meta-scriptBootsy Collins: "I'm Hoping The World Comes Together Like We Did On This Album" | GRAMMY.com
Bootsy Collins

Bootsy Collins

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Bootsy Collins: "I'm Hoping The World Comes Together Like We Did On This Album"

On his new album, 'The Power of the One,' released Oct. 23 on his own Bootzilla Records, we witness the almost-69-year-old (his birthday is Oct. 26) thriving in his musical playground

GRAMMYs/Oct 24, 2020 - 04:09 am

GRAMMY winner and 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Bootsy Collins has been embodying the funk and sharing his grooviness for decades, ever since he joined James Brown's band in 1969. It was then, from the Godfather of Soul himself, he first learned the Power of the One, or the importance of synching on the one-beat.

With George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy's Rubber Band, his solo records and endless collaborations, he's harnessed that funky power and grown it into a philosophy, a way of life. Through it all he's always bringing the funk into new spaces and to new ears, whether directly—Fatboy Slim's GRAMMY-winning 2000 dance anthem "Weapon Of Choice" wouldn't soar without Collin's voice—or through those he's influenced like Childish Gambino on his infectiously groovy GRAMMY-winner "Redbone." He is the true definition of a living legend, yet he's incredibly humble and always interested in learning more and working with other artists.

On his new album, The Power of the One, released today (Oct. 23) on his own Bootzilla Records, we witness the almost-69-year-old (his birthday is Oct. 26) thriving in his musical playground. It's playful, funky, joyous and filled with talented collaborators from across the musical spectrum, including Snoop Dogg, Dr. Cornel West, Branford Marsalis, Ellis Hall and up-and-comers Brandon "Taz" Niederauer and Emmaline. While he had to adapt to virtual collaboration when they pandemic hit—the album was about half done at this point—he is undeniably thrilled with the result and rightly so.

"To be around these people, they made the record become what it is because to have the older people with the younger people and everyone in-between, all this going on on the record. And just making music together. It's like making love, it's like making friends. In a time like we're in now, to do that, what else could you ask for? It's just a great feeling. I can tell you, I know they had the same kind of feeling," Collins told us recently over the phone.

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We caught up with the master himself to learn more about finishing the album during quarantine, bringing together the talented collaborators, mentoring younger artists over the years and, of course, the Power of the One.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I hope your day is good so far.

Yeah. Just gearing up, getting myself together to go out there and do it one more time, you know? We got the record off. That was the good part for me, was to at least get through it because it is a very deep time that kind of hit us out of the blue. Getting through it was a beautiful thing. It actually helped keep me sane.

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I bet, having something to work on. And my first question is about your new album, The Power Of The One, which is coming out pretty soon. What do you hope this album offers to the world and to its listeners?

I'm hoping the world comes together like we did on this album. All the musicians, everybody that really put their time and energy in it—and they really, really wanted to do it. It wasn't like somebody forced them to do it or paid them on such a big scale that they just had to do it. Everybody joined me and did it because it was fun.

It reminded everybody that, even in a difficult time, each and every one of us can get some kind of joy out of it and at the same time, help somebody else share some good vibes. If we didn't get nothing else but some good vibes, that was really good enough because everybody needs some of that right now.

I think on this record, that's what it's really all about. Good vibes, being in the kitchen cooking up something a little different here and there, using a different recipe. Even a recipe that's not traditional. On this album, that's what I wanted to show—it doesn't have to be a certain traditional record. It could be everybody together just having a good time because, to me, that was the main thing. Stop stressing yourself. Have a good time doing it and doing it with somebody you want to do it with. That's key. I think everybody felt that and it comes off of the record like that, from what people are telling me.

You're right, I think we all need some good vibes right now.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That to me is what the Power of the One is, the power of all of the people coming together and just doing what we have to do to get through it, to get over the hump. Putting all of our differences all by the wayside because we all realize we're just human and we need each other. We're coming up in a time where people don't really feel like they need each other because the technology we have is saying you don't need nobody. You can take your office with you. You got it right there in your hand, your iPhone, and you really don't need people.

Once you get used to that, it turns on you. It's like a Frankenstein monster. The monster is cool and everything, but one day he wakes up and realizes he's a monster and turns on you. I think that's what happened in the world. We got to take the power within all of us where we're standing. I think this music will help in our healing, help in our focus, and help us to have a little joy and a little fun along with all the deepness that is going on. That's what I wanted to do with this record, really just to put some joy and fun in everybody's lives.

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Can you explain the Power of the One a little more, both like musical technique and the philosophy?

Well, actually The Power of the One grew out of when I worked with James Brown, he was always saying to the band, "You got to put it on the one. Give me that one and you can play everything else, but just hit it on the one." On every measure you count, the emphasis is on that down beat. To this day, even on a computer, when you have a four by four [beat], you got that one. You'll hear that click louder on the emphasis on that one beat. That brings everybody's focus to it.

This is where we all meet up, right here on the one. I, out of that training with James Brown, I took that over to Parliament-Funkadelic and George Clinton made a whole concept out of everything's on the one. He even made a record called "Everything Is On The One." I guess with all of that growing and experiencing the one, it grew to me as even bigger than just being a musical term. Now for me, it's more everybody is part of the Power of the One.

It's like everybody's around that one wall and everybody gets that certain frequency all at the same time and that wall will come down. That's the Power of the One. We just have to realize that that's what we got to do, everybody's got to be in sync with each other. Once we began to be in sync with each other, all of this mess that we're going through falls down. I want to get people to realize that we do have that power within ourselves.

We got to get focused and quit running from each other. We've got to all come together on the one and that's when you get the Power of the One. I'm just trying to redirect people to come together. It doesn't matter who your father is—I just have to respect your father and you have to respect mine. That's the Power of the One, when you realize that none of that stuff really matters.

We're all on this spaceship mother earth and we're traveling through time and space on earth. This is our mothership. Nobody's throwing us out. We're on it together and the sooner we realize that, the better. Because you can't be here and be better than somebody else. I'm not better than nobody else. Out here, I'm just like you.

It's really about us getting along and getting together while we're here. This is the opportunity for us. It's just like this album. This album was the opportunity to put all these beautiful people together that are not necessarily supposed to be together on a record. I'm just crazy enough to believe that if we can do it on an album, we can certainly can do this in a world like we have today.

That's mainly the reason I wanted to do something like this, to show that it's bigger than all of us. It's much bigger than what I think it should be or what you think it should be. It's much bigger than that and that's the Power of the One that's within all of us. No one's got it more, no one's got it less. Everybody has their power, you just have to develop it.

"It's really about us getting along and getting together while we're here. This is the opportunity for us. It's just like this album. This album was the opportunity to put all these beautiful people together that are not necessarily supposed to be together on a record. I'm just crazy enough to believe that if we can do it on an album, we can certainly can do this in a world like we have today."

That's some philosophy right there.

[Laughs.] I hope you got it down. I'd like to read that book myself. [Laughs.] Oh, man. That's the top layer at least. I'll have to keep digging and we'll get more of it coming up. For now, that's where I'm at. I just want people to respect and believe in each other, and dig in on each other. We got to get back to having some kind of fun. I think that's got a lot to do with why this has happened. These kinds of tragedies, it's like man, if you can't wake up after this, you're already dead. I know we're not dead now.

We're being hard headed. We are thinking we're something that we're not. We're all human. We haven't transformed yet into that other frequency. Until then, we got to deal with each other. We got to start learning how to because we've been learning the complete opposite. Now, the One has introduced us, now you have to know and love and trust each other. There's no other alternative now. We are past that point. It's either that or the other craziness.

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I feel that. There are a lot of really great collabs on the album, but I wanted to talk specifically about the creative process behind "Jam On" with Snoop Dogg and Brandon Taz. How did that one happen?

Oh, man. That was a track that Snoop and I had done and hadn't really finished. We did it for another album. It was like, man, that track would show a lot of fun and that you can mix different things and come up with something that is not new in a sense, but I guess fresh for today. It brings the old with the new, the guitar playing from Taz, his new energy that he's got, with Snoop's raps and my own peace vibe going on. I thought that would be a beautiful, what you would call, a sandwich or a dinner. Sure enough, it was so easy to put together. I talked to Taz, then I went to see him at a concert. This was all before the pandemic hit.

We got to vibing and I was like, "Man, we should go in the studio." And sure enough, we went to Sweetwater and recorded all of his stuff. And Snoop and myself, we did our parts here at the Bootcave [his home studio]. We got lucky on that song, because got about 60 percent done with the album [before the pandemic] and the rest of it we had to start sending out on WeTransfer, that kind of stuff.

We send them to artists and they send you back what they did and then you get on the phone and talk about what needs to change, what key to go to and this, that and the other. That was a much harder way of recording than being in the studio with the actual person. That's when it's really fun. I got a 50/50 deal on recording this album—recording half live and then the other 50 percent we had to record basically on the internet.

That was something I had to get used to, but at the same time, I don't think I'll ever get used to that. But I learned how to do it, enough to get it done. We started adding horns, all kinds of different stuff, but I had to send the actual file to the person. That particular song, "Jam On," we got that pretty much done in the studio, so that was a blessing because we had fun doing it.

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Never thought I would be Saying That as the Co-Captain of the Mothership &amp; Long Head Sucka of this Universe! I have Time Traveled for many year&#39;s &amp; I can tell u we will Git Ova the Hump! Bootsy baby!!!</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/bootsy_collins/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;" target="_blank"> William &#34;Bootsy&#34; Collins</a> (@bootsy_collins) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2020-10-18T20:50:11+00:00">Oct 18, 2020 at 1:50pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote><script async src="//www.instagram.com/embed.js"></script>

I'm sure so much of creating funk music is being in the studio together riffing off each other and going with the flow. That must have been different to not have that tangible element of it for part of the album.

Yeah, yeah. It's totally different. It's just like you and the guy you're talking to, it's different when you're together than when you talk on the phone. The phone is the next best thing, but being together, there is nothing like that. That's the start of the difference right there. It's like when you can actually touch the guitar, when you actually see what the bass player is playing, you can actually hear what the singer or rapper is singing or rapping. You can actually see them. It's like, wow. This is so cool.

You lose all of that part, so I think it's cool for people that are growing up doing it that way. But if you're not used to doing it like that, it's a different ball game. It is something you have to learn on the job. Like I say, it's good to know the new way of recording and stuff. I think I'll continue to learn, but nothing is going to take the place of actually being in the bed together. It's like, "How are you doing?" "Oh, I'm okay. I'm laying in the bed by myself." I'm like, "Yeah, I wish I was there." [Laughs.]

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What is your favorite part of collaborating and how was it adapting that, like you were saying, during quarantine?

Well, it was really cool for me with the collaborating part because I got a chance to collaborate with people that I hadn't before. Like Branford Marsalis, who's just the greatest. His genre is jazz and he's just an incredible saxophonist and I never got a chance to record with him [before]. We talked about it, we've been to each other's shows and stuff, but we never actually did anything together.

That was a highlight for me to play with him and to play with Christian McBride, who plays the upright bass. He is just incredible and to have him in the studio and watch him play it. That was my first instrument that I was supposed to learn how to play on, but I found out I just couldn't play that big, old upright bass. It was too much work, man. I had to carry it home from school. The girls would look and laugh at me. It was like, "Ah man. I got to get me a new instrument." So, for him to bring that big, old bass to the Bootcave and hook it up and start playing it, it was just a great experience.

And then to have George Benson? Come on, you can't get no bigger than that. He's played with all the jazz greats. To have him want to get on the album—I had no idea that he really wanted to play on the record until I talked to him. We always have done festivals together in passing, but we never got a chance to work together.

I got a chance to work with some of the best, the people that I looked up to, and I got a chance to work with the young ones, like Kingfish, that are the new musicians. Speaking of Taz, he's 17 years old. And Kingfish is 19 now. These guys are just blowing the roof off with the guitar playing. To have this kind of energy around, for me, is the cream of the crop. It don't come no better. Then on "Lips Turn Blue" there's Emmaline. She's like a young, fresh Ella Fitzgerald. The way she sings, her voice takes you back to that time. But she's just out of college. She's just so sharp and professional.

To be around these people, they made the record become what it is because to have the older people with the younger people and everyone in-between, all this going on on the record and just making music together. It's like making love, it's like making friends. In a time like we're in now to do that, what else could you ask for? It's just a great feeling. I can tell you, I know they had the same kind of feeling.

It was just a great way to express yourself in a time where you're supposed to be locked up and locked down. Everybody's got a chance to release that feeling and we got a chance to put it on a record to share it with the world. I wasn't looking at the big picture, I was just looking at whatever song we were doing, putting our whole heart and soul into it. I didn't have to tell nobody to do that because everybody was ready. You didn't have to tell anyone, "Man, I want you to love this song." They just loved it. You could tell they loved it.

I think it's more amazing because of the time that we're living in right now. It affects us much more now because I think before we have taken music and people for granted. We've taken everything for granted. We thought it was always going to be great, we were going to be working all the time. All of a sudden, they pull the gigs away from us. No more festivals, no more club dates, no more Colosseum dates.

All of that stuff, it didn't just happen to the music world. Everybody had to push the reset button, like "Wait a minute, what the heck is going on?" We are still going through that and we have to figure out ways to do things differently. I'm hoping this album, The Power of the One, helps reset people to know that, "Hey, we got to deal with each other. Ain't nobody going nowhere. We're all in this together."

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You've also worked with a lot of younger musicians over the years on their projects, like Snoop and many others. What does mentorship mean to you and why is it important?

Oh, man. I would say because it gives you what you really need. It's like the energy that you've shared all your life, it comes back to you through the young musicians and artists. When I got with James Brown, I didn't understand about the energy and how it excited him. He was excited by the energy that we brought. I didn't really understand that until I got older and I started realizing, "Okay, this is what he was talking about and this is what he was feeling." Once you get older, you start feeling it, especially when you start having grandkids. Oh my God, those guys have got energy up the wazoo. I never knew that I was like that at one time.

At some point, I was as crazy as they were. That crazy energy can be turned into something and when it is, it can be magical. Some of these kids are able to turn it into something and you'd really be surprised. You just have to be in the mix and that's why I make sure I'm always in the mix, that I'm always learning from the younger people. And hopefully they're learning something from me, but I'm not in it for me.

I'm in it to learn something that I didn't know how to do. Coming from them, that's a beautiful thing. I look forward to that. A lot of older people look at kids like, "Oh, they can't teach me nothing." But I don't agree with that. I would like to continue to learn from them and be around them because they make me younger, they make me feel young. It's a great energy and hopefully I'm as good to them as they are to me.

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Photo of Lenny Kravitz wearing dark black sunglasses and a black leather jacket.
Lenny Kravitz

Photo: Mark Seliger

interview

Feel Lenny Kravitz's 'Blue Electric Light': How The GRAMMY-Winning Rocker Channeled His Teen Years For His New Album

'Blue Electric Light' is a laser beam through Lenny Kravtiz's musical ethos: a rocking, impassioned and defiantly Lenny production. The Global Impact Award honoree discusses his first album in six years, and the flowers he's received along the way.

GRAMMYs/May 24, 2024 - 02:22 pm

Lenny Kravitz is a vessel — a divining rod of creative direction. 

"I just do what I'm told. I'm just an antenna. So what I hear and what I receive, I do," he tells GRAMMY.com.  It's with that extra-sensory, spiritual guidance that Kravitz created his latest album, Blue Electric Light. "I just saw and felt this blue light — electric blue, almost neon light —radiating down on me."

Out May 24, Blue Electric Light is Kravtiz's first LP in six years and fittingly flits through the rocker's cosmology: Arena-ready booty shakers like "TK421" (the music video for which features the nearly 60-year-old unabashedly shaking his own booty), Zeppelin and Pearl Jam-inspired rockers like  "Paralyzed," and shared humanity-focused groovers like "Human." There's plenty of '80s R&B sensibility throughout, giving  Blue Electric Light a perfectly timed, timeless feeling.

It's as if Kravitz took a tour through his own discography, landing right back where he started: In high school. In fact, two of the album's tracks — "Bundle of Joy" and "Heaven" — were written when the four-time GRAMMY winner was still a teenager. While Kravitz's latest may lean into the sounds of his young adulthood, the album's underlying themes remain consistently spiritual, intimate and emotional. "My main message is what it has always been, and that is love," Kravitz told GRAMMY.com in 2018. And by staying true to himself and this message of love, Lenny Kravitz is thriving.

"I've never felt better mentally, spiritually, and physically. I've never felt more vibrant," he says today.

Kravtiz has also had a big year. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and, during 2024 GRAMMY week, was honored with the Global Impact Award at Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy Honors. At the ceremony, Kravtiz was lauded for his work with his Let Love Rule foundation, and his iconic discography celebrated in a performance by Quavo, George Clinton, Earth, Wind & Fire bassist Verdine White, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.

Reflecting on his achievements, Kravitz remains humble. "Success is wonderful, but I only want success by being me and doing what it is that I'm hearing, as opposed to following something or a formula."

Ahead of releasing Blue Electric Light into the world — just a few days shy of his 60th birthday on May 26— Lenny Kravitz spoke with GRAMMY.com about revisiting his past, following his gut, and stopping to smell the flowers.

You haven't released a record in about six years. Why did you feel now was the time to put new music out, and what was inspiring you?

Well, it was just by virtue of what was going on. So I released [2018's Raise Vibration and], I toured for two years. Then COVID hits two and a half years [later]. It wasn't like I went away or wasn't inspired. I had a whole other year planned. I was going to tour for three years on that last album.

But [when] COVID happened, the world shut down and I got stuck in the Bahamas for a couple of years and a half. And so during that time I was just being creative. I [wrote the whole album] during that time and a little bit afterwards; [I wrote] just maybe two songs afterwards.

When I finished, then I had to figure out when I wanted to put it out and how. I did the Baynard Rustin song ["Road to Freedom" from the Academy Award-nominated film Rustin], and then I ended up pushing my album so I could fully promote the film and the legacy of Bayard Rustin.

Anyway, here we are. Everything happens in the time that it should, and I'm looking forward to putting this out and getting back on the road.

I read that this record was like an album that you didn't make in high school and it has this very young spirit. What took you to that place?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I released a book called Let Love Rule, and it ended up on the New York Times bestseller list. It was about my life from birth to the first album [1989's Let Love Rule], so around 24 years old. In this book, I spent a lot of time in my teenage years when I was developing. That came out at the beginning of the pandemic and I was doing a lot of press for it.

And I think because I was exploring that time so much when I was writing the book and then talking about that time so much when I was promoting the book, it just came out. And it was a time in my life that I never really celebrated. I never put music out at that time.

When I found my sound [on] Let Love Rule, all that material I was working on at that time got buried before. And so I just went to that place. I didn't plan on it, it just happened. In fact, two songs on the record ["Bundle of Joy" and "Heaven"] are from high school. 

So it's a blend of where I am now and where I was then. And it's a really fun record and I had a really beautiful time making it. It's a celebration, and it's sensual and sexual and spiritual and social and it hits all the marks. I'm looking forward to getting out there.

You were obviously deep in your memories, and it sounds like you were probably listening to a lot of Prince in high school.

There's a lot of things. There's a blend of '80s technology and drum machines, and real instruments and synthesizers that I pulled out from then. During that time, yeah, I was listening to a lot of Bowie. I was listening to a lot of Prince, a lot of Rick James, a lot of just soul and R&B in general, and rock.

Are there any songs on the record that you are particularly proud of or that are really meaningful to you?

All of them. I hear it all as one piece. So it's just one flow of consciousness, but I'm really proud of the record. 

One of my favorite tracks would be the opening track, "It's Just Another Fine Day in this Universe." I just think it's such a vibe and I love the way the chorus makes me feel. I think "Stuck in the Middle" is really pretty and sensual.

Speaking of vibes, when I'm listening to the record, it feels very hopeful. Is that generally how you've been feeling or how you go through the world these days?

I'm pretty optimistic. But now even more than ever, just on a personal level, I've never felt better mentally, spiritually, and physically. I've never felt more vibrant and I'm becoming more comfortable within myself in my skin and in my place. 

I've learned that listening to that voice inside of me and sticking to what it is that was meant for me, my direction, has paid off and it feels good.

What do you attribute that growth and that deep comfort to, both personally and creatively?

Just [having] time to see the results. I'm blessed to live, to see the results of being faithful to what it is you've been given and told to do by the creative spirit, by God. People have always been trying to push me in different directions: "Do this, do that, follow this, go this way. This is what's happening right now." Follow the trends because they're looking at it as a business and they're trying to make money and have success.

Yes, success is wonderful, but I only want success by being me and doing what it is that I'm hearing, as opposed to following a formula that one thinks would work. Because once you follow that, you're already late, it's already happened. And I am not about being late. 

I don't mind setting the tone or the trend and being early and not getting recognized for it at the time. Because I'm not doing it for the reason of receiving accolades or whatever. I'm doing it to be expressive and to truthfully represent myself.

I think that's a fantastic way to be. People come around eventually, right?

Yes. I've been reading reviews of my heroes back in the day, and I remember seeing Led Zeppelin reviews just ripping them to shreds. Led Zeppelin [are] praised [for] being classic and genius, but at one time they were s—, somebody said. So if you live long enough and you keep doing what you're doing, if you're doing the right thing and what you're supposed to be doing, you'll see that shift in people's opinions. 

Not that that matters, but when you see it, it feels good because you know that you did it the way you were supposed to do it. 

I hear a little bit of that defiance on this record too, that and the centering of your own truth on "Human." Can you maybe tell me a little bit about that track and how it came to you?

Well, it just came like they all come. So I hear it and I think to myself, Okay, that's interesting. That has this real pop anthem, very uplifting feeling. [The song] speaks to us as spiritual beings having this human existence on this planet.

We are at our most powerful when we are authentic to ourselves. When you're authentic to who you are, you're shining and you represent what it is that you're meant to represent. And so the song just speaks on that, and really using this human existence to learn and to walk in your lane to reach your destiny.

In life since we've been born, we've been told what to do and how to do it: "Don't go this direction, go that way," and "No, don't do this, do that because this is the way it's done" or "This is what's safe." And we're all born with a gift; we're all born with a direction. And we don't all hit the marks because sometimes we don't accept what our gift is. Or we're too busy looking at others and what their gift is and we want what they have, and we leave behind what we were given. We go chase something that is not for us; it's that other person's calling.

So the more we shed all of that and really just walk in our lane, the better. And I am enjoying this journey of humanness and learning and growing, falling, getting up, climbing up the mountain, falling again, getting back up, continuing up. That's what it's about. It's not about how many times you fall... It's about how you get up and keep going. We're all here to live and learn and, hopefully, love. 

I'm curious if the title of the record translates to this idea at all. Does Blue Electric Light manifest in any real way to you as a spiritual guide?

To me, it's a feeling. I just saw and felt this blue light — electric blue, almost neon light —radiating down on me, and that light is life. It's God, it's love, it's humanity, it's energy. And just metaphorically, that's what that represents to me.

Right on. To take it away a little bit from the existential and the spiritual, you just received the Global Impact Award at the 2024 GRAMMYs. You said you're not doing these things for accolades, but I'm curious how it felt to be recognized for this aspect of your work something that isn't inherently musical that's a little more outside yourself.

Where I am in life right now is, if someone's going to hand you flowers, then stop, smell them and enjoy them. And that's what I'm doing. 

I make my art because I make my art and for no other reason, but when handed these flowers, I'm appreciative. I'm grateful, and I will enjoy them because I spent my whole career not doing that. I was always moving so fast and [was] not only concerned with the art and moving forward, that I didn't enjoy those moments when you get awards or things. So I made a promise to myself years ago, moving forward when the flowers are delivered, that I will stop and smell them, take a moment, breathe, and then move forward. 

And that's what I'm doing, because every day of life is beautiful. And when you can celebrate, why not celebrate?

Amen to that. It's that presence of mind and spirit that you have been talking about this whole time and seems to have flowed through your artwork as well. With regard to the work with your Let Love Rule foundation, are there any projects that you would love to tackle next?

There's so many. From some things I've been doing with friends, like building certain foundations in Africa with someone that's on the ground there, doing it firsthand with orphanages in schools, to the medical situation in the Bahamas, to continue providing medical and dental care for free to the people so they can have their basic health issues taken care of. 

And then also working with kids in the arts and helping to give them a foundation to work from. These are things that I'm interested in.

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Danna Paola
Danna Paola

Photo: Rafael Arroyo

interview

How Danna Paola Created 'CHILDSTAR' By Deconstructing Herself

"'CHILDSTAR' is the first album in my entire career where every inch, detail, and decision are curated and made by me," Danna Paola tells GRAMMY.com. "I made an album for myself and that little Danna who has always wanted to do this."

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 12:00 am

Danna Paola feels comfortable coexisting with her shadows. 

The Mexican singer, model and actress first appeared on television at age five, and has spent recent years dwelling on memories of her youth. Now 28, Danna is dismantling the myths and taboos around her artistic persona.

This process resulted in CHILDSTAR, which arrives April 11. Danna's seventh LP is her most authentic production and one where she makes peace with her childhood.

Accomplishing this freedom took her two years of therapy, the singer confesses to GRAMMY.com. "I deconstructed myself and my beliefs and unlearned many things to learn new ones. The pandemic also opened Pandora's box. That's where everything came out."

Through that self-discovery process, Danna knew she had to break with a constant that had accompanied her for two decades: acting. The last character she portrayed was Lucrecia in the Netflix series "Elite," a popular role that led her to reignite her music career after an eight-year hiatus. Beginning to live authentically, without the vices that fictional characters can leave behind, was the crucial step that led the Latin GRAMMY-nominated singer to CHILDSTAR.

CHILDSTAR follows a lengthy depression and a break from her management team, which Danna has described as controlling. On the new album, she embraces indulgence — singing about female pleasure for the first time in her career — and draws inspiration from her after-hour encounters. CHILDSTAR's darkly powerful electronic rhythms and synth-pop, tell a tale about a weekend of partying, alcohol, and sex to create the perfect escape from "your demons, your life, and your reality." 

Ahead of her album release, Danna Paola discussed the processes that led her to break with her past, how her boyfriend was instrumental to her return to the studio, the synthesizer that inspired the album's sound, and the gift that Omar Apollo left for her. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about the process that led you to co-produce for the first time.

This album is made with a lot of love, many hours, but above all, a lot of freedom. It's a very energetic and aggressive album, liberating.

It was a journey of introspection, empowerment, and self-confidence. Beyond being a sad story, the complete meaning of the album is not to talk and throw shade at my childhood. [It's about what] I have discovered since that first therapy session to find and make peace with my past, and that instead of being a place of embarrassment for me, it empowered me.

CHILDSTAR is the first album in my entire career where every inch, detail, and decision are curated and made by me. That's something that I am very proud of. I made an album for myself and that little Danna who has always wanted to do this. 

It is energetic, super intense, and sexual. Electronic music, funk, dance, synth-pop, and R&B lead me to drain all these emotions. The choice of each song, and the details and creating them from start to finish, [has] been very cathartic.

In "The Fall," you sing, "You don't know me, you don't know s–– about me. I'm not a shooting star." Was it painful to relive the memories of being a child star?

Yes. I grew up in 2000s television. Back then, creating a child's image came from a lot of machismo: being the perfect girl, the girl who doesn't speak badly, the girl who smiles for everything, and whose characters are all good. She can't do bed scenes, can't talk about sex. 

With this project, I embrace that [version of] Danna. I told that girl that everything would be fine. It's OK if you make mistakes, and it is OK to fall in love. Falling in love terrified me because I've been on different projects… every six or eight months; the longest a project lasted for me was a year. I made relationships with people and friends, [but] people always left my life. I built a pretty lonely life; I almost did not spend time with my family. I poured my life into work.

I had this distortion of reality where Danna Paola was the superheroine, and I forgot who Danna was. That's why I stopped acting; creating characters and being in someone else's skin was moving me further and further away from discovering myself as a human being in the ordinary course of life, of creating myself based on situations, emotions, and relationships. 

In therapy, of course, I understood that. I made peace, and today, I am discovering many beautiful things about myself as a child that were precious, happy, and full of love. Of course, I don't blame my parents because they did their best. Nobody teaches you how to be a child star from age five.

The album led you to shine a light on your darkest sides. What did you discover about yourself and Danna as a person and artist?

I was terrified to take risks, to speak, or to create. [To me] creating a project takes a long time, at least with music. I discovered that, for me, [making music] is a spiritual act. It is an everyday practice. It is to continue to discover and continue to learn. It's falling in love again with my profession and giving the industry another chance.

I also learned that our capacity for reinvention is infinite so we can start over. Today, I also begin to be a little more human. However, I don't aspire to be an example for anyone. I want to share my experiences and the lessons I have learned so I can move forward, continue to love what I do, and not lose myself. I used to say that I wouldn't make it to 27. That was in my head.

I'm making a wonderful balance between my personal life and my work. I'm also building my family at home with my boyfriend [artist Alex Hoyer], my two little dogs, my friends, and my chosen family. It's making peace and creating the life of my dreams.

Do you like who you are now?

I love it. I continue to polish many things about my personality. I work hard to be a better human being. Life is about learning and transforming yourself. I can release another album in a couple of years; I may release another this year. I don’t want to stop making music. [I want to] continue transforming myself through my art. 

In the first two tracks, "The Fall" and "Blackout," you repeat that people don't know you. How would you describe the Danna of this record? 

She's a woman who is very sure of who she is, and nobody has given anything to me. I'm in love with my project, my music, and my life, and I'm enjoying it a lot.

I struggle a lot with fame, but today, I present myself as a liberated woman in a good headspace. I don't pretend to be perfect or an example for anyone. Quite the opposite; all I do is share experiences, lessons, and music.

I'm an artist in every sense of the word. I'm a creative, honest person and have a lot of love to give, and I love receiving it, too. That should be mutual. It's an energetic practice that when one really does things with love, the universe always rewards it.

In songs like "Atari" and "Platonik," you openly sing about female sexual pleasure. Is it the first time in your career that you sing about your sexuality? 

Yes. This album is very sexual. There's a taboo when it comes to women talking about sex. In reggaeton, there are thousands of ways in which we can talk about sexuality. In my case, I had always considered it forbidden. 

It's what I told you about the kid [actress] who doesn't [about sex], who's a virgin until marriage. There is no richer pleasure than sex and the sexual pleasure you can have as a woman. There's liberation, to feel good about yourself, with your body, and also the sexual education that I can also share with generations.

This liberation with my femininity is something that I also discovered: The pleasure of being a woman and having many experiences in my life that have led me today to enjoy who I am, to have a happy sex life, and to share it through my music.

In "Platonik," you discuss sexualizing a platonic relationship with a woman and sing "I can't help what I think in my bed." Why was exploring that relationship important to you?

I had a platonic love with a girl at a stage of my life. I kept this to myself; it was a personal experience that opened the conversation to a beautiful story.

I wrote this song with [producer and songwriter] Manu Lara. We made it in half an hour. This song has something unique because, besides talking about a personal experience that is also super sexual, it talks about universal love.

That's why I say that CHILDSTAR is an album of many stories that have marked my life and beyond, talking about only the childhood stage, which is what everyone speculates, but that's not the case.

You’re flirting more with synth-pop in this album. What caught your attention about this genre?

It comes from this aggressive part of saying, here I am. For me, electronic music connects and drains emotions. Every time I've been out partying, electronic music has been liberating for me, and when I put it together with pop and these lyrics, it has become a new way to enjoy the genre.

While creating CHILDSTAR in Los Angeles, I fell in love with a Jupiter [synth] we found at Guitar Center. That synthesizer is in every song. The inspiration [to use the instrument] comes from John Carpenter's synth album [Lost Themes III: Alive After Death]. In it, I discovered synthesizers had a way of incorporating sound design and darkness into the album. 

[Synth-pop is] the expression of that need to bring out the energy I had stuck through music. It’s an emotional purpose, the connection I have with electronic music.

Your boyfriend, Alex, was instrumental in making "XT4S1S" when you didn’t want to enter a recording studio. How was reconnecting with music with help from your romantic partner?

"XT4S1S" is the song that, to both of us, as a couple and as producers, connected us on a hefty level.

I was super blocked. It took me several years to get out of my depression hole. We returned one day from [La Marquesa park] here in Mexico, and started chatting. Alex opened his laptop and started pulling out a beat.

I started throwing melodies, and [shortly] we had the chorus. It brought me back to life. I started crying with excitement because I finally felt again these desires and this emotion that you feel when you create a song, and you can’t stop moving forward and keep creating.

I remember we recorded my vocals on a voice note and sent it to [the production software] Logic. Then, it took us four months to produce this song because it was a lot of discovery, in this case, for me as a producer.

Alex is a great musician, artist, a genius — and I don’t say that because he’s my boyfriend. Artistically, there’s a fascinating world inside his head that I have learned a lot from. 

The track "Amanecer," which features Omar Apollo, breaks dramatically with the story you tell in the album. Why did you end that party cycle with a more folksy, chill song?

"Amanecer" is a track that has us all in love. It was the last song I recorded for the album. 

I wrote it to my ex. On my birthday, he called me — I was already with Alex — and it was super weird. I always feared running into him on the street, seeing him with someone else, and feeling something. And it was the exact opposite. I had already healed internally, and that wound had stopped hurting. I stopped feeling all the emotions I had gone through in K.O., [the album nominated for Best Vocal Pop Album at the 2021 Latin GRAMMYs].

This song talks about knowing how to make peace and understanding how to let go. It’s the dawn of the album. It’s perfect to release all the drama, and all the intensity, and aggressiveness that is the entire album itself.

[The song invites you] to hug yourself and say everything will be fine. There is always an opportunity to start over. 

It also has a beautiful story. Manu [Lara] taught Omar Apollo the instrumental parts of the song, and he made some melodies. At the moment of receiving them, [Omar] agreed we would make a song together, [but] it was almost impossible to record together.

[Instead, Omar] told me "You can use the melodies I made" and left me the last part of "Amanecer." He left us with that magical essence.

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(L-R) Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney attend the 'This is a Film About The Black Keys' world premiere as part of SXSW 2024 Conference and Festivals held at The Paramount Theatre on March 11, 2024 in Austin, Texas.
(L-R) Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney attend the 'This is a Film About The Black Keys' world premiere as part of SXSW 2024 Conference and Festivals on March 11, 2024 in Austin, Texas.

Photo: Astrida Valigorsky/Getty Images

list

5 Memorable Moments From SXSW 2024: A Significant Protest, The Black Keys, De Facto, & More

More than 340 new bands played SXSW for the first time in 2024, while many others returned to the annual fest. Read on for some of the most inspiring and exciting moments from SXSW 2024 — from performances by legends to groundbreaking new acts.

GRAMMYs/Mar 18, 2024 - 10:57 pm

The 2024 South By Southwest Festival got off to a dramatic start: approximately 80 artists, speakers, and event sponsors pulled out of the event to protest the sponsorship of the U.S. Army and defense companies and then a hit-and-run traffic incident in a crowded festival area resulted in a fatality and serious injury early Tuesday.

SXSW spokespeople issued statements about both. They were "saddened" by the tragic traffic incident, and reiterated that they are an organization that welcomes diverse viewpoints and therefore saw no issue in allowing the military sponsorships. They also did not criticize anyone who pulled out of the festival to show solidarity with Palestine and protest genocide. Republican Texas Governor Ron Abbott was not as diplomatic.

And yet the music portion of the festival pushed on. 

Some of the bands who pulled out of the festival performed "unofficial" shows, and as with previous SXSW festivals, the diversity of music offerings was staggering: artists played genres such as folk, pop, indie rock, psychedelic cumbia, punk, electronic, and Americana, but also offered regional lenses to musical styles — Texas rap, Southern California soul-jazz  — and social justice viewpoints like indigenous hardcore. Artists also offered global perspectives on jazz, hip hop, and psychedelic funk.

Read on for TK of the most inspiring and exciting moments from SXSW 2024 – from performances by legends to groundbreaking new acts.

The Black Keys Take Audiences Behind The Scenes (And Back To Their Salad Days)

Music keynote offerings felt slim compared to previous years, but festival goers did get an authentic, revealing glimpse into the world of the Black Keys — there to promote a new documentary film about their band history and to perform two shows. 

Drummer Patrick Carney stole the show with humorous, deadpan anecdotes —including that time he slept in the van to guard the $500 they made at a show and woke up in the middle of the night to a crowd of drunk people dressed like Santa Claus in the middle of July — and self-effacing jokes about himself and the group: "The first time we came to SXSW we couldn’t afford to stay in town." 

One thing the film makes clear is that two key elements of the Black Keys are simplicity and technology. They kept things simple by being a two-piece band: a few bass players auditioned early on but Carney and Dan Auerbach preferred the sound of drums and guitar. But the key element was Carney’s four-track recorder: he taught himself how to use it, which enabled the band to record themselves in Carney’s basement and fine-tune their nuanced approach to rock music.

 "We wanted the kick drum to sound like the speakers were blown," Carney said in an interview

Carney and guitarist/singer Auerbach later performed a blues-driven sold-out show at Austin’s Mohawk, joined by artists on Auerbach’s Nashville-based record label Easy Eye Sound. There was no banter, just music.

Bootsy Collins Brings The Funk & A Lot Of Flair

Legendary funk bassist, singer, and producer Bootsy Collins — who played with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic, boasts a long solo career, and collaborated with artists like Deee-Lite, Fatboy Slim, Silk SonicKali Uchis and Tyler, the Creator — hosted high-energy shows with the Ohio group Zapp and his entourage of collaborators and proteges at the 2024 festival. 

A long line of people snaked down Austin’s busy Red River Street waiting to get into the packed Mohawk club for a March 15 show, which featured guest artists Henry Invisible, Tony “Young James Brown” Wilson, and FANTAAZMA. A few fans wore big hats and star-shaped sunglasses to emulate Collins’ distinct look.

Collins, who announced in 2019 he wouldn’t play bass in live performance anymore, was in town to promote his anti-violence initiative, "Funk Not Fight," and a new song and album of the same name. He also promoted his Bootzilla Productions company and Funk University, which aims to mentor younger creatives like Hamburg-based FANTAAZMA, who joined Collins for a SXSW Studio interview with TikTok creator Juju Green.

“At some point James Brown saw something in me, you know, and grabbed us in, and I’ll never forget that, and so that’s what I try to do,” Collins said about his efforts to help mentor younger artists. 

Omar Rodríguez-López & Cedric Bixler-Zavala Get Weird

What a journey these two have had: they met as teens in the hardcore scene in El Paso, Texas, formed two influential alternative rock bands — At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta — and one obscure dub project — De Facto — that earned them rock and roll acclaim from the music press and respect from musical peers in bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Omar and Cedric: If This Ever Gets Weird, a new documentary about the creative partnership between Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala, premiered  at the 2024 festival. The film illuminates the duo’s struggles with bandmates, addiction, racism, Scientology, and their ups and downs in the music industry. 

Rodríguez-López recorded loads of footage over the years of them on the road, in recording studios, and in live performance. Those intimate, up-close moments used in the film reveal a partnership that begins in solidarity, drifts apart, and comes back together stronger than when they started. It’s essentially a film about friendship.

The two appeared briefly onstage before the film’s screening, alongside director Nicolas Jack Davies, but said nothing. For the first time in 21 years, the two performed at this year’s SXSW festival as De Facto, their lesser-known reggae-influenced side project, to promote the new film.

Cumbia Is The Real Soundtrack To SXSW 2024

Cumbia in 2024 is conscious party music, still closely linked to its Colombian origins but expanded and modernized by elements of psychedelia and the young players from across the country and the world interpreting the genre. 

Cumbia could be heard throughout the festival, in particular at a heavily attended party March 12 at Hotel Vegas in Austin, which featured more than 10 bands on four stages. A few fans could be seen wearing T-shirts with the phrase “Cumbia is the new punk,” the title of a song by Mexican cumbia fusion group Son Rompe Pera

Bands mostly from Texas — including the “barrio big band” Bombasta and Latin psych bands like Combo Cósmico and Money Chicha —  and the rock-influenced Denver band Ritmo Cascabel played dance music driven by hand percussion, heavy bass lines and guitars drenched in reverb.

Earlier this year, Billboard predicted that cumbia music in all its entirety and subgenres — chicha, sonidera, norteña, villera — would see a massive growth in 2024, citing higher-profile artist collaborations and social media viral hits.

Classical Music Unveils Its Changing Profile

Classical music is most often associated with beautiful concert halls and polite, well-dressed audiences who sit quietly as music is being played. This was not the case for Vulva Voce, an all-female Manchester-based string quartet that played their unique blend of modern classical music at various SXSW stages this year. 

Band members wore one-piece jumpsuit coveralls with Doc Martin boots and performed mostly original, high-energy, uptempo compositions to loud crowds at dive bars throughout Austin. They shredded strings and swayed and bounced onstage as if it were a rock show, and said they loved every minute of it.  Vulva Voce also performed live with Ash, a Northern Irish rock band whose career in music spans 30 years.

Vulva Voce’s modern approach to classical music comes at a good time. Mid-week, a group of classical music artist managers, lawyers and classical music label executives spoke about classical music’s revival in gaming and soundtracks

Traditional classical music performance continues to struggle with attendance, but the genre has gained traction on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, and has seen a surge in interest in film scores, Netflix soundtracks, video games, and sports broadcasts. 

More than 340 new bands played SXSW for the first time this year. Each year, SXSW awards three emerging artists The Grulke Prize, in honor of festival Creative Director Brent Grulke, who passed away in 2012. Sabrina Teitelbaum, who performs as Blondshell, won for developing U.S. act, the South Korean alternative K-pop band Balming Tiger won for developing non-U.S. act, and British psychedelic pop band the Zombies won the career act award

Creed's Scott Stapp On New Solo Album 'Higher Power,' Processing Decades Of Jokes & Being "A Child With No Filter"

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Bootsy Collins
Bootsy Collins performs at PNC Music Pavilion on July 22, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Photo: Jeff Hahne/Getty Images

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10 Must-See Acts At SXSW 2024: The Black Keys, Automatic, Slick Rick, BALTHVS, Vulva Voce & More

As South by Southwest 2024 kicks off, preview some of the most exciting performances, music film screenings, and music-related keynotes that will hit Austin stages.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 01:41 pm

South By Southwest lures more than 250,000 people to Austin each year to learn about a range of topics, including education, the cannabis industry, technology, film, and video gaming, but music is the heart and driving force of SXSW. The festival kicks off March 8, and a dizzying array of musical performances brings the festival to life from March 11 to 16.

The festival has grown exponentially since its inception in 1987 as a showcase for mostly unknown alternative acts. Roughly 2,000 musical artists will perform on more than 100 stages spread out across Austin and the possibilities for discovery feel endless.

SXSW can generate much buzz and help launch careers: Odd Future, the hip-hop/R&B collective that provided the springboard for Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean, played just a few short sets there in 2011, and Diddy declared them the future of rap music. HAIM, Janelle Monáe, John Mayer, M.I.A., and countless others have had significant early-career moments at SXSW. And legacy artists like New Order and RZA also come to the festival each year to share their wisdom in interviews and perform new material.

As the 2024 festival kicks off, check out some of the emerging and legacy artists appearing at SXSW, including a multiple GRAMMY-winning garage duo, an all-female post-punk group from Los Angeles that embraces "nihilism and loneliness," a modern Texas cumbia collective, an '80s light rock icon, a funk pioneer, modern funk innovators, Glasgow '90s post-rock, and more.

The Black Keys

The Black Keys helped usher in the garage rock revival of the early 2000s on just two instruments: drums and guitar. Their stripped-down sound, originally just made up of "old blues rip-offs and words made up on the spot" in Akron, Ohio, eventually grew to become a well-crafted, major-label rock sound that landed them in arenas and earned more than two dozen award nominations and multiple GRAMMY wins. They’ve released 11 studio albums.

The duo will perform at the 2024 festival in support of a new documentary, This Is A Film About The Black Keys, that traces their trajectory from jamming in basements to major-label rock band. Rolling Stone Senior Writer Angie Martoccio will interview members Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney in a keynote event.

Automatic

Since the release of their 2019 debut album, Signal, the gloomy post-punk band Automatic has toured the U.S. and abroad, composed the soundtrack for Hedi Slimane’s 2020 Paris Fashion Week show for Céline, and opened for legendary post-punks Bauhaus ( drummer Lola Dompé is a daughter of the English goth rock band’s drummer Kevin Haskins).

The band’s three members — Dompé, Izzy Glaudini, and Halle Saxon-Gaines — draw inspiration from krautrock, dub reggae, and the off-kilter, moody atmosphere of films by auteurs like David Lynch. Their live performances are uptempo and melancholy at the same time, and have shared stages with Parquet Courts, Tame Impala, and Thee Osees. Automatic  once described their music as "fixated on the intersection between ’70s underground culture and the ’80s mainstream, ‘That fleeting moment when what was once cool quickly turned and became mainstream, all for the sake of consumerism.’"

Mogwai

When the Glasgow-based rock band released their first single in 1996, they were anxious to replace the '90s Britpop of well-known UK bands like Oasis and Blur with something a bit more emotional and dark: lengthy guitar-based instrumental pieces full of distortion and heavy effects that offered dynamic contrast and melodic bass guitar lines. 

They’ve since gone on to embrace electronica and instrumental music, and over the years has provided music for multiple film soundtracks. Their basic song formula typically begins with something low-key that grows into something gentle and melodic, and then pushes toward louder, layered driving rock. 

"Calling it ‘art’ would be a pretentious step too far, but it’s certainly something that feels exciting and different to most other pop," one British newspaper wrote. A new documentary from Antony Crook, If The Stars Had A Sound, which follows the independent Scottish band’s trajectory, will premiere at SXSW 2024. 

El Combo Oscuro

Modern-day interpretations of cumbia — a percussion-heavy genre of Latin American music originated in Colombia — have become more widespread in recent years, with some calling cumbia "the new punk" for a young generation of rockers who are politically engaged but want to have a good time.

On organ, guitars, bass, drums, and conga drums, El Combo Oscuro sounds modern and retro at the same time, by weaving together an "impenetrable wall of psychedelic Cumbia and Latin sounds" that "throws neon Tex-Mex tribalism," according to the Austin Chronicle

Almost immediately after forming in 2020 in Austin, El Combo Oscuro were nominated for an Austin Music Awards’ Best Latin Act, and their debut EP, Que Sonido Tan Rico, was No. 15 on the Austin Chronicle’s Top 100 Records of 2021. A second EP, 2022's Cumbia Capital, further showcased the sound of Texas. Their 2024 SXSW performance will also feature songs from their latest release, a 2023 debut full-length titled La Danza de las Sirenas.

Bootsy Collins

In addition to showcasing thousands of emerging acts, SXSW each year also honors legacy artists who continue to write, produce, and perform music. Bassist Bootsy Collins — who played with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic throughout the late '60s and '70s and, in recent years, has collaborated with Kali Uchis and Tyler, the Creator — will perform with the group Zapp. 

The performance is part of Bootsy's own anti-violence initiative, "Funk Not Fight," which includes a Cleveland-based (Collins is from Ohio) anti-violence hub designed to offer music recording and mentorship to local youth. During a free performance on March 15, Collins will release a new song and album of the same name. 

Collins’ previous album was 2021’s Nobody’s Perfect Experience. The GRAMMY-winning bassist was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 with other members of Parliament-Funkadelic. Collins played on some of James Brown’s best-known and most political records – "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and "Superbad" – and also had a hand in pop hits like Deee-Lite’s "Groove Is in the Heart" and Fatboy Slim’s "Weapon of Choice."

At 72 years old, Collins shows no signs of giving up the funk. "Funk just brings people together, from the ground up," he told the Guardian. "It doesn’t have nothing to do with color. It has nothing to do with status. It just brings you to ‘the one’, and the one thing that we all have in common is that we all just want to live. That’s what it’s really all about. It’s making something from nothing, like me." 

John Oates

John Oats is one half of five-time GRAMMY-nominated pop-soul duo Hall & Oates. Twenty-nine of their 33 singles charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 between 1974 and 1991, and six of those songs — like "I Can’t Go For That" and "Private Eyes" — peaked at No. 1 . The two were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 and their music has been sampled by artists like 2 Chainz.

Oates, 75, has released five studio albums as a solo artist and published a memoir in 2017 titled Change of Seasons.

"I made a move to Nashville in the late '90s, early 2000s. The move, and the musicians and people I surrounded myself with, allowed me to rediscover the musician that I was before I met Daryl Hall," Oates told GRAMMY.com. "Because I was a blues, folk, rootsy musician, and I tapped back into my earliest influences.

At SXSW 2024, Oates will discuss fame, fortune, and managing a hit music career. His talk will be moderated by Alex Heiche, CEO & Founder of Sound Royalties. Coincidentally, Oates has been in the middle of a legal battle with his former songwriting partner. 

Slick Rick

When asked about hip-hop icon Slick Rick, Roots drummer and Tonight Show bandleader Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson told Rolling Stone, "Slick Rick's voice was the most beautiful thing to happen to hip-hop culture. Rick is full of punchlines, wit, melody, cool cadence, confidence and style. He is the blueprint." 

Slick Rick "The Ruler" — largely considered the most sampled hip-hop artist in history — launched his career performing with Doug E. Fresh’s Get Fresh Crew in the mid-80s, and his 1988 breakout solo album reached number one on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Slick Rick has recently collaborated with Soul Rebels Brass Band. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 GRAMMYs, to honor his legacy as a masterful storyteller and pioneering melodic rapper who raps in a British accent with a leisurely cadence and an unforgettably nasal voice that sometimes swerves into cartoony vocal tones. 

In recent years, Slick Rick has collaborated with Missy Elliott, Mos Def, and the Black Eyed Peas. He performed a duet with Mariah Carey at Radio City Music Hall in 2019, and was signed to actor Idris Alba’s record label. He will perform an all-ages showcase performance — badge-required — at The Mohawk on March 12.  

BALTHVS 

Funk music in recent years has taken on a more global sound, incorporating elements of Asian and Middle Eastern music, surf rock, reggae, and cumbia, thanks to bands like Khruangbin and BALTHVS, a Colombian psychedelic funk trio that has toured the world and released three full-length albums since forming in 2019. The band aims to make "cosmic music" that can combat anger and anxiety.

Band members Balthazar Aguirre (guitar), Johanna Mercuriana (bass), and Santiago Lizcano (drums) produce, mix, and master all of their music and design all of their artwork. Their most recently release, Third Vibration, incorporates funk, disco, dream pop, vaporwave, soul, and R&B into their songs.

Aguirre hypes those genres and more on his Cubensis Records YouTube page, where subscribers can better understand the BALTHVS universe by exploring a vast library of eclectic music, like the mystical 1968 Gabor Szabo album "Dreams," or Stefano Torossi’s 1974 Italian jazz fusion album "Feelings." For super fans, it’s a giant rabbit hole of discovery that helps illustrate the band’s musical recipe.

Brainstory

Brainstory is another modern funk outfit with an eclectic musical blueprint: the three members of Brainstory grew up in the Inland Empire area outside Los Angeles, and by the mid-2010s, they were developing a version of California retro soul music that combines jazz and funk with psychedelic rock and 70s R&B. 

"That's what we were all into at the time—jazz," says guitarist and singer Kevin Martin, who happens to be a big Bob Dylan fan. "And that's what we wanted to do with our first EP in 2014—take our songs and expand them, improvise, weld jazz onto them. We wanted to trick people into listening to jazz, basically." 

The band, made up of Kevin, his brother Tony Martin, and Eric Hagstrom, has released one full-length album, an instrumental album, and an EP. Their new record, Sounds Good, produced for Big Crown Records by Leon Michels — who recently collaborated with Black Thought of the Roots — drops on April 19. The band is touring this spring. Previously they’ve performed with soul singer Lady Wray, and singer Claire "Clairo" Cottrill has a guest feature on the new album.

Vulva Voce

SXSW is more associated with rock music than classical, but the UK-based, all-female string quartet Vulva Voce has applied a rock attitude to their ensemble. Formed during Covid lockdown, they compose much of their own music — which combines elements of folk, jazz, contemporary, and experimental music.

"In terms of our identity — and especially in terms of our business model — we treat ourselves like a band rather than a classical string quartet," violist Nadia Eskandari said

Vulva Voce also employ a bit of a punk attitude, performing outside classical concert halls, at open mic nights and pop-up performances. They also play a wide range of music written by female composers.

"We want all the music we play to feel accessible to anyone, because when you are playing music by women, it is even more important that anyone can connect to it, not just classical audiences,"  Eskandari adds.

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