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Alison Krauss On Her Many GRAMMY Wins, Working With Robert Plant & The Importance Of "Daydream Time"

Alison Krauss

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Alison Krauss On Her Many GRAMMY Wins, Working With Robert Plant & The Importance Of "Daydream Time"

The bluegrass luminary also goes deep on where she finds musical inspiration and the night she won five GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Mar 25, 2019 - 09:45 pm

Though she’s won the third most awards in GRAMMY history, Alison Krauss isn't resting on her laurels or worrying about whether she'll break any records. That kind of thing could change her creative flow, and she's all about the work. "It could infect what I would want to do next, and I have to be very natural," she says from her Nashville home. For a legend of the country and bluegrass world, expecting anything else would be sacrilege.

That kind of golden focus brought Krauss to one of the apexes of Recording Academy history. At the 51st GRAMMY Awards, her collaborative album with Robert Plant, Raising Sand, won Album of the Year, Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album, Record of the Year for "Please Read The Letter," Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "Rich Woman," and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for "Killing the Blues." That armful of awards made Krauss the sixth female artist to win five GRAMMYs in a single night—the others being Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, and Lauryn Hill.

Even after winning a GRAMMY or receiving a compliment from a gushing fan, it's telling that Krauss' first instinct is to call her parents. The roots of her work are innately threaded through generations of nostalgia and familial warmth, an energy that hums through any Krauss recording. Raising Sand showcases that vibrance perfectly, especially as it so sweetly connects Krauss' instincts together with those of Plant's and producer T Bone Burnett’s. But in the midst of those legendary voices, Krauss' radiates, bringing everything together in an arc of amber affection.

In the heart of Women's History Month, Krauss spoke with the Recording Academy about connecting to the spirit of bluegrass through memory, working with Robert Plant, and the night she won five GRAMMYs.

Alison Krauss: What top GRAMMY winner record does she hold?

What are you working on at the moment?

I've got some tracks that I'm finishing, and we're deciding whether we're going to use them for a project in 2020, depending on how we feel about the collection! I also have some vocals to do on other projects that I haven't got through yet. I don't know if it's allergies or what, but I caught the flu a few months ago and my throat’s still not clean enough to record something that will be around forever. I'm just going to keep on waiting a little bit.

Absolutely, if you strain your voice, that's going to be incredibly harmful in the long-term. You really do sound so natural on your records, so ensuring you don’t have to force that is important.

Whenever I've compromised my voice, I just never forget. At least for me, if I don’t feel absolutely 100% certain I’m ready, it's always going to feel unfinished and I’ll just want to hide under the table every time I hear it.

How do you find inspiration in Nashville?

I have to be by myself, and I have to see and listen to the things that inspired me as a kid. The themes of bluegrass and traditional music come from a few generations ago, and the romanticism with that kind of music comes from longing for the past. I like going to museums. I like going driving, too, which reminds me of riding around in the car as a little kid. I can't necessarily even set the mood, it just has to come when it comes. But the busier that I've gotten, just with normal life, the less those times show up. As a kid you're nurturing whatever is first on your list. At a certain point, all I thought about was music. But as you get older, your heart is tugged in other places.

That’s especially difficult because as a musician, you're almost required to create. You're very focused on understanding that you need to compartmentalize different versions of your life.

I cannot force my feelings, and I can’t compromise. So going into the studio, if I'm distracted and I have something pulling on my mind, I don't want to end up with a fake version of myself.

I remember my father driving me to a fiddle contest in Arkansas from Illinois when I was 11. I had an album by Tony Rice that I was obsessed with; it was called Cold on the Shoulder. We had a cassette player and he let me play that thing 11 hours in a row. He never asked me to switch it up or to take a break. And then he let me do that on the way home too. He listened to the same album for 22 hours, because he knew for whatever reason that it mattered. I think about how much you are becoming who you are when you're immersed, when you're soaking in something like that. When my son started to have an interest in music, I did exactly the same thing. The CD player was his because I didn’t want to interrupt that process.

There's a reason everybody responds to music: it makes them feel like who they are. When they listen to something from when they were kids, they feel like who they were then. It's too big to interrupt. On that drive, my father knew something was happening, and he allowed it. That freedom to find yourself is really big.

How has your connection to country and bluegrass music changed as you've gotten more experience in the industry and worked with more people? What about that type of music continues to speak to your musical spirit now?

I continue to be someone that longs for the values of bluegrass—the words to those songs and the way that they're written. It's a poetic style and it's a timeless kind of music. The subject matters are home, family, land, and God, and it's just incredibly beautiful and poetic. It's very romantic in its simplicity. Most people who grew up in that music all say they think they were born in the wrong era. Things may have changed over the years, but the poetic kind of abstractness of what we've recorded through the years never lost that message—not to me. Plus, I have a lot of the things that my mother grew up with her house, and we connected on bluegrass, so I think there's a real personal connection to that time. You're romanticizing what makes those people from two generations ago that you’re seeing photos of. Is it what they experienced or is it what they daydreamed about? Young people have plenty of free space to daydream, when you’re figuring out who you are. My whole musical life started looking out the window at cornfields while we drove around. I think of all the teeny people today on their phones, taking that daydream time and breaking it up. And I think, "Gosh, those future musicians don’t get to have that daydream time." For me that was incredibly valuable, that quiet time.

A lot of artists say, “I'm not nostalgic, I don't want to turn back."

Oh, no! I don't want to turn back either—I don't want to turn back on me. You can't recreate who you are. You need to stay honest, or it just doesn't work. People respond to the truth in something. I want to listen to someone where I feel like I'm getting who they are. You've got to be a vessel for your work.

That said, you have to be connected to important moments in your past—like, for example, that life-changing evening when you won five GRAMMY awards! When you started making music, were awards close to your radar?

No, no, no. I didn't even think I'd get to do this for a living. Even though I was passionate and obsessed, I just didn't even think like that. I was thinking about Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Ralph Stanley, and Larry Sparks. I was obsessed with those records. That was all I did, but I didn't think I would get to end up doing it. I didn't think I'd ever look in the audience and see people singing along with our songs. The first time I saw, I was blown away. [Laughs.]

It feels like a very private thing for you. Your passion comes from your family and your history.

It's true, though; there was some isolation. That kind of music in general was not accessible. If you made bluegrass, you were kind of in your own club. You couldn't find it on the radio. People traveled all over the country to get to be with other people who played that music, and they'd play like crazy—play in the parking lot, play in the lobby of the hotel. But it was a lot of fun. I have some really great, sweet memories of that time.

How did you feel going into the awards ceremony that night?

Well, Robert [Plant] is just so much fun, just silly and so sweet. He is such a great personality and person, and I had a lot of fun doing all that stuff with him. T Bone was funny, too. I know people liked the record and we had a great time. Really the funny thing with that album in the first place, when we got together, Robert was like, "Let's give it three days, and if it doesn't work and we don't like it, we can just move on." But T Bone said, "Oh, we'll record the full time."

I've always said that every record you make is like your last and your first. You'll never do another one and you've never made one. [Laughs.] It was like that for me, and I think it was that way for Robert too. That night was fun—but I was mostly concerned about my dress staying up. [Laughs.] I was stepping on it and getting really frustrated. And Robert was like, "Now watch it, because people will see you getting mad!"

That's such a miniscule thing that you forget might bother you, but when you are in public and you're about to win an award that becomes a big thing. Were you nervous?

Nervous isn't the word, but uncomfortable is a more natural word. [Laughs.] It was pretty surreal. We'd been on tour up until that point, and people would come in and say things, like, "Oh, the record's doing good." But it was still a surprise. It was just really sweet, the way it all happened. Robert is such a light, and he's one of those folks where you know exactly why that person has had an effect on so many people as he has. I just thought that he was just a great person. The first conversation that he and I had was about Ralph Stanley. He has such a knowledge of music, and both he and T Bone have incredible musical histories and that made for a great experience. I was really happy to get to have that natural musical experience.

He may have a really expansive career, but was there something that you brought that Robert had never experienced? It sounds like he wouldn't work with anyone if he isn't learning and growing as well, just like you.

Well, he'd never done harmony to that point. The kind of harmony that I grew up with is very consistent. You're doing a very stacked trio, and it's very consistent. Everybody knows where to come in, and the plan is to always come in at the same time. There's not a lot of improvising within that harmony. The high part may do some, but the lead stays straight on those choruses so that everybody has their part to showcase the trio. With Robert, his singing was always so free and changed all the time. It would be really funny for him to have to keep doing it the same way twice. But when we sang together, the more different we were, the more it worked. I just enjoyed my time with him and with T Bone.

By the time the evening was over, you'd joined the ranks of Alicia keys, Beyoncé, Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, and Lauryn Hill as women who have won five GRAMMYs in one night. Were you aware of the company that you joined in that moment?

Not at all—it's just a surprising life for me. I didn't even think I would do this for a living, let alone win awards like that. It makes me a bit uncomfortable because I don't see myself in that company. They are so strong.

Do you not see yourself though as that voice and that beacon in your industry?

I'd have to say I don't. But I am beyond touched that I would be recognized or have my name with those ladies. Those are very powerful women. When you were reading the list out, I was sinking in my chair. [Laughs.]

I'm sure any of those women would feel the same. It is a strange thing to suddenly be put in that position; you put yourself there through your work.

I don't reflect a lot on it, because I feel like if I were to pay attention to that, I feel like it would possibly affect the next thing I record. It could infect what I would want to do next, and I have to be very natural.

I'm sure a lot of women have come to you and either asked you for advice or just told you how inspiring you are.

I've had some incredible women say they were inspired, or had moments of inspiration by what we've done in the past, and I’m so grateful for that. I just think, "Really?" It’s a really humbling experience, and I'm so touched when somebody shares one of those moments. Even just talking about it is making me a little bit weepy. Those are the kinds of things I don't tell anybody about, but I'll call my mom and dad. It's really a beautiful thing to think your work might have inspired someone.

Beyond that night, you now stand as having won the third highest number of GRAMMYs in the Academy's history, which is just phenomenal. Are you hoping to catch up to Quincy Jones and the classical conductor Georg Solti?

I have experienced more than I could've ever dreamed of. It’s been a good plan to keep as much of that work process separate from thinking about the outcome or the results of it.

Who Are The Top GRAMMY Winners Of All Time?

Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

Seattle's Museum Of Pop Culture To Host Pearl Jam Exhibit

Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

Rosalía 

Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

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Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances

GRAMMYs/Mar 20, 2019 - 12:25 am

Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.

El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.

 

RELATED: How Rosalia Is Reinventing What It Means To Be A Global Pop Star

"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.

Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork. 

Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist. 

Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.

2019 Music Festival Preview: Noise Pop, Coachella, Ultra & More

Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Taylor Swift

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19/Getty Images

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Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Following dates in Europe and South America, Swift will land in the U.S. for Lover Fest East and West, where the pop star will open Los Angeles' brand new stadium

GRAMMYs/Sep 18, 2019 - 02:38 am

Taylor Swift  will be spreading the love in support of her hit album Lover.in 2020, but it may or may not be in a city near you. The GRAMMY winner announced plans for her summer 2020 tour in support of her seventh studio album, including two shows each in Foxborough, Mass. and Los Angeles for Lover Fest East and West respectively as the only four U.S. dates announced so far.

The tour kicks off in Belgium on June 20 and hits festivals in seven European countries before heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 18 then heading to U.S. Swift will then present Lover Fest West with back-to-back Los Angeles July 25 and 26 at the newly named SoFi Stadium. The concerts will serve as the grand opening of the much-anticipated NFL venue. The tour will wrap a double header at Gillette Stadiuim in Foxborough July 31 and Aug 1

"The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + SUMMER. I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic," she tweeted. "I want to go to some places I haven’t been and play festivals. Where we didn’t have festivals, we made some. Introducing, Lover Fest East + West!" 

Lover was released Aug. 23 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Her sold-out tour for her previous album, 2017's Reputation, was the highest grossing U.S. tour ever, breaking her own record.

Tickets for the new dates go on sale to the general public via Ticketmaster on Oct. 17.