meta-scriptBoys Like Girls Is Back: How Self-Acceptance & Artistic Freedom Created The Pop-Punk Group's Best Form | GRAMMY.com
Boys Like Girls press photo 2023

Photo: Donny Evans

interview

Boys Like Girls Is Back: How Self-Acceptance & Artistic Freedom Created The Pop-Punk Group's Best Form

As Boys Like Girls celebrate the release of their first album in 11 years, 'SUNDAY AT FOXWOODS,' singer Martin Johnson explains why the group is in the happiest, healthiest period of their career.

GRAMMYs/Oct 30, 2023 - 08:26 pm

For 3 minutes and 14 seconds of Boys Like Girls' recent set at New York City's Hammerstein Ballroom, Martin Johnson asked just one thing of the sold-out crowd: put your phones away.

"Let's do it like it's 2007," the frontman said before the band went into their biggest hit, "The Great Escape." 

Just before that, Johnson had requested exactly the opposite: take your phones out and capture the pop-punk anthem on film. But after the first chorus, phones were pocketed, and the energy in the room shifted to pre-smartphone, pure, and carefree teenage nostalgia. 

That's the kind of magic Johnson and his BLG bandmates — original drummer John Keefe, and new recruits (but old friends) guitarist Jamel Hawke and bassist Gregory James — have been feeling on their latest tour, which wraps on Nov. 1 in Raleigh, North Carolina. It's both a celebration of the band's beloved classics and their new album, SUNDAY AT FOXWOODS, their first in 11 years.

As Johnson proudly declared to the NYC crowd on Oct. 27, one week after the album's release, "In case you haven't noticed, we are back and we're better than f—ing ever."

In the time that the band spent apart, Johnson expanded his repertoire songwriter and producer for the likes of Avril Lavigne and Kygo; in 2017, he started a solo venture under the moniker The Night Game. Boys Like Girls was always in the back of his mind, but there was a lot of personal healing to do in order for the band to come back in full force. And after a 12-show reunion in 2016, it felt like maybe Boys Like Girls would never return.

"We sobbed in each other's arms after the [last] show — I don't know why we felt that way, but we all kind of knew that would be our last show ever," Johnson recalls. "That felt a little more like a celebratory victory lap with my best friends than it felt like reopening a chapter."

Yet, BLG still found its way into the music he was making — and once he had a song called "BLOOD AND SUGAR," he knew it was time to try again. Johnson had clearly never fully lost sight of the band's sound, though; SUNDAY AT FOXWOODS carries the same spirit as Boys Like Girls' older material, leaning more into anthemic '80s pop production and their signature guitar-driven, roaring melodies.

Below, Johnson details the healing journey that helped the new-and-improved iteration of Boys Like Girls come to life — and why it's just the beginning of their return.

This interview has been edited for clarity. As told to Taylor Weatherby.

You emotionally kind of go through this roller coaster, being on the radio at 20 and peaking, by cultural standards, at 23. And then you're trying to reassume your place in society at 24 as a normal human being, and you have to drop the narcissism and ego that are required to be that type of an artist. What happens is you bury the good things with the bad, and you almost become a completely different person. 

At that point, at 24, I also got sober. It was a bit of the death of a persona of introducing myself as Martin from Boys Like Girls instead of Martin Johnson. And kind of like, Who am I? Because I only know myself in the context of the music I make, and that's not going to make me a happy man long term. 

So then 12 years later, you look at your new music, and you've buried your ability to make [the music you used to make], because you've suppressed this kid inside you. You're not ashamed of them at all — I was grateful that that kid brought me so much value and incredible experience and life experience as a man. 

A lot of it I don't even remember, because I was so young, or inebriated. But it was important to make peace with that kid, and let him into the room, before figuring out what this was. And looking my 18 to 23-year-old self in the eyeballs and saying "I love you, I accept you, I'm not embarrassed of you, and thank you for everything that you did for me as a man." 

Then there's this "emo night" culture, where you go into a club and they play all the songs from 2002 to 2008, and everybody screams along really loud wearing all black and T-shirts that say "Sad as f—." And you're in the epicenter of that, but it feels like another life — it doesn't feel like you. Like, you're standing there in your mid 30s, [and it's] literally like I'm a museum exhibit behind glass. So also finding love for what culture has made out of who I was as a kid was [another] vital component of making this record.

For 12 years, I wasn't really emotionally available to watch old videos of myself. I was, like, on drugs, so watching myself perform in 2009 really hurts my heart. So I went back and I watched everything I could on YouTube, I listened to every single demo that [we] had never put out — and there are hundreds — I listened to every voice memo that I had from 2004 to 2010, I went through my entire video/photo library, all my camcorder tapes. 

And what a gift to experience that deep into my 30s, when I had made peace with myself as a human, and learned to love myself but hadn't yet loved my past or felt grateful for my past. There was always this, like, eerie disconnect around the age of 24, and this sort of line in the sand where like a new life began. That line doesn't exist for me anymore — and that was a huge part of creating SUNDAY AT FOXWOODS.

I think it's also vitally important to have no rules. The thing that kept me from being willing to step into the ring to make a Boys Like Girls record for so long is [that] I felt there were rules. We made that first record with two guitars, a bass, drums, and a little bit of synthetic programming. When you do that, you do it with as much intensity and bravado as you possibly can, because you don't know anything else. Then you're in your mid-30s, and your toolkit has expanded so much, from writing music for other people and from time on the globe, and from failing, you know what I mean? 

For me, that created this beautiful freedom, where I was able to feel free to use that skill set, but also infuse the things that I had learned in my 20s/30s. Which was super liberating, because it felt like a second chance at creating music that changed my life.

[Last year], I bicycled across the U.S. It was 4,400 miles, it took me 70 days. I did it with one other guy, carrying all this stuff, camping and [staying in] some hotel rooms. I think the purpose for that was, I was looking at my life — and I deeply love my life, but I'm always looking for more. I'm always looking for what's next, I'm always looking for fulfillment, and I'm looking for what's my next creative endeavor — what is going to be the thing that makes me feel free and wild.

For a while, music had actually made me feel a little bit confined. And it's hard to even explain that, but I think a lot of it is to do with the direction the music industry has taken, where everything is dictated by metrics. So the fatigue that's involved with that had created a little bit of a block for me, and I had thought about stepping back on stage to segway out of that block, but I didn't know if that was the answer. 

I'm in a super happy marriage, [and I was] super excited that she was gonna let me go on the bike. We weren't sure if we were ready to have a kid yet. I got out on the bike, and within two weeks, the world got really quiet and two things became extremely clear.

Number one, I am supposed to sing. It was the thing I was supposed to do since I was a kid. It became really clear to me that in order to express myself and not feel locked in a box, what I needed to do was make my own music with no rules. 

And then also, I was like, I'm ready to be a dad, and I'm ready for what that looks like and I'm ready for that responsibility. It's so funny, because when I was a kid, being a dad felt like not freedom at all. We actually named our daughter Freedom.

I don't know that I'm never gonna write for somebody else again. This chapter for me is about my creative outlet and performance in the context of Boys Like Girls — what that means to my childhood self, what that means to my current self, what that means to me as a father and a man.

We booked a little bit of a trial-and-error tour last year — a soft, like, "Should we do this?" We went to Southeast Asia and Australia, and we played When We Were Young Festival and a couple of headlining sets here. The mutual energy exchange that we were experiencing from the crowd wasn't really something we had felt since maybe 2009. And that's really contagious to feel that — when you look out at the crowd and you're delivering escape and joy and euphoria, you receive it back.

It made sense to feel like, "Guys, let's play some songs here. This was a big part of who we are — why just totally kick it under the rug? It's been a long time. Let's go jam." And then it took on a really big, deeper meaning for us getting it in front of people. It was like, "Let's take a real crack at this. We'd been doing completely other s— for 12 years. Let's put it all on ice and let's do Boys Like Girls again."

It was the most liberating thing any of us have ever [done], and the biggest commitment we've made to ourselves as musicians since 2005 when we signed a record deal.

We played our first show since 2016 in Australia. We were in Perth. I stepped on stage with my best friends, and all of a sudden, this completely full club, sold out, is screaming these songs I wrote at 18. Sometimes you don't choose your path, it chooses you, and it became really clear to me that I had a job to do and this was it. At first, that came with a little bit of guilt that I hadn't done it sooner. Like, How did I neglect this for so long?

But I allowed that to just be the story of Boys Like Girls, and that's because our fans have grown up with us. I look out and I see it. I'm just like, Wow, we grew up together, dude. That was a journey together. And here we are, man. We made it, that's crazy. And it feels like that on this tour. 

I feel completely cut loose. I think you can hear that in the music, I think people can feel that in the performances, and playing the older songs has never felt better. I'm really enjoying doing this, and I feel like as soon as I get off the road, I want to make more Boys Like Girls music.

We're closer than we've ever been by a massive long shot. And that's a huge gift, but it came through a lot of work, finding what this looked like in 2023 — really asking ourselves the hard questions.

Obviously Boys Like Girls is not in its original form, but it's pretty much as original as it possibly could be considering the circumstances. Jamel was in the band in 2009 through '11 — he was our auxiliary guitar player. What's funny about Jamel was, we actually asked him to join the band in 2004 and he said no. [Laughs.]

Greg had been around the band and best friends with us for 15 years. He used to live with Paul [DiGiovanni, BLG's original guitarist] when the band was kind of peaking, played bass with us on stage a couple of times in between 2007 and 2009, and opened for us acoustic a few times on the OP Tour with Cobra Starship. He had sort of been a huge part of our story the whole way.

Morgan [Dorr, former bassist] and Bryan [Donohue, original bassist] and Paul, we love those three so, so deeply. I think we're on stage with the exact people that we're supposed to be on stage with right now. The guys are really assuming the character well and owning the music in a way that I'm so proud of. They've been there the whole time, so the context and the cultural significance is so clear. It's not just playing a four-chord part — it's playing a movement, it's playing a cultural moment, it's going back in time with us.

We're lining up stuff for next summer. This tour feels natural and amazing. My family and my wife are so supportive about the journey. My relationship with my bandmates is the best it's ever been in our entire career of 20 years. I feel healthy, happy and supercharged. And I'm ready to make the best music of my career.

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Photo of country singer/artist Anne Wilson wearing a brown jacket with pink designs, a white shirt, and light blue jeans.
Anne Wilson

Photo: Robby Klein

feature

Anne Wilson Found Faith In Music After Her Brother’s Death. Now She’s One Of Country’s Young Stars: "His Tragedy Wasn’t Wasted"

The Kentucky-based musician first arrived on the scene as a Christian artist in 2022. On her new album 'Rebel,' the singer/songwriter star melds the sounds of her "true north" with a mainstream country sensibility.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 02:40 pm

After breaking out in the world of contemporary Christian music, Anne Wilson wants to take the country world by storm. 

Out April 19, Wilson's sophomore album embraces the many aspects of her self. Rebel sees the Kentuckian lean into her country and horse farm roots just as she leans into her faith — a subject already deeply intertwined in country music — more than ever before. 

"I’ve never viewed it as switching over to country or leaving Christian music," Wilson tells GRAMMY.com. "With this new record I wanted to write something that was faith-based but also broad enough to positively impact people who don’t have a strong faith as well."

Rebel is just the latest chapter in a journey of triumph and glory first set into motion by tragedy. Wilson started playing piano when she was six but didn’t begin taking it more seriously until the sudden death of her older brother, Jacob Wilson, in 2017. Despite the weight of the moment, Wilson, then 15, returned to the piano to channel her grief — a move that culminated in her first live singing performance when she belted out Hillsong Worship’s "What A Beautiful Name" at his funeral.

"My life forever changed in that moment," admits Wilson. "I already knew that life was very short on this side and that we only have a small window of time here so I wanted to make mine count. It was a special, but really hard moment that has gone on to spawn my entire career. Hearing just how much my songs have impacted fans makes me feel like his tragedy wasn’t wasted and that it was used for good."

Soon after she posted a cover of "What A Beautiful Name" to YouTube that netted over 800,000 views and caught the attention of the brass at Capitol Christian Music Group, who promptly signed her to a deal. Her first release with them, My Jesus, earned a GRAMMY nomination in 2023 for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album in addition to its title track hitting the top spot on Billboard’s Christian Airplay chart. 

Similar to My Jesus, Rebel sees Wilson doubling down on her religious roots while continuing to preserve the memory of her beloved brother. Although she grew up in a devout Christian household in Lexington, Kentucky, Wilson says that she didn’t fully connect with her faith until Jacob’s passing. 

Nowadays she couldn’t see herself living without it.

"When it came to dealing with the loss and tragedy of my brother I knew I couldn’t have survived that without [faith]," she says. "As I started writing songs and moved to Nashville my faith quickly became everything to me."

The 16-song project hits the bullseye between contemporary Christian and country twang, with an assist from special guests including Chris Tomlin ("The Cross"), Jordan Davis ("Country Gold") and Lainey Wilson ("Praying Woman"). Of the Lainey feature, Wilson says the two wrote "Praying Woman" upon their first day of meeting, with the elder Wilson growing into big sister and mentor of sorts for Anne. The song was inspired by the power of prayer Wilson and Lainey each experienced from their mothers growing up.

"We’d been talking about memories from growing up and remembering our mother’s coming into our rooms, getting on their knees and praying for us," recalls Wilson. "There was a conviction in how they prayed and expected them to be answered that was so powerful and special that we wanted to capture the feeling of it in song."

Rebel's strong motherly influence continues on "Red Flag," a rockin' number that Anne Wilson wrote as guidance to her younger fan base about what to look for in lasting love. While she largely had to ad lib the concept, having no bad breakup or relationship experiences to pull from, many of the "green flags" she notes were the result of years of advice. Things like going to church, being down to Earth, hunting, fishing, and respecting the American flag were traits and hobbies Wilson's mother had been passing down to her for years.

"Growing up she was always teaching me about relationship red and green flags, what to expect and to never settle," explains Wilson. "I have a song on my last record called ‘Hey Girl’ that ['Red Flag' is] almost a continuation of. It started out as a fun joke and turned out to be an actual serious song about red flags that’s one of my favorites on the whole record."

Another tune that began lighthearted before adopting a more serious tone is "Songs About Whiskey." Playing into country music and her home state's obsession with songs about brown liquor, the upbeat banger is intended to instead illustrate how Wilson gets her high from G-O-D rather than A-B-V or C-B-D through lines like, "I guess I’m just kind of fixed on/ The only thing that’s ever fixed me/ That’s why I sing songs about Jesus/ Instead of singing songs about whiskey."

"It’s supposed to be fun, make you laugh and fill you with joy," describes Wilson. "But it’s also meant to show how my faith is my true north, not those other things that are going to try to fill you up, but never do."

Through all of Rebel Wilson not only proves how her faith is her true north, but also shows others yearning to get there a path toward. This feeling culminates on the record’s title track, which frames her open love of Jesus as an act of rebellion in today’s world. A lesson in "what it means to have faith, not backing down from it and clinging to what we know is true," Wilson says the song was also inspired by previously having a song turned away at Christian radio for sounding "too country."

"I’m not going to try to please Christian music and I’m not going to try to please country music, I’m just going to be who I’ve always been and let the songs fall where they want to," asserts Wilson. "That was fuel not just for the song, but going against the grain on this entire album to be my most authentic self yet."

At the end of the day, genre labels, accolades and being included in the Grand Ole Opry’s NextStage Class of 2024 are secondary to Wilson’s adoration for the man above and her brother who, albeit tragically, set her on the journey she’s on now.

"I want to make sure I’m honoring him in everything that I do," reflects Wilson, "because he’s the reason I started doing music in the first place." 

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Photo of Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City
Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

list

10 Record Store Day 2024 Releases We're Excited About: The Beatles, Notorious B.I.G. & More

In honor of Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, learn about 10 limited, exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 02:20 pm

From vinyl records by the 1975 and U2, to album reissues and previously unreleased music, record stores around the world are stocking limited and exclusive releases for Record Store Day 2024

The first Record Store Day kicked off in 2008 and every year since, the event supporting independently owned record stores has grown exponentially. On Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, there will be more than 300 special releases available from artists as diverse as  the Beatles and Buena Vista Social Club. 

In honor of Record Store Day 2024 on April 20, here are 10 limited and exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store. 

David Bowie — Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth

British glam rocker David Bowie was a starman and an icon. Throughout his career, he won five GRAMMY Awards and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. 

On RSD 2024, Bowie's estate is dialing it back to his Ziggy Stardust days to make Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth) available for the first time. The record features recordings of Bowie's sessions at Trident Studios in 1971, and many songs from those sessions would be polished for his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

The tracklisting for Waiting in the Sky differs from Ziggy Stardust and features four songs that didn’t make the final album.

Talking Heads — Live at WCOZ 77

New York City-based outfit Talking Heads defined the sound of new wave in the late '70s and into the next decade. For their massive influence, the group received two GRAMMY nominations and was later honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

While promoting their debut album Talking Heads: 77, the quartet recorded a live performance for the New Albany, Pennsylvania radio station WCOZ in 1977. The Live at WCOZ 77 LP will include 14 songs from that performance at Northern Studios, including seven that will be released for the first time. Among the previously unheard cuts are "Love Goes To A Building On Fire" and "Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town." During that session, Talking Heads also performed songs like "Psycho Killer" and "Pulled Up."

The Doors — Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968

The Doors were at the forefront of the psychedelic rock movement of the 1960s and early '70s. One of Jim Morrison's most epic performances with the band will be available on vinyl for the first time. 

Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968 includes recordings from a radio broadcast that was never commercially released. The 3-LP release includes performances of songs from the Doors’ first three albums, including 1967’s self-titled and Strange Days. In addition to performing their classics like "Light My Fire" and "You're Lost Little Girl," the Doors and Morrison also covered "Mack the Knife" and Barret Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" live during this session. 

Dwight Yoakam — The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s

Over the course of his 40-year career, country music icon Dwight Yoakam has received 18 GRAMMY nominations and won two golden gramophones for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1994 and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 2000.

On Record Store Day 2024, Yoakam will celebrate the first chapter of his legacy with a new box set: The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s. His debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. and 1987’s Hillbilly Deluxe will be included in the collection alongside exclusive disc full of rarities and demos. The 4-LP set includes his classics like "Honky Tonk Man," "Little Ways," and "Streets of Bakersfield." The box set will also be available to purchase on CD.  

The Beatles — The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable

Beatlemania swept across the U.S. following the Beatles’ first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964, setting the stage for the British Invasion. With The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable, the band will celebrate their iconic run of appearances on Sullivan’s TV program throughout that year.

The box set will include a Beatles-styled turntable and four 3-inch records. Among those records are the hits "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," and "I Saw Her Standing There," which the Beatles performed on Sullivan's TV across several appearances. 

Among 23 GRAMMY nominations, the Beatles won seven golden gramophones. In 2014, the Recording Academy honored them with the Lifetime Achievement Award.   

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan — From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan are two of the biggest pop stars in the world right now — Rodrigo hitting the stage with No Doubt at Coachella and near the end of her global GUTS Tour; Kahan fresh off a Best New Artist nomination at the 2024 GRAMMYs. Now, they're teaming up for the split single From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP, a release culled from each artist's "BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge" sessions. 

The special vinyl release will include Rodrigo's live cover of Kahan's breakout hit "Stick Season." The single also includes Kahan’s cover of Rodrigo’s song "Lacy" from her second album, GUTS. This month, they performed the song live together on Rodrigo’s Guts World Tour stop in Madison Square Garden.  

Buena Vista Social Club — Buena Vista Social Club

Influential Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club popularized genres and sounds from their country, including son cubano, bolero, guajira, and danzón. Buena Vista Social Club's landmark self-titled LP won the GRAMMY for Best Tropical Latin Album in 1998.

The following year, a documentary was released that captured two of the band's live performances in New York City and Amsterdam. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the documentary, the Buena Vista Social Club album will be released on a limited edition gold vinyl with remastered audio and bonus tracks.

Buena Vista Social Club is one of the 10 recordings to be newly inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame as part of the 2024 inductee class.

Danny Ocean — 54+1

Venezuelan reggaeton star Danny Ocean broke through on a global level in 2016 with his self-produced debut single "Me Rehúso," a heartbreaking track inspired by Ocean fleeing Venezuela due to the country's economic instability and the lover he had left behind. 

With "Me Rehúso," Ocean became the first solo Latin artist to surpass one billion streams on Spotify, on the platform with a single song. "Me Rehúso" was included on his 2019 debut album 54+1, which will be released on vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day.

Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Upsetters — Skanking With The Upsetter

Jamaican producer Lee "Scratch" Perry pioneered dub music in the 1960s and '70s. Perry received five GRAMMY nominations in his lifetime, including winning Best Reggae Album in 2003 for Jamaican E.T.

To celebrate the legacy of Perry's earliest dub recordings, a limited edition run of his 2004 album Skanking With The Upsetter will be released on Record Store Day. His joint LP with his house band the Upsetters will be pressed on transparent yellow vinyl. Among the rare dub tracks on the album are "Bucky Skank," "Seven & Three Quarters (Skank)," and "IPA Skank." 

Read more: Lee "Scratch" Perry Documentary Director Sets The Record Straight On The Reggae Icon's Legacy — Including A Big Misconception About Bob Marley

Notorious B.I.G. — Ready To Die: The Instrumentals

The Notorious B.I.G. helped define the sound of East Coast rap in the '90s. Though he was tragically murdered in 1997, his legacy continues to live on through his two albums. 

During his lifetime, the Notorious B.I.G. dropped his 1994 debut album Ready to Die, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest hip-hop releases of all-time. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the album (originally released in September '94), his estate will release Ready To Die: The Instrumentals. The limited edition vinyl will include select cuts from the LP like his hits "Big Poppa," "One More Chance/Stay With Me," and "Juicy." The album helped him garner his first GRAMMY nomination in 1996 for Best Rap Solo Performance. The Notorious B.I.G. received an additional three nominations after his death in 1998. 

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Singer and actor Ben Platt seated and posing
Ben Platt

Photo: Vince Aung

interview

Inside Ben Platt's 'Honeymind': How Queer Love, Live Performance & More Led To His Most Authentic Album Yet

Ben Platt's expansive artistry has taken him from Broadway to the recording studio, and his new album continues this evolution. 'Honeymind' shows Ben Platt at his most honest and vulnerable, embracing a new sound.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 01:47 pm

Ben Platt has never allowed the world to dictate his fate. The GRAMMY, Tony, and Emmy-winner's artistic outpouring has been relentless, and he's still early in his career. 

The 30-year-old actor and singer has performed in Broadway musicals like "Parade" and "Dear Evan Hansen," sold out Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl as a solo artist, and starred and co-wrote the film Theater Camp. Each project has marked a step into a new direction, but none more so than Honeymind — an album that captures what it's like to chase tender and safe intimacy in partnership, and the ecstasy that follows once found. 

His professional growth between 2021's Reverie and Honeymind is apparent not just thematically, but sonically and in production. This latest album sounds natural and lush, with input from GRAMMY-winning producer Dave Cobb and producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Alex Hope. While  Honeymind shows a version of Platt some listeners may not be accustomed to, he's never sounded more comfortable in his own skin. 

To celebrate the release of Honeymind, Platt will headline a three-week residency in New York City's Palace Theatre and a subsequent nationwide summer tour and serve as the keynote speaker at this year’s GRAMMY U Conference. He spoke with GRAMMY.com about his latest album, upcoming residency, and the beautiful and, at times, tricky trappings of romantic love.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Honeymind shifts away from the '80s electro-pop of Reverie and your Broadway roots. What made you gravitate towards a more tender, folky sound that exudes warmth and serenity?

The biggest catalyst was that I wanted to go and write Nashville because I admired so many songwriters there. When I started with my first round of writing sessions for this record — which was back in the spring of 2022 — what just very naturally started coming out was this super unadorned, very storytelling-forward type of music. 

When I made my first record [2019], it was very close after I had been on Broadway for a long time, and it was theatrically linked. Then, I experimented with leaning into pop and this Peter Gabriel vibe, but it felt like a landing pad this time. I closed my eyes and went, What's the most natural way to communicate in terms of what is specific to me? This seemed to fit really nicely. 

You worked with renowned producers like Dave Cobb on this album. There are times when the producer’s work stands out most, but Honeymind sounds like you. How did you ensure that all tracks sounded distinctly like you versus a Dave Cobb song?

​​I loved the idea of working with Dave! His specialty is unadorned things that are as essential as they can be. When it comes to my own sound, my priority is always obviously storytelling and songwriting, but certainly, to have the vocal performance be very much the focus. Dave was very amenable to that. 

I went and wrote the songs with my co-writers before starting work with Dave, and I sort of came in with all of his songs completed. He did a beautiful job of preserving the integrity of the songs I’d written. [He wanted] to present them in as organic and straightforward a way as possible, as opposed to trying to sort of put a secondary sound onto it. 

Your previous work has been personal to varying degrees, but your lead single, "Andrew," feels particularly candid.

I wrote that song with Alex Hope, one of my favorite longtime collaborators, and I had a session earlier in the week with someone else who was also wonderful. [This first songwriter] was talking to me about her son, who was 10 or 11, and how he had his best friend, a boy he loved so much. She shared that she had an inclination that more love was going towards this friend and was coming back to him [than] he could even really communicate. 

It reminded me so deeply and immediately of so many different experiences growing up: having straight friends in high school and middle school, who you just love and who aren't doing anything wrong, but just by virtue of chemicals and how we're born, you develop feelings that just can't be reciprocated. [That's] such a special kind of melancholy. It's no one's fault, and I hadn't heard that strain of unrequited love and that particular type of melancholy expressed in a song. 

The next day, I went in with Alex and pitched them a song, and they're queer as well and understood the perspective, so it came out very quickly.

What about queer love do you find most challenging to articulate?

Developing feelings for people that just don't have it in their blood to feel the same way is a uniquely queer experience, [as is] boundarylessness both positively and negatively. It's very particular to queer love in the sense that there are a lot less societal examples, and sort of prerequisites, for what queer relationships look like or shouldn't be. Which is so freeing and wonderful and makes for a really beautiful, honest relationship. Still, it's also a little scary because you're flying blind in a way that is very particular to being a queer person. 

There's an inherent sort of rebellion and statement that you have to be making every day when you're out in the world with your partner as a queer person because there remain so many people who are intolerant, don't understand, and are still fearful and judgmental. It requires an extra bit of courage just to engage in the relationship.

You have a three-week residency at New York City's Palace Theatre, where legends like Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, and Judy Garland performed and will tour afterward.  How are you feeling as you prepare for these concerts?

When I finish the record and sit on it, it exists in limbo; I start to second-guess it, feel like I'm losing my connection to it, or forget. I don't feel like I'm in the same place as I was when I wrote these things because they're so intimate. 

But for me, the whole shebang has always been getting to perform live, and that's just my greatest joy. The songs are the most mine when I'm singing them live. I also love sharing music with people, and hearing in person and online conversations, about how it applies to their lives, how it reminds them of things, and how they use it. The tour is always the part where I'm the most in love with the album, and when the tour ends, I'm ready to let it out into the world and say goodbye for a minute.

Beyond the risk of trying something new in your career, what roles do failure, trial, and error play in your creative process or other parts of your life?

For every song I've written that I love or even come out, there are eight to 10 that I never want to see in the light of day. 

It's hard to find the good things until you throw everything at the wall, and if you're too afraid to fall, then you'll never really try in the first place. And I was privileged because I started working quite young; things went from A to B to C in the sense that they went steadily. As I get older, I learn that a career is more about this longer journey that is not at all linear. Now that I have some hindsight, it's easy to appreciate the down moments and the valleys because that's the only way you recognize when something is going well. I try to be grateful for those moments of failure or misstep when they come because it's an essential part of being an artist — not the funnest part always, but necessary. 

You'll be the keynote speaker at the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference for young professionals. What do you want to share most with conference attendees?

I must share my transparency and experiences and try to help learn by failure and success. I've found, in all facets, that specificity begets universality, and I'm trying to be as specifically honest about my role in how I approached songwriting in my own artistry — whether that's something someone will directly connect to, create a tangential connection to something else, or be an example of something that doesn't work for someone. 

Art is so tailor-made, so it's just about sharing ideas and seeing what sticks.

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Chike
Chike

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Jason Lloyd

video

Global Spin: Watch Chike Light Up The Stage With A Technicolor Performance Of “Egwu”

Nigerian Afrobeats singer Chike celebrates the joy that music brings to the spirit in this electrifying performance of his latest single, “Egwu.”

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 10:53 pm

Nigerian Afrobeats singer Chike recognizes music's ability to release inhibitions freely. Instantly, it'll improve your mood or make you want to dance — and his new track, "Egwu," is a celebration of that movement.

“Music need no permission to enter your spirit,” Chike declares in the chorus of the song. “Anywhere, anyhow, you know say you go feel/ Life is life, life is life.”

In this episode of Global Spin, watch Chike deliver a vibrant live performance of “Egwu,” made complete by his intricately patterned colorful suit and neon stage lighting.

The original version of “Egwu,” released on Dec. 15 via Brothers Records, features the late Nigerian rapper Mohbad: “I made a ton of music with a great guy, and I’m happy I can share the first one with the world,” Chike revealed on Instagram. On March 29, he dropped a remix of “Egwu” with DJ Call Me.

In another social media post, Chike announced that he will offer “an intimate musical experience as well tell stories of love, romance, and life” at his upcoming show, Apple of London’s Eye, in England this July.

Press play on the video above to watch Chike’s technicolor performance of “Egwu,” and don’t forget to keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Global Spin.

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