Photo: Andrew Lee
Up Close & Personal: SHAED Talk New Music, Allyship & Collabs With ZAYN, Sting & Steve Aoki
The "Melt" band reveal how fun it was working with Sting and Steve Aoki on the dance producer's 2019's track "2 In A Million"
Alt-pop trio SHAED consisting of twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst and Chelsea Lee (who is married to Spencer), had their big break in summer 2018 with their infectious hit "Trampoline." It was followed by a whirlwind 2019, where they played major festivals and shows around the world and dropped some big collabs, including a ZAYN remix of "Trampoline," whose vocals brought new life—and his massive fan base—to it.
Like so many other artists, COVID-19 put a sudden halt on their packed, globe-trotting schedule. The pause and new perspective have proven productive for them, and resulted in a lot of new, yet-to-be-released music.
"We had a group of songs before this whole quarantine situation and we kind of took a deep listen and realized that we wanted to change it up a bit," Chelsea told us. "Most of the songs we've written for this album, we wrote during these crazy months, so it definitely reflects, emotionally and mentally, what we were feeling. These songs really hit home for us and we're super excited to release them."
We catch up with the Washington D.C.-based group for the latest episode of GRAMMY.com Up Close & Personal interview video series to learn what they've been up to during quarantine—in addition to creating a new album, they've also protesting with local Black Lives Matter marches and been relaxing in their backyard.
Sharing what he learned about being an ally to the Black community, Max said, "I think it's important to listen. There's all these kind of sub-movements within the Black Lives Matter movement that are really important. Black Trans lives Matter, is super important… I think it's important that all these communities within Black Lives Matter, their voices are being elevated."
"Chelsea loves Sting," Spencer said, smiling. "Steve Aoki is a fan of ours, and he reached out and said he'd love for us to feature on a song. So we were listening to some demos and trying to figure out which one made sense. And then he said, 'Hey, actually hold on, I got a song with Sting.' And that's when Chelsea was like 'We're doing this right away!'"
Photo: Amy Lee
New Music Friday: Listen To New Songs From Andre 3000, Drake, Ozuna & More
From long-awaited debut albums to surprising singles, listen to these six new releases from Nov. 17.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, this New Music Friday offers us a feast of new sounds from some of the music industry’s biggest artists.
Country star Maren Morris teamed up with Teddy Swims for a passionate duet version of his song "Some Things I'll Never Know," while Steve Aoki & ERNEST paired up for an energetic dance/country crossver, "Us," from Aoki’s HiROQUEST 2: Double Helix.
American band Bleachers unleash their wild side with "Alma Matter," from their upcoming self-titled album dropping March 8, 2024. Meanwhile, alternative rock band Bad Suns released their catchy, six-track EP Infinite Joy. Across the pond, long-time British rockers Madness released their 13th album, Theatre Of the Absurd Presents C’Est La Vie.
With sultry sounds from R&B songstress Ari Lennox to mellow, indie rhythms from Dermot Kennedy to upbeat, radiant vibes from the duo Surfaces, this Friday brings a kaleidoscope of sounds from across every genre.
Along with the slew of releases mentioned above, press play on releases from the likes of André 3000, Drake, Ozuna, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, Danny Brown, and Bibi and Becky G — and be sure to add some new sounds to your rotation.
André 3000 - New Blue Sun
If you’ve seen Andre 3000’s impromptu flute performances in the past few years, then the GRAMMY winner's new sound won’t come as a shock. On his eight-track debut solo album New Blue Sun, the Outkast member experiments with wind instruments and percussion, creating serene and melodic compositions.
Across eight elaborately titled tracks — "I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A "Rap" Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time" and "That Night In Hawaii When I Turned Into A Panther And Started Making These Low Registered Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control… Shyt Was Wild," — Andre details his artistic journey and the possibility of returning to rap music. Because, as Andre has told numerous outlets, New Blue Sun is not a rap album.
In the future, fans might see 3000 return to the rap universe but in the meantime, let’s enjoy the ambience of the blue sun.
Drake - For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition
It’s not Scorpio season without a release from the scorpion king himself, Drake. In the latest installment of his Scary Hours series, Drake brought in a heavy-hitter lineup of producers including Lil Yatchy and Alchemist.
With songs surrounding themes of betrayal and broken trust (an the less-than-subtle chant "F— My Ex" more than 10 times in one song), For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition shows how deep the Certified Lover Boy is in his feelings.
Drake brings out his Swiftie side in the track, "Red Button," shouting out Taylor Swift with lyrics "Taylor Swift the only n—- that I ever rated/ Only one could make me drop the album just a little later/ Rest of y’all, I treat you like you never made it." Seems that the big-ups and grudges heard on October's For All The Dogs translate to Scary Hours, too.
Ozuna - Cosmo
After receiving a nod for Best Reggaeton Performance and performing with David Guetta at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, Puerto Rican Singer Ozuna dropped his sixth album, Cosmo. Filled with soon-to-be dance floor staples, Cosmo highlights Ozuna's versatility.
Songs like "El Pin" and "La Chulita" are full of infectious dance and Afrobeats influences, yet stay true to his reggaeton roots. The 15-track record also includes collaborations with Jhayco, Chenco Corleone, Anuel and David Guetta.
"When you think of a colorful image, you think of youth. When people listen to this album, I want them to take it seriously," Ozuna said in an interview with the Fader. "People want to hear what’s real, what’s clear-cut, in black and white.”
The goal, he continued, is to allow "people to know who the real Ozuna is."
2 Chainz, Lil Wayne - Welcome 2 Collegrove
Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz have joined forces once again to release their second joint album, Welcome 2 Collegrove. The album’s title is a melding of 2 Chainz's hometown of College Park, Georgia, with Lil Wayne’s Hollygrove, Louisiana.
Welcome 2 Collegrove includes features from a cross-section of hip-hop and R&B greats, including Usher, 21 Savage, Rick Ross, Benny The Butcher and Fabolous. Tracks like "Presha" and "Long Story Short" bring back the duo’s classic rap sound from their 2016 project COLLEGROVE, and show their ability to create hip-hop anthems. The special guest artists add even more depth to their songs.
Danny Brown - Quaranta
After a four year break, Detroit rapper Danny Brown is back with his seventh album, Quaranta. A departure from his earlier, more club-centric music, the 11-track album offers a new perspective in Brown’s life.
Quaranta is a turning point in Brown's musical journey, where he reflects on themes of regret, self-destructive behavior, and growth. While songs like "Ain’t My Concern" and "Celibate" still include his signature flair of fast, high-pitched verses, this album takes on a more mature and introspective route.
Bibi feat. Becky G - "Amigos"
On "Amigos," South Korean singer Bibi teamed up with Latin star Becky G for a multicultural but ever-relatable track that focuses on being hung up on past lovers despite having someone new in their life. "I know we had a good time and that you always want more / But if my boyfriend calls, we’re just friends, nothing more," they sing in Spanish.
"Amigos" is rife with hip-hop influences — a genre Bibi loves.
"Expressing oneself through lyrics is so real and genuine," BIBI told AllKPop. "As I’m someone who wasn’t necessarily gifted with natural musical talent — I didn’t even know the difference between boom bap or trap beats until way later. I think the other factors of music organically followed as I grew as an artist."
Photos: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images; Pilar Castro Evensen; TAO Group; Mike Marsland/WireImages; Gotham WireImage; Ivan Apfel/Getty Images; Douglas Mason/Getty Images; AJR; Kristy Sparow/Getty Images
15 Must-Hear Albums This November: Dolly Parton, Jung Kook, Marshmello & More
Fill up on a bevy of releases from Chris Brown, Mon Laferte, and the late Jimmy Buffett — whose name reflects the collective musical appetite this month.
November arrives with a cornucopia of new albums to fill your playlist and platters — from Latin American hip-hop, to DIY alt-pop, to classic rock 'n' roll.
Jung Kook, BTS’s youngest member, kicks off the month with his solo album debut, Golden while the posthumous Equal Strain on All Parts celebrates the life of Jimmy Buffett. Jason Aldean brings forth Highway Desperado for all country lovers, while British band the Struts maintain their stylish rock origins in Pretty Vicious.
Below, we compiled a handy guide to all the must-hear albums dropping November 2023 — from fresh names like Zoe Wees to resident hitmakers like Steve Aoki.
Espectro Caudillo - La Liturgia del Tigre Blanco
Release date: Nov. 2
Espectro Caudillo — the experimental electronic project of Reuben Torres — based their upcoming studio album, La Liturgia del Tigre Blanco, on Daniel Salinas Bavase’s book of the same name.
With Tigre Blanco, the Tijuana-raised producer and former member of Los Macuanos explores the life of the city’s former president and controversial figure, Jorge Hank Rhon, as well as the legacy of his father, politician Carlos Hank González.
The album also celebrates Tijuana’s vivid electronic scene. Hyperlocal genres such as Nortec (norteño techno) and ruidosón are heard on singles "04’20″88" (which refers to the murder of journalist Hector "El Gato" Félix Miranda by two of Rhon’s guards) and "El Temible Grupo Jaguar."
Marshmello - Sugar Papi
Release date: Nov. 3
GRAMMY-nominated DJ and producer Marshmello is gearing up to release his first Latin album. After breaking into the mainstream with electronic hits such as "Wolves" with Selena Gomez and "Happier" with Bastille, the Philadelphia-born artist unveils Sugar Papi.
"I’ve had the pleasure of being able to perform all across the world and it’s hard to match the love and energy I’ve felt from the Latin community," he shared on Instagram. "Because of that I knew it was important for me to find a way to bring my audience into this world as much as I could."
Completed in less than two weeks, the album was crafted through a lot of "on the spot creation" in the studio, Marshmello told Billboard. Each of its 10 tracks features one Latin artist, including pre-release singles "El Merengue" with Manuel Turizo, "Tempo" featuring Young Miko, and "Como Yo :(" featuring Tiago PZK.
Zoe Wees - Therapy
Release date: Nov. 3
German newcomer Zoe Wees is ready to give fans a full treat with her debut studio album, Therapy. The much anticipated, 20-track effort has been "a long time in the making, and I have found writing it to be such a healing experience. I hope you feel the same comfort when you hear it," Wees shared on Instagram.
Since her 2020 hit "Control," the singer has proven an exceptional sensibility and a knack for supporting people — much like a therapist. Her soulful voice and resilient lyrics explore themes like self-discovery, self-esteem and healing. "When I’ve pushed through it all, I’ve found motivation that’s made me even stronger. Don’t ever doubt how powerful you can be," she shared in a statement about recent single "Lightning."
Jimmy Buffett - Equal Strain on All Parts
Release date: Nov. 3
Despite battling skin cancer for years, Jimmy Buffett continued to sing and perform until died on Sept. 1 of this year. His diligence made it possible for Equal Strain on All Parts, the 32nd album in his impressive discography, to be completed and set to release next month.
According to Rolling Stone, the title refers to how Buffett’s grandfather would describe a good nap. With 14 tracks, the album features Paul McCartney, Angélique Kidjo, Emmylou Harris, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and two covers — "Mozambique" by Bob Dylan and "Like My Dog" by Billy Currigan.
Equal Strain is spearheaded by lead single "Bubbles Up," which McCartney described as "the best I’ve heard him sing ever."
Jason Aldean - Highway Desperado
Release date: Nov. 3
"I think when I look back on it, I built my career early on my live show, and have been on the road touring since I was 18 years old," said country star Jason Aldean in a recent statement about his forthcoming album, Highway Desperado.
These on-the-road experiences served as the main inspiration behind the record — his 11th studio LP. It’s the Nashville singer’s first effort since 2021 and 2022’s double album, Macon, Georgia, and features 14 tracks.
Jung Kook - GOLDEN
Release date: Nov. 3
After a lengthy wait and a slew of singles and collaborations — including a performance of "Dreamers" at the opening ceremony of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar last year — BTS’ Jung Kook will finally release his first solo album, Golden.
The title comes from both the K-pop expression "golden maknae" (or "golden youngest" in Korean), for which he became known since his early days, and from Jung Kook’s own golden moments as a soloist, according to a press release.
Featuring 11 tracks, including the hit "3D" featuring Jack Harlow, Golden will come out on Nov. 3, alongside lead single "Standing Next to You."
The Struts - Pretty Vicious
Release date: Nov. 3
Following 2020’s Strange Days, British rock band the Struts will release their fourth studio LP, Pretty Vicious via Big Machine. It was produced by the quartet alongside Julian Raymond (Fleetwood Mac, Cheap Trick).
"This record showcases each individual member’s strengths," vocalist Luke Spiller shared in a statement. "It’s some of my favorite music, hands down, we’ve ever conjured up. It’s the record everyone’s been waiting for."
For a preview of what the 11 tracks in Pretty Vicious will sound like, the band shared the single and opening song "Too Good At Raising Hell." On Nov. 6, the Struts will begin their Remember the Name tour across the U.S.
Chris Stapleton - Highеr
Release date: Nov. 10
Following his 2020 GRAMMY-winning LP, Starting Over, Chris Stapleton will release his fifth studio album, Higher. Produced by Stapleton, longtime collaborator Dave Cobb, and his wife, Morgane, Higher will feature 14 tracks that cross beyond his country leanings and dare to explore further genres.
Such experimentations can be seen in lead single "White Horse," which mixes soaring rock riffs with Stapleton’s thundering vocals, and in the funky bassline of "Think I’m in Love with You," raising expectations for the Nashville star’s latest reinvention.
AJR - The Maybe Man
Release date: Nov. 10
When life hit sibling trio AJR with the death of their father this year, they turned to what they do best: music. From their grief first came their upcoming fifth studio album, The Maybe Man.
According to a press release, the titular character is "a big sad superhero who is always questioning who he is," and whose "emotion hangs over his head, so it doesn’t have to hang over yours." Over Instagram, the New York alt-pop band said "We put absolutely everything we had into this album, visuals, and tour. Down to every little detail. Get ready to immerse yourself in this world."
Mon Laferte - Autopoiética
Release date: Nov. 10
"Our cells create themselves. In other words, life creates life. Everything in the end is cyclical," Mon Laferte said in an interview for Tótem magazine (via Rock&Pop Chile). She was explaining the title of her forthcoming ninth studio album, Autopoiética. "So, I loved that idea and I took it to a poetic sense: we are all autopoietic beings, I am autopoietic, I have the ability to recreate myself all the time, to create this universe, my personal mythology."
Following 2021’s GRAMMY-nominated 1940 Carmen, Laferte explained to Rock&Pop Chile that this album is "much deeper in the lyrics, much more reflexive as well. The sound is more electronic, I used a lot of samples. The idea was to make a record with the machine in my house."
Autopoiética is preceded by several singles that carry Laferte’s known eclecticism, such as "Te juro que volveré," "Tenochtitlán," "40 y MM," and "NO+SAD." In a statement, she shared that "I loved this new creative work, I wanted to try new things from previous albums. I'm really excited, I feel that this is my best album yet."
Chris Brown - 11:11
Release date: Nov. 11
For his upcoming 11th album, Chris Brown doubled down on a lucky number. Titled 11:11, his latest album will come out on Nov. 11, and features sides A and B, each containing 11 songs that will be released at 11 a.m. and 11 p.m., respectively.
Superstitions aside, the record was also supposed to be more concise than his previous works. On Instagram, the singer shared "I see some of my die hard fans wanting me to add more songs for the new project and I love y’all for that. But, I just feel I need you all to really miss me and take my art seriously." However, with 22 songs, 11:11 sits close to 2022’s Breezy and its 23 tracks now.
Brown has shared two tracks off the project: the chill lead single "Summer Too Hot" and the sultry "Sensational," featuring Nigerian singers Lojay and Davido.
Dolly Parton - Rockstar
Release date: Nov. 17
Last year, the legendary Dolly Parton was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. However, due to her country background, her first response was to politely decline. "I don’t feel that I have earned that right," she shared in a statement over social media. "This has, however, inspired me to put out a hopefully great rock n’ roll album at some point in the future, which I have always wanted to do!"
The world didn’t have to wait long, as Parton’s first foray into the genre, Rockstar, is due Nov. 17. The album features rock’s biggest stars — Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Steven Tyler, Joan Jett, and more — through a whopping 30 tracks that vary from well-known covers to exclusive compositions, offering a panoply of styles and infusing them with Parton’s unique charm.
"I am very honored and privileged to have worked with some of the greatest iconic singers and musicians of all time, and to be able to sing all the iconic songs throughout the album was a joy beyond measure," the 10-time GRAMMY winner shared in a statement.
A couple of days before the release, Dolly Parton Rockstar: The Global First Listen Event will hit select movie theaters around the globe, offering fans a sneak peek of the album, behind-the-scenes footage, and exclusive performances. Parton has already released six singles off the project: "World on Fire," "Magic Man" featuring Ann Wilson, "Bygones" featuring Rob Halford, Nikki Sixx, and John5, "We Are the Champions"/"We Will Rock You," "Let It Be" featuring McCartney and Starr, and "What’s Up?" featuring Linda Perry.
Steve Aoki - HiROQUEST: Double Helix
Release date: Nov. 17
In 2022’s HiROQUEST: Genesis, DJ and producer Steve Aoki crafted an entire sonic world for the adventures of a puzzling character named HiRO. Next month, Aoki and HiRO return for a brand new journey on HiROQUEST: Double Helix.
"Part I was largely driven by my alt-music roots in hardcore punk bands," Aoki shared in a statement. "Now, the story continues on Double Helix, which embraces dance culture while intertwining the pulse of contemporary Latin music." He also added that the album "harmonizes nostalgia and contemporary sounds, placing collaboration at its core."
Double Helix features Galantis and Hayley Kiyoko, as well as singles "Invítame A Un Café" with Ángela Aguilar, "Diferente" with CNCO, "The Show" with JJ Lin, "Muñecas" with TINI and La Joaqui, "Lighter" featuring Paris Hilton, and a remake of Akon’s 2003 hit, "Locked Up," with duo TRINIX.
Plain White T's - Plain White T's
Release date: Nov. 17
Five years have passed since the Plain White T’s latest record, Parallel Universe, but they are finally ready for a new era to begin. On their upcoming self-titled album, the Illinois rockers are "trying to hark back to sounds we’ve used in the past with a freshness," frontman Tom Higgenson said in a press release.
"This one came from a really authentic place of understanding who we are and what we do," he added. "I’m more excited than I’ve been in a long time. As musicians, we’re always trying to outdo ourselves or go somewhere we haven’t gone before. Somehow, we figured out how to go to a fresh spot and still sound like Plain White T’s."
A preview of the band’s newfound freshness can be seen through six unveiled singles: "Would You Even," "Happy," "Spaghetti Tattoo," "Red Flags," "You Plus Me," and "Fired Up." The album features 13 tracks in total.
Ana Tijoux - VIDA
Release date: TBD
[Editor’s note: Since publication, Ana Tijoux has delayed this release until the new year.]
To announce her first album in nine years, VIDA, Ana Tijoux released the single "Niñx." The hip-hop and reggaeton fusion track is "born as a manifesto to the child we all have inside of us," Tijoux explained in a press release. "That living being that is capable of dreaming and building infinite castles of humanity and love."
More recently, she also unveiled second single "Tania," which pays homage to her late sister. Both songs were produced by longtime collaborator Andrés Celis, and foreshadow how the Chilean veteran has grown and why she continues to be one of Latin American hip hop’s most important voices.
Recently, Tijoux also published the memoir Sacar La Voz, and was invited by Alicia Keys to perform her hit "1977" during the latter’s Chile arena tour in May.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Aysia Marotta
Noah Kahan's Big Year: How The "Stick Season" Singer Became A Folk-Pop Hero
On the heels of announcing an arena and stadium tour for 2024, Noah Kahan revisits some of the biggest moments that have led to it, from going viral with "Stick Season" to collaborating with Post Malone.
In July 2019, Noah Kahan made a promise to his fans via Twitter: "I prolly won't sell out Madison square garden, or even all the shows on my tour but I'll keep writing songs for you all for as long as you'll have me."
Four years later, he's made good on his word about continuing to write songs. But he's also proved himself wrong; not only has the Vermont-born star sold out his entire 2023 tour, but 2024 will see him play a sold-out Madison Square Garden — twice.
While Kahan himself asserts that he's always had a "very dedicated" fan base — whether from his days of posting to SoundCloud and YouTube or since he signed with Republic Records in 2017 – he admits he still finds it hard to process the level to which it's grown. "It's f—ing unbelievable," he says. "It feels so fake that it's almost like, the more time I spend thinking about it, the more abstract it becomes."
His humility is a large part of his appeal (as well as his sense of humor, both on Twitter and on stage), which carries into his folk-pop music. It's matched with extreme vulnerability, as Kahan has been open about his struggles with mental health. Even one of his biggest hits has revealing lyrics: "So I thought that if I piled something good on all my bad/ That I could cancel out the darkness I inherited from Dad," he sings the second verse of "Stick Season."
"Stick Season" became Kahan's breakout song in 2022, first making waves on social media — catching the attention of stars like Zach Bryan and Maisie Peters — and earning him his first radio hit. Its namesake album earned Kahan top 5 spots on Billboard's Top Alternative Albums, Top Rock Albums and Top Rock & Alternative Albums charts in October 2022, but it was the 2023 deluxe edition that really showed his trajectory: all 18 tracks debuted on Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Charts, making him one of only five artists to ever land 18 songs on the chart in one week.
Kahan's disbelief in his success is only going to continue into the new year, as his 2024 tour will also include L.A.'s Hollywood Bowl and two nights at Boston's Fenway Park. At this rate, he's seemingly on his way to Taylor Swift-level stardom — though, as he jokes, three-hour shows will never be in the cards: "From a physical health standpoint, this is as big as it can get."
In the midst of his Stick Season Tour, Kahan reminisced on the wild ride he's been on for the past 18 months. Below, he details seven of his most career-defining moments to date.
Watching "Stick Season" Blow Up
I wrote the song in 2020 and I posted the first verse and the chorus [on social media] the next morning. It was kind of an awkward time, because I had another album coming out right after that video was posted [2021's I Was / I Am] , and I had to promote that, and people were like, "What about that other song?" I'd be at shows and people would be like, "Play 'Stick Season'!"
I started to play it live, which is really what stoked the fire in terms of us realizing that it could be a big song. I played it in Syracuse, New York — and we hadn't posted any snippets besides what I would do on my Instagram Lives, or I'd perform it here and there on social media. Everyone in the room knew every single word to it. That was the song that got the biggest reaction all night, and it was a song that wasn't even out yet. That definitely opened my eyes to the desire for that song to be out in the world.
A lot of my set at the time was more pop-leaning, and this song is definitely more folk-leaning. I could really see the desire for sing-along folk anthems after that performance. [I remember] talking to my team and being like, "I think this song is gonna be around for a long time."
It gave confidence to something that I had been trying to do for a long time, even subconsciously. I think I was always making folk music, and I would always gravitate toward those songs, but a part of me would be like, This isn't who you are, you make pop. So I would stay away from it.
It took this one song — and playing it the way that I wanted to, and having people really respond — it opened my eyes to the audience that I didn't realize was there. It also opened my eyes to that confidence in myself that really comes through in this kind of songwriting. It let me look at folk music and storytelling as a bigger focus in my life instead of something that I did for fun or in the privacy of my home.
Seeing The Success Of Stick Season
When I was a kid, I would write my name on a blank CD, and I'd put it next to my Green Day CD, and I would pretend that we were the same. For a second it feels real, but it's really not.
Seeing my name on the charts and in conversations with all of these incredible famous artists, it kind of gave me the same feeling where I felt like, This just can't be real — I must be back in my childhood bedroom writing my band name on blank CDs. Because this doesn't happen to people making folk music, really. I was just kind of stunned into disbelief to the point where it took people reminding me that it was happening to actually process it.
I was in love with everything about the process of making this album, and honestly, that was enough for me. I felt so fulfilled. The organic nature of how it all came together felt so real to me, and it felt so important to me. And doing it in Vermont, and having the record be about Vermont and New England — it really felt like the album I've been waiting to make my whole life.
I think my fans could see how much it meant to me, and it meant the same to them. We kind of shared this real emotional attachment to this album together.
It just felt like a huge change in the way my life was gonna be. It meant that I could make music that fulfilled me that would fulfill others. I guess you could say it reinvigorated my faith in music in a lot of ways.
The chart success, and the radio play, and the co-signs from other really great artists and songwriters was incredible and overwhelming. I still haven't really processed it all.
It definitely changed my life and put me into a place where I'm selling out shows, and there's lots of people that want me to work with them. It feels so nice, because it all came from following my heart — in the least cliché way.
Playing Boston Calling
It started to feel monumental when I got there. It's, like, three minutes away from my house, which is crazy. So I took a van from my house and I started walking around the festival, and it felt like I was Justin Bieber — people were chasing me around the festival and screaming.
It was one of the first times I've played in Boston since the deluxe [version of Stick Season] came out, and it was the second festival of the tour, so we were not expecting this crazy reaction. We get on stage and the crowd is just a sea of people. It looked like the crowd for a headliner, and it was only, like, 6 p.m.
We had a really good performance — objectively, we kind of crushed it — and all the fans were losing their minds, and then later, I went on stage with the Lumineers, which was so insane. It just felt like this moment of this hometown crowd really coming out in full force, showing their support and showing the world that I had this kind of fan base. I felt like I was kind of stepping out into a new world in a lot of ways when I got on stage.
Singing "Homesick" was pretty incredible. It has a line about the Boston [Marathon] bombers, and we were literally right next to Watertown where the Boston bombers were caught. And hearing like 40,000 New Englanders sing "I'm mean because I grew up in New England" was incredible — it made me tear up watching videos the next day. Seeing all those people connect over this common understanding of who we are, and that region, all at once was really, really special. It was just such a Boston moment.
Ever since then, it was kind of just crazy show after crazy show. And every hometown show has been so unbelievable. It was kind of the start of the madness.
Headlining Red Rocks
A show that felt particularly special was Red Rocks. Having gone from being an opener there to a headliner in a little less than a year was really special for me. The growth was so evident.
The crowds at Red Rocks are in this trance of community and love — it felt like the crowd was connecting with each other, and watching that happen was really incredible. Every single person there had a smile on their face. I think that everybody there had an amazing time, and that made me so happy.
Another thing that I've loved about all the shows, but Red Rocks in particular, is that some of these songs are filled with painful feelings and thoughts, and things that, for me, required a lot of vulnerability. And when the crowd is singing every single word, it just means that a whole crowd of — in Red Rocks' case, 9,900 people — are just being vulnerable, and yelling it out loud.
That's the greatest gift a musician can ever get — watching people express themselves and free themselves from any kind of shame at a show. That's what I try to do with my music, and I feel like I saw thousands of people shedding their guilt, their fear and their shame, and singing the lyrics.
We were playing the song "Maine," and there's a line that's like, "If there were cameras in the traffic lights, they'd make me a star," and I remember looking up at the crowd — that line is really about knowing that you have something special, but not knowing if anyone can ever see it.
I remember singing that song and that line, and I looked up to the crowd — 9,,000 people, that's four times bigger than everyone in my hometown — screaming that line back to me, and I cried. I couldn't believe where I was in my life.
And I still can't, but there are moments that I get numb to all of it and there are moments when the absurdity of it all slaps me in the face. That was definitely a moment where I felt just shocked by where I had gotten to, and how things have grown.
Launching The Busyhead Project
The Busyhead Project is an endeavor to raise a million dollars for mental health awareness, and these organizations that are doing so much for fighting the stigma and supporting people who suffer around North America. We wanted to start this organization because I have spent a lot of my career thinking and about my own journey with mental health, but I always felt like I was not doing enough, or just kind of providing lip service.
I never wanted to feel like I was accessorizing it or commodifying it. So I wanted to do something that felt boots-on-the-ground, tangible, [and] would make a real difference. We set out with a goal to raise a million dollars [for these organizations], and we're getting really close. [Editor's note: As of press time, The Busyhead Project has raised $977,055.]
I think it just comes down to putting your money where your mouth is. Like, I'm playing bigger venues and I sell merch — I'm starting to make money, and part of my philosophy on wealth and making money is that you're supposed to use it to help other people.
I don't need a lot for myself. I live on a diet of sunflower seeds and bananas — I'm literally eating both of them right now — so I wanted to give back as much as I can. It's really that simple; trying to raise money for people that really need it, and organizations that are doing miraculous work. We're definitely not going to stop at a million — I hope not, because that would be kind of lame. [Laughs.] If we can raise more money, we should raise it.
When I was a kid, I would look up "Artists with depression" or "Artists on medication." I didn't find a lot of 'em, but when I did find somebody, it would feel like I was, like, saved by God or something. That became like religion to me, to see that someone who was in the music industry was also struggling with what I was really struggling with as a kid. I want to provide that for some kid making music out there.
Breaking Onto The Hot 100 (And Collaborating With Post Malone) With "Dial Drunk"
The chart is kind of, like, the one thing from movies about the music industry that signify when the band is doing well — like The Rocker, or Rockstar, where it's like, "Oh my god, the music's on the charts!" And they're doing a montage where the chart spins, and they're on a magazine cover, you know what I mean? And what's always followed by that is a horrible downward spiral, so I think when I saw the song charting well, I was like, Oh God, this is where my career starts to go bad.
But I was really excited, and it was super cool — and, again, one of those things that's hard to actually understand from a human level.
It was also really nice because I always feel like the last thing I did is the best thing I did, so after "Stick Season" was a big success, I was like, I have to have another song! And I was touring so much, and I was on Zoloft, so I was feeling emotionally kind of numbed-down. Writing this song was kind of a wake-me-up from what was going on.
It was kind of a personal victory in a lot of ways — I challenged myself to make something new, and I did, and then it had this massive success. It felt like I can get through anything and do this again if I have to. It reminded me that what was happening in my career wasn't lightning in a bottle, but a real reflection of an audience being hungry for my music.
So then when Post Malone started recording his verse in the song, I felt like I was in a fever dream. I felt like it was gonna elevate my career to a new place, and I think it did.
He's always been an inspiration to me in the way he approaches music. I literally just reached out to him on DMs randomly one day, I was like, "Bro, I think you might like this song, we should do it together." He responded two months later, like, "Yeah, I f—ing love it!" It felt really natural.
We sat cross-legged and drank beers at the show in Massachusetts that I went out with him [to perform "Dial Drunk"]. It was so Post Malone — we talked about adult diapers and The Dewey Cox Story. He was just so funny and fun to be around.
Announcing An Arena & Stadium Tour For 2024
They had been talked about for a while when we were starting the tour in the spring, but they never felt real — I always kind of think, That'll happen later. At the point that I'm doing those shows, I'll feel like I belong in those rooms.
Having these shows scheduled is truly surreal. I just don't know how we're gonna sell that many tickets. [Laughs.] I think I'll believe it when I'm in the room — like, Madison Square Garden, to me, has always felt like just where Paul McCartney goes, and I can't believe that I get to be having my name on the marquee.
I told my managers on the phone when they booked Fenway, "I'm actually going to retire after this." [Laughs.] There's really no way to describe what that means to someone from New England.
As someone who grew up loving the Red Sox, going to Fenway Park all the time with my friends — getting drunk and stealing somebody's seats, and screaming at the opposing players over the dugout — that place has meant so much to me and so many people in my life. And the fact that I'm going to be one of not many people that have headlined that venue is just the craziest f—ing thing in the entire world. It feels like there's no other higher peak than playing songs about New England in the mecca of New England.
There was, like, a limit to my dreams when I was a kid — what I could do for a living and how big it could be. I'm trying to have my 8-year-old self be proud of me. I don't think he could even imagine where I'd be now.
I'm so proud of the people I work with, I'm so proud of myself, because I have really worked hard for this, and I've sacrificed a lot of things in my life to make music happen. To get to this place, it just feels like all those hard decisions were worth it.
I'm grateful for all the people that have supported me, and the people that have taken time out of their day to believe in my music when I couldn't believe in it. I'm just happy to feel like I belong here.