meta-scriptIt's Not Always Going To Be This Grey: George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' At 50 |
George Harrison c.1970/1971

George Harrison c.1970/1971

Photo: GAB Archive/Redferns


It's Not Always Going To Be This Grey: George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' At 50

On the 50th anniversary of the chart-topping, GRAMMY-nominated album, explores all the reasons why 'All Things Must Pass' remains an important landmark in George Harrison's legacy and his most enduring solo testimony

GRAMMYs/Nov 27, 2020 - 08:33 pm

In 1970, Let It Be, the documentary chronicling The Beatles' final studio album of the same name, hit theaters worldwide, providing a blunt answer to the whys and the hows for those who might still be in denial about the group's inevitable separation. The film unmercifully exposed numerous cracks in their interpersonal relationships, only letting us see fragments of what had once been a cohesive, seemingly indivisible unit. Although incredibly frustrating to many fans, this portrayal proved crucial for an adequate understanding of each member's personal and professional motivations at the time—particularly George Harrison, whose creative persona was undergoing a vital and revolutionary change.

Those sessions, which author Peter Doggett describes in his book, "You Never Give Me Your Money," as "a drama with no movement or character development," showcase Harrison's growing exasperation with the part he'd been given to play within The Beatles' equation as well as a certain impatience and dissatisfaction replacing his acquiescence of previous years. Recently returned from a stay with Bob Dylan at Woodstock to what he would later call "The Beatles' winter of discontent" in "The Beatles Anthology," Harrison continued to see his musical contributions systematically met with disdain from his bandmates. It soon became obvious that challenging the John Lennon/Paul McCartney power axis would be an impossible task while the band was still together—a realization that further accelerated The Beatles' disintegration.

All Things Must Pass is a direct result of this unmaking. Released November 27, 1970, All Things Must Pass was technically Harrison's third studio album yet his first fully realized solo release following two slightly niche LPs prior: Wonderwall Music (1968), the mostly instrumental soundtrack to Joe Massot's film, Wonderwall, and Electronic Sound (1969), a two-track avant-garde project.

The imbalance in group dynamics made evident in the Let It Be documentary is essential to understand the genesis of All Things Must Pass since the two projects are irrevocably intertwined—perhaps more so than Lennon's or McCartney's respective debuts, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and McCartney, which also released in 1970. While his bandmates had long made peace with their prime status as composers, Harrison's mounting refusal to be repeatedly pushed to second best was reaching a boiling point, and his creativity soared in proportion. By then, the material he'd been putting in the drawer was far too vast to fit in a single album alone. 

For anyone doubting Harrison's ability to stand on his own two feet as a solo artist, All Things Must Pass must have hit like a ton of bricks. Composed of three records, two LPs plus an extra disc titled Apple Jam that mostly contained improvised instrumentals, the album emerged as Harrison's definite and irrevocable declaration of independence. 

Still, the album was colored with references to a painful recent past: These are visible in the cryptic album art showing Harrison in his Friar Park estate surrounded by four gnomes, often interpreted as the musician removing himself from The Beatles' collective identity. There are also the not-so-veiled attacks on his bandmates in "Wah-Wah," the sad contemplation of a breakup in "Isn't It A Pity?" and the inclusion of several compositions that had been turned down by The Beatles, such as "Art Of Dying," "Let It Down" and the album's title track, which Harrison can be seen playing to the other three in Let It Be.

The album, recorded between May and October in 1970, gathered an impressive supergroup of backing musicians that included bassist (and Revolver cover artist) Klaus Voormann, members of Badfinger and Delaney & Bonnie, Let It Be keyboardist Billy Preston, Eric Clapton and even Ringo Starr, the only Beatle who seemed to have no major feud with the other three. 

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Although Harrison had a very clear idea of what he wanted, things did not always go so smoothly. By summer, sessions came to a temporary halt as he made regular visits to see his dying mother in Liverpool. At the same time, further pressure came from EMI, who grew preoccupied with the alarming costs that a triple album would ensue. This, combined with Clapton's escalating heroin addiction and infatuation with Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd, who he would eventually marry, contributed to a strained ambience that might at times have struck a chord of déjà vu for the Beatle. 

Producer Phil Spector's erratic behavior didn't help either: Having been recruited by both Harrison and Lennon for their solo debuts following his impressive work on Let It Be, he was frequently unfit to function or nowhere to be found, forcing Harrison to take production matters into his own hands.

Despite all the delays and behind-the-scenes tension, some of it still resulting from the ongoing legal disputes between the four Beatles, All Things Must Pass triumphed. The album received a nomination for Album Of The Year at the 1972 GRAMMYs, while its No. 1 single "My Sweet Lord," for which Harrison was sued for copyright infringement and ultimately lost, was nominated for Record Of The Year. All Things Must Pass was ultimately inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2014; Harrison was honored with the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award one year later.

While a triple album could have easily been dismissed as self-indulgence as pop crossed over to the individualistic '70s, the reception of All Things Must Pass was so indisputably solid and favorable that some music critics claimed it eclipsed Lennon's and McCartney's solo efforts. Maybe it was the surprise factor, too. Melody Maker's Richard Williams would best summarize this in his review of the album with the famous line, "Garbo talks! - Harrison is free!"—a reference fitting of how it felt to witness "the quiet one" finally raising his voice. 

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All Things Must Pass opened the gates to a world the public had only glimpsed during The Beatles years, proclaiming a coming of age that had been delayed for too long. Encapsulating Harrison's serenity without falling into a trap of passiveness, the album acted simultaneously as epilogue and opening chapter by precipitating both public and personal healing.

But the ghost of Beatles past would still come back to haunt Harrison as he, like the other three, quickly realized one doesn't simply cease to be a Beatle. Recurrent comparisons and undeclared fights both in and outside the charts persisted throughout the years, bringing back the vestiges of a narrative he hadn't fully absconded yet no longer defined him. "We've been nostalgia since 1967," Doggett quotes Harrison as saying at the time of the album's release, commenting on The Beatles' inability to escape a very specific, even if outdated, image that had been crystallized in the public's collective imagination. 

Fifty years later, All Things Must Pass remains an important landmark in George Harrison's legacy and his most enduring solo testimony—something music journalist Paul Du Noyer points out on the text "When 1 Becomes 4" as a slight irony, since the title refers precisely to "the impermanence of things." But more than that, the album is a fascinating and detailed snapshot of the exact moment Harrison officially announced he was willing to move on from a game whose rules had long ceased to serve him.

Celebrating The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's' 50th Anniversary

Photo of Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City
Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation


10 Record Store Day 2024 Releases We're Excited About: The Beatles, Notorious B.I.G. & More

In honor of Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, learn about 10 limited, exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 02:20 pm

From vinyl records by the 1975 and U2, to album reissues and previously unreleased music, record stores around the world are stocking limited and exclusive releases for Record Store Day 2024

The first Record Store Day kicked off in 2008 and every year since, the event supporting independently owned record stores has grown exponentially. On Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, there will be more than 300 special releases available from artists as diverse as  the Beatles and Buena Vista Social Club. 

In honor of Record Store Day 2024 on April 20, here are 10 limited and exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store. 

David Bowie — Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth

British glam rocker David Bowie was a starman and an icon. Throughout his career, he won five GRAMMY Awards and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. 

On RSD 2024, Bowie's estate is dialing it back to his Ziggy Stardust days to make Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth) available for the first time. The record features recordings of Bowie's sessions at Trident Studios in 1971, and many songs from those sessions would be polished for his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

The tracklisting for Waiting in the Sky differs from Ziggy Stardust and features four songs that didn’t make the final album.

Talking Heads — Live at WCOZ 77

New York City-based outfit Talking Heads defined the sound of new wave in the late '70s and into the next decade. For their massive influence, the group received two GRAMMY nominations and was later honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

While promoting their debut album Talking Heads: 77, the quartet recorded a live performance for the New Albany, Pennsylvania radio station WCOZ in 1977. The Live at WCOZ 77 LP will include 14 songs from that performance at Northern Studios, including seven that will be released for the first time. Among the previously unheard cuts are "Love Goes To A Building On Fire" and "Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town." During that session, Talking Heads also performed songs like "Psycho Killer" and "Pulled Up."

The Doors — Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968

The Doors were at the forefront of the psychedelic rock movement of the 1960s and early '70s. One of Jim Morrison's most epic performances with the band will be available on vinyl for the first time. 

Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968 includes recordings from a radio broadcast that was never commercially released. The 3-LP release includes performances of songs from the Doors’ first three albums, including 1967’s self-titled and Strange Days. In addition to performing their classics like "Light My Fire" and "You're Lost Little Girl," the Doors and Morrison also covered "Mack the Knife" and Barret Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" live during this session. 

Dwight Yoakam — The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s

Over the course of his 40-year career, country music icon Dwight Yoakam has received 18 GRAMMY nominations and won two golden gramophones for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1994 and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 2000.

On Record Store Day 2024, Yoakam will celebrate the first chapter of his legacy with a new box set: The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s. His debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. and 1987’s Hillbilly Deluxe will be included in the collection alongside exclusive disc full of rarities and demos. The 4-LP set includes his classics like "Honky Tonk Man," "Little Ways," and "Streets of Bakersfield." The box set will also be available to purchase on CD.  

The Beatles — The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable

Beatlemania swept across the U.S. following the Beatles’ first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964, setting the stage for the British Invasion. With The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable, the band will celebrate their iconic run of appearances on Sullivan’s TV program throughout that year.

The box set will include a Beatles-styled turntable and four 3-inch records. Among those records are the hits "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," and "I Saw Her Standing There," which the Beatles performed on Sullivan's TV across several appearances. 

Among 23 GRAMMY nominations, the Beatles won seven golden gramophones. In 2014, the Recording Academy honored them with the Lifetime Achievement Award.   

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan — From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan are two of the biggest pop stars in the world right now — Rodrigo hitting the stage with No Doubt at Coachella and near the end of her global GUTS Tour; Kahan fresh off a Best New Artist nomination at the 2024 GRAMMYs. Now, they're teaming up for the split single From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP, a release culled from each artist's "BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge" sessions. 

The special vinyl release will include Rodrigo's live cover of Kahan's breakout hit "Stick Season." The single also includes Kahan’s cover of Rodrigo’s song "Lacy" from her second album, GUTS. This month, they performed the song live together on Rodrigo’s Guts World Tour stop in Madison Square Garden.  

Buena Vista Social Club — Buena Vista Social Club

Influential Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club popularized genres and sounds from their country, including son cubano, bolero, guajira, and danzón. Buena Vista Social Club's landmark self-titled LP won the GRAMMY for Best Tropical Latin Album in 1998.

The following year, a documentary was released that captured two of the band's live performances in New York City and Amsterdam. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the documentary, the Buena Vista Social Club album will be released on a limited edition gold vinyl with remastered audio and bonus tracks.

Buena Vista Social Club is one of the 10 recordings to be newly inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame as part of the 2024 inductee class.

Danny Ocean — 54+1

Venezuelan reggaeton star Danny Ocean broke through on a global level in 2016 with his self-produced debut single "Me Rehúso," a heartbreaking track inspired by Ocean fleeing Venezuela due to the country's economic instability and the lover he had left behind. 

With "Me Rehúso," Ocean became the first solo Latin artist to surpass one billion streams on Spotify, on the platform with a single song. "Me Rehúso" was included on his 2019 debut album 54+1, which will be released on vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day.

Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Upsetters — Skanking With The Upsetter

Jamaican producer Lee "Scratch" Perry pioneered dub music in the 1960s and '70s. Perry received five GRAMMY nominations in his lifetime, including winning Best Reggae Album in 2003 for Jamaican E.T.

To celebrate the legacy of Perry's earliest dub recordings, a limited edition run of his 2004 album Skanking With The Upsetter will be released on Record Store Day. His joint LP with his house band the Upsetters will be pressed on transparent yellow vinyl. Among the rare dub tracks on the album are "Bucky Skank," "Seven & Three Quarters (Skank)," and "IPA Skank." 

Read more: Lee "Scratch" Perry Documentary Director Sets The Record Straight On The Reggae Icon's Legacy — Including A Big Misconception About Bob Marley

Notorious B.I.G. — Ready To Die: The Instrumentals

The Notorious B.I.G. helped define the sound of East Coast rap in the '90s. Though he was tragically murdered in 1997, his legacy continues to live on through his two albums. 

During his lifetime, the Notorious B.I.G. dropped his 1994 debut album Ready to Die, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest hip-hop releases of all-time. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the album (originally released in September '94), his estate will release Ready To Die: The Instrumentals. The limited edition vinyl will include select cuts from the LP like his hits "Big Poppa," "One More Chance/Stay With Me," and "Juicy." The album helped him garner his first GRAMMY nomination in 1996 for Best Rap Solo Performance. The Notorious B.I.G. received an additional three nominations after his death in 1998. 

10 Smaller Music Festivals Happening In 2024: La Onda, Pitchfork Music Fest, Cruel World & More

Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker play instruments and sing under red lights during a performance on the set of the Jimmy Fallon Show.
Sleater-Kinney perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on March 15.

Photo: Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images


On 'Little Rope,' Sleater-Kinney Still Wear Their Hearts On Their Sleeves

Sleater-Kinney's latest album delves into profound vulnerability, crafted in the wake of personal loss and global upheaval. 'Little Rope' showcases the band's enduring spirit, close friendship, and the approach that's kept them relevant over time.

GRAMMYs/Apr 10, 2024 - 03:29 pm

Using lively, raw instrumentals as a vehicle for emotional catharsis, Sleater-Kinney’s Little Rope takes the lead as one of their most vulnerable projects to date. 

The "Dig Me Out" singers approach their 11th studio album with a fresh perspective, influenced by their experiences during the pandemic. Despite the departure of drummer Janet Weiss in 2019, the band maintains their iconic post-riot grrrl take on rock music. Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker infuse Little Rope with reflective lyrics and raw energy, mirroring their personal growth and resilience. 

While working on the album one day, Brownstein received a call with news that nobody ever wants to hear, nor expects. She had been informed that her mother and stepfather had been involved in a fatal car accident while on vacation in Italy. Faced with grief and a sense of unfamiliarity, the band turned to something that always brought them comfort: making music. Little Rope was born.

Despite such a tragic, major life change and trying to make it through a global pandemic, Sleater-Kinney’s motive remains consistent.

"We hope to find people where they're at," Tucker explains to "And it seems like we have, in each stage of someone’s life."

After hosting a GRAMMY U SoundChecks event with the Pacific Northwest Chapter of GRAMMY U, Sleater-Kinney sat down with to talk about their perspective on the ever-changing industry and the legendary bands they pull inspiration from.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

It has been almost 30 years since you all released your first album. In what ways has Sleater-Kinney changed since then and what has stayed consistent? 

Corin Tucker: We still try to write songs that are emotional and that reach people. Our songwriting has developed over the years and I think we have different methodologies for writing. But, really the most important point of a song is that it makes people feel something. We still try to judge what we do by the same metric as we did 30 years ago.

Carrie Brownstein: One thing we set out to do is to have a unique sound and I think we created a sonic language with each other that we've tried to maintain, but also push the narrative forward and challenge ourselves with each album. That's been consistent from the beginning, we never — even in the early years — wanted one album to sound like the last one. Things change and the industry changes. We just try to stay true to ourselves, but also adapt.

Are there any of your early projects that you feel still resonate to this day? 

Corin Tucker: The funny thing about streaming is that people are finding some of those older songs and really getting into them. We found out at the end of last year that people were really into one or two songs off of our very first self-titled record. A really nice thing about having your music available digitally is that it's available to everyone all over the world. 

Path of Wellness (2021) was self-produced, as it was made during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and Little Rope (2024) was produced by GRAMMY-winning producer John Congleton. What was it like going from a self-produced project to having John on the next project? Was there a certain reason you chose to work with John? 

Carrie Brownstein: Self-producing for us was very anomalous. We've always worked with producers and one of the reasons is to just have an outside perspective — somebody to come in and be the tiebreaker or to just bounce ideas off of. So, it was kind of a no-brainer to return to a producer after the solitary of the pandemic. 

We have always been fans of John Congleton's work. We come from similar backgrounds and have been in talks to work with him for a while. Fortunately for this album, it worked out and we felt like these songs would be really well served by his productions. 

Could you tell us a little bit about your dynamic as a music duo? When writing songs, do you both try to work on them 50/50 or is it on-and-off, where one of you may take the lead for certain songs? And what was this collaboration like specifically with Little Rope? 

Corin Tucker: Our goal is always to make the song as strong as it can be. We’ve worked together long enough to know that that's the most important thing. Sometimes a song is more an idea of one or the other, and you need to wait until they’ve fleshed it out to come in with your parts. We have a bunch of different modalities and we just try to keep the conversation going. It's a lot about communication – it's an ongoing constant conversation between the two of us on where the song is at and what we think it might need.

Can you share any standout memories or experiences from when you were writing Little Rope?

Carrie Brownstein: My friend has an apartment in Downtown Portland and he was out of town. So, he let us use the space as a writing studio. And neither of us live in Downtown Portland, so it was interesting to be in this highrise in Portland looking out over the city — sort of being in conversation with the city and changing the landscape in which we were writing was nice to have.

As Pacific Northwest natives, how do you see your Pacific Northwest roots stick out in your music? 

Corin Tucker: A lot of the sounds from the historic bands you can hear in our music. You can hear Nirvana, you can hear the Fastbacks, so you can hear so many of those Pacific Northwest musicians. They were bands that we grew up with and bands that we still try and emulate with what we do.

I feel like a good number of Sleater-Kinney fans have stayed fans and grown with you all over the years. What about your music and your brand do you think resonates with people even in different stages of their lives, and how did you foster this dynamic? 

Carrie Brownstein: Sleater-Kinney’s a very earnest band. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and I think our audience appreciates that rawness and vulnerability. It's emotional music.

We have a lot of younger and newer fans. I think they relate to the emotionality and the honesty in the music, so that’s what we try to stick with.

You have said that The Showbox is one of your favorite venues to play at in Seattle. How does it feel being back at The Showbox for two sold-out shows? 

Carrie Brownstein: We really enjoy the intimacy of a smaller venue, allowing the fans to get a little closer to the stage and feeling more connected with them. It's just nice to feel a sense of history, a through line with our career and our relationship with the city. We're really excited to be here. 

I’m curious to know how your fans reacted to Little Rope. Have you noticed any common reactions to the project? Or any particular responses that have stood out?

Corin Tucker: People really relate to the emotion in the music. We've gotten a lot of people saying that it helped them through a hard time. Having that impact on people is pretty special when they feel like it's okay to be emotional and process things with music.

Lastly, you have the rest of your international tour to go, but what else is coming up for Sleater-Kinney? 

Corin Tucker: We're very excited to play shows internationally. There may be some cool stuff coming up that maybe hasn't been announced yet, but we're looking forward to more touring.

Carrie Brownstein: For an album cycle, it's almost two years and so, for the most part it will be, it'll be touring and then we'll write something else.

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Sheryl Crow press photo 2024
Sheryl Crow

Photo: Dove Shore


Sheryl Crow's 'Evolution': The Rock Icon On Her "Liberating" New Album, The Song That's Her "Favorite Child" & More

As Sheryl Crow adds another album to her catalog, the freshly minted Rock & Roll Hall of Famer reflects on the major moments, musings and mushroom trips that led her to the unexpected new project.

GRAMMYs/Apr 4, 2024 - 04:24 pm

When Sheryl Crow released her tenth studio album, 2019's Threads, she declared it'd be her last — even calling it "a beautiful final statement."

"People don't listen to whole bodies of work anymore. In fact, I'm not sure they even listen to a whole song anymore," Crow explains. "So it seemed kind of, not only futile, but also, at this stage, it seems like a long process that's expensive when really, it's best to put out something you really believe in."

As it turns out, she really believed in her eleventh album, Evolution

Crow's music has always been as insightful as it is catchy, and Evolution is perhaps the most existential example of that. Throughout, the nine-time GRAMMY winner  poignantly muses over the state of the world and humankind, while also reflecting on the moments and the ideals that still give her hope. Along the way, she throws in very Sheryl Crow quips ("Anger sucks, but at least your brand's trending," she sings on "Broken Record") and makes some important statements ("We are brilliant, we are kind/ But sometimes we miss the glaring signs," she urges on the title track).

If Evolution ends up being Crow's actual last album, she'd certainly be going out in signature style. It's a culmination of what's made her music so timeless: unabashed honesty, soulful musicality, and unbridled joy. sat down with Crow to discuss her unexpected album, her "liberating" new creative process, and major moments that have made her career feel like a fairy tale.

After declaring that you wouldn't make any more albums, how did creating Evolution change your perspective on the rest of your career? Do you think you'll go back to making albums?

Well, this was not like any experience I have ever had. I've never made a record where I wasn't there for it. I mean, I was there, but when I typically make a record, everything starts and ends with me. 

This was me sending a guitar vocal to this incredible producer, Mike Elizondo, who basically was like Martin Scorsese. He would take my little screenplay and just build this cinematic landscape around it. I've never had that experience where I walk in and hear myself in the context of something I've never heard before. And it was really a beautiful experience. 

Once I got over the fact that I'm not playing everything — once you check your ego and go, Wait a minute, this is exactly what you wanted. You wanted your stories, your thoughts to be built on — it made it so different than any process I've ever experienced. 

Will I go back and make records the way I used to? I don't know. I'm going to quit saying I'm never gonna do an album again, because I don't know. [Laughs.]

You've said that this is kind of a diary turned into an album. You can actually feel that in some of the songs. I can envision you sitting down and just spilling your heart out, and then it turning into a song.

I've never made a record where I just wrote the song and then let it go, and then it came back to me. It was a really colossal gift that I gave myself, to let go of it and be okay with what came back to me. 

Luckily, there was no disappointment in what came back, because I know Mike Elizondo so well — like, for 20 years. And the interesting thing about this process is the whole thing came together over one song that we put on the record [last]. 

It's called "Digging In The Dirt," it's a Peter Gabriel cover. It's on the deluxe [version of Evolution]. I called Mike, I said, "I have been really soul searching. I've done a guided mushroom tour. I am really trying to navigate how I'm feeling about this moment in our humanity, and I want to do this song 'Digging In The Dirt,' would you produce it?" He said yes. 

We sent it to Peter, and quite a long time went by, and [when we] got it back, he'd put himself on it. Then, it was like, Okay, we have an album.

I imagine that you probably weren't thinking he would put himself on the cover.

I wasn't. We sent it to him and he really liked it. And I said, "If, you know… no pressure!" 

Of course, it's a compliment. But I think his work is pretty emblematic of what this record is about: Digging deep and taking no prisoners, calling out what you see, trying to figure out a way to get back to [your] authentic self — which is what every human being at some moment in their life will struggle with.

I feel like you've always been pretty outspoken in your music — not in an abrasive way, but just in a way that you're very assured of the message you're spreading.

I hope so. It's a weird thing to be now — because when you think about music before MTV and VH1, like before videos, you'd write a song and there was no image that was attached to it. Then MTV and VH1 [come along, and] suddenly you're writing little stories [for visuals], and that gets in somebody's head. Like, I can listen to Madonna song, and instead of what I experienced, I remember the video.

Now, you put out songs, and there's so much branding and social media that you're attached to before you ever hear the song, that it taints what your songs are about, you know? And it can also make you [think], I would never listen to her because she's a liberal

It's like we're programmed to decide if we could like somebody's song based on how we feel about that person. It's different than it used to be. All that to say, there's nothing that can stop me from writing, because it's the thing that I know how to do. It's a salve for me.

I saw an interview with the Guardian where you answered fan questions, and someone asked about how your creative process evolved. And you were basically like, "I don't know who's listening anymore, and I don't really care who's listening. So I'm just gonna say what I feel." Do you feel more creatively liberated than you ever have?

I do. I mean, there were many periods during the process of making the albums in the early days where I would sit and listen to the body of work and go, I gotta write something that could maybe get played at radio. There's none of that anymore. Because radio is based on streams, and streams is based on social media and TikTok, and all that stuff. And also, being my age, I can't even hope to be played anyway. So it is liberating.

That's not to say that it's not frustrating. It is frustrating to feel like you're writing some of your best work and [have to ask] Will anybody hear it? But I had to stay out of the outcome, just like I've always done, and be into the process. And that's where I continue to find my joy.

You've been able to celebrate a lot of success before the streaming era took over. This year actually marks 30 years since "All I Wanna Do," hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, which started a very epic run for you, including your first GRAMMY wins. What do you remember from that time?

When I reflect on that night, I think I was not equipped to hold all that. In fact, it's funny, I look at what I wore, and it was very not designer. I just was a country bumpkin. [Laughs.]

We had already toured for, like, a year, and nothing had really — I mean, it was just starting to pick up, and then "All I Wanna Do" came out, and it exploded. And then I was nominated for GRAMMYs, and won the GRAMMYs, and then the next day, we played in San Francisco like it never even happened. 

It took a little time — in fact, the better part of that year — to realize that, at that time, the GRAMMYs, which was the one night of the year that everyone tuned into, that winning a GRAMMY could change the trajectory of your career. Just from the GRAMMYs, and that visibility, my record sales expanded exponentially. It was just over the top. 

It was a whirlwind. And what looked like, to most people, as being an overnight success, to me, being a 30-year-old, I felt like I'd worked my whole life — I studied piano, I taught school. I had a whole life before I ever made it. 

It was a bizarre time. And obviously, there's no guidebook for how to become famous and how to navigate that. So I just tried to really stay in my lane, and I didn't really enjoy it as much as I could have enjoyed it. I wish now I could go back and say, "You need to enjoy it more! Be a rock star!" [Laughs.]

You were just inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and you've hung out with — and recorded with — Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. I would say that puts you in the ranks of a rock star!

I've been so dang lucky. And that was an amazing thing. I grew up in the middle of farmland, in a town with three stoplights. And my parents were like, "You work hard and you're a good person, good things will happen." 

You just don't really know what life can be like. As you get older, you realize that the stories we tell ourselves [when we're younger] about what [life] can be can be very limiting,

In my particular instance, I could not have envisioned knowing these massive heroes that I got to brush up against, and I got to learn from. I think there's not an award on the planet that could measure knowing some of these people. 

I mean, even singing with Willie Nelson, for as long as we've sung together is — the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame [performance with him] was just icing on the cake. To be in a "club" — as my dad calls it — with the people that wrote the book on it is just very humbling.

I read that you didn't even want to record "All I Wanna Do" at first. Is there a song you've never gotten sick of playing?

After two years of touring that record, I was so sick of ["All I Wanna Do"]. Now, of course, I play it with absolute and total gratitude, because it's taken me to St. Petersburg, to Tokyo, to Bogota, to Tel Aviv. That song has literally taken me all over the world, and I've watched people who don't speak English sing the many thousands of words in that song. 

There is one song that I love every time I play it, and when it comes on the radio, I don't turn it off. It's "My Favorite Mistake." The original intent of it, the experience of writing it, the feel of the song. It feels like the best song in my catalog.

That's a big statement! You don't see artists making that statement a lot, because they're like, "Oh, I can't pick one, they're all like my children!" 

"My Favorite Mistake" is my favorite child. There, I'll say it.

It's amazing to have a piece of work like that, right? I can imagine that you have so many songs you're proud of, but it's very cool to have a song, no matter what it meant to other people, for it to feel so special to you.

It is. You hear that woo-woo statement of "I was just a vessel." I've had a few of those songs where I go, "Okay, that's weird. I don't know how I wrote that song top to bottom." There are those songs, and I do look at that and go, "Okay, there is some divinity in that." 

Because we learn really early on how to craft a good song — what the form of a good song is, how to build interest in it, how to make it exciting, how to hold the listener. All kinds of crafting tricks. But on the odd occasion you get, like, a "Redemption Day," which you go, "I don't know how I wrote that song, because that's not even how I write," and 15 years later, Johnny Cash records it. 

There are those songs where you think you just got to be in the room for it. "My Favorite Mistake" was a little bit like that. It was so effortless. Most of the lyrics I sang onto the mic as I was playing it on bass, writing it with Jeff [Trott, Crow's frequent collaborator]. 

It just fell together, and it felt so authentic to how gutted I was over my relationship falling apart. And I think sometimes that is what makes a song universal — it's the emotion we all experience no matter what the experience looks like. 

That can very much apply to Evolution as well — in a very different way than "My Favorite Mistake," but there's a lot of relatable sentiments on this album. 

I think as a mom, as a person who's raising two young people, a lot of what I'm asking myself — and what I'm witnessing, which causes me to scratch my head — I don't know what to do with it. And you can't really engage anymore in narrative conversation where people share ideas, and try to come up with solutions, and make compromises. Because we are now being, I guess, in some ways, programmed to not do that, you know? To not give in to the other side because it might be a show of weakness.

My safe haven is to write songs, and this process was really that. And I can safely say, without ego, I love the way that it turned out, and that is because I did not produce it. It's just my songs and a great movie around them.

So your biggest takeaway from this album is that you should stop producing your own work…

My biggest takeaway is I should just sit and write little songs and then fire them off to a producer.

You know, that's what they're there for, right?

Exactly! That's why we pay you, anyway! [Laughs.]

You're such a statement-based artist and you've always stuck to your guns. What are some things that you look back on and you're like, Man, that is exactly what I set out to do?

Oh my gosh, I have so many that now I allow myself to feel proud of. I think it's our knee-jerk to not ever give ourselves a minute of homage. 

I got to sing with Pavarotti. I got to sing a piece by Mozart in front of my mom and dad in Modena Italy for War Child. The look on my parents' faces will never leave me, ever. My parents are musicians. I don't think they could have envisioned their little girl, like, singing legitimate music, after the years of piano lessons and getting my degree in voice and piano. 

To see me up there singing Mozart with Pavarotti, and then getting to play my own music with Eric Clapton backing me [at the same event], that one moment was a personal highlight for sure.

I've had some incredible experiences — getting to sing with, like you said, Dylan, and getting to walk out on stage with the Rolling Stones and strut around and be a rock star. But doesn't it all come back to your parents, ultimately? I will never forget the emotional looks on their faces. And I will carry that with me forever. 

Well, especially, like you've been talking about, coming out of such a small town. What you've accomplished is so rare, especially coming from a place with three stoplights.

To bring your parents all the way to Italy! They'd never been out of the country and [I had to say] "Okay, you guys are gonna have to get a passport. You're gonna drive an hour and a half to the airport in Memphis, Tennessee. You're gonna fly all the way across the world." 

You know, those are the things that fairy tales are made of. And I would say that my life has been a fairy tale.

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Nickelback Press Photo 2024

Photo: Richard Beland


Nickelback Dares You To 'Hate To Love' Them In New Doc: 6 Revelations From Bassist Mike Kroeger

As Nickelback's new film heads to streaming platforms, the group's Mike Kroeger details how 'Hate To Love' is about "the humility of the band" — and helps them reclaim their story.

GRAMMYs/Apr 2, 2024 - 05:53 pm

When a band achieves global success like Nickelback, fans may think they know them. It may be a cliché, but how well does any fan really know their favorite band? That's a question that both serious devotees and detractors will find themselves asking in light of the new documentary, Hate To Love.

Directed by The Sound Of Scars director Leigh Brooks, the feature film shows how the band worked incredibly hard to escape their far-flung small town of Hanna in Alberta, Canada, and braved the rough terrain — and sometimes brutal weather conditions — to build up their name North of the border before being signed to Roadrunner Records in 1999. It also chronicles the backlash they faced when their success and their music put them in the crosshairs of internet haters and meme creators everywhere.

While Hate To Love does not break down all the reasons for the vitriol in extremely specific details (although a media montage does show how some of their fans also get mocked for liking them), the film shows what it's like to be facing that disdain both virtually and publicly. And most importantly, it offers a new perspective: Nickelback's.

"People will create the narrative if you don't supply it," bassist Mike Kroeger tells "I think that that's where some of that negative sentiment came from — much less [from] what we're doing, and more from a vacuum of information."

As he suggests, Hate To Love film was a chance for Nickelback to reveal some aspects of themselves and their career. We get to learn a lot more about Mike and his famous frontman brother, Chad Kroeger, along with guitarist Ryan Peake, and drummer Daniel Adair, and the different types of adversity that they have all faced — the many years toiling away in clubs, the hateful "corporate rock" tag that was foisted on them, the effect it had on their kids, their serious medical scares, and even personal insecurities among members of the group.  

But what makes the film most impactful is that we also get to hear from their parents, children, relatives, management, and media people. The culmination of personal stories and anecdotes from those on the outside helps humanize Nickelback in a way they've never been able to amid the mockery — and will win over anyone who has loved (or hated) to love them. Mike calls it a "tell most";  it's not about airing all the dirty laundry, it's about showing them as people.  

After the doc briefly hit select theaters on March 27 and 30 (it first premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)), Hate To Love will be available to stream on VEEPS starting April 12. To commemorate the doc's release, Mike Kroeger sat down with to break down what he hopes both fans and naysayers will take away from Hate To Love.

Three Of The Members Suffered Major Medical Crises

Mike suffered a near-fatal stroke at age 41 while working out. He spent two weeks in the hospital and several months recuperating. Chad had to have surgery for his vocal cords; while the official diagnosis for what happened was not revealed — and Mike says it was called so many different things during that time that he can't remember — the singer was not allowed to speak for a month. Daniel developed a rare neurological condition that affected his right arm up to his neck, and in turn he thought his career with the band was over.

But Chad rallied around his bandmates to support them, as they did for him.

"I feel like all of these fragile human moments that we had — my brain blowing up, my brother's vocal cords going bad, and Daniel's very complex condition — and also with COVID, we got shown in a very short period of time how fragile this situation is, and how lucky we are to be able to do this," Mike says. "This can be taken away at any time. I think it made everybody just a little more sensitive to [knowing] this is a gift, this is just a totally awesome gift to be able to do this for a living. It's absurd."

Only guitarist Ryan Peake has not had a major medical issue. "That we know of," the bassist quips. "He's the most likely to have a health crisis and not tell anyone."

Firing Previous Drummer Ryan Vikedal Was Painful For Them

Vikedal played with the band on their second through fourth albums, 1998's The State, 2001's Silver Side Up, and 2003's The Long Road. During the doc, we learn that Vikedal started to suffer from burnout, and his bandmates sensed that things weren't working; they now both acknowledge the chemistry was not there anymore. As the group prepared to make their fifth album, 2005's All The Right Reasons, they made a difficult change that their drummer didn't expect and fired him.

"It was terrible," Mike admits. "It was really, really hard. It's like firing a member of your family. It is business, and the decision to let him go was not a personal one. It was more of like, Hey, we can see this is not functional, and we're going to act before this just falls apart. We felt that that was coming, that if we pretended that everything was fine and kept doing that, probably sooner rather than later something was gonna happen."

Of course, it's never just business, and Mike concedes that. "We're not firing a person out of personality conflict," he says. "Of course, it's personal. There's no way to say, Hey, man, no hard feelings, right? Yeah, right."

The doc also reveals how Peake visited Vikedal years later to try to mend fences — one Ryan to another — and the old bandmates hashed things out and renewed their friendship.

Daniel Adair, who previously played with 3 Doors Down, took many years to shed the "new guy" title in his own mind. The turning point was when the band supported him during his neurological struggles rather than letting him go which is what he feared. They wanted him to stay as he was part of their family.

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Crowd-Commanding Frontman Chad Kroeger Is More Sensitive Than You Might Think

In the documentary, the singer and guitarist reveals that while he can shrug or laugh off 90 percent of the barbs and insults hurled their way, some of it hurts. 

As the doc shows, Chad is a workaholic who has spent a lot of time in the studio; unlike his bandmates, he is not married with children, so their priorities can be different at times. When he was a kid, Chad got in trouble with the police for a lot of petty crimes like theft and breaking and entering, although as his brother jokes, "He never got arrested for working too hard."

Something deeper is also at play. "The Chad that I know is still the boy who just wants love," says Mike. "He was the bad kid that a lot of kids weren't allowed to play with... nevertheless, it's still tragic that you kind of feel unworthy. I know that that's a typical male condition to feel unworthy — and I have it, a lack of self-worth. 

"When you take a person who already has a stunted self-worth — maybe the impostor syndrome isn't all of it, that maybe you actually don't feel that you deserve this — you've got to work harder and harder and harder to justify the gifts," he continues. "The problem during COVID was that purpose was removed. And then who are you? Who am I if we don't do this? Who's Chad, who's Ryan, who's Daniel, who are we? Now what's our function? What's our purpose? It was kind of difficult."

The Internet Has Been A Blessing And A Curse For Them

The film makes a good case for paralleling the storm of vitriol against the band and the rise of social media in the mid-2000s. Mike says they could arguably be Patient Zero for cyberbullying, which his brother says spilled out in the real world when people would shout out insults at him in public. Mike and Ryan's children also speak about being hated at school simply because their dads were in the band.

The bassist admits that he thinks the dearth of real information about Nickelback and where they're coming from led to a narrative created by others. At the same time, he admits, "I think we can wear some of the responsibility for that. All of our biggest and favorite rock groups went through this. Long before social media, Jon Bon Jovi and his band were getting beat up by the hate stick just because they were successful. Every guy wanted to be them, and every girl wanted to be with them, and thus they must be destroyed. [Laughs.] That's what happens to you."

But in Mike's eyes, hitting it big in an internet-driven era hasn't been all bad. "I don't think we would have broken through in the first place without the controversial Napster file sharing situation," he suggests, "because a lot of people heard of us for the first time on Napster and on these file sharing platforms. So I think that there's been externals that have worked in our favor, very much so."

They Don't Need To Be Compared To Anybody Else

At one point in the film, Chad says, "I play Nickelback songs to Nickelback fans. So I don't have to go and win over someone who doesn't like my band. That sounds like some very strange form of torture, probably for both of us."

His brother remarks to Grammy that some of the disdain thrown their way comes from "an outgrowth of another condition" about how the public perceives rock stars. He points to bands like Queen and U2 or a performer like Prince, and how they are archetypal musicians and rock stars who people think have a special or unusual quality to them.

"Then they look at us and they're like, What makes these guys so [special]? Why do they deserve this? They're just normal guys. Why them?" Mike muses. "And I don't disagree with that. It's true. We are just normal guys. We're not Prince, we're not weirdos. So then the question is: Why should anybody think that we're that special? And the answer is they shouldn't. They just shouldn't. We don't think they should. It just turns out people really like the music, and I don't want to argue with that. I'm not mad at it."

There Are Things About Them You Will Simply Never Know — Nor Should You

As Mike explains, being in Nickelback is a brotherhood — and there are some things that will stay only between them.

"I think you just go through so many guttural, gritty, sometimes emotional, sometimes tragic situations, that after a while, you look at the team around you, and you just go, We're together. We've experienced these things with people that we work with in this tight group that other people just can't understand. 

"We have an encyclopedia of inside jokes inside this group," he adds. "There's also an encyclopedia of life experience that we only have in common with each other. Nobody's wives know this stuff. Nobody's families know this stuff. The public doesn't know this stuff. We know each other on a level that no one else gets to share. There is still that element of being a gang."

Even if all is not revealed in Hate To Love, the film offers some insight into what makes them tick. They know that their music was overexposed in the early to mid-2000s. They know that some people don't like their music period. But they're not the first band to elicit strong reactions, and they're not a "corporate rock" media creation. They're small-town dudes who made a mark on the rock world, whether you love, hate, or hate To love them.

"[For] anybody who thought that Nickelback was just a big monolith thing that doesn't care what anybody thinks and just hoovers up money and cranks out hits," Mike declares, "this documentary humanizes us in a way that is not about humiliating us — but it's about the humility of the band."

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