meta-scriptAdam Lambert, Rita Ora, Kygo, David Guetta & More To Play Avicii Tribute Concert | GRAMMY.com
Avicii

Avicii

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Adam Lambert, Rita Ora, Kygo, David Guetta & More To Play Avicii Tribute Concert

The newly announced show will support mental health research via the Tim Bergling Foundation and feature DJ sets and live performances of the late DJ/producer's biggest songs

GRAMMYs/Sep 4, 2019 - 04:41 am

The Tim Bergling Foundation recently revealed details for the Avicii Tribute Concert, to honor the late, beloved DJ/producer in his hometown of Stockholm on Dec. 5, at Friends Arena.

Fellow EDM DJs Kygo, David Guetta, Laidback Luke, Nicky Romero, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike will offer DJ sets, while over a dozen more artists will perform live versions of Avicii's music. Past collaborators including Adam Lambert (2013's "Lay Me Down) Aloe Blacc (2013's "Wake Me Up" and 2019's "SOS") Rita Ora (2017's "Lonely Together), Joe Janiak (2019's "Bad Reputation" and "Never Leave Me") and Vargas & Lagola (2019's "Piece of Mind," "Tough Love" and "Excuse Me Mr Sir," as well as co-writes on earlier hits, including 2013's "Hey Brother") are slated to bring his songs to life with a 30-piece live band.

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fqzhtvLWefA" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

All proceeds from the show will benefit mental health awareness via the Tim Bergling Foundation, which the artist's parents set up in his honor earlier this year to "focus on supporting people and organizations working in the field of mental illness and suicide prevention," following his suicide last April.

The concert will mark the first time many of his songs, namely those from his 2019 posthumous album TIM, are performed live, as well as the first time so many of his collaborators gather together to showcase his music that moved so many. The proceeds from TIM were also earmarked for the foundation, which also supports non-profit organizations with causes close to Avicii's heart, including climate change, endangered species preservation and ending global hunger.

Related: Avicii Remembered In Stockholm, At Coachella, And By Fellow Artists

"Tim had plans for his music to be performed together with a large live band, and now we are realizing his dream and giving fans a chance to experience his music in this unique way," Klas Bergling, Avicii's father, said in a statement.

"We are grateful that his friends, producers, artists and colleagues are coming to Stockholm to help. They have all expressed a sincere interest and desire to engage in efforts to stem the tide of mental illness and lend their support to our work with the Tim Bergling Foundation. We are very much looking forward to this evening, which will be a starting point for the foundation's work going forward… We want this concert to help put the topic on the agenda and pay attention to the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. Policies and tools are needed to detect the risks and prevent suicide, especially among young people," Bergling added.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Tim Bergling Foundation will advocate for the recognition of suicide as a global health emergency and promote removing the stigma attached to the discussion of mental health issues. <a href="https://t.co/LmEmB22jBb">pic.twitter.com/LmEmB22jBb</a></p>&mdash; Tim Bergling Foundation (@aviciicharity) <a href="https://twitter.com/aviciicharity/status/1168984232879955968?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Tickets for what is sure to be a powerful concert go on sale Sept. 5 at 10:00 a.m. CET via Ticketmaster. The full lineup can be found here, with more artists to be announced later.

Lizzo, Halsey, Shawn Mendes & More To Talk Mental Health On Upcoming Radio Special

Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."
Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."

Photo: Rosalind O'Connor/NBC via Getty Images

interview

Behind Leon Michels' Hits: From Working With The Carters & Aloe Blacc, To Creating Clairo's New Album

Multi-instrumentalist turned GRAMMY-nominated producer Leon Michels has had a hand in a wide range of pop and hip-hop music. Read on for the stories behind his smash hits with Norah Jones, Black Thought, Kalis Uchis, Aloe Blacc, and others.

GRAMMYs/May 27, 2024 - 03:17 pm

A child of New York’s ultra-niche soul revival scene of the early 2000s, multi-instrumentalis turned producer Leon Michels has had an extensive reach into global pop music. As both producer and session man, Michels has worked with the Carters, Norah Jones, Black Thought, the Black Keys, Kalis Uchis, and Aloe Blacc — to name a few.

He has held to a specific creative vision for more than two decades, first through his heavily sampled El Michels Affair projects and a healthy schedule of releases through Truth & Soul records and later, Big Crown, the label he co-founded with DJ Danny Akalepse in 2016. He runs a studio in upstate New York called the Diamond Mine North, where he does most of his work since relocating from New York City in 2017. He has two GRAMMY nominations to his name, for Mary J. Blige’s Good Morning Gorgeous and Lizzo’s Special.

Trained originally on piano, he took up drums and eventually saxophone through the guidance of his high school music teacher, Miss Leonard. "[She] is actually the person I owe it all to. She started this jazz band when I was in fifth grade, and there's no drummer, so she asked me if I would learn drums," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I did that, and she would give me Duke Ellington cassettes, Sydney Bichet, Johnny Hodges. She would just feed me music."

Daptone Records co-founder Gabe Roth recruited and mentored Michels while he was still in high school, and the teenager soon became a regular touring member of what would become the Dap-Kings, backing singer Sharon Jones during an early run of success in the mid-2000s. " I joined Sharon Jones when it was the Soul Providers. We went on tour in Europe with them. Somehow my parents let me do it. I don't even understand. Gabe came over and sweet-talked them."

Michels left the group in 2006 after seven intense years, wanting to spend more time recording than enduring the grind of touring. His chosen timing caused him to miss out by mere "months" on the group’s recording sessions for Amy Winehouse’s four-time GRAMMY winner Back To Black. Despite what appeared to be a major missed opportunity, he turned his focus to his group El Michels Affair after initial encouragement from the 2005 album Sounding Out The City, released on Truth & Soul, the label he had co-founded. 

Finding his inspiration in the intersections of soul and hip-hop, as a fully committed instrumentalist producer, he was able to develop an analog soundscape that quickly caught the ears of artists including Raekwon and other Wu-Tang Clan alumni, with whom he toured in 2008. This led to the follow-up album Enter The 37th Chamber in 2009. Samples from El Michels Affair, including those by Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, Just Blaze, J. Cole, and Travis Scott quickly proliferated and opened doors. Via the Lee Fields album My World, Michels' work caught the attention of Dan Auerbach, with whom he and his longtime collaborator and bassist Nick Movshon toured from 2010 to 2012.

Producing the Aloe Blacc song "I Need A Dollar" in 2010 further enhanced his credentials and provided the financial stability to allow him to be true to his creative spirit, which he has done successfully over the last decade.

Leon Michels spoke to GRAMMY.com about some key career recordings, including his latest release with singer Clairo.

Clairo – "Sexy to Someone" (Charm, 2024)

I met Clairo almost three years ago. I made a record with her that took three years to complete, which is actually one of the longest stretches I've ever spent on a record.

She’s made two records before this. Her first record, Immunity, came out when she was 19. It's a pop record, and it was very successful. But she's a total music nerd like me. She’s constantly scouring the Internet for music. The way people, especially young people, ingest music these days is just insane. She's got great taste.

Her first record was super successful. She made her second record, Sling, with Jack Antonoff, and it was an ambitious folk record, and a huge departure from her first record. I think it caught her audience off guard, but it was kind of a perfect move because now she can make whatever she wants. 

When she came to me, I was excited but slightly confused. What do I do? Because in those situations, you think, well, I need to facilitate a successful pop record, but she just wanted all the weird s—.

It’s this cool mix of pop elements, but some of the music sounds like a Madlib sample. All of it is steeped in pretty cool references and older music, but her perspective is a 25-year-old’s, and she’s an incredible songwriter. It's a really cool mix.

Norah Jones - "Running"  (Visions, 2024)

Norah used to hit up me and Dave Guy, trumpet player in the Menahan Street Band and the Roots, if she needed horns.

As we were coming out of the pandemic, she hit me up and wanted to make some music. We made a few songs and then after that, she asked me to produce her Christmas record, which was super fun because I've never listened to Christmas music. I started to enjoy it, which was weird because I had thought I hated Christmas music. I mean, once you start to dig for Christmas records, pretty much all of your favorite artists have them. I was listening to Christmas music from March to October the entire year. 

After that, we made Visions, which is all original stuff. Norah's just so talented. Her musicianship is actually some of the most impressive I've ever seen or worked with. She's so good that when I play with her, I get intimidated and I forget basic harmony and music theory!

Read more: 5 Inspirations Behind Norah Jones' New Album 'Visions': Nightly Dreams, Collabs, Harmony Stacks & More

We cut that record,  mostly just the two of us. There's a couple of songs where we got a band, but most of it was in my upstate studio. She would just come over from nine to three. She would come after she dropped her kids at school and then have to leave to pick them up. It was super fun to make, essentially just jamming all day.

[Overall] it’s not a huge departure for Norah, but sonically it is a departure, and it's got this very loose, "un-precious" quality. That's maybe a little different from her other stuff.

"Running" was her choice as a single. When it comes to singles — the songs that have actually been most successful — I've wanted to take those off the record. I have no idea what's going to be the hit or not.

Black Thought - "Glorious Game" (Glorious Game, 2023)

That was a total pandemic record — at the start of the pandemic when everyone was completely locked in, we had no idea what was going on.

Black Thought texted me out of the blue, and I think he was just trying to stay busy. So he just said, "Can you send me songs?" I sent him maybe two songs and then he sent back finished verses three or four hours later. Most of that record was just me sending him s— and him sending it back, and then going like that. We had probably 20 songs. 

The time I did spend in the studio with him was, he's a total savant. He sits there while you're playing a song, and it kind of looks like he's on Instagram or f—ing around, you know what I mean? Does this guy even like this song? And then 45 minutes later, he’ll be like "Aight, ready." And he goes in there and, and he'll rap four pages of lyrics in one take. It's insane. He remembers everything;  we'll do a song and then three years later, he'll have to redo it, but he'll know the lyrics from memory.

There's a couple of things that I figured out on that record. One: The thing I love about sampled hip-hop production the most is it's almost always pitch-shifted, which makes a giant difference in the sound. And if the piano has decay or vocals have vibrato, when you pitch it up, it becomes something that is so uniquely hip-hop. The second thing was, with hip hop, one of the best parts about sampling is the choices a producer has to make when they are limited to chopping a two-track mix.  If you have multi-tracks, there are too many options. 

I think that record resonated with people who are hip-hop aficionados who really love the art of emceeing. 

Aloe Blacc - "I Need A Dollar" (Good Things, 2010)

We had just recorded the Lee Fields record, My World. Eothen Alapatt, who used to be a label manager at Now Again, was a friend of mine. [Jeff Silverman and I] started Truth & Soul, but we had no infrastructure. We thought My World would have a bigger reach if Stones Throw took care of the press and distribution. And so Eothen said "Yeah, we can do that, but instead of paying us, just make a record with this artist we have, Aloe Blacc."

I had no idea who he was. And so that was the business deal. We didn't get paid for the record initially. The payment was that they were going to promote Lee Fields record for us. So [Aloe] came to New York, and I did it with my partner at the time, Jeff Silverman, also Nick Movshon, who played on the entire record.

He wanted to do this Bill Withers thing. "I Need A Dollar" was probably my least favorite song on the record. I think I have this aversion to anything that's slightly cheesy, but I've gotten better at it. But at the end of the day, it's just a good song. It got picked up as the theme song to an HBO pilot called "How To Make It In America." And then, it just blew up in Europe. It was No. 1 everywhere. But it never hit in America.

It kind of set me off on a weird path for a minute, because I got a taste of success. And made some poor career decisions. I tried to a do lot of songwriting sessions with strangers.  It was maybe four years until I decided to just make El Michels Records.  

The Carters - "SUMMER" (EVERYTHING IS LOVE, 2018)

At the time, I was making these sample packs and sending them out to producers. One of them was this slow jam, and so the producers called me up and said "We used one of your samples. It's for a giant artist. We can't tell you who it is. You have to approve it now. And you can't hear it, but it's going to change your life." That’s what they kept saying to me. Then they said "It's coming out in two weeks."

So I figured they used one of my samples and chopped it up and did their thing to it.  And so when the record came out, it was Beyoncé and Jay-Z. It was the first track on that record they did together, the Carters. And it was mostly just my original sample with some new bass and string section. So basically it was just Beyoncé and Jay-Z over an El Michael's Affair track. The track was called "Summer," and my original never came out. 

So just hearing Beyoncé, hearing these giant pop voices that I associate with absolute hits, over my song, that was pretty cool.

Liam Bailey - "Dance With Me" (Zero Grace, 2023)

Me and him just have a very crazy chemistry when it comes to music, because it all happens super fast and with very little thought. Sometimes I'll listen to Liam's stuff, and I actually don't know how we did it. That is actually the goal. That’s why Lee "Scratch Perry" is the greatest producer of all time, because he could access that instant input, instant output type of creativity. It just passes through him and then it's on the record. Making music with Liam is like that; I'll make some instrumental, or I'll have an idea and then he'll freestyle lyrics one or two times.

To me, it sounds gibberish, but then he'll go through it and change one or two words and all of a sudden has this crazy narrative, and it's about his childhood [for example]. When I’ve worked with him, he has this same process where it's just kind of "hand to God" s—, just let it happen. I was trying to make something the way Jamaicans did, [like] that brand of Jamaican soul from the mid-'60s. 

Brainstory - "Peach Optimo" (Sounds Good, 2024)

I met those guys through Eduardo Arenas, who's the bass player from Chicano Batman, and he had recorded a couple of demos from them. And they had one song in particular that really caught my attention, which made it onto their first record called "Dead End."

They’re three jazz kids. Their dad was a gospel singer and loved soul and Stevie Wonder. So they grew up on all that stuff as well. Producing a band like Brainstory is super easy, because they rehearse all the time. Most of their songs are written; all I have to do is maybe shuffle around sections or just essentially cut stuff out. Because a lot of times when bands write music and rehearse every day, they just love to play, so sections are endless. 

I'll…have a sound in mind for the record, some reference for me and the engineering hands to kind of work from. And in the case of Sounds Good, the reference for the whole sound of the record was that this is Gene Harris song called "Los Alamitos Latin Funk Love." This is kind of the vibe of the entire record. We just cut that record over the course of a year, but it was two sessions that were maybe six days each. 

Kevin is the main vocalist and he's amazing. He can do that sweet soul background stuff perfectly. And when he does [his own] background vocals, it's this thing that not a lot of people can do where he changes his personality. So he becomes three different people. Then the background sounds like an actual group. 

Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

Lady Gaga holds her 2019 GRAMMY Awards
Lady Gaga

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Lady Gaga Advocate For Mental Health Awareness During Her 2019 Win For "Shallow"

Lady Gaga accepts the Best Pop/Duo Group Performance award for "Shallow" from 'A Star Is Born' at the 2019 GRAMMYs while encouraging the audience "to take care of each other."

GRAMMYs/May 3, 2024 - 04:00 pm

Between two award seasons, A Star Is Born received seven nominations — including Record Of The Year and two nods for Song Of The Year — and four wins for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, Best Song Written for Visual Media twice, and Best Pop/Duo Group Performance.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, travel to 2019 to watch Lady Gaga accept one of the album's first GRAMMY wins for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance for "Shallow."

After thanking God and her family for their unwavering support, Lady Gaga expressed gratitude for her co-star, Bradley Cooper. "I wish Bradley was here with me right now," Gaga praised. "I know he wants to be here. Bradley, I loved singing this song with you."

Gaga went on to express how proud she was to be a part of a movie that addresses mental health. "A lot of artists deal with that. We've got to take care of each other. So, if you see somebody that's hurting, don't look away. And if you're hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep, tell somebody, and take them up in your head with you."

Press play on the video above to hear Lady Gaga's complete acceptance speech for A Star Is Born's "Shallow" at the 2019 GRAMMY Awards, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

Run The World: How Lady Gaga Changed The Music Industry With Dance-Pop & Unapologetic Feminism

Kylie Minogue
Kylie Minogue attends the 66th GRAMMY Awards Pre-GRAMMY Gala

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic via Getty Images

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2024 GRAMMYs: Kylie Minogue Wins First-Ever GRAMMY For Best Pop Dance Recording For "Padam Padam"

Kylie Minogue beat out David Guetta, Anne-Marie, and Coi Leray; Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding; Bebe Rexha and David Guetta, and Troye Sivan. This is the first-ever win in this brand-new category.

GRAMMYs/Feb 4, 2024 - 09:02 pm

Kylie Minogue has taken home the golden gramophone for Best Pop Dance Recording — an all-new category — at the 2024 GRAMMYs, for "Padam Padam."

Minogue came ahead of of David Guetta, Anne-Marie and Coi Leray ("Baby Don’t Hurt Me"); Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding ("Miracle"); Bebe Rexha and David Guetta ("One in a Million"); and Troye Sivan ("Rush").

The win marks Minogue’s second GRAMMY win after six career nominations. She had previously won Best Dance Recording for "Come Into My World."

The Australian pop star — along with producer Peter "Lostboy" Rycroft and mixing engineer Guy Massey — are the first-ever winners of the Best Pop/Dance Performance category. It was one of three new categories introduced at the 66th GRAMMYs; the other two are Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical and Best African Music Performance. 

Lostboy took the stage to accept the award on behalf of himself, Minogue, and Massey. 

"Padam Padam" charted at No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic chart; it was a much bigger hit in the UK, where it was a No. 1 hit. The song was embraced by the LGBTQ+ community on both sides of the Atlantic. 

"It's hugely important to me and so touching," said Minogue of her popularity with LGBTQ+ fans in an interview with GRAMMY.com earlier this year. "I hope that for that community and beyond, I just want to say I am open-minded and I want people to be happy in themselves. That community needed support and still needs support. I'm here. And they padamed for me."

Keep checking this space for more updates from Music’s Biggest Night!

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Winners & Nominees List

Ayra Starr Is In A "Rush" To The Top
Ayra Starr

Photo: LEX ASH

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Ayra Starr's "Rush" To The Top: The Afrobeats Singer On Numerology, The Male Gaze & The Power Of Kelly Rowland

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Ayra Starr is among the inaugural nominees for the Best African Music Performance category for her record-breaking single "Rush." The singer discusses her headlining tour, working with her idols and making it to Music's Biggest Night.

GRAMMYs/Jan 30, 2024 - 02:17 pm

Ayra Starr's rise to prominence in the realm of Afrobeats is a testament to her talent for seamlessly fusing "Gen-Z princess" flair with the wisdom of an old soul. From her inaugural 2021 EP and her debut album, 19 & Dangerous, to her presence at Music's Biggest Night, Starr has steadfastly embodied her artistic vision and accumulated experiences.

In the latter part of 2023, Starr embarked on her first headline tour, enchanting audiences with her sonorous voice and empowering blend of Afropop, R&B, and alté — skillfully interwoven with the vibrant sounds of her diverse roots. This international showcase further solidified her position as a dynamic force in the music industry.

"I'm constantly trying, constantly bettering myself, to show people I didn't come perfect," Starr tells GRAMMY.com. "I do have down and negative times where I'm in my head, I'm tired, or I'm not motivated. So, in a way, it's sort of a selfish thing where I make those songs for myself." 

This unwavering dedication to craft has transformed Starr into a formidable and industrious artist whose music resonates globally. Starr's pursuit of excellence is driven by a sense of artistic selfishness that compels her to continually evolve and elevate her musical prowess.

Born in Cotonou, Benin, Starr achieved monumental success with her single "Rush," released in 2022 as part of the deluxe version of 19 & Dangerous. The track became the most streamed solo song by a Nigerian female artist on Spotify and propelled her to become the youngest African female artist to surpass 100 million views on a single YouTube video. The Nigerian singer/songwriter's remarkable talent even captured the attention of former President Barack Obama, who included "Rush" in his annual year-end playlist in 2022.

The record-breaking track is nominated for the inaugural Best African Music Performance category at the 66th GRAMMY Awards. Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, Arya Starr spoke to GRAMMY.com about family, touring Europe and how her relationship with numbers is her way  of documenting her growth.

This conversation has been edited for clarity.

How are you recovering after your first headline tour? 

Well, there's no recovery for me anytime soon. 

After the world tour, my schedule is still packed with other stuff to do. I'm enjoying it to be honest. I had a two-day break and I could sit in one place. I'm just very used to the chaos of it all. I'm a proper Lagos babe, so I'm always buzzing for what's next.

Good thing you mentioned Lagos. Your parents bounced around places; from being born in Benin to moving to Abuja and then finally settling in Lagos, how have those migrations have influenced your sound?

I feel like living in different places has really shaped my mind. I really know how to adapt to places, people as well as situations. 

And you can hear that in the music. I know how to try and do different things. I know how to put different cultures and different worlds into what I'm doing. In Stability for instance, you can hear the French aspect of my life. I grew up listening to [Congolese singer and composer] Awilo and I sampled that. I mixed that with Lagos life — proper Afrobeats vibes. 

Your career has featured a pattern of numbers. I read that you like the number 5, your debut album was titled 19 & Dangerous, and your tour was called 21. Why have numbers become a prominent part of your career?

To be honest, it comes very naturally to me. I don't know what it is yet. I've not tapped into that aspect of my life. I think it might make sense in the third album where I'll be able to answer this question. 

But I just like numbers. Right now, my favorite number is eight. I say eight all the time. I don't even know why eight is just my number now. And with 19 & Dangerous and the tour called 21, it's just me relating everything to my age and where I am currently in life. It's just showing people that [what's happening in my life] is a very present movement and activity. I want people to know that, yeah, I did that when I was 19

Does that mean it's sort of a brag?

It's less of me showing off and bragging and more about me being present. There were a lot of people that were 19 at that time. There were a lot of people that were 20, or 29 but could relate to what I was saying. With 21 now, I want to associate it with a feeling and less of a number. 

So it's just you documenting your growth as an artist?

Exactly! I'm stealing that by the way. [Laughing] 

You've toured and opened for several artists like Koffee in the past, but this is your first headline tour. How did that feel?

Amazing. I’ve been touring for a while, but doing my own [tour] was a different feeling. Like people bought tickets to see me. I'm the reason they're there. 

There's no time to mess up. It's a different type of pressure. At a certain point, during the Europe tour, I was just like, I’m so relaxed because it's my stage, they're here to see me you know. If I fall down, it's all part of the vibe. It's an experience for them. They're gonna talk about it years from now. 

Luckily that wouldn't happen… or did it?

Ah, it happened already but I'm over it. But it wasn't during this tour. I just got up immediately. I couldn't let that weigh me down. 

And would you say that's the theme of your life? Falling and getting back up?

Definitely, I'm not afraid to be seen trying, and that's like my whole M.O. because I'm not perfect, and I want that to inspire people. 

I didn't know how to do riffs and runs last year; I had to learn it. I didn't know how to learn choreography in one day, but now I'm doing that. I'm constantly trying, constantly bettering myself, to show people I didn't come perfect. I didn't come knowing any of this, and I had to learn along the way. 

This is me documenting. When I say my age, I want people to be aware that I didn't know anything. I'm just figuring this out. 

What memorable moments do you have from touring?

Singing "Rush," the acoustic version, with my fans. I met this fan that was pregnant and she sent her baby scan and she wanted to let me know she's naming her baby Ayra. I loved it so much, it made me so happy. 

That and just spending time with my team and my friends and being on stage. Every minute of being on stage is very memorable. 

Did you face any challenges while touring and how did you deal with them? 

I'm human at the end of the day, and you get tired, overwhelmed, sick. I had the flu every two business days. I lost my voice. There are a lot of challenges on the road, but we can't let that stop us. 

The thing about touring is that the world isn't stopping for me. I still have my family, my younger sister that wants to talk to me every day, I still have my younger brother. I have friends to keep up with. I have to be a human being outside of this. It's not necessarily a challenge; it's just something I'm aware of, and sometimes it can be hard. 

Is your family happy and proud of you? 

My younger brother makes music with me, so he's literally my partner. I'm also basically on the road with my family. I was with my mum in Paris. I try my best for them to experience it too. 

When I'm not with them, I just feel so guilty. I want my people to feel what I'm feeling; I want them to see the countries too because we all started together. I want them to experience the exact same thing I'm experiencing. I try to spend as much time with them as possible. 

My mum knows every lyric to every song. We were having a conversation, and she was referencing "Ase." I was like "OMG, mummy please, please!" So it's an everyday thing; they're in my life. They're very proud of me, but they're also kinda used to it as well. I feel like everybody expected it to happen. 

You're known for your uplifting and empowering lyrics, but have you found yourself in a situation where you're feeling down and you need a little bit of Ayra? 

Definitely. I do have down and negative times where I'm in my head, I'm tired, or I'm not motivated. So, in a way, it's sort of a selfish thing where I make those songs for myself. I have songs that I make for the future. Music is therapy for me. 

You first went into modeling and then finding music. How proud would little Ayra be of you right now, and how much of all what she experienced made you who you are today? 

She'd definitely be proud, but even right now, when I look back, I'm so proud of little Ayra too. It's because of her that I'm here now. It's because of that 16-year-old girl that didn't give up and kept going. 

I wanted to do modeling because everyone told me I couldn't do it, like I'm not tall enough, and I told them, "watch me." And I ended up doing it. 

How did music come into the fold from modeling? 

I used to do cover [songs] on Instagram. My mum and her friends used to force me to do covers. I uploaded one cover on Instagram —  I didn't even like the video. But something just kept telling me to post it and I did. Not up to 6 hours later, [Marvin Records CEO] Don Jazzy reached out. Three days later, he signed me. 

Your fashion choices are  constantly under scrutiny by fans, particularly by men. Did being constantly bludgeoned with such remarks regarding the male gaze affect you in any way? 

I've always had a mind of my own. Growing up in different places, in different cultures, has shaped my mind. And in spite of all these influences, I'm still myself. I went to a very religious school. I wrote "Asé" when I was 15 — I had no business writing that song. So that gives you a glimpse of the kind of mindset I had at a young age. 

And I still have now. I'm not really bothered about the male, female gaze, or anybody's gaze for that matter, except my own. I'm an artist to the core, and I want my style, my hair, my music, to represent how I feel. I don't really care about aesthetics, it's more about how I feel. 

What was the energy like before and after finding out about your GRAMMY nomination?

I was alone in my hotel room. I remember just speaking to God, asking him to let me be nominated. If I was nominated, I'd be so grateful because I'd know that all my hard work was not in vain. 

This nomination came at one of my low days. I was unmotivated, doubting myself. It was cold, and I was just tired. I was like, I just want rice and stew, abeg. I'm just tired, abeg [meaning please]. Next thing I know, I started getting calls. Tyla sent me a message. So even before I found out, people had started messaging and congratulating me. After I checked, I just knelt down and thanked God. 

Meeting people like David Guetta and Kelly Rowland, both of whom you idolize, must have been an incredible experience. Which encounter was the most memorable for you? 

Everything has been memorable — meeting Kelly, David. Like the Nigerian girl in me wanted to call him Mr. David, but he was like "no Ayra" and I was like "no sir but…." [Laughs.] All these people, they're human beings, and we forget that sometimes. They're regular humans with their lives, making music and doing what they love. 

David was an amazing person. He was so free. After every lyric I recorded, he'd whisk me up in the air. He was so hyped and happy. Then Kelly was like the most amazing human being. I'm so blessed to know her. She is an inspiration to me and everything to me. Even before she recorded the verse, I'd loved her for a long time. 

I don't know how she does it, whenever I'm feeling low or down, she just knows. She'll send me a random message or voice memo telling me to keep going. She's the most amazing human being; I love her so much. She's like my big aunty, she's my friend. She's a friend. 

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List