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Welcome To Dove Cameron's Intimate New Musical World: How The Singer Found Her Most "Authentic Mode Of Expression"
Dove Cameron

Photo: Brian Ziff

interview

Welcome To Dove Cameron's Intimate New Musical World: How The Singer Found Her Most "Authentic Mode Of Expression"

The multihyphenate is riding high thanks to the success of "Boyfriend," a song that combines vulnerability with liberation. In return, it became a breakthrough hit.

GRAMMYs/Aug 18, 2022 - 06:57 pm

Dove Cameron has long been a star. Audiences first met her in the Disney Channel series "Liv and Maddie" — which won her an Emmy thanks to her dual-role duties as twin sisters — followed by her starring role in the wildly popular Disney Channel franchise The Descendants. More recently, she added a GRAMMY nomination to her repertoire thanks to her turn in the Apple TV+ musical parody series, "Schmigadoon!"

But earlier this year, Cameron kicked off a new chapter with the dramatic power-pop anthem "Boyfriend." The song served as a liberating moment for Cameron in part because it touches on her queerness — but perhaps more prominently, it was a re-introduction to the singer and actress the world met nearly 10 years ago.

"I couldn't find my authentic mode of expression until not long ago," she admits to GRAMMY.com. "I felt my whole life I've been making shapes of myself and I knew I felt very trapped, though I didn't know where I was going to go. I didn't know who I was."

"Boyfriend" wasn't Cameron's first step into her career as a pop singer/songwriter — she's released a handful of one-off singles since 2019 — but it was her first that frankly addressed her sexuality. "Ladies first, baby, I insist," she sings. "I could be a better boyfriend than him."

Cameron continued speaking her truth with the provocative follow-up single "Breakfast," which confidently declares "I eat boys like you for breakfast" in the chorus. As she preps her debut EP, she's making it clear that nothing is too raw and real to say in song.

In a vulnerable conversation with GRAMMY.com, Cameron opened up about how baring her soul into this new music has led to her biggest triumph. "The idea of being seen for everything I actually am is heaven to me."

The lyrics to "Boyfriend" lived on your phone long before it ever became anything. So was that just one moment of, "Oh my god, I need to write this down" and then you put it away? Or was that the result of a lot of different moments of you pecking away at the lyrics?

"Boyfriend" came out of a really awful night that I think I'm never going to elaborate on. But it always happens to me — there's a big traumatic event and I'll be wrecked by it for a few days. 

A week later, I was sending one of my best girlfriends, [actress] Kiersey Clemons, a voice note about this night I had. She's queer, and we'll talk about the experience of walking around as a queer person in the world quite often.

At that point I was laughing about what had happened and framing it in more colloquial ways — putting it in terms that were more soundbitey and lyrical. That's probably where the first iteration of "Boyfriend" came from. It was me kind of joking with her. 

Something important with me in my writing process is taking a huge event, emotion or concept and dissolving it down into a cheeky retelling. I'm big into laughing at my trauma, it's definitely my coping mechanism. I find that things that are highly emotional to me can end up turning into laissez-faire retellings. 

You've said the night in question that inspired "Boyfriend" was multidimensional, both positive and negative. So does that mean it was negative at first and then you made it into a positive through turning this difficult night into a song? 

It was definitely mostly negative that night. I left in fits of tears and called my best friend saying, "I don't know what to do!" But I'm also able to take myself out of it and ask myself, "There's a reason why this experience is happening — what can I find in it that I'm supposed to receive?" 

This time it happened pretty quick after I was done crying and melatonined myself. I was already looking for a seedling of what was going to make me better from that experience. Just like chipping away at a piece of marble to reveal the beautiful statue underneath, I feel that every moment of suffering in my life is meant to carve me out better. I got way more out of that night than I ever thought I was going to. 

"Boyfriend" is very raw. You've said the song is "an amalgamation of the feeling of growing up queer." Was there ever a moment when you said, "I don't know if I want to be this honest and vulnerable in my music?" 

Well, I think that the answer to that is layered. I definitely think that it was not in my plan to write an intensely queer, broad, somewhat-anthem. I didn't set out to do that and didn't think it was going to be how my music career found its footing. 

I'm not thinking how people are going to perceive this. It's a huge gift I've given myself to have tunnel vision and be present. 

More than anything, this is something I've tried to communicate before, but I have this deep, deep, deep fear of never being seen for what I actually am. I spent a lot of my life being what I need to be to survive in actual danger and actual traumatic situations, as a young straight-presenting woman in the industry — as a young girl, in terrible relationships, in my family home, in fashion, film, and TV. I felt my whole life I've been making shapes of myself and I knew I felt very trapped, though I didn't know where I was going to go. I didn't know who I was. 

The idea of being seen for everything I actually am is heaven to me. It feels intimate, and it feels connected, and it feels like human-on-human life — which is really our whole existence, isn't it? 

The idea of being loved by the masses — as society has defined it — is way scarier to me than the idea of being so authentic, and being known for that. Being liked or hated, I'm not as attached to. I just couldn't find my authentic mode of expression until not that long ago. 

So no, [being vulnerable] doesn't scare me at all. As a matter of fact, it makes me feel much, much safer. If I died never fully seeing myself or letting other people see me, that would be the greatest tragedy of my life.

I find it interesting that even though you've been releasing music for a couple years now,  you're just this year being regarded as a breakout artist with your first pop hit. It seems your biggest success in music so far is a direct result of your vulnerability.

It backed up this feeling (I've always) had of universality in the specifics. I saw a quote about songwriting that talked about how you need to get on the other side of an experience and have clarity about it, otherwise your lyrics are just complaining about a situation. I think that's so true. We're all so overwhelmed with other people's ideas, emotions, energies, judgments and fears that it's hard to tap out of the noise to make something true for you. 

I had to go through a serious deep, dark depression — and then a very reclusive mode and dyed my hair dark, and cut myself off from everybody and everything — to figure out what the f— was wrong with me [and] to find what hurt me so much. I had no clue: not even an inkling or heat signature. 

But then I really tapped into my own biosphere of everything I was feeling that no one else could point me toward — because we're only going to end up where we're supposed to go. When I was able to do that, my writing became divorced from other people's ideas, opinions and energies. If I hadn't done that, I'd forever be writing from the point of view of the general populace. 

I'm constantly asking myself, "Am I writing for me right now? Or am I writing because I know people are going to hear this?" I do think the way to create the best stuff is to step away from the world and then come back when you have something that you think is true to you — which is easier said than done when there are a million voices around you all the time. 

When you set out on your music project, you said you were trying to develop a new sound you didn't have a name for. What was the new sound in your head and what were your influences? I recently heard that success comes down to two things: knowing what you want and knowing how to get it, but sometimes knowing what you want is the most difficult thing.

Definitely. Talking to people in the music industry, the one thing everybody asks is "What's your sound, who are your influences?" And I was always kind of frustrated by this. It'd trigger me because I had no good answer. 

But I also thought it was good I couldn't point to another artist, because then maybe that meant I had something new to offer. It's difficult to create your own thing and find your own lane. I think I'm still finding it now. 

"Boyfriend" is a pretty straight-up pop track with nothing revolutionary. How I described it to ["Boyfriend producer] Evan [Blair] once is that it's almost as if we made a dubstep track, but with horns. I kind of look at a lot of the friction between the blueprint of dubstep — but instead of electronic production, its horns and strings. Add in jazz vocals combined with R&B and pop vocals, and a viewpoint of a lot of rock songs, but without any of the rock instrumentation. So it's a mix of all of these things that don't go together.

When I hear a song like your new single "Breakfast," with its breathy yet powerful vocals, it makes me think of your motif you've talked about of making music from a villain's perspective. Does that influence your delivery then, because at the same time you are an actress. And if you're thinking of yourself as a villain character, are you then sounding vocally like a villain?

There's been a rise in culture in general of identifying with the villain. I alway grew up loving the villains. I used to go to school in fangs and weird s—, which, looking back, was totally just a normal, natural expression for me, but also very much isolated me. But I was a darker kid who liked darker things. 

In my town, everybody was playing soccer. I was a total loser. I kind of grew up not having many friends and being an outsider. Once I found theater, I thought, "Oh, there's more of us." 

The binary-obsessed world that we're in — with gender, politics and the black-and-white of it all — it all leaves very little room to empathize with the other. I think that the reason the world is so attracted to the villain these days is that — when you remove a couple of the more theatrical elements from most villains in every movie — they're just an antagonist who has been highly traumatized. 

With our post-collective trauma in our world, we all find ourselves feeling like the villain compared to the protagonist, who is so boring, vanilla and milquetoast. No one can relate to the protagonist anymore. I started using that as my descriptor of my sound a couple years ago and no one really knew what I was talking about.

In terms of my vocal quality, for a long time I was doing musical theater, and I spent so much time living very puritan in order to keep my voice in a certain tenor. By the end of every show I did, I was on intense vocal rest every day and I'd speak through typing things out and a robot would say it for me. It was just so monastic and restrictive that I'd rebel afterwards by blowing my voice out and drinking a bunch of coffee and staying up really late. It gave me this kind of this incredibly raspy, smokey tone that I'd try to train myself out of. 

But at the end of the day it was like, "Why don't I lean into this, because this is how my voice sounds?" I love listening to jazz and vocals with loads of texture and history. That's really what a smokey tone is: it's vocal damage. 

When Evan and I started recording, we were huge fans of super intimate vocals. When you hear all the rasp and the tone, you're hearing air, and it feels highly sexy. It's like someone singing to you in bed. 

If I do literally one thing in my career, it's going to be to try to build intimacy between human beings. Music is a great way to do that.  

With 'Dolls,' Bella Poarch Is Speaking Up: "It's My Story And It's Me Expressing Myself"

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Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Ne-Yo, Saweetie & More To Play Rock The Vote Livestream

Black Eyed Peas in 2018

Photo: David M. Benett/WireImage/Getty Images

news

Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Ne-Yo, Saweetie & More To Play Rock The Vote Livestream

Big Freedia, Amara La Negra, Eve, Chuck D and Senator Elizabeth Warren will also make appearances during the two-hour digital party

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2020 - 11:21 pm

Rock The Vote has revealed the details for their first Democracy Summer 2020 livestream event featuring performances from Katy Perry, the Black Eyed Peas, Ne-Yo, Eve, Chuck DBig Freedia, Amara La Negra, Saweetie and more. The two-hour digital party, taking place this Thurs., June 18, will also feature speeches from senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, as well as activists and others encouraging young people to get out and vote.

The kick-off event will be hosted by actors Logan Browning ("Dear White People") and Rosario Dawson ("Briarpatch," Sin City, Josie & The Pussycats) and also include performances from Lucy Hale, Rich Brian, Sklyar Astin, Max, Leslie Grace, Dove Cameron and Sofia Carson.

Read: Amara La Negra Will Keep Talking About Her Afro-Latina Identity Until Things Change

"I'm excited to be a part of this kickoff to Democracy Summer 2020 with so many amazing talents, activists and speakers," Perry said in a statement. "The young people of America are speaking loud and clear on the streets and online, and come November, it will be more important than ever to fight for justice and equality, and against systemic racism, with our ballots."

More Democracy Summer 2020 events will be announced later, as part of a push to encourage voter registration and turn out during the pivotal elections this year. Democracy Summer is a collaboration with Rock The Vote and almost two dozen other non-profits, including Voto Latino, Drag Out The Vote, Get Lit and the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation.

The concert begins on Thurs., June 18 at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PST, streaming on democracysummer.org, Facebook and YouTube. Visit their website for more info and to register.

J. Ivy Talks Making Music For Social Change, Leading With Love & The Importance Of Supporting Black Artists

Press Play At Home: Singer And Producer Scarlet Parke Manifests Her Dreams In Immersive New Single, "369"
Scarlet Parke

video

Press Play At Home: Singer And Producer Scarlet Parke Manifests Her Dreams In Immersive New Single, "369"

The self-produced soul-pop singer channels retro jazz vocals and a mesmerizing beat in a performance of her new single, "369." The song details how Parke set intentions and carefully laid the foundation for her dreams to come true.

GRAMMYs/Oct 6, 2022 - 05:14 pm

Scarlet Parke blends luminous, Amy Winehouse-inspired jazz vocals with a danceable pop beat in her performance of "369." The brand-new single chronicles Parke's experience of manifesting her dreams through journaling, growth and gratitude.

In this episode of Press Play At Home, Parke pairs her new song with a mesmerizing throwback look. Standing at a microphone against a bright red background, Parke dons a corseted, off-the-shoulder jumpsuit that’s part rockabilly and part Marilyn Monroe. She rounds out the visual with a retro cateye and a flared, fringed haircut. 

Parke's aesthetic reflects her use of genres; her style incorporates soul and jazz elements, with a healthy dash of feel-good pop. It’s a signature blend that she created herself, signing on to her musical projects as a self-made producer in order to create the music she hears in her head, down to the last detail.

"I’ve been holding onto some of the songs on my upcoming album for as long as nine years. I’ve just been searching for the right producer, and it was me the whole time," she says of her creative process, underscoring the gender imbalance in the industry. Currently, only two percent of music producers are women.

"It’s been a journey and I really want to talk about how women are treated in the industry. I really want to talk about how important it is that women support each other more than ever," Parke continues. "There’s nothing like the freedom that I’ve felt producing my own music."

That freedom allowed her to tackle a deeply personal subject in "369": how journaling and self-manifestation helps her fulfill her dreams.

"Three, six, nine are divine numbers, and I journal a lot using the '369 Method.' In the morning you write something down three times, in the afternoon six times and at night nine times," Parke explains. "You envision it, you feel it, you experience gratitude and you receive it. I’ve had a lot of really cool experiences because of it, and that’s what this song is about."

"369" comes off of Parke’s upcoming album, Simulation, and she has described it as the heart of the record. Press play on the video above to watch Parke’s full performance of her self-realized new song, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Press Play at Home. 

Press Play At Home: Trinidad Cardona Shares A Relaxed Bedroom Performance Of His Viral TikTok Hit, "Dinero"

Bonny Light Horseman's New Album 'Rolling Golden Holy' Is The Voltron Of Folk Music
Bonny Light Horseman: Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman

Photo: James Goodwin

interview

Bonny Light Horseman's New Album 'Rolling Golden Holy' Is The Voltron Of Folk Music

Folk supergroup Bonny Light Horseman's ambitious new album, 'Rolling Golden Holy,' is out Oct. 7. Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman spoke with GRAMMY.com about mining the breadth of folk music and harnessing their collective superpowers.

GRAMMYs/Oct 6, 2022 - 01:23 pm

"Form feet and legs! Form arms and torso! And I'll form the head!"

That line of dialogue frequently appeared in ‘80s kids cartoon "Voltron," where Voltron Lions created the giant robot Voltron. For musical supergroup Bonny Light Horseman — the trio of Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats) and Josh Kaufman (Muzz, Craig Finn, the National) — songwriting is not too different. They especially used that collaborative method while writing their sophomore album, Rolling Golden Holy, which is out Oct. 7.

"We form the Voltron robot with each of our individual strengths," says Johnson during a recent interview with  Mitchell and Kaufman. "Voltron is a mega robot that was formed by smaller, powerful robots."

"We’re certainly not a baseball team," he continues, citing Holy's "Summer Dream." "We don't have defined roles in how we collaborate on a song, but that song was one where I think we each did our thing. That is, we were like 'Here's my superpower.'"

The song is hypnotizing with a jazzy, breezy melody, and reflects the album’s contemplative themes of looking back, looking forward and longing for something. Mitchell recalls Kaufman playing it on the piano at Aaron Dessner’s Long Pond studio and later returning to "Summer Dream," hoping to work on it in a different way.

"With this one, we just were throwing lyric lines out there on the floor at the recording room, and then singing them, and it got just right. There couldn't be any other word," Mitchell says of their sessions at Hudson, NY-based Long Pond studio and at Dreamland Recording, an old church in Hurley, NY. "We really all were in there imaginatively, even in some of those lyrics.

Produced by Kaufman, Rolling Golden Holy follows their 2020 self-titled debut, which was nominated for Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Performance at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards.

Unlike that album, which pulls from folk music’s rich history, the new material are all originals that pay homage to traditional folk while expanding and building the genre in new directions. Bonny Light Horseman also kept collaboration with others minimal,  only featuring drummer JT Bates and bassist/saxophonist Mike Lewis.

GRAMMY caught up with the trio to learn about their eventful year, and how their growth as individuals and as a band helped lead them through new — but still familiar — folk terrain.

The band has had a busy year so far. What's one of your favorite stories of late from touring? 

ANAÏS MITCHELL: We got to open a whole tour for Bon Iver in June, basically like a month run. That was fun to just hang out with that band and it felt really fun to play on their stages. I had my little 2-year-old along on this. She loved the band. But she loved Eric and Josh. She always asks about them. We actually had a pretty epic time together.

ERIC D. JOHNSON: Josh K, when we saw Rosetta in the UK, she was very confused that you weren't there, but I was. I think she thinks that we live together like Bert and Ernie.

JOSH KAUFMAN: Oh, I love that. We started our June tour with a bunch of traveling COVID cancellation things. A bunch of drama happened. Our first bassist got COVID. Then it was also my wife. And then our friend Michael Mendes, who was going to come and sub for her, travel got messed up and he couldn't get up in time.

Then we had to have a third bassist, this guy Jake Silver come in, and it was just kind of frantic, fun energy of trying to cram all this music into his head right before we went on stage.

It was at Levon Helm's Barn, and if you're going to have a moment like that, I hope you're in a space that feels that relaxed and cool and welcoming. It ended up being really joyful and cool and just an awesome show the first night of the tour where everything kind of "went wrong" but then flipped and went so right.

It sounds like the writing and recording of the album was much more collaborative compared to the band’s debut. How did the tighter chemistry and increased confidence help you explore folk music? 

MITCHELL: I don't think this record is more collaborative, it's just different in that we were relying on a lot of traditional material the first time around, and this one is an original record. It was a lot more us dreaming things up together.

KAUFMAN: From a recording aspect…we were with our rhythm section, JT Bates and Mike Lewis. It was just the five of us, whereas the first record was a much different environment;  it was like at our first residence in Berlin where there were like lots of people to pull in and collaborate with. This was a much more sort of closed setting and that probably is the biggest difference in recording.

Everyone in the group helped push each other out of their comfort zones to some degree. Why was that an important process? 

JOHNSON: I wouldn't even call it a comfort zone, but I think [it's] almost better described as bringing different things out of each other. When you're just going at it alone, you have your method. It’s just we all three are really hard workers and each have a completely different style, as just anybody would. The cliched answer is we're learning from each other, but it's totally true.

"Gone by Fall," I'd never written a song like that. If I was writing that song by myself and not the three of us, I wouldn't have done it that way. We refer to it as improv comedy. It’s like you answer, "Yes," and then say, "and let's try this, too." But I've never felt outside of my comfort zone because this is just a comfortable band, but maybe outside of my normal zone, I guess you could say.

MITCHELL: I feel emboldened. I think we all trust each other's instincts a lot and it means a lot. With this band, I started to play my guitar in an open tuning. I never really had done that, but Josh Kaufman showed me how, and there's a lot of times where Josh will come up with a rhythm guitar part, but he'll want to be free to improvise so he's like, "Anais, play this." And I'm like, "I can't play that." And he's like, "Actually, you can." [Laughs]

And then it turns out I can. This is just another way of saying it's not where I would intuitively go, but it's totally within the wheelhouse.

There's a dulcimer on this record, which was an inspiration. I'm not sure whose idea it was but we all had to play dulcimer on this record at some point. I'd never picked up a dulcimer in my life, but I felt emboldened by the guys encouraging us all to do it.

KAUFMAN: It's interesting because it's not an instrument that I necessarily see us touring with, the bass dulcimer but it is a really nice metaphor for the center of the sort of creative process of this band. It's like, "No, no, you can get in on this." [Laughs]

You just have to come with your experiences almost, you know, and it's folk music, so don't sweat it. It's not a lot of chords and you can just hop in any old way. And I say that because this instrument is tuned modally, and it's tuned diatonically to another key the song is in, so you're safe. All rivers lead to the same place, which is you're making a cool, zingy sound in a song. The three of us found a different way into this instrument and used it as a textural expander on the record.

Anais, you mentioned in your previous interview with GRAMMY that one of the biggest goals for the album was not to overthink things. Why was that important and how have recent projects factored into that mindset? 

MITCHELL: It’s interesting because this is our second record and the first record we made we almost didn't know we were making it. [Laughs]

It was almost a field recording. And then we put it out there in the universe not knowing if anyone would respond to it, and we were pretty surprised and really grateful for the people who actually gave a s— about the music that we were making.

We just want to stay in the flow and that's what this record really is. We love to think that we made it in the pandemic. We weren't touring the songs; we weren't testing stuff out on the road. We just kind of went in a new direction and laid this stuff down.

JOHNSON: Josh's production style has a minimalist, maximalist process a little bit. He finds the thing and…he’s thinking very hard about it, but he makes it feel like we're not when we're in there. He finds the thing and he's like, "Here's the thing. Go chase that thing."

You can cross the threshold where you're trying so hard that you're trying to try. You're in your head and you can really spend a lot of time in a studio in that environment if you don't steer around those things, so a lot of it is like navigating things.

Josh, as a producer, it seems like one of the things you strove for was giving enough sonic space for all the different elements to breathe naturally. Why is it important, that process? 

KAUFMAN: It’s kind of getting the lighting right and the feeling in the room right. That room is something that you're going to then take with you everywhere you listen to that, so it's like a movable venue. I think of this as a new kind of vocal music and even though there's quite a bit of space between the vocals.

A lot of it is framing that stuff, and often Eric and Anais are singing together in the room live, so there's getting that balance right. I feel like the sort of charm of the blend is the fact that they're not too altered and they're just two lead vocals, basically.

MITCHELL: This music is different [from] what I would do on other projects in that it's committed to a kind of impressionism lyrically. Equally important is the brass and the bass to process those images in, not silence, but to be carried on this river of music, and not to fill all the spaces to tell the truth.  I love that this band prioritizes that kind of space.

The music is deceptively simple, and it creates this [space] that a lot of exploring can happen, and that that can be different every night, and that's what keeps it feeling alive.

The creation of the song "California" was quite a journey. What was it like seeing that song change so drastically from inception to finished product? 

JOHNSON: It started off as a little bit more like a modal folk tune…It was almost like a banjo or fiddle song. It had this very modal, sort of Dock Boggs spooky folk music vibe to it. We worked on that for a good long while and it wasn't bad sounding, but it was just one of those where you're just like, "I don't know why, but this isn't it."

It was crooked. Rhythmically, too crooked, and then melodically and tonally, a little too... not dark, but emotionally ambiguous. We usually like emotionally ambiguous, but it was too emotionally ambiguous. And then maybe 75 percent the way through, we added these major key chords…It was the kind of thing where I think if we'd started with those big, bold simple major chords, I don't know if we would have [gone in that direction.]

JOHNSON: I feel like the breakthrough happened when we hit those chords and then the lyrics were just written that afternoon, too. Once we had the breakthrough with those chords, then lyrically it was a little bit of a roadmap.

Speaking of lyrical roadmap, "California" is a bit of a thematic detour. What was the inspiration for that one? 

JOHNSON: So many songs are about heading west and this myth of the wagons heading west riding into the sunset, and the song is a little bit like the opposite. It's leaving the west, leaving this land of promise for the old world.

The lyrics are meaningful, but there's impressionistic aspects to them too, where you could apply your own meaning. We've introduced the new world a little bit into it, but also we're questioning our place in the new world or something like that.

Another thoughtful song is "Summer Dream," where the band explores this theme of the ghost of summer. What about that theme fascinated you? 

KAUFMAN: It’s like a thing that you maybe didn't even want but you can't stop thinking about it. And it keeps on coming back.

MITCHELL: There's that amazing Leonard Cohen song, "Chelsea Hotel," where he sings this entire song about this woman. Then he's like, "That's all. I don't even think of you that often." It's like, "Okay, but you did write an entire song about her."

JOHNSON: That's one of the favorite love songs where he's just like, "See if I care." And he's like, "Yeah, but I just wrote a whole song about it."

Beyond this upcoming tour, what goals do you have for the band? 

JOHNSON: Touring has been so crazy this year. We're planning the tours and we're excited about that, presenting the songs. But I think we're always just working towards "hey, let's do this so we can keep doing more, keep making more music." We're excited to get going again.

MITCHELL: I'm excited for us to just surprise ourselves. I have no idea what our third record would be. I'm excited to surprise ourselves.

Country & Western's New Generation Is Defiantly Of The Moment: Meet Charley Crockett, Colter Wall, Sierra Ferrell, Bella White & Others

Honoring The Legacy Of Loretta Lynn: Jeannie Seely, Amanda Shires, Ingrid Andress, Connie Smith & The Oak Ridge Boys Pay Tribute
Loretta Lynn

interview

Honoring The Legacy Of Loretta Lynn: Jeannie Seely, Amanda Shires, Ingrid Andress, Connie Smith & The Oak Ridge Boys Pay Tribute

Country icon Loretta Lynn died on Oct. 4, months after her 90th birthday. The multiple GRAMMY winner and Lifetime Achievement Award recipient's influence ricochets through the decades. In a roundtable tribute, Lynn's peers and fans reflect on her legacy.

GRAMMYs/Oct 5, 2022 - 08:38 pm

Country music lost one of its singular icons with the passing of Loretta Lynn, who died on Oct. 4 just months after her 90th birthday.

A creative beacon for singers and songwriters who was also beloved by fans, Lynn’s deep influence ricochets through the decades. Her work and life is an example of a true artist who sang from her heart, preached empowerment and gave voice to the voiceless.

A self-taught artist who was born into poverty, Lynn later became known as the Coal Miner’s Daughter — the title of her signature hit and her first song inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 1998. The artist received  a slew of GRAMMY honors during her lifetime, with three wins and eighteen nominations in addition to a Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed on her in 2010. 

"It has been a privilege for the Recording Academy to honor Loretta throughout her illustrious career and celebrate her contributions to the music community," said Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. "Loretta has had an indelible impact on country music and her voice will continue to resonate with generations of music lovers for years to come."

Lynn's first GRAMMY honor came during the ninth-ever GRAMMY Awards in 1967, with a nomination for "Don’t Come Home A Drinkin'," an upbeat track where she tells her husband to sober up, famously crooning, "liquor and love just don’t mix." Her first GRAMMY win arrived in 1972 for "After the Fire Has Gone," a duet with fellow country legend Conway Twitty.

"The main thing about country music is that I love to sing it and there’s a lot of people who love to hear it," she said during her acceptance speech after her most recent GRAMMY win, this one for Best Country Album in 2005 for Van Lear Rose, a collaboration with Jack White.  It was a succinct way to encapsulate a seismic career.

In tribute to Lynn, GRAMMY.com gathered a disparate group of Loretta’s peers and fans to reflect on her legacy.

The Trailblazin’ Queen Of Country

Jeannie Seely (GRAMMY-winning singer, Grand Ole Opry legend): As an artist/songwriter, her impact will be felt and studied by historians for years to come. Aside from being such a legendary artist, Loretta was my Opry sister, a connection that has always meant the world to me. That is a special bond to us as we’ve all shared the same dreams, same disappointments, the same personal challenges, and, most of all, the same love of the Grand Ole Opry.

Joe Bosnall (GRAMMY-winning member of The Oak Ridge Boys): She was truly the Queen of country music. One of the greatest American success stories of all time. Humble beginnings to iconic legend, with a meaningful career and body of work that may never be equaled.

Sunny Sweeney (Country singer-songwriter): Loretta Lynn was a trailblazer for all of us following in her footsteps, making it ok to write and sing about real-life situations, even if they weren't always pretty.  

Ingrid Andress (GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter): There are not enough words to thank Loretta Lynn as one of the first to make a path for women in country to ride on. She paved the way for so many by sharing her talent and voice at a time when women’s voices weren’t being heard. May we be so lucky as to have artists and songwriters continue this country music tradition of sharing the stories that unite us in the most important ways.

Connie Smith (GRAMMY-nominated singer-songwriter):  Loretta was always my favorite singer and a great friend.

Rita Wilson (Actress, singer): She was smart, she was strong and she was kind.  As she said, "I ain’t got much education but I got some sense."

"Grace, With Vocals That Sounded Like A Million Bucks"

Amanda Shires (GRAMMY-winning singer-songwriter, member of The Highwoman): My grandad listened to a lot of music. When we’d go selling flowers (he was a wholesale nursery man), one of the artists he loved to play was Loretta Lynn. I admire the way he loved fearless women. Loretta was fearless. Both Garland Shires and Loretta Lynn helped me learn how to lean into my gut feelings and strength inside my own self.  And I’m grateful that he introduced me to her music."

Connie Smith: The first time I came to Nashville I went to the Ernest Tubb Record shop and a guy said my wife wants to meet you and it was Loretta. She said "I heard you up there and you’re going to make it. I’m going to do for you what Patsy Cline did for me." She even brought me out on stage for the Grand Ole Opry during her show for the first time.

Sunny Sweeney: She was such an inspiration to me personally. I carry the words of advice she gave me many years ago to every writing appointment: "Just write what you know, baby, just write what you know."

Joe Bosnall: I joined the Oak Ridge Boys 49 years ago and right away we found ourselves on a Loretta Lynn CBS special. We wore these checkered coats that exist today in Loretta’s museum. I thought she was beautiful, gracious and kind. That never changed over the years.

Sierra Hull (Bluegrass singer, guitarist and mandolinist): I first saw Loretta perform six or seven years ago from backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. I was so struck by how gorgeous she was in her long, flowing, red sequined dress. I couldn’t stop watching her as she took the stage with such grace and her vocals still sounded like a million bucks. I’ll never forget it. I went home and started obsessing over her albums with a fresh excitement.

Michael Trotter (Singer-songwriter, The War And Treaty): Growing up, in my bedroom was my grandmother's old school ACME radio. FM was happening back then....playing all the latest in Hip Hop and R&B. AM played all the religious stuff like Moody Bible. But at night the classic country western music played all night long. Mama rigged my radio to only play that AM station and I went to sleep to Loretta Lynn nightly.

Rita Wilson: You didn’t have to be from the south to love Loretta Lynn. Her force of talent reached me as a young woman in another kind of south, Southern California.  To hear a woman singing "You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man" was shocking. It was the ultimate diss track and ahead of its time. She enabled women to have a voice literally and metaphorically. It was so empowering to hear this in a song. 

A Discography Of Country Classics

Jeannie Seely: My favorite song is "Blue Kentucky Girl." It’s so sincere you have to believe every word she’s singing because she makes you feel it.  And anyone can relate it to wherever they are from, like I did.

Connie Smith: I love all of her songs, but my favorite is "Here I Am Again."

Michael Trotter: The first song I ever heard from Loretta was back in the '80s.... "Don’t Come Home A Drinkin'." In fact when Daddy would come home drunk and he and Mama were fighting I’d go in their room and start singing that song to Daddy and they’d actually stop fighting. That’s when I knew she had super angelic powers. I will never forget the first time I ever heard her.

Joe Bosnall: [My favorite Loretta song is] "Don’t Come Home A Drinkin'." Every man alive knew what that meant.

Amanda Shires: "The songs I love the most are the ones I can relate to the most: "Don’t Come Home a Drinkin'," "The Pill." She was pro-choice. And when I read that in her memoir, I thought, amen…glad there’s more of us than I thought."

Sunny Sweeney: "She was already my queen with her music from her first single on, but when she released Van Lear Rose she was placed on the highest of high pedestals. "Miss Being Mrs" is quite possibly one of the greatest songs of all time."

Rita Wilson: [My favorite song is]  "Coal Miner’s Daughter." My dad was an immigrant and came to America on a freighter ship where he shoveled the coal powering the boat’s engines. Loretta seemed to be singing about my family.

Loretta’s family didn’t have a lot of money but they were happy and they had love. She sang about her life with pride, not embarrassment. In this song she embraced the values that are important in life: family, love, hard work and a spiritual life.

Tanya Trotter (Singer-songwriter, The War And Treaty): "You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man" was my first song [of Loretta Lynn's that I loved].  It was the most classy way I had ever heard a woman tell another woman off, ha! 

Hard Hitting And Meaningful

Joe Bosnall: She wrote songs that were hard hitting and meaningful. Great Britain lost their long reigning Queen and now we have lost OUR Queen as well.

Tanya Trotter: She leaves this world with no regret, no recourse or no shame and we’ll  work hard on earth's playground with her in memory.

Amanda Shires: I’m grateful for the times I got to be in her presence or sing for her. We’re all in a better world because of her. Loretta will always remain a hero and a light.

Sunny Sweeney: I'm so brokenhearted that we have lost another of my heroes. My deepest sympathy is with Miss Loretta's family.

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