Photo: Recording Academy
Dermot Kennedy On 'Without Fear,' Bon Iver & Coachella | Up Close & Personal
The Irish singer/songwriter talks new music, gratitude for his growing fan base, love of Bon Iver and more in a recent interview with the Recording Academy
Dublin-born folksy singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy has had a great run recently, and he's just getting started. This year alone, he's shared his smoldering vocals and uplifting lyrics with major performances at Coachella, Glastonbury and on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, to name a few. Later this month, on Sept. 27, he'll drop his debut full-length album, Without Fear.
The "Power Over Me" singer recently stopped by the Recording Academy headquarters for our latest episode of Up Close & Personal to share what fans can expect on the new album, as well as insight into the story behind one of its lead singles, "Outnumbered." He also spoke to his biggest influences, which include David Gray and Bon Iver, and how he stays fresh while on tour. You can watch a portion of the conversation above and read the full interview below. You can also visit on our YouTube page for a longer version of the video, as well as for other recent episodes.
You're releasing your debut album, Without Fear, soon. How are you feeling about it?
Excited. These are a bunch of songs I've known for a long time, for the most part. I've struggled with that for a while, the patience you need to have if you've got a certain song that you are super proud of but need to wait because it will exist on a project. So this is that moment where all of the things I'm most excited about get to come out. And up until now, there's been so much singles and EPs and stuff, and I'm excited to have a body of work out in the world.
What was your favorite part about working on this project in terms of that it was a full album?
I think that's always been really, really important to me. I think it would be very easy to just work away and find the songs that click and then put them all together and have a project of these songs, but any time I think about artists that I'm inspired by, like Kendrick [Lamar] or Hozier and stuff like that, I think about these bodies of work that are cohesive projects and every song works with the next and all that kind of thing, so that was really important to me to do that. I think it's like another thing where you put a bit more pressure on yourself, but it's worth it, for sure.
One of your most recent singles is "Outnumbered," which, to me, feels very powerful and empowering. Can you talk a little bit more about the backstory on that song and then the video that came with it?
They line up in a way. I wrote the song quite a while ago, and it was one of those lovely things that kind of came together in a day, almost. It was this really organic thing where—my favorite days in studios are when you don't second guess everything. I didn't know it was going to be a single, and I didn't know what the plan was for it, so I guess it was a good thing I was just there to make music. If it worked, happy days, and if not, then it was fine.
It was a different stage in my life, I guess, and a different set of circumstances. What it meant for me was just I wanted to almost send a message of comfort to somebody and to just remind someone that despite how difficult things might be and how. You know that feeling of being in a rough patch, and realistic-you knows there's the next chapter, and that will end and you'll be on the other side of that. But when you're in it, it's not very easy to see that. It was me trying to remind somebody that there is that next part where that bad patch has just gone away.
Then, I guess it was written by me for someone in particular, but on a bigger scale that message could translate to anybody.
It feels like that for sure, especially with the music video specifically, as there are different people in the video.
For sure, yeah. I thought that was important. We did that with the video for "Lost" too, because, again, it was like, be aware of everybody because everybody's got their own thing going on. You might think you've got the worst set of circumstances out of anybody, but everybody's got their own struggle. You know what I mean? I think that's a big part of my songwriting, to try and just provide comfort to people.
I think if even one person can relate, you know?
Oh, exactly. I'm sure, through the ages, so many artists are thinking of one specific person when they do that, but you end up writing a song that can work for a lot of people, hopefully.
Once the album comes out, then you'll be touring in the U.S., and then Europe and U.K. this fall and winter. What are you most looking forward to with this tour?
The venues. The venues are getting better and better all the time. It's this really lovely way of gauging how your career is going, too. It's really cool. I try not to take it for granted because I know some people can come and tour the U.S. and play to 10, 15, 20 people, and so I've been so lucky that gigs sell out. It's that lovely thing of you play to, say, three hundred people and then come back in a few months and you play to a thousand people. It's this beautiful way to watch the rooms grow.
This tour, I'm just excited. I feel like there's certain things on the journey that you figure out. Currently I'm fixing the way I sing to have proper technique locked in, things like that. I can't wait to not be exhausted after a gig. And I can't wait to play all the new songs. It's constantly evolving, yeah. It's this lovely thing of always, when you finish a tour, you're like, maybe this could have been better, so you address that next time. But then you are on to a new set of things that you think you could improve, so it's this cool thing to chase.
Speaking of big shows, you did Coachella and Glastonbury, which are both epic in their own right. How did those two experiences feel for you when you were in them?
Coachella was awesome because I was shocked by the amount of Irish people there. Obviously, you do the two weekends, and the second weekend I was quite sick. I was like that guy before I went on stage with my face in the steam, trying to melt everything here, so that was a tricky one. But I went out and it was just a lot of Irish flags. So many Irish people go to things like New York and Boston, but I didn't know if people went to Coachella from Ireland so it was this really lovely boost to get when I walked out onstage.
Then, Glastonbury was amazing because leading up to it you just realize it's a really important thing to be a part of. Even if you never do it again, you've had your little moment of Glastonbury history where you play your part and do your best. It was just fun.
I think one of the things that touring a lot does for you is it means I don't necessarily—I'm sure this is case-by-case—but I don't get nervous before I go onstage. I get excited. Obviously, there's a certain amount of nerves, because if it goes wrong, that's a bad thing. But it's mostly just excitement.
Also, things are so fast-paced, so I like that you play Glastonbury and then literally you're back on a bus and you go play a different festival. I think that's something that is quite difficult. Sometimes you don't get to let things sink in and you just move on very quickly. To play Glastonbury, if you told me that eight years ago, not in a cheesy way, you would not believe it. To do those things now week in, week out and then move on so fast, you've got to check yourself and take a moment.
When you are on tour, is there anything that you do to keep yourself grounded?
I think two things that are really important when you're on tour is obviously to stay in touch with home. I think that would keep me grounded, for sure. And then I think it's also important to try and stay active creatively because it's very easy to fall into a routine of bus, venue, gig, bus, sleep and just be like, "Perfect. This is what I do for a month," and not necessarily feed yourself any art.
If you have a day off, to go to a museum or go to the cinema or something. I feel like that stuff is really important, if you don't, when you come off tour and go to the studio its like, oh, I haven't used this part of my brain for a long time.
It's a very strange bubble to live in. We're really lucky because everybody's close in our crew. It's not this thing where I show up to the venue and then we do a show and then we all split up. Everybody spends all day, every day together, so it's this lovely thing. That's really important in terms of if you're down, just knowing there's people to lift you up and talk to and that kind of thing, so I am really lucky with the crew I've got too. There's a lot of things that have fallen into place in a really nice way.
There's a few, for sure. There's an act from Ireland, it's not traditional Irish music, that's where its roots are, but it's this really interesting, sort of a step on from that, and they're called The Gloaming. I won't even try and describe it, but it's just this super ethereal music. It's just really magic. They play the National Concert Hall in Dublin. I've seen them like five, six times, and it's just the best. The [Irish] President always goes to see them. They are the best at that.
And then in terms of people who, say, influence me, I would love to ever be in the same room as Justin Vernon or anybody from Bon Iver and just be involved in that. When I watch interviews with him and when I watch things about Bon Iver, I just realize they've been so successful but just maintained the same values the whole time. It's always only been about music, and that really appeals to me.
Speaking of musical influences, who would you say are your biggest influences to this day?
I started off wanting to do the acoustic thing, like to play in theaters with just a guitar and a piano. When I started out it was like David Gray and Glen Hansard were the people I wanted to be, basically. Then, obviously, that evolved. Again, Bon Iver were instrumental for me. The reason I wanted to do that [acoustic performance] was because lyrics were what impacted me most, and when I saw someone telling a story through a song, it just hit me. It was this really potent thing. That's why I love hip-hop so much, because to me it's the same type of thing.
I figured if you put too much music around that or if you had these big arrangements, you'd lose that intensity or that intimacy and the power of the lyrics getting across. Bon Iver were huge for me in terms of realizing the amount of people on stage can grow, the arrangement can grow, and you can still keep that closeness between you and whoever's listening. That helped me get out of my own way and start working with musicians and wanting it to grow. I was lucky enough in the last few years to start working with producers who could bring that to life.
I would say it started off like acoustic, lyrics; folk music, basically. Then the Bon Iver thing happened, and then hip-hop started influencing what I do, in a way, so it's just this big mess of things.
What was the first CD you every bought and first concert you attended?
The first CD I ever bought, it was a live album by an Irish band called The Frames. Do you know them? It's Glen Hansard's band from when he was like 19 to this day. Every now and then they'll play a show in Dublin, they're the best. Couldn't tell you what age I was, maybe 11, 12, I saw them on TV. I barely even owned a guitar yet, so I hadn't awakened that part of my brain where I would judge music, but just whatever Glen Hansard was doing, I was locked in to him expressing himself. I was so drawn to that, so I bought the album the next day. Just incredible.
It's so funny because even when you tour, and every night you're like, oh, my vocals were okay but not on it. But if you listen to that album, it's like every single thing is perfect. It's super demanding music vocally and he just nails it. And the first concert I went to, which I won't talk about much at all, was Westlife. It was because of my sister, I had to go.
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."
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.
Photo: Courtesy of Alé Araya
ReImagined: Alé Araya Puts An Atmospheric Spin On Bon Iver's "Holocene"
Chilean artist Alé Araya uses her laptop, synthesizer and a well-worn piano to create an enchanting new version of Bon Iver's GRAMMY-nominated hit "Holocene."
Bon Iver's breakout moment came in 2011 with the release of "Holocene," the second single off the indie rock act's sophomore album Bon Iver, Bon Iver.
"And at once, I knew I was not magnificent/ Strayed above the highway aisle/ Jagged vacance, thick with ice/ But I could see for miles, miles, miles," frontman and founder Justin Vernon sang in floating falsetto on the song's chorus, over the strum of acoustic guitar and gentle percussion.
In this episode of ReImagined, Chilean artist Alé Araya turns the delicate track into a wistful piano ballad. She shows off her many musical talents as well, pivoting between her laptop, synthesizer and a well-worn upright piano as her crystalline vocals tie everything together.
Bon Iver earned dual GRAMMY nominations for both Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for "Holocene" the following year. While both of those awards went to Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," Vernon and co. ultimately took home two other trophies — for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album.
Araya is having a breakout year of her own in 2023, recently releasing her debut EP, in pieces, which featured collaborations with greek ("Endless Sky"), aisu ("Citrine") and Joseph Chilliams ("Midnight Gospel"). She also joined forces with honey and Vrdnyn on the collaborative 2023 single "Prada Princess."
Press play on the video above to watch Araya interpretation of Bon Iver's fan-favorite single, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of ReImagined.