meta-scriptHow Durand Jones' Debut Album 'Wait Til I Get Over' Helped Him Explore His Roots & Find Self-Acceptance | GRAMMY.com
Durand Jones_WaitTilIGetOver
Durand Jones

Photo: Rahim Fortune

interview

How Durand Jones' Debut Album 'Wait Til I Get Over' Helped Him Explore His Roots & Find Self-Acceptance

The soul singer — best known for his work in the quintet Durand Jones and the Indications — reflects on home, family and having faith in yourself on 'Wait Til I Get Over,' his debut solo album.

GRAMMYs/May 5, 2023 - 01:06 pm

Durand Jones has been around the world — traveling much further than his humble beginnings would belie. As a founding member of popular soul group Durand Jones & the Indications, the 30-year-old singer has packed the Hollywood Palladium and sold out European tours; he’ll soon head to Japan as a solo act.

Yet the independent artist wanted his debut solo album to be an evocative, almost visceral portrait of the unincorporated hamlet along the Mississippi River where he grew up. "I wanted it to sound like hot, musty, zesty, sweet magnolias on a hot July day," he says.

While that may be a highly specific sense tied to memory, it’s with good reason. Jones is from the sugarcane field-laden Hillaryville, Louisiana, a town in the Atchafalaya Basin wetlands about an hour from New Orleans. Hillaryville’s history, characters, sounds, and smells are the bedrock of Wait Til I Get Over, the singer/songwriter’s sonic memoir.

"Leaving Hillaryville for the very first time, I realized just how special it was, and how unique it was — the people, the music, the culture, the art of it," Jones tells GRAMMY.com. "I wanted to tell my story…but where does it begin? And it didn't begin with me. It began after the Civil War when these eight formerly enslaved men created this town. And so I wanted to start there and find a way to capture that musically."

The results are a cornucopia of Southern soul, from its roots in gospel and blues to fuzzy, muddy rock and spoken word. Throughout, Jones creates nuanced portraits of the characters that have populated his life — his grandmother, members of his church, a married lover — whose presence help Jones investigate his sense of self. Faith, queerness and determination all feature in the 12-track LP, which is equal parts earnest reflection and deep groove.

Jones has carried that bounty of emotion ground with him throughout his musical journey, yet Wait Til I Get Over (out May 5 via Dead Oceans) is the first time he’s truly dove deep. "Too many of us in places like where I'm from are often shut down, or just made to believe that you're not capable of doing something like this," he says. "But if I could tell my 17-year-old self that he’s worth it, I would." 

Durand Jones doesn’t have his bags packed in the hours before flying from his home in San Antonio to Bloomington, Indiana — where he went to college with members of the Indications and where he’ll rehearse for his upcoming solo tour — but he was ready to dive into the baggage of youth, place and the concept of home with GRAMMY.com. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You went to college at Indiana University, Bloomington; it's funny that that's still kind of a home base for you.

I know! They have a little term in Bloomington: the Bloomerang. I just keep going back. I’m a Gulf kind of guy, so it's weird to me to fall in love with a place so landlocked. There’s something about it, got a little charm to it.

Home is obviously a major theme that runs through your record; when did you leave Hillaryville?

I left for the first time when I was 17 years old in 2007. And then I went back to Hillaryville around 2014. I didn't think that I was going to stay a while, but there were different plans from the universe. And I stayed there until the end of 2020.

I was just getting the small-town blues, honestly. It was nice to be at home when I was on the road for 200 days of the year, but being in Hillaryville during the pandemic every day, small town things started to get to me. It made me realize I still need to travel and see the world and do things.

Did you ever think you would be homesick or wistful for this place that you've spent so much of your life?

I never thought I would. I started to get real homesick once I started to realize just how special it was to me and to the people in the community, even though it's no longer what it once was.

Why was it important to you to put those feelings out and use this place as the setting for your debut?

Well, I wanted to tell my story. My work with the Indications is done collectively, so you're only getting a part of me — you're not getting the full thing.

I was really inspired a lot through books like Sing Unburied Sing and Mean We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward; Citizen, Claudia Rankine, Just Above My Head and Fire Next Time by James Baldwin; Grapefruit, Yoko Ono [and] Toni Morrison. These books really inspired me to tell a story in a memoir or a novel form, but through music.

So I wanted to hit these things that I was going through. I wanted to capture the essence of it all. [Secretly Group Co-Founder] Chris Swanson asked me what I wanted this record to sound like, and I straight up told him I wanted it to sound like hot, musty, zesty, sweet Magnolias on a hot July day in Louisiana. And he wrote with me with that [in mind].

I really wanted to have night sounds and the feeling of being next to the river. We gathered pictures of Hillaryville — specifically my father's trailer — we wanted these raw raucous sounds to be there as well as some sweet and tender moments. [We wanted to] capture the essence of my grandmother and the elders.

As somebody who's been following your career for a while, it's easy to follow the musical through lines from revivalist soul to disco to gospel and beyond. But when we spoke last about Colemine Records and I asked how this album was going, you sort of took a deep breath and said, "Man, I made a rock record."  Why was that definition nerve wracking to you?

I really built this house of sorts with the Indications. We've been moving towards a sweeter and sweeter sound as our records progress, which has been really great for me because it's challenged me so much to learn how to change my voice and mix it up. It made me fall in love even more with artists like Luther Vandross and Dionne Warwick. But deep in my soul, I'm such a student of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. And those were parts of myself that I really desired to express.

So during this record, I really wanted to go back to my roots a bit and, and push myself a little more and push the band a little more too. I'm really, really proud of the outcome.

The album has all of these big, kind of operatic songs. As a whole, Wait Til I Get Over moves from somber and a little serious to rocking and exploding with joy. Was the expression of joy important to you?

Definitely. I almost named this record A Letter To My 17-Year-Old-Self, but in a way it's still a letter to not only that 17-year-old kid within me, but also to all of these other kids in the rural South. I hope that they will have a chance to see or hear this record and hear that joy and hear the seriousness, the pain, the triumphs, all of it, and know that they could do something like this.

Too many of us in places like where I'm from are often shut down or just made to believe that you're not capable of doing something like this. But if I could tell my 17-year-old self that he’s worth it, I would. Lose that impostor syndrome. You deserve any seat you get at any table.

Did you feel like you were put down or not encouraged in the way you would have liked to when you were younger? Or was your family generally pretty supportive?

It was very contradicting, it's so weird. My grandmother, from the beginning, really supported me. She was the light in the darkness for me and my siblings growing up, because we were estranged from my mom. I didn't know my mom. She left me when I was about 3 years old.

My grandmother really stepped in and really helped my dad take care of us. She was the first person that took me to get my very first musical instrument — a saxophone — and she always encouraged me to go beyond and do college and do music. [My dad] was like, "great, but I'm not going to pay for anything." And I appreciated that because it made me work really hard, but it did kind of sting.

Doing all of the recitals and all of those different things and seeing other friends’ families fill up and like my family, not, it really kinda hurt. Once I started to do stuff with the Indications and people started to ask him about what I was doing while he was at church, he started to get interested. Once he saw me on TV then really got interested.

Are the characters on this album — Gerri Marie, Sadie — real people?

Yes. I love starting this record with Gerri Marie, because it really embodies the spirit of her. She has such a welcoming spirit and presence. She has this pristine quality about her that feels expensive, but she's also like a Southern lady. So like she still has that hot sauce in her bag, you know?

I wanted to capture all those beautiful things about her. She's someone that I truly love deeply. I just don't know if I can be the guy for her that she wants me to be, because I'm such a rolling stone. I showed the song to her and she was really ecstatic about it; very tearful.

Sadie is a lady I met in New Orleans. And I was a young 20-something guy, naive and gullible. And once we met, she would invite me over to her house for crawfish etouffee. One thing will lead to another and we would end up fooling around, which was cool. But she was married.

I think I was looking for love in all kinds of crazy places. But I realized that those kinds of thrills lead to nothingness. And that's not what I'm looking for. [When] my friends hit me up about the music for "Sadie," I immediately knew I was going to write about this lady. But I wanted to do a turn in the lyrics and make it seem like the husband found out — he didn’t really find out.

We might not be having this conversation if he did.

Hell no! I'd be six feet in somebody's casket, for real. My homewrecking days are over.

Speaking of love in all its permutations, "That Feeling" is really tender and the first love song you’ve written about a man. I'm curious why it's taken you until now to come out with your music.

I'm starting to ask myself why it's taken me so long. And I think a lot of that had to do with I was so afraid of what my small little community would think. And in a lot of ways, I'm still afraid; I haven't been back to Hillaryville since that song has come out. But for the most part, I've been met with love and acceptance and empathy. It’s been such a beautiful process for me to come out as a bisexual dude.

I think the answer is why it took so long is, I had to unpack the trauma that I held deep inside of myself. I grew up in church and I love my pastor — he gave me my first car, granted it was like 1996 Honda Elantra, little rinky dink car, but he think me to be like, really exceptional —  but also at the same time, nearly every Sunday, he was talking about how homosexuality was wrong. Being gay was bad, you're gonna go to hell if you do s— like that.

Anytime he would bring that stuff up, it always felt like a knife to the heart and it would make me so frickin' anxious and really sad. I remember just being an adolescent and like praying to God and being like, If you love me like why did you make me this way?

I had to unpack all of that stuff. And I've learned through James Baldwin that if I wanted to overcome this, one of the best ways to do it is to do art in vulnerability, because that's an ultimate form of strength. And if I wanted to tell my story, this had to be included within it.

Speaking of church, the title track features a choir to fantastic effect — but it’s really your voice layered multiple times, and recorded in your bedroom. Why did you choose to record yourself as a choir as opposed to using an actual choir?

There was a sound that I was going for that I knew couldn't necessarily be taught. There's like, knowledge and wisdom; you live to get the wisdom and you learn to get the knowledge.

I felt like doing it myself would be a real big challenge, but also I could try to honor the folks that are big inspirations for me vocally that were at home. Like this man Jardino, I tried to sing like him in there; I tried to sing like Miss Dawn, like Vanessa …. I tried to emulate these different voices. At first I was afraid it would sound like a bunch of Durands, but I've been surprised that people don’t know it’s all me.

There's also a line in that song that really stuck with me, "Getting by with just self-esteem." Can you tell me a little bit about what that line, or that theme, means to you?

At the time I was writing these tunes, I was literally getting by with nothing. Like I didn't have any money. At the lowest point, I was working a minimum wage job and they would schedule you like 37, 38, 39 hours a week just so they could make sure that you wouldn't get 40 hours so they didn’t have to give you health insurance. That job, and going back and forth to court to keep felonies off my record, and all of this bulls— that happened in Indiana, right when I was finishing grad school, which was insane.

All I had was the belief that I still was worth it. I still had something to give, something to say in this music, life, world, place. Sometimes for you to be successful, you need to fail. Fall right on your face. Maybe once or twice, maybe three times. I'm still falling on my face. And I feel like failures are just as important as the success. 

Joy Oladokun's 'Proof Of Life' Honors Her Own Experience — And Encourages Others To Do The Same

Durand Jones Press Play Hero
Durand Jones

Photo: Courtesy of Durand Jones

video

Press Play: Durand Jones Captures The Beauty Of "Gerri Marie" In This Strings-Led Performance

In a dreamy performance of the opening track from his latest album, 'Wait Til I Get Over,' R&B singer Durand Jones narrates his unbelievable love for a woman named Gerri Marie.

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2023 - 05:00 pm

As R&B singer Durand Jones reveals in "Gerri Marie," it's hard to come to terms with the idea that you can't be the person you want to be for the person you deeply love — but that doesn't mean you can't show your appreciation for them.

"[Gerri Marie] has such a welcoming spirit and presence," Jones told GRAMMY.com earlier this year. "I wanted to capture all those beautiful things about her."

In this episode of Press Play, Jones delivers a touching performance of "Gerri Marie." While Jones plays the piano, a string orchestra adds to the warm, romantic ambiance of the song.

"Gerri Marie/ So fine, so free/ And when she smiles at me/ The whole world starts to quake/ Under my feet," Jones croons in the first verse.

"Gerri Marie" is the opening track from Jones' latest album, Wait Til I Get Over. The project is heavily inspired by the works of visual artist Teresita Fernández and his hometown of Hillaryville, Louisiana. 

Later this year, Jones will embark on an international tour, beginning July 17 in Osaka, Japan, and concluding Nov. 18 in Tucson, Arizona. 

Watch the video above to view Durand Jones' tender-hearted performance of "Gerri Marie," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Press Play.

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Colemine Records artists
(From left) Colemine artists Steve Haney of Jungle Fire, Kendra Morris, Durand Jones and Kelly Finnigan of Monophonics

Photos: JC Olivera/Getty Images; Milton Arellano; Lorne Thomson/Redferns); Josh Brasted/FilmMagic

list

Get To Know Colemine Records, Ohio’s Funk And Soul Heartbeat

Colemine Records has released some of the most forward-thinking funk and soul, including Monophonics and Durand Jones and the Indications. In honor of their 15th anniversary, strap on your hard hat and dig 15 of Colemine’s biggest productions.

GRAMMYs/Dec 21, 2022 - 09:31 pm

Suburban Loveland, Ohio might seem an unlikely location for the crossroads of contemporary American funk and soul, but an unassuming gray brick building with a record store on the ground level and a studio above — Stax style — has become the nexus of a national scene.

Established in 2007 by brothers Terry and Bob Cole, Colemine Records made a name for itself as a haven for artists whose work didn't quite fit the style or insular nature of bigger indies. In such, they stand in contrast to labels like California’s Ubiquity and the hip-hop heavy Stones Throw, or Brooklyn-based revivalists Daptone Records.

"The landscape back then was really like, nobody's getting in. We're doing our thing," Terry Cole tells GRAMMY.com. "We were somewhere physically, and maybe sonically, in the middle of those.” He chalks up Colemine’s rapid development to his attitude of, “If I liked it, cool. Whether I produced it, or it was a license deal, or whatever."

Over the past 15 years, Colemine has released some 120 7" singles and 50 LPs from bands based in New York City, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Chicago, and Bloomington, Indiana. The sound of the label is as diverse as its roster, spanning gritty funk, cinematic instrumental soul, reggae, Latin funk, Afrobeat and more.

Terry doesn’t believe his label has made "monumental cultural shifts" in the sound of soul — but they don’t need to. "I think we've done a lot of connecting,” he says. “Just due to my personality — and, by and large, the personality of people that I work with — I think it's created a lot of virtual or physical community, and connections to folks that would not otherwise be connected.

"Connecting this New York scene to this L.A. and San Francisco scene through Ohio, I think that's been our contribution,” Terry adds. “Just creating this familial thing in the scene."

The label has been an enormous learning opportunity for Terry — an irreverent and laid-back, long-haired 30-something who is just nice by industry standards. He sold records to put himself through college, and began the label while he was a high school teacher.

In 2015, Terry resigned from his post — the same year he opened Colemine’s brick and mortar shop, Plaid Room Records. He slowly grew the business, and his knowledge, with each release: "I tell everybody that works for me, never be afraid to say you don't know, because making up s— is 10 times worse."  

Today, Colemine provides a lot of "financial and spiritual guidance" for artists, often doing art direction and distribution to a diligently developed network of independent stores; a few records were recorded at Colemine’s studio. They opened a rock-influenced imprint, Karma Chief, in 2018 and began signing acts. What was once a hobby now is a seven-person operation that’s quadrupled its wholesale numbers in six years.

"The thing that I love the most about the record label and the record store is sharing. I've never been a person that's, like, a coveter," Terry says. "The biggest high I get is sharing cool music with somebody that hasn't heard yet or that will enjoy it."

In honor of the label’s 15th anniversary, Terry Cole and Colemine artists tell the stories behind 15 of its most important productions.

Ikebe Shakedown - "Hard Steppin" (2009)

Terry: This 45" was so heavy; it was so loud and just so intense, relative to the cinematic direction that they went later on. I love those Poets Of Rhythm records and Antibalas records, and I loved the idea of being able to put out a record that had some gnarly Afrobeat elements to it.

That's the first time I had to make a contract. I was convincing these New Yorkers that I knew what I was doing when I had no idea what I was doing. That was a monumental one that really did break us into the New York scene. At that point, who the hell were we? We were just a bunch of pig farmers from Ohio.

Monophonics - "Like Yesterday" (2011)

Terry: I met [Monophonics singer/keyboardist Kelly Finnigan] through a rapper named Othello, who's the sweetest dude. He was like, "Man, you remind me of this dude I met named Kelly Finnigan." I was like, "Why?" He's like, "Just the way you guys talk about making records and the kind of records you want to make." So when I spoke to Kelly, he's like, "Hey man, I just joined this band Monophonics. I'll send you this track we just recorded with Sergio Rios from ORGŌNE."

He sent it to me and I thought Kelly's vocals were samples. He's like, "Oh bro, that's me." This record is important because it started work with Monophonics and Kelly, but it's also important because that is what broke us into the West Coast scene.

Postales [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (2012)

Terry: That's John Carbonella and Mike Deller from the Budos Band; that's their baby. They just didn't have a home for the record; they were like, "It's a real soundtrack to a real movie. We just want to have some copies made."

That was the first LP that I pressed and paid for; that was a terrifying prospect. My then wife was like, "These better sell." I was like, "I don't know if they will, but …." And me as a public school educator, and obviously flush with cash, I became the de facto and financier of this operation. But the expectations were really low back then.

It's such a cool record. There's some gangster-sounding Wu-Tang rhythms on there. There's cool dub s—. There are beautiful Peruvian vibes on there. It's just a really beautiful, lush record.

Jungle Fire - "Comencemos" (2014)

Terry: This is a kind of a continuation of the West Coast s—, but that one blew up with DJs. But that's one of the best selling 45s still today. We still sell gobs of that record every year. That breakbeat is massive. Cut Chemist was juggling doubles of that real early. Other people saw that and were like, "What is that?" So that was the first time we got a taste of that.

Steve Haney (Jungle Fire, percussion): "Comencemos" a.k.a. Fela Kuti’s "Let’s Start" actually propelled the band forward, which wasn’t really the intention since the band started as just a jam for a one off party. Kelly Finigan heard the tune recorded over at Orgone’s Sergio Rios' Killion studios, then he shared the tunes with Terry at Colemine.

Terry: Steve called me. I remember pacing around my backyard talking on the phone 'cause he was grilling me with all these questions that I did not have the answers to. I was like, "I don't know bro, I'm going to do this and I'm going to do this and here's what I normally do and blah, blah, blah." He's an inquisitive artist. Not all artists ask questions, but they should.

Haney: Working with Terry has always been positive. I admire his passion and drive to release good music. He’s been very transparent in all his business dealings. We appreciate his push putting out 4 of our 45’s into the world and especially into DJ’s hands.

The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble - The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble (2015)

Terry: Sure Fire, they're one band we've done the most work with over the years. We didn't have an online store, so physically in Loveland, Ohio, there are 200 motherf—ers that came in and bought that record because we were playing it all the time. It was one of those times where it was just so cool to see a local community respond to what we were doing.  It just sold it by the gobs to anybody that came in, I mean, you're in San Diego. It's major keys and sunny vibes.

Tim Felten (Sure Fire, keys): Our S/T LP was both a foundation for our band, and our relationship with Colemine Records. Through the label, we became instantly associated with incredible artists like Monophonics and Jungle Fire, and soon after, Orgone and Durand Jones and the Indications. We are forever grateful to Terry, Bob, and the rest of the crew for believing in our music and our four LPs and countless 7" releases partnership.

Durand Jones and the Indications - Durand Jones and the Indications (2016)

Terry: [Guitarist] Blake Rein was visiting his family in Cincinnati and hit me up and said he could fix my Hammond M3 to make it run to my Leslie. And I was like, "Bro, that's all you have to say. That's reason enough to hang out if you can fix that for me."

And then he said, "I'm in this band, Durand Jones & The Indications" and sent me some MP3s of the entire album. I had the CD in my Cavalier and the song "Make A Change" came on, and my ex-wife said she liked it. I remember thinking, Well there's no way I can put this s— out, because she and I had very different music tastes.

Then I was playing whatever's on my iTunes over the speakers [in the store] and enough people kept asking about it and I was like, maybe we should release this. And we already had plans to release a 45", but that was what motivated me to be like, "Blake, we should just do the whole record."

Durand Jones (singer): We owe our careers to Colemine, because those dudes believed that we had something. We couldn't even convince ourselves that we did — we were thinking that we didn't have a concise collection of songs. But we were young and we had so much more to learn about ourselves, and about art and music, and what it can be. And Terry opened that gate in our minds, and I really appreciate him for that.

I was working in a science lab and the boss was trying to convince me to go into science full time and give up the music thing. And when that record came out, I'd be walking down the street in Bloomington, Indiana and random folks would stop me just to let me know how beautiful that record was. And I really do believe that that record gave me a second chance at a career in music, because I thought it was lost.

Terry: The release night in Loveland was crazy. We started playing [the album] and selling them way before the street date and so, when they came to play the release show on June 15, the place was packed. This little tiny store that could probably legally only hold 30 people, there was, I think, 150 people packed into this tiny room. That record obviously changed the trajectory for us. The first week it came out, the record immediately sold out, through distribution. And that's the first time that it happened.

Soul Slabs Vol. 1 (2017)

Terry: That time period's fun because it's varied [in terms of the sound of our releases]. Soul Slabs 1 came out that year and was a huge release. That was such a monumental thing to put a comp together to showcase all of the sevens. Because sevens are such a hard push for stores. And to put all these things together into one package, that's an easy sell. It's like, "Oh hey, here's the first hit. You'll love it." And then you're hooked.

The Flying Stars of Brooklyn, Ny - "My God Has A Telephone" (2017)

Terry: I didn't even know what the f— Spotify was and, all of a sudden I saw all this money coming in from our digital distributor for "My God has a Telephone." It was on these massive playlists generating crazy revenue.

It was also just fun, Aaron [Frazer] and I working on that stuff, and trying to figure out a way to market our private press, gospel lo-fi thing. And it really was foreshadowing Aaron's provincial solo career. Because, the idea was to make a Flying Stars LP, but it was like, "Oh no, Aaron's probably just going to make his own record."

It was also the first time Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty tweeted about us, which has forever been in my phone as Rob Thomas Day: Nov. 22

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio - Close But No Cigar (2018)

Terry: The Delvon record was significant because I always wanted to do an organ trio or a proper organ-centric, prestige, Booker T, Meters vibe. So much organ s— is just wanking, just playing as much as possible. And Delvon plays so melodically, and singably, and Jimmy [James] and David [McGraw] are so pocket.

I knew I liked it, but I was pretty blown away with how other people responded to it as well. That's one of those records that we sell to metalheads, to punk dudes, to jazzers, and soul dudes. It also broke us into the Pacific Northwest.

Kelly Finnigan - The Tales People Tell (2019)

Terry: I think that's one of the best records we've ever made. There's a lot of people on that record — he's got his core crew and then there's lots of friends; he did some of it with me in Loveland, and then with Sergio [from ORGŌNE] in L.A., and his dad's on there, and [drummer] James Gadson's on there.

Kelly and I just have the exact same stylistic, aesthetic desires. Every time he called me with a demo, I was like, "Yes, just do it more, and dirtier. And more drums." We were just constantly sending inspirations and vibes, and aesthetics, and track references, and just came very, very naturally. At the end of it, we looked back and we were like, "God damn, this record f—ing smashes."

Kelly Finnigan (singer, keys): It was an extremely organic process. I did not plan on making a solo record; I was simply writing songs, coming up with ideas and putting them together in the studio on the spot. Once I got a half a dozen songs completed, I realized I was onto something. Terry Cole encouraged me to finish it,  and his guidance was crucial to the success of the project. It was a very fulfilling experience, I enjoyed making the album and I’m very proud of it.

Black Pumas - Black Pumas (2019)

Terry: Ah the Black Pumas. Adrian Quesada sent me that record in December of, I don't remember what year, and it took me too many weeks to get back with him. As soon as Bob and I heard it, Bob was like, "It kind of reminds me of Alabama Shakes in a way." And I was like, "But that's not Colemine."

And I was like, "Here it is. Let's do it. This is Karma Chief." And it was a one LP deal. Adrian's such a sweetheart, and a good dude to work with, but it really took on a life of its own beyond what we could properly service.

Rudy De Anda - Tender Epoch (2020)

Terry: Rudy is also a very different style for us, which goes to the whole aesthetic of Karma Chief. The only reason we sign people is if I like the music, and we like the people. And I've always loved Rudy as a person, but musically what has always grabbed me about him is the level of authenticity. Rudy knows he's not the greatest singer in the whole world, but I believe everything that Rudy says.

Rudy De Anda: As a Chicano, it was truly great to release a record with both English and Spanish. I'm honored to be a part of a label that's vinyl-forward.

Terry: Rudy was the first one that was bumped [because of the pandemic]...  and I was nervous because this was going to be our first thing we're going to release on Karma Chief during the pandemic. But, it sold out pretty instantly. It was the third or fourth Karma Chief deal.

Monophonics - It's Only Us (2020)

Terry: Monophonics always felt like one where I was like, oh man, I can't wait to get to the point where I can feel really good about having the financial resources and the human resources to be able to service this band. So going into that record, it was a big deal for us. And the record came out on Friday, March 13, 2020, which is like D-day; that was the weekend when s— really started to shut down.

There's a lot of very doomsday, weird songs on that record. It sort of ended up being this strange soundtrack for the pandemic in a lot of ways; there's songs of hope on there, but there's songs of massive despair on there as well. Everything about that record ended up being very, very successful — physically, digitally, sync-wise — in spite of the circumstances.

Brighter Days Ahead (2021)

Terry: This was sort of a marketing campaign that grew out of necessity, because the pandemic just totally f—ed our release schedule and all of our plans. Everything was on pause; the pressing plant was closed down for several months; we couldn't have staff and Bob and I had to revert back to shipping packages. I had a real sense of guilt for our artists; I was like: Man, I wish there was something I could do.

[Brighter Days] felt like a way to keep artists happy, and if we can do it collectively as a Colemine family, it can become more impactful than any of those individual releases. Every Thursday night, we would premiere whatever track was coming out on Friday on YouTube. And then it would almost be a mini DJ set basically from the artist, where they would just pick 20 to 30 minutes worth of stuff. And we'd just be in the chat room talking s—, and just talking about the songs, talking about their song, talking about their record.

It became this little community building exercise. We never had more than 150 or 200 people in those chat rooms, but it felt like it just kept swelling during the whole campaign. And it really felt like it gave folks something to look forward to.  

Kendra Morris - Nine Lives (2022) 

Terry: We put out 16 LPs this year, so it's hard to pick. But it's really nice to have some women on the label being top artists for us. Our staff is women at the shop and the label. And so it's like, it's always nice to just not work with a bunch of white dudes all the time. Or just dudes, dudes being dudes.

When Kendra put out her first stuff on Wax Poetics' [label] back in the day, I remember just thinking she has a unique sound, like this dark, mysterious, weird s—. And I was just like, God, it'd be fun to work with her one day. Her stuff always felt a little bit contemporary and it didn't necessarily fit into this Colemine model. And so once Karma Chief was a thing, I hit her up and I was like, Hey, let's revisit this conversation.

Kendra Morris: It's incredible to have Terry and a label that allows me to grow and to try new things. I just love that there's artist development, and that you come up with an idea and they're super encouraging of that. Growth is painful, and probably a lot of people don’t want to watch your pain or be a part of your pain if their dollars are on it. But you have to go through those things to find a diamond.  Terry loves being a part of that. I’ve never felt so secure as an artist. To have creative security, that’s the best feeling in the world.

Terry: Damn, that's the highest praise you can get from an artist.

2023

Terry: We have so many things [for 2023]. We're reissuing Kendra’s Babble, expanded. There's Steve Okonski's first record which is called Magnolia; Steve is the keyboard player in Durand Jones. GA-20 have a Live In Loveland record, which was the last show before the pandemic. Andrew Gabbard has a country record out, it's adorable, it's called Cedar City Sweetheart; his mom told him to make a country record, so he did. The Ironsides is the biggest sounding record with a full orchestra, really going at the David Axelrod vibe.

I'm not saying we're at the apex of record labeling, but we're obviously at a point where I don't have that pit in my stomach that I used to, where I felt like something I was doing was somehow a limiting factor in the success of a project. It's a good feeling to be confident in what you're giving your artists.

Next year, we're going to try to not only stock our friends from Big Crown and Numero Group and Daptone, but other releases that are independent that we're like, "Hey, this is dope." The idea of Colemine still being a label primarily, but also becoming more of this curator. If we do grow as a brand or whatever — or as a curator or editorial, whatever it is — it only enhances our ability to offer services to our artists. It only brings more eyes to them and that's the ultimate goal.

Catching Up With The Chainsmokers: Their Hopes For Another "Golden Age" Of Dance Music, A Latin Collab And Yes, Going To Space

Rebelution

Rebelution

Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

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Rebelution Plots Good Vibes Summer Tour With Protoje, Collie Buddz & More

The reggae band from California will bring its get-away-from-it-all vibe cross-country this June through August, with even more show dates added

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2019 - 05:46 am

Rebelution, the GRAMMY-nominated reggae band from Santa Barbara,Calif., has added even more dates to its recently-announced Good Vibes Summer Tour 2019 with  Protoje, Collie Buddz, Durand Jones & the Indications and more. The 30+ date tour kicks off on June 13 in Albuquerque, N.M., visiting amphiteaters and other summer-ready outdoor venues across the country, closing out at the Beach at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Aug. 30 and 31.

Towards the end of the tour, on Aug. 24 the band will make a stop at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colo., where they recorded 2016's Live At Red Rocks album. This scenic show will feature support from both Protoje, who's joining the first nine shows, and Collie Buddz, who joins for the tenth, as well as a special appearance from GRAMMY-winning reggae group Morgan Heritage, plus the Meditations and Judge Roughneck. Durand Jones & the Indications are on board for the first 13 dates, after which Iya Terra will swap with them for two shows in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Rebelution's most recent album, 2018's Free Rein, was their fifth time breaking into the Billboard 200. Discussing its track "City Life," Eric Rachmany told us it inspires getting away from it all to "beautiful, pristine places," which follow him when he performs it. "I'm like 'oh, as soon as this tour is over I'm gonna go lay low on a beach somewhere in Hawaii,'" he said. "Every time we play that song live, that's what I think about."

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Recent first-time GRAMMY nominee Protoje will supporting 20 of their dates. He was the featured artist on Rebelution's track "Inhale Exhale" from their 2016 album Falling Into Place, which was nominated for Best Reggae Album at the 59th GRAMMY Awards. Protoje's 2018 album A Matter Of Time was recently nominated in the same category at the 61st GRAMMY Awards.

Tickets are on sale at Rebelution's website, including details regarding the changing lineup. DJ Mackle will be supporting the group throughout their tour. 

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One Take: Rebelution's Eric Rachmany On Touring & Good Advice

A composite image collage featuring images of Taylor Swift in (L-R) 2023, 2008 and 2012.
(L-R) Taylor Swift in 2023, 2008 and 2012.

Photos (L-R): Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Clear Channel

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Songbook: An Era-By-Era Breakdown Of Taylor Swift's Journey From Country Starlet To Pop Phenomenon

Upon the arrival of Taylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department,' take a deep dive into her discography and see how each album helped her become the genre-shifting superstar she is today.

GRAMMYs/Apr 19, 2024 - 09:32 pm

Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 19 to reflect the release of The Tortured Poets Department.

The world now knows Taylor Swift as a global pop superstar, but back in 2006, she was just a doe-eyed country prodigy. Since then, she's released 11 studio albums, re-recorded four as "Taylor's Version," and cultivated one of the most feverish fan bases in music. Oh, and she's also won 14 GRAMMY Awards, including four for Album Of The Year — the most ever won by an artist.

Swift has become one of music's most notable shapeshifters by refusing to limit herself to one genre, moving between country, pop, folk and beyond. A once-in-a-lifetime generational storyteller, one could argue that she is music's modern-day maverick, constantly evolving both her music and the culture around her.

Every album era has seen Swift reinvent herself over and over, which has helped pave the way for artists to explore other musical avenues. In turn, Swift hasn't just become one of the biggest artists of all time — she's changed pop music altogether.

To celebrate Taylor Swift's newest era with The Tortured Poets Department, GRAMMY.com looks back on all of her albums (Taylor's Versions not included) and how each era shaped her remarkable career.

Taylor Swift: Finding Her Place In Music

In a genre dominated by men, the odds were already stacked against Swift when she first broke into country music as a teenage female artist. The thing that differentiated her from other writers — and still does to this day — is her songwriting. She didn't want to be just "another girl singer" and knew writing her own songs would be what set her apart. 

Written throughout her adolescence, Taylor Swift was recorded at the end of 2005 and finalized by the time Swift finished her freshman year of high school. Serving as a snapshot of Swift's life and teenhood, she avoided songwriting stereotypes typically found in country music. Instead, she wanted to capture the years of her life while they still represented what she was going through, writing about what she was observing and experiencing, from love and friendship to feeling like an outsider. 

As a songwriter, Taylor Swift set the tone for what would be expected of her future recordings — all songs were written by her, some solely and others with one or two co-writers. One writer in particular, Liz Rose, applauded Swift's songwriting capabilities, stating that she was more of an "editor" for the songs because Swift already had such a distinct vision. 

The album's lead single, "Tim McGraw," an acoustic country ballad inspired by Swift knowing her relationship was going to end, represents an intricate part of Swift's songwriting process; meticulously picking apart her emotions to better understand them. With its follow-up, "Our Song" — which spent six consecutive weeks on the top of Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart — she became the youngest person to solely write and sing a No. 1 country single; she also became the first female solo artist in country music to write or co-write every song on an album. 

Although Swift's eponymous debut is underappreciated now — even lacking its own set on Swift's Eras TourTaylor Swift's forthcoming rerecording is arguably the most anticipated by fans, who are eager to hear the songs with the singer's current and more refined vocals. Still, for fans who haven't properly explored Taylor Swift, it's easy to tie together Swift's earlier work to her current discography. 

On the track "A Place In This World," a song she wrote when she was just 13, Swift sings about not fitting in and trying to find her path. While her songwriting has developed and matured, feeling like an outsider and carving her own path is a theme she still writes about now, as seen on Midnights' "You're On Your Own, Kid." 

Even as a new country artist, critics claimed that she "mastered" the genre while subsequently ushering it to a new era — one that would soon see Swift dabble in country-pop. 

Fearless: Creating A Different Kind Of Fairytale

If Taylor Swift was the soundtrack to navigating the early stages of teenhood, Fearless is Swift's coming-of-age record. More than its predecessor, Fearless blurs the line between country and pop thanks to crossover hits like "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me," yet still keeps the confessional attributes known in country songwriting. 

Most of Fearless is Swift coming to terms with what she believed love to be. On the album's liner notes, Swift says Fearless is about "living in spite" of the things that scare you, like falling in love again despite being hurt before or walking away and letting go. The 2008 version of Taylor wanted to "believe in love stories and prince charmings and happily ever after," whereas in Swift's Fearless (Taylor's Version) liner notes, she looks back on the album as a diary where she was learning "tiny lessons" every time there was a "new crack in the facade of the fairytale ending she'd been shown in the movies." 

Much of Fearless also sees Swift being reflective and nostalgic about adolescence, like in "Never Grow Up" and "Fifteen." Still wistful and romantic, the album explores Swift's hopes for love, as heard in the album's lead single "Love Story," which was one instance where she was "dramatizing" observations instead of actually experiencing them herself. 

Unlike the slow-burn of Taylor Swift, Fearless went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for eight consecutive weeks. It won Swift's first Album Of The Year GRAMMY in 2010, at the time making her the youngest person to win the accolade at age 20. To date, it has sold 7.2 million copies in America alone. It might not be the romantic tale Swift dreamed of growing up, but her sophomore album signalled that bigger things were to come.

Speak Now: Proving Her Songwriting Prowess

Everything that happened after the success of Fearless pushed Swift from country music's best-kept secret to a mainstream star. But this meant that she faced more publicity and criticism, from naysayers who nitpicked her songwriting and vocals to the infamous Kanye West incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

For the first time since becoming an artist, she was forced to reckon with the concept of celebrity and how turning into one — whether she wanted it or not — informed her own writing and perception of herself. No longer was she the girl writing songs like "Fifteen" in her bedroom — now she was working through becoming a highly publicized figure. Speak Now is the answer to those growing pains. 

Along with having more eyes on her, Swift also felt pressured to maintain her persona as a perfect young female role model amid a time when her peers like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato were attempting to rebrand to be more mature and sexier. During her NYU commencement speech in 2022, she reflected on this era of her life as one of intense fear that she could make a mistake and face lasting consequences, so the songs were masked in metaphors rather than directly addressing adult themes in her music. But that also resulted in some of her most poignant lyrics to date.

Read More: For The Record: How Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now' Changed Her Career — And Proved She'll Always Get The Last Word

Writing the entire album herself, Swift used Speak Now to prove her songwriting prowess to those who questioned her capabilities. Much like her previous two albums, Swift included songs that were both inspired by her own life and being a fly on the wall. The album's title track pulled from the saying, "Speak now or forever hold your peace," inspired by a friend's ex-boyfriend getting engaged; meanwhile, "Mean" was everything Swift wanted to say to a critic who was continuously harsh about her vocals.

Retrospective and reflective, Speak Now is an album about the speeches she could've, would've and should've said. From addressing the aforementioned VMA incident in the forgiving "Innocent" to a toxic relationship in "Dear John," Speak Now also hinted that her rose-colored glasses were cracked, but Swift (and her songwriting) was only becoming stronger because of it.

Red: Coming Into Her Own

Highly regarded as Swift's magnum opus, Red sees the singer shed the fairytale dresses and the girl-next-door persona to craft a body of work that has now been deemed as her first "adult" record. On Red, Swift focused on emotions evoked from a hot-and-cold relationship, one that forced her to experience "intense love, intense frustration, jealousy and confusion" — all feelings that she'd describe as "red." 

Unlike most of her previous writing that had been inspired by happy endings and fairytales, Red explores the lingering pain and loss that can embed itself within despite trying your hardest to let go. In her liner notes, she references Pablo Neruda's poem "Tonight I Can Write," stating that "Love is so short, forgetting is so long" is the overarching theme for the album. She plays with time — speeding it up in "Starlight," dabbling in the past in "All Too Well," and reframing it in "State of Grace" — to better understand her experiences. 

After releasing country-pop records, Red toed the line between genres more than ever before. Swift leaned further into the full pop territory by working with esteemed producers Max Martin and Shellback for the dubstep-leaning track "I Knew You Were Trouble," the punchy lead single "We Are Never Getting Back Together," and the bouncy anthem "22." But even when the pop power players weren't involved, her country stylings still leaned more pop across the album, as further evidenced with the racing deep cut "Holy Ground" and the echoing title track. 

The slight change of direction became polarizing for critics and fans alike. Following the more country-influenced Speak Now, some critics and fans found the pop songs on Red were too pop and the lyrics were too repetitive, possibly indicating that she might be selling out. If that wasn't enough, Red became an era where Swift's personal life went from speculation to tabloid fodder, with misogynistic headlines and diluting her work to just "writing about her exes." It's an era that would eventually inspire many tracks on Red's successor, 1989, like "Blank Space" and "Shake It Off."

Commercially, Red debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold 1.2 million copies in its first week, becoming the fastest-selling country album and making Swift the first female artist to have three consecutive albums spend six or more weeks at the top of the chart. The impact of Red extended beyond its own success, too. Often mentioned as a record that inspired a generation of artists from Troye Sivan to Conan Gray, Swift's confessional, soul-bearing authenticity set a new standard for straightforward pop music. 

1989: Reinventing Into A Pop Genius

The night Red lost the GRAMMY for Album Of The Year in 2014, Swift decided that her next album would be a full-on pop record. After years of identifying as a country artist and flirting with pop, Swift departed her roots to reinvent herself, no matter what her then-label or critics had to say. And in true Swiftian fashion, turning into a pop artist didn't just prove her genre-shapeshifting capabilities — it further solidified her as an artist who is at her best when she freely creates to her desires and refuses to adhere to anyone.

1989 was lauded by critics for its infectious synth-pop that was reminiscent of the 1980s, yet still had a contemporary sound. Swift opted to lean more into radio-friendly hits, which resulted in songs like "Style," "Wildest Dreams," "Blank Space," and "Shake It Off," all of which became singles. And where some might trade a hit or two at the expense of their artistic integrity, Swift didn't falter — instead, her lyrics were just as heartfelt and intimate as they were on prior albums.

After exploring pop-leaning sonics she first found with Red, Swift worked with Martin and Shellback again on most of 1989. This reinvention brought new (and very important) collaborators as well. Swift's now-frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff credits her as the first person to take a chance on him as a producer with "I Wish You Would" and "Out Of The Woods"; both tracks exemplified how future Antonoff-produced songs would sound on albums like reputation, Lover and Midnights.

At the time, 1989 became Swift's best-selling album to date. It sold nearly 1.3 million copies within release week in the U.S., debuting atop the Billboard 200 and reigning for 11 non-consecutive weeks. The album also earned Swift several awards — including her second Album Of The Year GRAMMY, which made her the first female artist to ever win the award twice. 

Following the release of 1989, Swift became a cultural juggernaut, and the album has had an omnipresence in music since. Swift didn't just normalize blending genres, but proved that you can create a sound that is uniquely yours by doing so. In turn, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and more pop stars have refused to conform or stick to what they've done prior. 

reputation: Killing The Old Taylor

For years, Swift was on a strict two-year cycle — she'd release an album one year, tour the next, and then release a new album the following year. But following the heightened scrutiny and highly publicized tabloid drama that followed the end of the 1989 era, Swift completely disappeared for a year. She stayed away from public appearances, didn't do any press, and missed the album schedule fans became accustomed to. It wasn't until summer 2017 when she returned from her media (and social media) blackout to unveil the fitting title for her new album: reputation.

Born as a response to the naysayers and name-callers, reputation follows Swift shedding her public image — which includes the pressure to be perfect, the drama, and the criticism — by declaring, "There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation." Leaning on the same tongue-in-cheek songwriting techniques she used while penning "Blank Space," Swift wrote from the mindset of how the public perceived her.

When Swift released the lead single "Look What You Made Me Do," a song she initially wrote as a poem about not trusting specific people, many assumed the album would center on vengeance and drama. Although Swift said that the album has its vindictive moments — even declaring that the "old Taylor" is dead on the bridge of "Look What You Made Me Do" — it's a vulnerable record for her. Swift described reputation as a bait-and-switch; at their core, the songs are about finding love in the darkest moments. 

Swift still remained in the pop lane with reputation, largely leaning on Antonoff and the Martin/Shellback team. The sound almost mirrored the scrutiny Swift faced in the years prior — booming electropop beats, maximalist production and pulsing synthesizers dominate, particularly on "End Game," "I Did Something Bad," and "Ready For It…?" But the "old Taylor" isn't entirely gone on songs like "Call It What You Want," "So It Goes…" and "New Year's Day," where she lets her guard down to write earnest love odes.

Even after Swift spent some time away from the spotlight, the public didn't immediately gravitate toward her return. And even despite matching the 1.2 million first-week sales of her previous releases, some concluded that the album was her first commercial failure when compared to 1989. With time, though, it became clear that the response to reputation became muddled with the public's overall perception of her at the time — some even claimed that Swift was ahead of her time with the album's overall sound.

For her 2023 TIME Person of the Year profile, Swift described reputation as a "goth-punk moment of female rage at being gaslit by an entire social structure." For years, she felt the pressure to be "America's Sweetheart" and to never step out of line. Writing reputation became a lifeline following the events that catalyzed it  — a way to shed the so-called snakeskin and make peace with however the public wanted to view her. 

Lover: Stepping Into The Daylight

After finding love amongst chaos with reputation, Swift was learning to deal with the anxiety and fear of losing her partner — became a major theme of another aptly titled album, Lover. Both sonically and visually, Lover was a complete change from reputation. After touring reputation, Swift found that her fans saw her as "a flesh-and-blood human being," inspiring her to be "brave enough to be vulnerable" because her fans were along with her. Stepping away from the dark and antagonistic themes around reputation encouraged Swift to step into the light and be playful with her work on Lover.

Swift also found a new sense of creativity within this new mindset, one where she aimed to still embed playful themes in her songwriting but with less snark than that of "Blank Space" and "Look What You Made Me Do." Leaning into Lover being a "love letter to love," Swift explored every aspect of it. Tracks like "Paper Rings" and "London Boy" exude a whimsical energy, even if they center on more serious themes like marriage and commitment. Other songs, including "Death By A Thousand Cuts" and "Cornelia Street," are Swift at her most vulnerable, reflecting on a love lost and grappling with the extreme worry that comes when you could potentially lose someone. 

Looking at Lover retrospectively, it's an album that almost symbolizes a bookend in her discography. She was playful yet poignant, picking apart her past lyrics and feelings and looking at them with the perspective of someone who was once on top of the world, hit rock bottom, and survived in spite of it. This evolution is mentioned throughout Lover, particularly in a direct callback to 2012's Red, "Daylight," which sees her describe her love as "golden" rather than "burning red." 

Lover also marked the first time Swift divulged into politics and societal issues, like campaigning against Donald Trump, releasing the Pride-infused "You Need To Calm Down," and feeling disillusioned by the political climate with "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince." Swift's documentary Miss Americana explores this change further, discussing how she regrets not being vocal about politics and issues prior, in addition to opening up about her body image issues and mental health struggles.

Lover became Swift's sixth No. 1 album in America, making her the first female artist to achieve the feat. But Lover was more than any accolades could reflect — it was Swift's transitional album in many ways, notably marking the first album that she owned entirely herself following leaving Big Machine Records for Republic Records in 2018.

folklore: Looking Beyond Her Personal Stories

After the pandemic started and Swift cancelled her Lover Fest, she spent the early stages of quarantine reading and watching a myriad of films. Without exactly setting out to create an album, she began dreaming of fictional stories and characters with various narrative arcs, allowing her imagination to run free. The result became folklore, 2020's surprise archetypal quarantine album.

Crafting a world with characters like the folklore love triangle between those in "betty" and "august," as well as Rebekah Harkness from "the last great american dynasty" (who once lived in Swift's Rhode Island mansion), was Swift's way of venturing outside her typical autobiographical style of writing. She'd see visceral images in her mind — from battleships to tree swings to mirrored disco balls — and turned them into stories, sometimes weaving in her own personal narrative throughout, or taking on a narrator role and speaking from the perspective of someone she had never met. 

She worked remotely with two producers — again working with her right-hand man Jack Antonoff, and first-time collaborator Aaron Dessner from The National. Some songs, like "peace," were recorded in just one take, capturing the essence and fragility in the song's story, whereas the lyrics for the sun-drenched "august" were penned on the spot as Swift was in her makeshift home studio in Los Angeles.

Another aspect that separated folklore from her previous work was the obvious decision not to create hits made for radio play, so much so that Dessner claimed that she made an anti-pop record at a time when radio wanted clear "bops." Sonically, it ventured into genres Swift hadn't explored much outside of a few folkier tracks on Lover. Rather than relying on mostly electronic elements, Swift, Antonoff and Dessner weaved in soft pianos, ethereal strings, and plucky guitars.

folklore's impact on the zeitgeist at a time where everyone was stuck at home helped shape people's quarantine experience. Fans rejoiced at having songs to comfort them during difficult times, and artists like Maya Hawke, Gracie Abrams, and Sabrina Carpenter credit folklore for inspiring them to create and be even more emotionally honest in their songwriting. After its release, folklore became the best-selling album of 2020 after selling 1.2 million records. At the 2021 GRAMMYs, folklore took home Album Of The Year, making her the fourth artist in history to win three times in the Category. 

evermore: Embracing Experimentation

It was exciting enough for Swifties to experience one surprise album drop from Swift, an artist who typically has an entire album campaign calculated. So when evermore was released just six months after folklore, fans were in shock. 

Like its (literally) folklorian sister, evermore was a surprise release at the end of 2020, marking the first time Swift didn't have distinct "eras" between albums. She felt like there was something "different" with folklore, stating in a social media post that making it was less like she was "departing" and more like she was "returning" to the next stage of her discography. In turn, the album served as a similar escape for Swift as folklore did.

Bridging together the same wistful and nostalgic themes as heard on its predecessor, evermore sees Swift venture even further into escapism. She explores more stories and characters, some based in fiction like "dorothea," and some real, like "marjorie," written in dedication to Swift's grandmother. 

Evermore follows folklore's inclusion of natural imagery and motifs, like landscapes, skies, ivy, and celestial elements. In contrast to the fairytale motifs and happy endings of Fearless, evermore saw Swift become fixated on "unhappy" endings — stories of failed marriages ("happiness"), lifeless relationships ("tolerate it"), and one-time flings ("'tis the damn season"). 

Sonically, evermore is a slight departure from its sister record; where folklore relies on more alt-leaning and indie-tinged sounds, evermore takes the sonics from all of Swift's past records — from pop to country to indie rock — and features all of them on one album. Country songs like "cowboy like me" and "no body, no crime" reaches back to Swift's earlier work in narrative building, seamlessly crafting a three-party story with ease. "Closure" is a "skittering" track that has the same energy as tracks like Lover's "I Forgot That You Existed," whereas the ballad "champagne problems" is thematically reminiscent of Swift's Speak Now track "Back To December" where she takes responsibility for her lover's heartache. 

Working mostly with Dessner on evermore, Swift was emboldened to continue creating and opted to embrace whatever came naturally to them rather than limiting themselves to a sound. Swift felt a "quiet conclusion" after finishing up evermore, describing that it was more about grappling with endings of all "sizes and shapes," and the record represented a chapter closing. Even so, its poetic lyricism and mystical storytelling cleverly foreshadowed what was to come with subsequent albums, particularly The Tortured Poets Department.

Midnights: Encapsulating Her Artistic Magic

After coming out of the folklorian woods following folklore and evermore, fans and critics alike were intrigued to see what direction Swift would take on her next studio album. On Midnights, Swift leaves behind indie folk sounds and returns to the pop production of 1989 and Lover.

Her most conceptual album to date, Midnights charts 13 sleepless nights and explores five themes, from self-hatred and revenge to "what if" fantasies, falling in love, and falling apart. They are the things that keep her up at night, like the self-critiquing in "Anti-Hero," her rise to fame in "You're on Your Own, Kid," and the anxiety of falling in love again in "Labyrinth." Similarly to Swift's cheeky songwriting style that sees her create caricatures of herself in songs like "Blank Space" and "Look What You Made Me Do," she doubles down on claims she's "calculated" on "Mastermind," a song about devising a plan for her and her lover. 

Although the album is a departure from the two pandemic sister albums, the overall creation process didn't differ too much. In addition to working alongside Antonoff (and bringing Dessner in for the bonus-track-filled 3am Edition), Swift's worldbuilding is still the throughline that connects Midnights and Swift's recent albums, whether she's dreaming of a Parisian escape in "Paris" or using war imagery as a metaphor for the struggle of love in "The Great War."

Read More: 5 Takeaways From Taylor Swift's New Album 'Midnights'

Following the success with folklore and evermore, Swift's intrigue was at a then-all-time high upon the release of Midnights. Along with breaking several streaming records — including becoming the first album to exceed 700 million global streams in a week — it was Swift's 11th No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200, and was the highest-selling album of 2022 (and, remarkably, the second best-selling of 2023).

To say that Swift's celebrity has become otherworldly since the release of Midnights would be an understatement. Celebrating her genre-defying and varied discography through The Eras Tour has resulted in old songs having a resurgence, new inside jokes and Easter eggs within the fandom, and a plethora of new listeners being exposed to Swift's work. 

As a result, there has arguably never been more excitement for a Taylor Swift album than for The Tortured Poets Department — especially because the announcement came on the heels of her lucky 13th GRAMMY win in February. Midnights helped further solidify Swift's larger-than-life status at the finale of the 2024 GRAMMYs, too, as she became the only artist in history to win Album Of The Year four times. 

The Tortured Poets Department: A Grief-Stricken Poetic Odyssey

It’s been a while since Swift has penned a full-fledged breakup album. On The Tortured Poets Department, she navigates the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — after her long-term relationship ended. Taking a page from the release of folklore and evermore, she dropped a double album and announced The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology at 2 a.m. on release day. Throughout a total of 31 tracks, the prolific songwriter shelved the glittery pop radio-friendly tunes in favor of more subdued, synthy and heart-wrenching songs. 

On Instagram, Swift described the album as a collection of poetic songs that reflect the "events, opinions and sentiments from a fleeting and fatalistic moment in time," Swift pulled out the fountain and quill pens to craft songs about the "tortured poets" in her life — sometimes musing about lovers, sometimes taking aim at villains, and sometimes pointing the finger at herself. 

TTPD is also her most confessional album thus far. It pokes fun at so-called fans who overstep with her personal life ("But Daddy I Love Him"), says goodbye to a city that gave her a home ("So Long London"), and muses on how her own celebrity has stunted her growth ("Who's Afraid Of Little Old Me?"). To help explain this chapter of her life, Swift brings together a myriad of collaborators — from Stevie Nicks as fellow poetess, to duets with Florence Welch and Post Malone — and leans on real and fictional characters, like Clara Bow, Peter Pan ("Peter"), and Patti Smith.

In the same post, Swift declared that once she’s confessed all of her saddest stories, she’s able to find freedom. Yet The Tortured Poets Department (and its accompanying 15-track anthology) spends much time reflecting: she toys with her own lore, self-referencing past songs from albums like 1989 and poems from her reputation era. 

Fourteen years ago, Swift declared that she would never change, but she’ll never stay the same either. The Tortured Poets Department proves that in the throughline of Taylor Swift's many artistic eras is a commitment to exploration and a love of autobiographical lyricism.

All Things Taylor Swift