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" by vocal supergroup Säje. The first-time GRAMMY-winning vocal group is composed of Sara Gazarek, Amanda Taylor, Johnaye Kendrick, and Erin Bentlage.
The multi-instrumentalist provided insight into the making of "In the Wee Hours of the Morning," revealing that this collaboration began with an improvisation Collier created around the song, which was later decorated with Säje’s harmonies.
"The best types of collaborations reveal parts of oneself that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and I think the amazing thing about [Säje] is that the four [of them] brought colors out of me that were new," Collier says.
"I feel so lucky to have been clothed by these four voices, it feels really wonderful," he says.
Natalia Lafourcade Realized Her Own Importance
Known for infusing a variety of Latin genres with elements of folk, jazz, and alternative music, Natalia Lafourcade picked up her fourth GRAMMY win for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album with De Todas Las Flores.
"It took seven years for me to realize I need to write my own music again," Lafourcade says. "This album has [helped me realize] the importance of my inner garden, my creative universe."
The Mexican singer/songwriter also served as a presenter at the Premiere Ceremony, presenting in Categories such as Best Music Video and Best Song Written for Visual Media. Previously, Lafourcade won for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album at the 58th GRAMMY Awards for Hasta La Raíz, and discussed the importance of reclaiming her sound in this category.
"Having the producers, musicians, and my beautiful team has been an incredible experience. It means a lot," she says.
Brandy Clark Loved Working With Brandi Carlile
After 17 nominations, Brandy Clark landed her first GRAMMY win in the category of Americana Performance. At the Premiere Ceremony, Clark performed a solo acoustic rendition of "Dear Insecurity," which features 10-time GRAMMY winner Brandi Carlile.
Previous nominations for the Washington native include Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance.
"The work I did with Brandi Carlile was really important for me. Seventeen nominations, first GRAMMY win — I’m mind blown," Clark says.
Clark's collaboration with Carlile is a key part of her support system, and she continues to push the boundaries of artistic expression — especially when it comes to her love for country music.
Photo: Anna Webber/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
5 Takeaways From Halle Bailey’s GRAMMY U Masterclass
"Things change every day," Halle Bailey said during her Masterclass, "but if you find that love for what your passion is then you just stick to that."
Seated among a colorfully-draped stage, it was obvious that six-time GRAMMY nominee Halle Bailey was speaking to her people.
The packed room at GRAMMY House in downtown Los Angeles on Feb.2 listened intently as Bailey led a Masterclass for GRAMMY U Members, which was moderated by GRAMMY- winning artist and songwriter Muni Long. The event was presented by Mastercard.
In a live streamed conversation, Bailey offered a rare insight into her success in music and film — which includes two albums released with her sister Chloe Bailey, her lead role as Ariel in the live version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the role of Nettie Harris in the remake of The Color Purple. She also discussed balancing her career with her personal life as a brand new first-time mom.
While the Masterclass celebrated Bailey's achievements, it was also a showcase of what Ruby Marchand, the Recording Academy’s Chief Awards & Industry Officer, described as "the future of music."
Your cultural devotion and impact is something that the Recording Academy deeply cares about and we are here to help you find your careers, find your relationships, find your deepest inspired source that can help guide you," Marchand said before bringing out Bailey and Long. "Believe in yourselves, have the self confidence to take risks to make decisions that are right for you, that are right creatively, musically, and that’s the journey of GRAMMY U."
The Recording Academy’s President Panos A. Panay then made a special announcement that ensures a more diverse and inclusive future for the nearly 20-year-old GRAMMY U, which currently hosts 6,000 members and 30,000 alumni. GRAMMY U recently expanded its membership eligibility to increase inclusivity beyond college enrollment.
"I know everyone knows the Recording Academy for the GRAMMY Awards, but the mission of the Academy is ultimately about fostering the next generation of creators," he said. "It’s about providing a platform and a way of advocating for what we think is the most important class of citizens, which are the people that are creating these amazing songs and the music and the beats that move all of us."
Both Bailey and Long had incredible advice for attendees to apply to their own lives as early-career creatives. Read on for five of the biggest lessons from the 2024 GRAMMY U Masterclass.
Absorb Greatness & Get Aligned
Long suggested that the audience set an intention to learn as much as possible from the Masterclass. These lessons can be absorbed through osmosis, she noted.
"When you are in the presence of people that you admire and you respect — whether that’s Halle, or myself or whoever — understand that there is a frequency that you have to be aligned with in order to get closer to the beats that you desire," she said.
Long encouraged attendees at GRAMMY House and on the livestream to "align yourselves with the things that you want to see in your future." The "Hrs & Hrs" singer added that she wanted "to elevate you with my frequency, my intention, my energy."
Family Comes First
Bailey and her sister Chloe first garnered attention at kids singing cover songs on YouTube, which led to being signed to Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment label as Chloe x Halle. They’re working on their third album together and also both have solo projects. At the Masterclass, Bailey emphasized the importance of family and how Chloe helped instill her with confidence.
"I was truly grateful and blessed that I was able to start in this industry with my big sister Chloe, who is my angel, my guide, my protector always," she said. "The beautiful symbolism of having a sister there to guide you through everything in life is that she’s filling me up with courage and joy and me just really believing in myself because that's something that I really needed to work on, and still do a bit today."
The 23-year-old has said she has learned that she can do more than she ever expected, and working with her family was crucial. "Being able to start that way with that anchor is something I was so, so grateful for."
Balance The Personal & Professional
Bailey recently had her first child, a baby boy named Halo; Long wanted to know what she’s learning now when trying to keep a personal and professional balance.
"I feel like I've reached this new level of maturity," Bailey said. "Especially being a mother now, which is so crazy to say! But I feel Like I've learned how to balance it by shutting the world out. That's the first thing. I have to shut out the opinions of other people when it comes to social media, Twitter, Instagram, I just have to not read anything, I have to turn it off…"
Motherhood has opened a new "can of worms" for Bailey. "You see, really, your heart in your hands in this beautiful being. So I feel like I have such a greater purpose and so much more to do for him, and so much more that I want him to be able to experience," she said. "So it gives me a new motivation and drive and passion for myself, for my family, for my life, for everything."
Find An Anchor In Artistry
Since Bailey’s career was kickstarted by YouTube success, Long asked what advice Bailey has for aspiring artists when it comes to making content and using social media today.
"I would say for anybody who is trying to start out and be in this confusing industry where the world of social media is crazy now — you have so many things to think about as an artist," Bailey said. "What I try to do for myself is block out all of those things and take it back to being in the garage with my pen and pad and writing out my true thoughts and my love for music. That’s what I stand on."
Bailey also encouraged the audience to have a realistic view of their work — something the veil of social media can make challenging.
"All of the glitz and glam is cool in this industry," she added, "but you know when you start working in it, it's very up and down. There’s a lot of 'nos'...but if you anchor yourself with your love for your artistry, that is what matters the most."
Things change every day, Bailey continued, "but if you find that love for what your passion is then you just stick to that. So remain open to being who you are and remembering why you started."
Ignore The Haters
Bailey admitted that mean comments on social media can really hurt and make her pull away, but she has learned to ignore the noise and focus on her music.
"I just ignore, ignore, ignore," Bailey said. "If somebody says something I don’t like, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t listen. I just have to say to myself, ‘Thank you, I respect and appreciate your opinion, but I agree to disagree.’ And I’m going to show you otherwise."
"That’s actually great advice," Long replied. "You not only have to say that, but you have to distance yourself because — what we were talking about in the beginning, leading through osmosis — you can also take on negativity through osmosis as well. So if you allow yourself to continuously be eroded by other people’s perception of who they think you should be versus how you see yourself, that's very dangerous."
After the Masterclass concluded, Bailey surprised the audience with a lovely live performance of "Angel," her first solo single that’s been nominated for Best R&B Song this year. Tune in to the GRAMMY Awards on Sun. Feb. 4 to see if she wins!
Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Beyoncé's Heartfelt Speech For Her Record-Breaking Win In 2023
Relive the night Beyoncé received a gramophone for Best Dance/Electronic Album for 'RENAISSANCE' at the 2023 GRAMMYS — the award that made her the most decorated musician in GRAMMY history.
Six years after her last solo studio album, Beyoncé returned to the music industry with a bang thanks to RENAISSANCE. In homage to her late Uncle Johnny, she created a work of art inspired by the sounds of disco and house that wasn't just culturally impactful — it was history-making.
At the 2023 GRAMMYs, RENAISSANCE won Best Dance/Electronic Album. Marking Beyoncé's 32nd golden gramophone, the win gave the superstar the record for most gramophones won by an individual act.
In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the historic moment Queen Bey took the stage to accept her record-breaking GRAMMY at the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
"Thank you so much. I'm trying not to be too emotional," Beyoncé said at the start of her acceptance speech. "I'm just trying to receive this night."
With a deep breath, she began to list her praises that included God, her family, and the Recording Academy for their continued support throughout her career.
"I'd like to thank my Uncle Johnny, who is not here, but he's here in spirit," Beyoncé proclaimed. "I'd like to thank the queer community for your love and inventing this genre."
Watch the video above for Beyoncé's full speech for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.
Tune into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 4, airing live on the CBS Television Network (8-11:30 p.m. LIVE ET/5-8:30 p.m. LIVE PT) and streaming on Paramount+ (live and on-demand for Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers, or on-demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs).
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
GRAMMY Rewind: Lizzo Thanks Prince For His Influence After "About Damn Time" Wins Record Of The Year In 2023
Watch Lizzo describe how Prince’s empowering sound led her to “dedicate my life to positive music” during her Record Of The Year acceptance speech for “About Damn Time” at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
Since the start of her career, four-time GRAMMY winner Lizzo has been making music that radiates positive energy. Her Record Of The Year win for "About Damn Time" at the 2023 GRAMMYs proved that being true to yourself and kind to one another always wins.
Travel back to revisit the moment Lizzo won her award in the coveted category in this episode of GRAMMY Rewind.
"Um, huh?" Lizzo exclaimed at the start of her acceptance speech. "Let me tell you something. Me and Adele are having a good time, just enjoying ourselves and rooting for our friends. So, this is an amazing night. This is so unexpected."
Lizzo kicked off her GRAMMY acceptance speech by acknowledging Prince's influence on her sound. "When we lost Prince, I decided to dedicate my life to making positive music," she said. "This was at a time when positive music and feel-good music wasn't mainstream at that point and I felt very misunderstood. I felt on the outside looking in. But I stayed true to myself because I wanted to make the world a better place so I had to be that change."
As tracks like "Good as Hell" and "Truth Hurts" scaled the charts, she noticed more body positivity and self-love anthems from other artists. "I'm just so proud to be a part of it," she cheered.
Most importantly, Lizzo credited staying true to herself despite the pushback for her win. "I promise that you will attract people in your life who believe in you and support you," she said in front of a tearful audience that included Beyoncé and Taylor Swift in standing ovation, before giving a shout-out to her team, family, partner and producers on the record, Blake Slatkin and Ricky Reed.
Watch the video above for Lizzo's complete acceptance speech for Record Of The Year at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind, and be sure to tune into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 4, airing live on the CBS Television Network (8-11:30 p.m. LIVE ET/5-8:30 p.m. LIVE PT) and streaming on Paramount+ (live and on-demand for Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers, or on-demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs).