meta-scriptArooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily On New Album 'Love In Exile,' Improvisation Versus Co-Construction And The Primacy Of The Pulse | GRAMMY.com
Arooj Aftab Vijay Iyer Shahzad Ismaily
(L-R): Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily

Photo: Ebru Yildiz

interview

Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily On New Album 'Love In Exile,' Improvisation Versus Co-Construction And The Primacy Of The Pulse

When these three came together to make impressionistic, genreless, meditative music, they rose to support and bolster each other — and the result is 'Love in Exile,' a work of quiet integrity that exudes friendship and otherworldly beauty.

GRAMMYs/Mar 24, 2023 - 02:59 pm

When Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismaily stepped into a New York City studio to record their first trio album, they did so with nearly nonexistent advance preparation.

Which is borderline axiomatic, as all three musicians hail from improvisatory spaces. 

Aftab, a GRAMMY-winning Urdu vocalist, has been clear about improvisation's importance to her work. Genre-spanning pianist and composer Iyer has forged a legacy throughout the creative-music space, including in what we tend to designate as jazz. As for bassist and Moog synthesist Ismaily, his sheer versatility and range in that realm is staggering.

Still, did the music the three made together count as improvisation? Not so fast, says Iyer.

"I don't even think that 'improvisation' is the right word for it, because it's actually just co-composition in real time," the pianist — also a Harvard professor — tells GRAMMY.com. "It's not taking solos or something. It's really like, OK, well, this is what the song is. Whatever's happening now, this is the song. So, what should happen next in the song?

Read More: Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Arooj Aftab On Her Latest Album Vulture Prince, The Multiplicity Of Pakistani Musics And Why We Should Listen With Nuance & Care

That sovereignty of the now — and of each other — governs their new album, Love in Exile, the fruitage of this triangulation that arrives on Mar. 24. Together, Aftab, Iyer and Ismaily seem to slow time; the sound of tracks like "To Remain/To Return," "Eyes of the Endless" and "Sharabi" is capacious but never diffuse, abstract but never aimless.

Aftab's frequently described as "ethereal," but that doesn't really do her justice; despite the transportive nature of her natural instrument, she sounds steadfast, planted to the earth. On piano and Rhodes, Iyer adds tremulous textures that never intrude; they always buoy and support. The resounding heartbeat of Ismaily's bass will wham you in the solar plexus.

If any of this sounds a touch self-serious, the music sounds as natural as breath. And in conversation, Aftab, Iyer and Ismaily have an easy rapport and are quick to laughter.

Will they make more albums? Nobody's raring to prognosticate. "I love them," Ismaily says of his accompanists — in this sphere of ambient, drone, experimental, or whatever on earth you call it. "I love spending time with them, and for that reason alone, I hope that there is more time that I share with them.” 

With the album release mere hours away and a tour coming up, read on for an in-depth conversation with these leading lights about the making of Love in Exile, the confluence of their experiences and expertises, and why they could make 50 more albums — or zero.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

How did you three creatively triangulate in the first place?

Aftab: I met Vijay at Merkin Hall in New York. I was invited to play a set before his set. He was doing this special collab: that was Thums Up with [Das Racist MC] Himanshu Suri [a.k.a. Heems], [rapper and drummer] Kassa Overall, and [Son Lux guitarist] Rafiq [Bhatia] as well.

I knew Vijay and his music from before, and I had always been like, "Wow, this guy, he is amazing." So, meeting him, I was a little, for sure, intimidated. Not intimidated, but definitely like, "Oh s—, it's Vijay."

But we did a little collab that night — just an impromptu, kind of improv thing — and it felt really great. I was so surprised that it was so easy and so beautiful and so musical. You don't expect that just happening, you know? You have to work hard to find that sort of musical collaborator.

And Shahzad: I had been told lots here and there in New York, "Hey, do you know Shahzad?"

Ismaily: [Singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist] Meshell Ndegeocello gave me [your record Bird Under Water]  before I met you. She was like, "Hey, I think I'm going to be working with this person." So, she gave me that, and then I was obsessively listening to it for a while.

Aftab: Yeah, she connected us, basically. Meshell was going to produce Vulture Prince, before we even knew what it was — before we knew anything at all. But then she got busy, and then I produced it myself. But one of the things that she did was, like, "Hey, if you want to record in Brooklyn, there's this guy, Shahzad, who has this studio."

And I was like: Shahzad — this guy Shahzad again!

Iyer: I met this being named Shahzad pretty early after he moved to New York through [drummer and composer] Qasim Naqvi, who brought him into a Burnt Sugar situation. So, I was one of the OGs of Burnt Sugar, the band that [late writer, musician and producer] Greg Tate formed. 

We would do these kinds of very open, improvised shows, or not even. It would really just be whatever happened, we would make something out of it. And that was where Shahzad started showing up and playing. It always just seemed like I never knew what he was going to play. One day, it might be drums. Another day, it might be acoustic guitar. So, he was this wild card.

And then we didn't really have a lot of chances to do anything together outside of that, until I finally called [Shahzad] and said, "Hey, can you do this thing with me and Arooj at [NYC avant-garde performance space] the Kitchen? That was in June of 2018. But I was certainly aware of Shahzad for eons.

What was the nature of the first music you made together? What mutual artistic groove did you all settle into?

Ismaily: It was truly an immediate, spontaneous listening response to what each of us were giving to each other in that moment.

Whether it was Vijay dropping a chord on the piano, and me putting my ear to the bass and trying to figure out, OK, where is he? Therefore, what will I play right now? Or, I may have started with a pulse on the bass and then Vijay came in, and then Arooj came in when she did. It was really the chemistry of who we were in the moment, and then it stayed there.

Iyer: I think it mattered that it was live.It was actually just like, OK, we've got to commit to this second. There's no do-overs here. This is a show. And I think that put us in the frame of mind of: OK, everything that happens is correct, is right. Everything that happens is meant to happen. So then, we just sort of aided that process, and it came through us.

Once your live dynamic as a trio was established, how did you go on to establish artistic parameters in the studio? How would you describe the ratio of improvisation versus previously written material?

Iyer: I think the method has always been co-construction. And since we committed to that from literally note one, or sound zero, at the first show five years ago, it's never not been that.

Aftab: I think there were definitely some soaring moments that we felt from the previous six gigs that we played before we went into the studio, but we never really wrote anything down or planned a structure. I definitely remember that even the first time we did it, we were dared to do it, really. There was a lot of super-hardcore listening and trust that was happening.

I was trusting where I thought I should come in. You know how you're like, Oh, I don't want to step on this person's toes? If it's not planned, you don't really know what the f— is going to happen. Or, If you're coming in, are you actually interrupting someone's thought? or whatever. But there was so much unspoken trust and communication between the three of us, anyway, and there was just such a great language of listening and playing happening.

Sometimes what happens is that when I start singing, everybody sort of steps back to give me space. And I hate that, because I'm just like: I am going to go with you guys. Don't make a clearing for me. It's boring now, because it's just me here alone. Play with me.

And they never backed away, and it was amazing. They have so much more than I do in terms of experience and wisdom in being musicians, and I think that every entry and exit point is coming from that — that experience that we carry as composers and musicians in our own right.

So, it's not prepared, but it is coming from [that]. It is a learned thing, and it is a skill, definitely, that's being applied there, that is a very difficult one — which is trust, intuition, listening, and basically being creative in that sense.

Ismaily: When we went into a studio after a few performances, I still felt an equal amount of gravity and focus as when we were playing live. So, I didn't have much of a different experience between the two.

Iyer: Yeah, it was basically that we learned from our live experiences how the music should go.

Arooj Aftab Vijay Iyer Shahzad Ismaily Love in Exile Album Art

Arooj, I remember reading a quote from you about how you were more focused on the sound of your words than their literal meaning. What was your approach to choosing words in that regard — aurally, or even orally, as per open and resonant syllables?

Aftab: Yes, you're correct. The approach here was definitely to pretend to be an instrument, as well, to whatever extent that is possible as a vocalist.

I feel like there's this kind of idea that sometimes, vocalists are like, Yeah, I want the vocals to be an instrument, but to some degree, that's just not possible because it's not the same. You need vowels and stuff, and you need words to really get things going. Sometimes, the words are the instrument too. They're actually the keys sometimes.

So, I had fragments of poetry. Some of it's from Vulture Prince. Some of it's from Bird Under Water. And then, some of it's completely new stuff that I'd been thinking about. But I chose it based on the mood of where I thought the songs were going musically.

It's not entirely disjointed, but in terms of my intentional approach, it's not meant to be the focus. It's not meant to be the song. It's not meant to tell the story. I think I wanted the three of us to be telling the story — not just me, the singer. So, in that way, my intention was for it to be less intentional of an approach.

But of course, it's subtle. The listener and listen and be like: There's a vocalist, and bass player, and piano player, and it's a song. But, if you see, also, I'm not there 90% of the time. There's long sections where I'm not there.

So, I was interested in f—ing with this thing. The role of the vocalist and the lyrics and the storytelling, and how we can equalize the thing, for real. I'm still really inspired by it and playing with it. As you can see, I'm even messing it up in my own language of how to describe it. But it's fun, and it's great.

But the tone of the music itself: in a lot of the pieces, Vijay would start, and then it would definitely be something that I'd think of how it's making me feel, and go from there. Is it a theme of spring? Is it a theme of longing? Is it a theme of super-absolute despair? Is it feeling like: should I take it to a more hopeful place? That kind of stuff was all going on there.

Vijay, can you describe your pianistic approach to this music, perhaps as opposed to other music you're involved with?

Iyer: You know, what I think I was able to do inside of the music was focus on unity rather than focus on standing out as a pianist. So, really, all the choices are compositional rather than playerly or musicianly. I'm really never trying to grandstand at all, or say, Check this out. It's never that.

It's always more like, How do we hold each other together, and how do we keep it moving, and how do we build it? How do we sculpt the totality of this? So, all the choices I make are about that. It's not about piano stuff or keyboard stuff.

Sometimes, having the piano, the Rhodes, and various electronic things I'm doing gives me an expanded palette — a certain way to think compositionally. Even if it's just setting a certain tempo using the delay pedal on the Rhodes, so that then I can just play one note and I'm still in the song somehow. The pattern is kind of in line with what else is happening with Shahzad or something.

So, [it's] that kind of thing, where it's really constructive decisions about how to strengthen what's already here. How to offer something that others can strengthen. It's that kind of thing.

I just listened to Love in Exile on a terrific sound system, and I felt the pulse of your bass so powerfully in my chest. In my last interview with Vijay, he was talking about the primacy of the pulse, and I imagine you all feel the same way. 

Ismaily: So, Vijay and Arooj and I have certainly had a plethora of experiences in music outside of this trio — playing with other people, playing in other contexts. And then many of those things make their mark on us, and then we bring that sense of personage into this trio.

I remember quite early on, when I began to play with [guitarist] Marc Ribot and [drummer] Ches Smith in this trio that we had. Marc would often say, sometimes somewhat aggressively: "Listen: rubato does not mean there's no pulse. If you start to hear me play in a free, nontraditional, non-chord-changes, rhythmic way, it does not mean I'm not feeling a pulse underneath that.

Marc Ribot had a very anti-languid, or lack-of-tension feeling about ambient spaces. He felt like when something ambient is taking place, you still viscerally feel the heartbeat of a pulse within that. Whether or not you indicate it, whether you only play a drone, you still feel a sense of time and connection with a rhythmic undertone.

That's one thing that flows into my positioning in this group. So, as things are taking place and Vijay is making a beautiful landscape and Arooj comes in with a few words, I'm still feeling a pulse, and then I start to play from that — whether I'm indicating it quite strongly and giving some sort of 5/4 doot-do, doot-do, or whether I'm still playing much longer phrases, but feeling an internal pulse within that.

The second thing is that I want to give a little shout-out to Badawi — [multi-instrumentalist and composer] Raz Mesinai, who I played with. He would call me in to play bass with him and suggest that I play in a hypnotic way, so that you just felt like your consciousness was unfolding across the desert — unfolding across a limitless landscape of sand dune after sand dune. Which feels the same, but you still feel movement and the subtlety of change.

These two threads of exterior experiences to this trio make their presence known as I'm sitting and playing with Vijay and Arooj.

Arooj Aftab Vijay Iyer Shahzad Ismaily

*Photo: Ebru Yildiz*

After these album and touring cycles wind down, are there any concrete plans to make this particular configuration a going concern? And as an addendum to that, what would you like to tell the readers about anything else you're excited to be working on in 2023 and beyond?

Ismaily: It's been interesting to be doing press these last few days, because I often spend time with Arooj and Vijay just performing on stage, and not with a great deal of frequency. Over the last few days, here I am in a room with them, listening to them speak, sharing company with them.

Whatever comes — it may take place, it may not take place. I can get hit by a bus, so who knows? But, internally to myself, I have that feeling. And because I have that feeling, I will probably request to look toward it, at least with my own eyes and my own time and my own voice and my hands.

There's this band, Ida, whose music I was absolutely in love with in the '90s when I was working on becoming and working as a musician. They went on a long hiatus, and it looks very much likely that they're going to make another record, and I will get to produce it or be a significant part of it with them. That's what I'm looking forward to outside of this trio.

Aftab: I'm really excited for the album to come out, and I'm excited to see people's reactions to it. We're going to go on the road a little bit this year, which is going to be great, and that will probably ascertain if we're going to keep doing this. It's really all about how we feel — if we're really into that for this particular project. No advanced decision-making here.

So, yeah, we're probably going to do one [more], or maybe we're never going to do one again. Who the f— knows, right? I love it. I think that's the vibe. There's no business model.

And since we are going to play a lot of these shows without writing down anything, there will be so much new material. So, we may as well put out 50 more albums after this tour.

Ismaily: Yes!

Iyer: So we could be like the Dead?

Ismaily: Oh, let's get your Grateful Dead space where we just have a huge parking lot of crazy people all the time!

Aftab: And then, yeah, my boring answer that is everyone's answer is: yes, I'm working on a new record. My new album is supposed to come out in 2024. I just produced a short album for Anoushka Shankar, which is going to come out in the fall.

Iyer: I do have a couple of things that may or may not come out this year. We kind of have to figure out what's the best moment for those things to happen. One is a trio album with Tyshawn [Sorey] and Linda [May Han Oh]. I guess you could say the follow-up to Uneasy. It may come out at the end of this year, or beginning of next year sometime.

The other is that there's a recording of three different orchestral works that might come out sometime this summer, by Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

And then I have pieces I'm writing for different ensembles. A classical pianist named Shai Wosner — I'm writing a piece for him and a string orchestra. I'm doing a piece for Sō Percussion, and a piece for this pianist named Vicky Chow. And I wrote a cello concerto that got recorded that may come out sometime as well.

[As per the future of this trio,] I imagine that anytime we are invited somewhere and are able to do it, that we will rise to it. And I imagine that could happen at any point in the rest of our lives. That's the kind of guy I am.

Whether that means there's going to be a bunch more albums or zero more albums almost doesn't matter to me at this point. If there's more music that we cherish that we want to share with the world in that particular way and go through a similar cycle again, then that would make sense. But I think that we'll always have the capacity to come together and create. And so as long as that is nurtured, then I'm content, as far as that goes.

Vijay Iyer On His New Trio Album Uneasy, American Identity & Teaching Black American Music In The 21st Century

Collage image featuring photos of the presenters for the 2024 GRAMMY nominations

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How To Watch The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations: St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, Muni Long, Kim Petras, Jon Bon Jovi, "Weird Al" Yankovic & More To Announce The Nominees; Streaming Live Friday, Nov. 10

The nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs will be announced on Friday, Nov 10, starting at 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET. Watch it live on live.GRAMMY.com and YouTube.

GRAMMYs/Oct 30, 2023 - 02:00 pm

It's that time again: The 2024 GRAMMYs is just a few months out — airing live Sunday, Feb. 4, from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. Which means nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs are just around the corner. On Friday, Nov 10, starting at 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET, nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs will be announced via a livestream event airing live on live.GRAMMY.com. The nominations will also stream live on the Recording Academy's YouTube channel

The 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event will feature a diverse cast of some of the leading voices in music today, including St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, Muni Long, Kim Petras, 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year Jon Bon Jovi, and many others, who will be announcing the 2024 GRAMMY nominees across all 94 categories. Plus, the livestream event will also feature an exclusive GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show and Wrap-Up Show, which will both feature exclusive videos and conversations about the biggest stories and trends to come out of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations.

City National Bank is the Official Bank of the GRAMMYs and proud sponsor of the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards Nominations.

See below for a full guide to the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event happening next week:

Read More: How To Watch The 2024 GRAMMYs Live: GRAMMY Nominations Announcement, Air Date, Red Carpet, Streaming Channel & More

How Can I Watch The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations? 

The nominations livestream event will stream live on live.GRAMMY.com and the Recording Academy's YouTube channel.

When Are The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations Announced?

The 2024 GRAMMYs nominations will be announced Friday, Nov 10. The day kicks off with an exclusive GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show, starting at 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET. Hosted by Emmy-winning TV host and “GMA3” contributor Rocsi Diaz, the GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show will give music fans an inside look at the various initiatives and campaigns that the Recording Academy, the organization behind the annual GRAMMY Awards, supports on a year-long basis on its mission to recognize excellence in the recording arts and sciences and cultivate the well-being of the music community.

Afterward, starting at 8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET, the GRAMMY nominations livestream event begins. The livestream event will begin with a special presentation announcing the nominees in the General Field categories, aka the Big Six, as well as select categories. On live.GRAMMY.com, exclusive videos announcing the nominees across multiple categories will stream as a multi-screen livestream event that users can control, providing a dynamic, expansive online experience for music fans of all genres. The nomination videos will also stream live on YouTube. The full list of 2024 GRAMMYs nominees will then be published on live.GRAMMY.com and GRAMMY.com immediately following the livestream event.

After the nominations are announced, stay tuned for an exclusive GRAMMY Nominations Wrap-Up Show. Co-hosted by "Entertainment Tonight" correspondents Cassie DiLaura and Denny Directo, the Wrap-Up Show will break down all the notable news and top stories from the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations. The GRAMMY Nominations Wrap-Up Show will stream live on live.GRAMMY.com as well as the Recording Academy's YouTube channel, X profile, Twitch channel, TikTok page, Instagram profile, and Facebook page.

Watch the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event and make sure to use #GRAMMYs to join the conversation on social media as it unfolds live on Friday, Nov. 10.

The schedule for the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event is as follows:

GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show
7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET

Nominations Livestream Event
8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET 

Nominations Livestream Event Ends & Full Nominations Revealed
8:25 a.m. PT / 11:25 a.m. ET 

GRAMMY Nominations Wrap-Up Show
8:25 a.m. PT / 11:25 a.m. ET

^All times are approximate and subject to change.

Read More: Three New Categories Added For The 2024 GRAMMYs: Best African Music Performance, Best Alternative Jazz Album & Best Pop Dance Recording

Who's Announcing The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations?

Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. will be joined by GRAMMY winners Arooj Aftab, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Jimmy Jam, Jon Bon Jovi, Samara Joy, Muni Long, Cheryl Pawelski, Kim Petras, Judith Sherman, St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, and "Weird Al" Yankovic, along with "CBS Mornings" co-hosts Gayle King, Nate Burleson, and Tony Dokoupil, to announce all the nominees for the 2024 GRAMMYs. 

When Are The 2024 GRAMMYs?

The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, will air live on Sunday, Feb. 4, at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. Music's Biggest Night will air live on the CBS Television Network and stream on Paramount+. 

Mark your calendars now for the 2024 GRAMMY nominations happening Friday, Nov 10.

With additional reporting by Morgan Enos.

2024 GRAMMYs: 4 Things To Know About The New Categories & Changes

Feist Multitudes Hero Image
Feist

Photo: Sara Melvin & Colby Richardson

interview

Feist On Her New Album 'Multitudes,' Instinctual Writing & The Innate Integrity Of A Song

“I was taking real pleasure and care in finding new hand shapes, interior narrators, ways to spend the three to five minutes that this form called song usually fits into," Feist says about her hushed yet potent new album, 'Multitudes.'

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2023 - 08:56 pm

Feist's first album in six years, Multitudes, is full of negative spaces, but don't mistake that for vacancy. The implications are massive, but they're just that — implications. Something profound is brewing just out of frame.

"The last few years were such a period of confrontation for me, and it feels like it was at least to some degree for everyone," the mononymous singer said in a press release. "We confronted ourselves as much as our relationships confronted us… whatever was normally obscured — like a certain way of avoiding conflict or a certain way of talking around the subject — [was] all of a sudden thrust into the light."

Yet to look Multitudes in the face would be to do it a disservice. Take "I Took All of My Rings Off" — its central image of a wedding ring seems to suggest an unshackling from so many constructs and boxes. But when the song's meaning is broached, Feist demurs.

"I can't unpack that for you, because songs are very delicate mobiles that dangle to hold their own concept and interior logic," Feist tells GRAMMY.com. "While they spin in your ears, they come near, then swing away far and stay in a self-evident logic that can hopefully become familiar and your own — as long as someone doesn't try and break the spell by explaining them."

Perhaps hushed yet potent tunes like "I Took All of My Rings Off" — as well as "Love Who We Are Meant To," "Of Womankind" and other highlights — are best listened to rather than dissected or psychoanalyzed.

For Multitudes, Feist has some of the best and brightest in her corner, like multi-instrumentalists Blake Mills and Shahzad Ismaily. Best of all, she's matured immeasurably — if you're unfamiliar with her trajectory, and your image of the happy-go-lucky "1234" singer on "Sesame Street" remains, Multitudes is the timely update you need.

Read on for an interview with Feist about her thinking behind — and execution of — Multitudes, which spins off into themes of family, loss and creating with intentional limitations.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

I love the negative space on Multitudes. Even when very little is happening, a massive expanse is implied. Can you talk about how you achieved, or landed on this feeling?

It's easy to be tempted to evoke the idea that I knew exactly what I was going for, but so much of the process is a kind of pure-instinct decision making. So much of what works or doesn't, or belongs — or is clearly going to need to get muted — is clear as day in an instant, and self-defining.

Slowly, it evolves to become an atmosphere that knows its own laws. So, in that way, the process is guided as much by out-the-gate production plans, like microphone choices and where and with who to work, as are these ever-evolving, rolling decisions.

Tell me all about Multitudes’ "intensely communal experimental show of the same name."

Well, yeah there's a record called Multitudes now, but that project has been a few things along the way.

To build a show that lifted out of the assumed constructs of touring was something I'd wanted to do for a long time. Not to assume a bigger experience can only be found with bigger production, but to see what could be found by pulling down some of the baked-in walls that exist between the watcher and the do-er.

Like, how to really meet this unprecedented moment where a concert was a radical idea. It turned out to be a lot of people's first show back, and how many times will we get to feel a first again of something that used to be so familiar?

The feeling I was hoping to have shift under people was that after a global event like that, nothing that any one person has to say, or sing, is any more important than what anyone else would have to say. Except maybe someone who worked in an emergency room.

The above aspect, along with the caliber of out-there musicians who accompany you on the record, like Blake Mills and Shahzad Ismaily, suggests to me that you're advancing precipitously lately, from a conceptual standpoint. Can you talk about the juncture you're at in your evolution?

I'm not sure I have perspective on myself from the outside per se, but I've certainly admired Blake and Shahzad, as well as Mocky and Todd Dahlhoff and Amir Yaghmai and Gabe Noel — all of whom I've gotten musically obsessed with and in some cases played with over the years.

These songs were written in a lockdown level of solitude, I was taking real pleasure and care in finding new hand shapes, interior narrators, ways to spend the three to five minutes that this form called song usually fits into… but in making them bigger, I got a lot out of hearing where their hands took things. 

In almost all cases, it was about the player even more than what instrument they played; we weren't in a "Now we add the drums, now we add the bass" mindset. Like, I'd say "Let's get Gabe to do a pass on this one," and he'd walk in and pick up any amount of instruments and just free-associate.

You made this music after losing a parent and having a child. Can you talk about what you drew from these twin experiences?

Birth and death are two sides of the same coin. And though it seems radical to my Western-raised mind, one doesn't exist without the other.

I happened to stand at the juncture of those two in quick succession, like a lot of people do. The way they converged gave me a pretty undeniable sense of the continuum of time — the great unknown that precedes us getting to be alive and what happens after. 

I'd need to be an animator to illustrate the way it's all appeared to me since then. Our roles are interchangeable — the babies and parents and grandparents and ancestors and the stardust that begins the cycle again, the orbiting lives that touch each other like solar systems and time as the most abstract but binding force of all. 

It's breathtaking and yet so deeply normal, I just had no choice but to look really closely at it.

I love your harmonies on "Hiding Out in the Open"; they feel companionable. Tell me what that song means to you, and how you executed it — along with that radiant harmony stack. How did that one grow? 

I was playing a game with some friends called "Song A Day," where we dare each other to wrote a song a day for seven days. 

It's captained by a producer in NYC named Phil Weinrobe, and "companionable" would be the right word to describe this ultra-positive peer pressure, and the momentum that starts to build up after a few days. 

Sometimes, it's terrible, and sometimes, it's like an aperture opens on the top of my head and a song just arrives instant, mercifully, because their muse somehow knows I'm taxed and its day six and I don't have anything left — so instead of laboring over a phrase or a pattern, it just shows up.

That's how "Hiding Out" arrived. I use a little digital eight-track called the Spire that's very useful and very simple. It's essentially a toy and has many limitations, but what it can do is help me take an initial aperture arrival and expand upon it.

Your concept of "womankind" in "Of Womankind" is fascinating; in the press release, it's said to encompass "any adaptive and intelligent strength." How has your concept of womankind shifted amid shifting the cultural sands of sex and gender?

The umbrella of "mankind" had traditionally encapsulated everyone, a grandfathered in — there's another one — use of language that isn't often scrutinized.

Womankind is a provocative work because it's shaped in a similar presumption what would imply it encapsulates all of humanity within it, something that wouldn't be so easily adapted to, I believe.

Without knocking the mobile off its axis, I can say that this song showed up and felt to be a sort of collective conversation with myself at 23, 43 and 93. Cross-generational women discussing the background noise.

Finally, what is Multitudes a launching pad to? Where do you see yourself going now that you've rounded this corner and made this particular, highly personal statement?

I can't say. I suppose I'm looking forward to living, which leads to writing, which leads to recording — which usually surprises me with an album I couldn't have planned to make.

Fruit Bats' Eric D. Johnson On New Album A River Running To Your Heart & His Career Of "Small Victories"

Harry Styles 2023 GRAMMYs
Harry Styles backstage at the 2023 GRAMMYs

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Here's What Harry Styles, Brandi Carlile & More Had To Say Backstage At The 2023 GRAMMYs

Backstage at the 2023 GRAMMYs, established and emerging stars alike — from Harry Styles to Samara Joy — opened up about what Music’s Biggest Night meant to them.

GRAMMYs/Feb 8, 2023 - 10:31 pm

Like every edition of Music’s Biggest Night, the 2023 GRAMMYs featured a wealth of funny, touching and inspiring onstage speeches — both at the Premiere Ceremony and the main telecast.

But artists tend to express themselves differently, more intimately, backstage — and this certainly applied to GRAMMY winners and nominees at this year’s ceremony.

In the litany of videos below, see and hear stirring, extemporaneous statements from artists all over the 2023 GRAMMYs winners and nominees list, from Album Of The Year winner Harry Styles to Americana star-turned-rocker Brandi Carlile to Best Global Music Performance nominee Anoushka Shankar and beyond.

Throughout, you’ll get a better sense of the good jitters backstage at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Feb. 5, and hear exactly what the golden gramophone means to this crop of musical visionaries.

The list of videos begins below.

Harry Styles

Samara Joy

Brandi Carlile

Steve Lacy

Muni Long

Bonnie Raitt

Kim Petras

Ashley McBryde

Carly Pearce

Anoushka Shankar

Masa Takumi

Kabaka Pyramid

Robert Glasper

Assassin's Creed

Encanto

White Sun

GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony Returns

news

The 2023 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony To Feature Performances From Carlos Vives, Samara Joy, Madison Cunningham, Arooj Aftab & More; Presenters Include Babyface, Jimmy Jam, Malcolm-Jamal Warner & Others

Streaming live on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT on live.GRAMMY.com and the Recording Academy's YouTube channel, the 2023 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony is where the majority of this year's 91 GRAMMY Awards categories will be awarded.

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2023 - 02:00 pm

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect additional performers and presenters.

Officially kicking off the 2023 GRAMMYs, the 65th GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony will return to the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles with a star-studded celebration of performers, presenters and awards. Taking place Sunday, Feb. 5, at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT, just hours before Music's Biggest Night, the 2023 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony will stream live on live.GRAMMY.com and on the Recording Academy's YouTube channel.

The beloved annual event, in which the majority of this year's 91 GRAMMY Awards categories will be awarded, will be hosted by current GRAMMY nominee Randy Rainbow and will feature an opening number performance by Blind Boys of Alabama, La Marisoul from La Santa Cecilia, and additional surprise performers. Other artists scheduled to perform include current nominees Arooj Aftab, Madison Cunningham, Samara Joy, Anoushka ShankarCarlos VivesShoshana Bean, Maranda Curtis, Buddy Guy and Bob Mintzer.

Presenting the first GRAMMY Awards of the day include current nominees Judy Collins,  Babyface, DOMi & JD BECK, Myles Frost, Arturo O'Farrill, Malcolm-Jamal WarnerAmanda Gorman, and five-time GRAMMY winner and former Recording Academy Board of Trustees Chair Jimmy Jam. Recording Academy Chair of the Board of Trustees Tammy Hurt will provide opening remarks. Additional talent and co-host to be announced in the coming days.

This year, City National Bank has signed on as the first-ever presenting sponsor of the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony.

Read More: 2023 GRAMMYs Performers Announced: Bad Bunny, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Steve Lacy, Mary J. Blige & More Confirmed

All Premiere Ceremony performers and hosts are current nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs, as are most presenters. Aftab is nominated for Best Global Music Performance ("Udhero Na" with Anoushka Shankar); Babyface is nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance ("Keeps On Fallin'" with Ella Mai); Blind Boys of Alabama are nominated for Best Americana Performance ("The Message" with Black Violin); Cunningham is nominated for Best American Roots Performance ("Life According To Raechel") and Best Folk Album (Revealer); DOMi & JD BECK are up for Best New Artist and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album (NOT TiGHT); Frost is nominated for Best Musical Theater Album (MJ The Musical); Joy is nominated for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album (Linger Awhile); La Marisoul is up for Best Tropical Latin Album (Quiero Verte Feliz with La Santa Cecilia); O'Farrill is nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album (Fandango At The Wall In New York with The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Featuring The Conga Patria Son Jarocho Collective); Rainbow is up for Best Comedy Album (A Little Brains, A Little Talent); Shankar is up for Best Global Music Performance ("Udhero Na" with Arooj Aftab) and Best Global Music Album (Between Us… (Live) with Metropole Orkest & Jules  Buckley Featuring Manu Delago); Vives is nominated for Best Tropical Latin Album (Cumbiana II); Warner is nominated for Best Spoken Word Poetry Album (Hiding In Plain View); Bean is up for Best Musical Theater Album ("Mr. Saturday Night"); Curtis is nominated for Best Gospel Album (Die To Live); Guy is nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album (The Blues Don’t Lie); and Mintzer is up for Best Instrumental Jazz Album (Parallel Motion).

Read More: Where, What Channel & How To Watch The Full 2023 GRAMMYs

"We are so excited to kick off GRAMMY Sunday with the Premiere Ceremony ahead of Music's Biggest Night," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. said. "Not only do we have an incredible lineup of presenters and performers, but this ceremony will also reveal the winners in the vast majority of our categories, celebrating this amazing year in music across many of our genre communities."

Following the Premiere Ceremony, the 2023 GRAMMYs will be broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET / 5-8:30 p.m. PT.

On GRAMMY Sunday, fans can access exclusive, behind-the-scenes GRAMMYs content, including performances, acceptance speeches, interviews from the GRAMMY Live red-carpet special, and more via the Recording Academy's digital experience on live.GRAMMY.com.

The Official 2023 GRAMMYs Playlist Is Here: Listen To 115 Songs By Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar & More