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Duckwrth On His New Project 'SG8*,' Where Rap’s Been & Where It's Going: "I Want To Be A Historian Of What's Happening Right Now"

Duckwrth

Photo: Mancy Gant

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Duckwrth On His New Project 'SG8*,' Where Rap’s Been & Where It's Going: "I Want To Be A Historian Of What's Happening Right Now"

The rapper Duckwrth has completed a record about the past and is working on another focused on the future. Smack in the middle is his new EP, 'SG8*,' which is about the uneasy present — one that threw the usually even-keeled artist off his axis.

GRAMMYs/Oct 21, 2021 - 05:39 pm

Did anybody predict that trap beats would last this long? That’s not a slight against the subgenre, just an awestruck admonition that it's had such staying power. The rapper Duckwrth, for his part, didn't think it would still be a thing come 2021. "It's kind of funny — it's called trap, like people have been trapped," he tells GRAMMY.com with a chuckle. "I thought it would be in its hair-metal phase — like it's the corniest right now and people want to move on." 

Again, he's not trying to diss the tsk-tsk-tsking sound omnipresent on the Hot 100. With his last two releases and one on the way, the rapper born Jared Lee positions himself as a Janus-like considerer of music. 

Like that Roman deity of beginnings, transitions and endings, he’s absorbed in the future and the past — specifically, where rap's been and where it may be going. To the latter point, he thinks it's headed in a dancier, more electronic direction with a gallon of soul. Because Kaytranada engages both the heart and nervous system, Duckwrth evokes him as a bellwether.

If Duckwrth's 2020 album SuperGood was nostalgic in tone, his next project, SGX, will home in on the future. In between lies his latest EP, SG8*, which was released on Sept. 2. The title stands for "SuperGood" and refers to its eight songs, like "No Chill," "Link Up Time" and "4K." It's about the present — which, admittedly, isn't the most pleasant place to be.

Read More: Up Close & Personal: Duckwrth Talks Celebration Of SuperGood, Respecting Black Artistry, "Insecure" & More

"I've never dealt with anxiety before. It's a very new feeling for me," Duckwrth says. "I'd heard about it, but I just didn't feel that heaviness in my chest and erratic thoughts, that overabundance of fear." A mysterious and deadly contagion, randomly besieging the world, reaping widespread paranoia even among the well-adjusted? Who would have thought?

Thankfully, Duckwrth made it through the COVID nightmare, healthy and creative. A month out from the EP's release, he's currently cooking up the future-leaning SGX, his mind is on a post-COVID era, perhaps one where we can finally hurl Zoom into the ocean. (Which is, well, unlikely.)

But for now, we have SG8*, a succinct and mesmerizing portrait of where Duckwrth is today. GRAMMY.com rang him up on Zoom to talk about the project, which reflects all the gradients and colors of modern life as a pandemic winds down and Big Tech looms ever higher.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

How have your gigs been lately?

They've been crazy. Last year, dropping my project, I didn't know the reach it had. People singing the music word-for-word kind of lets you know you did something good.

Give me the rundown of what you wanted to say with SG8* that you hadn't before.

I think for SuperGood, the sound was at a point where it was like nostalgia. So, I put a lot of sounds of the '70s within the instrumentation. And the subject matter was heavy on roller skating — "World on Wheels" and stuff. With this most recent project, I wanted to do something that was more present. Present-day soundscapes and subject matter.

I want to be a historian of what's happening right now. Not just like a newscaster, but speaking my feelings and other people's feelings we have together during COVID and st.

When pulling references and signifiers from the past, what did you specifically feel nostalgia for?

I basically just made a playlist of some of my favorite music from the '70s. Mainly, songs that had beautiful bridges or these really amazing keyboard progressions. I listened to that a lot. It had Blue Magic on there; it had Stevie [Wonder]; of course, it had Michael Jackson. It had Tame Impala — that's more recent — and Mac DeMarco.

Read More: Tame Impala Checks In From Hibernation

There are certain songs I can't even describe. I would say it's more synth-heavy with crazy jazz chords.

Do you consider yourself a nostalgic guy in general?

No, I consider myself an all-around person. I like to grab things from the past and the present, and from the future as well. It's kind of the middle ground between it all.

The specifics of COVID aside, what's your mood been like over the past 18 months?

I think in the past year and a half, we were forced to go inward and examine the deep things. It's like the surface of the ocean and the gunk. COVID was a chance for all the gunk to come to the surface.

What trips me out is that work was on screens and recreation was on screens, so it was just 24/7 screen immersion.

Yeah. We were off the grid because we didn't have to work, but we were on the grid because they were saying, "Stay inside and stay on your phone and watch movies." It was like the perfect ploy for going into the future, because everything's going to be technologically driven. It's crazy — very serendipitous. I have to really work to detach myself from technology.

How did these feelings bubble up in SG8*?

One, I've never dealt with anxiety before. It's a very new feeling for me. I'd heard about it, but I just didn't feel that heaviness in my chest and erratic thoughts. That overabundance of fear. I know so many people who dealt with that during COVID.

I was trying to illustrate what it would look like if the mask mandates were pulled back a little bit and I was at a party having a good time, wondering, "Do I feel safe right now?" It gets to the point where it's awkward, when I was just trying to have a good time.

Were you mostly feeling health anxiety or some other form of it?

It was that I didn't know what was going to happen. It was a very new virus, so it would hit different people in different ways. One could be someone who just had the sniffles, then somebody else who was in perfect health could be hospitalized.

There was no promise to your safety. And I think when that happens in a society where your safety is a promise, you go, "Aaahhh!" At every moment [when] I got a little bit hot or a sneeze or a cough, I was scared s*less. That was the reason I had anxiety, pretty much.

With this project, you said you're more interested in the present than the past. How did that affect the music? Which tools did you use to evoke the here and now?

As I was saying, everything's intentional. Once again, SuperGood was nostalgia; SG8* is very present; the next project I'm working on after this is going to be minimal and electronic, more like the future.

I'm intentionally putting myself in these places, but it's hard to talk about the present so much because of how the world is and how I feel and s*. But how it ended up in there was not just the subject matter, but soundscapes in some of the songs. 

"4K" and "Link Up Time" have hi-hats and melodies that you'd find more in trap music today. Or even textures and tones: I even play with Auto-Tune a bit. Not because I couldn't hit my note, but because I like the texture and tone. So, just playing with modern tools and rhythms.

There isn't even that much analog on this one. There was [analog] instrumentation as usual, but it's a lot of modern sounds and techniques that we used in this project.

 

Duckwrth. Photo: Mancy Gant

Speaking of trap hats: Those were really popular for a while and still are, but we might be moving somewhere else by now. As a whole, where do you think the rap idiom is going?

I don't know. I didn't expect trap to last this long, but it's kind of funny — it's called trap, like people have been trapped. I thought it would be in its hair-metal phase — like it's the corniest right now and people want to move on.

My thought is that it's going to go back to dance/electronic and stuff. It's going to find its way back, because I see different artists really conquering [in that space], going hard right now. It may not be big as f*, but they have cult followings. People really respond to it in a different way.

I feel like house is going to find its way back. Not house as in EDM — classic house. You know what I'm saying?

I think I'm with you on that. Culture operates in 20-year cycles, right? In the early 2000s, that was all the rage. I think of Daft Punk or the dance-punk scene back then.

Hopefully. I think it's going to be kind of an intersection, because we have people like Kaytranada, who plays with disco and house, but is still very soulful, you know? I feel like the common person could hear it and they wouldn't be distraught. They wouldn't think, "Oh, this is something you only hear in Europe."

Read More: KAYTRANADA Wins Best Dance/Electronic Album For 'BUBBA' | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show

Kaytranada makes it very level and grounded for everybody. I feel like people are going to run toward that sound in making their own records, but we'll see.

Now that we're about to head into the "future" portion of this project, what can you tell me about the music or lyrics within SGX?

All I know is it's probably going to be playing with minimalism in the best way. Everything's going to have a purpose. It's going to be grooving heavy. It's going to be nicely stripped, but tight. Even vocally.

The song I feel would be closest to that would be "Clueless." Not specifically for the sound, but the performance of it. There were no extra ad-libs or dubs. They were very short phrases. I kind of like that because it makes me rethink song structure. I have to make sure this song is as powerful as a song that has a thousand layers.

Can you tell me about your collaborators on SG8*?

I was in the [HBO show] "Insecure" writing camps and that's how I met a good amount of these people, like the producer WaveIQ, who did "4K," "No Chill" and "Link Up Time." I met him there. We just caught a vibe and kept working.

I knew Phabo and Destin [Conrad] before. They literally worked in the same studio, so I would go from my room to the next door and say, "Whatchu working on?" and we'd just f* around. We would just create, and had a flow.

Jordan Ward I knew for a while because I know him through my other homie, Ru AREYOU, who's a producer. He always came into the sessions and said, "Who are these kids?" with this smoky voice — this crazy rasp. I heard his music and was blown away.

I was making sure everyone who came into the circle was coming together and finding new colors, if you will.

Before we jump off, can you tell me about how the album art came to be?

I'm very excited because this is the first time I got to design a cover in a long time. I got to design the whole thing — the whole layout of it. It's very much midcentury modern shapes and stuff — colors and gradients and stuff. I tried to make this album feel very dimensional in that sense.

But, press play. That's all I can tell people. Press play.

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Up Close & Personal: Duckwrth Talks Celebration Of 'SuperGood,' Respecting Black Artistry, "Insecure" & More

Duckwrth

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Up Close & Personal: Duckwrth Talks Celebration Of 'SuperGood,' Respecting Black Artistry, "Insecure" & More

We caught up with the South Los Angeles artist ahead of the August release of his debut studio album, 'SuperGood,' to talk new music, dream collaborations, celebrating Black music and artists, and more

GRAMMYs/Aug 5, 2020 - 12:09 am

Los Angeles-born left-field rapper/singer Duckwrth (born Jared Lee) has been making waves since he released his debut solo mixtape, I'M UUGLY, in 2016. Showcasing his expansive musical taste, playful lyrics and his mailable vocals and flow, the successful project led to a record deal with Republic Records, an opening spot for Anderson .Paak and a loyal, ever-growing fan base. An XTRA UGGLY Mixtape followed in 2017, with several tracks getting TV and film placement, including the ecstatic "MICHUUL.," which was featured on "Insecure" and "All American."

In May 2019, the "Bernal Heights" artist dropped THE FALLING MAN EP and now, this month, he'll be releasing his highly anticipated debut studio album, SuperGood. As he recently told us, the album has been a long time coming and now the timing is just right.

"I actually had the name for this album since 2013 and just the feeling of it, I've had it since 2013 but I never was in a right space with myself mentally and energy-wise to be able to present an album that felt like a celebration."

Related: GRAMMY Museum Launches Spotlight Saturdays Featuring Up-And-Coming Artists

GRAMMY.com continues their Up Close & Personal interview series (from home, via Zoom) with Duckwrth. Watch the full conversation above to hear him share more about SuperGood and its lead singles "Coming Closer" and "Find A Way," as well as his love of Issa Rae and "Insecure" and some of his dream collaborators (Rosalía is on the list!).

The "Crush" artist also talks about his vision for creating more Black animations (watch the music video for "Find A Way" below) and how the entertainment industry can better support Black artists.

Read: Yvonne Orji On Her First-Ever HBO Comedy Special, Faith & Celebrating Black Joy

"I think musically, [what's needed] is just respect for Black artistry and being able to be placed in different places, like more Black artists in pop. That would be major. For me, I'm not heavy on pop, listening to pop all the time, but I do understand the importance of seeing a Lizzo in pop.

"That's important, and [so is] seeing more Black faces in pop music because that opens up the door for other artists to come after them and it becomes a norm. It doesn't have to be this conversation of, 'Oh, you can't put them there because they're Black.' It's that plus just circulating dollars in the Black community and helping them grow," Duckwrth added.

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

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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. 

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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

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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.

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

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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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Behind The Board: Nashville Producer Jordan Brooke Hamlin Explains Why She Leads With "Curiosity" And Take Risks In The Studio

Photo: courtesy of artist

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Behind The Board: Nashville Producer Jordan Brooke Hamlin Explains Why She Leads With "Curiosity" And Take Risks In The Studio

Hamlin reflects on the complex relationship between artist and producer, and shares an experience that taught her to leave extra room for creativity in her recording sessions.

GRAMMYs/Oct 5, 2022 - 05:03 pm

Nashville fixture Jordan Brooke Hamlin has produced records for artists including Danni Nicholls, Missy Higgins, Rachel Yamagata, and GRAMMY-winning duo Indigo Girls — and she's been a multi-instrumentalist and a touring and studio musician for more than a decade and a half.

Indeed, music is in Hamlin's blood, as she explains in this episode of Behind the Board.

"My parents loved music so much, and that I think is such a gift," she says, speaking from the residential, women-owned Nashville studio Møxe. "I honestly don't remember a time that it wasn't a given that I would do music. Or musician and botanist. Those were the two options in my mind."

Inspired by her parents' musical tastes, Hamlin grew up loving the immersive albums of the late 1960s and early '70s — and today, she applies that holistic approach to her studio work.

"I really love working with artists over the course of their career and exploring different spaces and different depths they can go to every time," she explains. "I probably come into the room starting with curiosity. I'm wanting to get their GPS coordinates. I want to know where they are, what they love right now, what they loved growing up, what their sauce is."

She's also always learning, thanks largely to the creative minds she surrounds herself with when she steps into a recording session. For example, she points to one session with a group of artists, when the team started improvising an arrangement in real time.

"We're coming up with this incredible arrangement on the fly," Hamlin recounts, "and we were talking about how that's a risk, to not go in with an arrangement, and only in a certain space would it be like, 'Yeah, let's take an hour' — which was probably what it would have taken anyway to record it — and everybody had so much fun."

"I thought it was a good reminder to me to leave space not just for engineering, but we're here to capture people playing their instruments to a high degree, and their creativity manifest," she concludes.

Press play on the video above for more reflections and insights from Hamlin, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Behind the Board.

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