meta-script5 Highlights Of GRAMMY U's Spring 2022 Mentorship Program | GRAMMY.com
GRAMMY U 2022 mentorship hero
Tianna Groelly poses in front of the Times Square billboard she helped create

Photo courtesy of Tianna Groelly/GRAMMY U

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5 Highlights Of GRAMMY U's Spring 2022 Mentorship Program

GRAMMY U's mentorship program pairs college students with music industry professionals, with the goal of becoming successful in the industry. GRAMMY.com shares the stories of five participants.

GRAMMYs/May 18, 2022 - 10:35 pm

At the beginning of each semester, GRAMMY U — a nationwide program that connects college students with music industry professionals — hosts a mentorship program. Mentors and student mentees are paired based on the interests of the student and the experience of the mentor. This year’s spring mentorship program included 2,000 participants and, for the first time, was available in every GRAMMY U chapter.

The program offers students an invaluable experience and insight about how to become successful in various aspects of the industry. For example, mentee Tess Considine had the privilege of being paired up with singer/songwriter Jordin Sparks for the program. Although this semester's program has come to a close, its core purpose continues to thrive through the connections that have been made.

Here are some of this semester’s mentorship highlights from 10 out of 2,000 participants who participated this year.

Tianna Groelly | Mentee | New York Chapter 

P La Cangri | Mentor | New York Chapter 

Tianna Groelly, a music technology and journalism student at Rutgers University, was paired with Latin artist P La Cangri. Groelly hoped that she would be paired with a mentor who would not only lend sound advice — but let her be heavily involved.

"Hands-on experience is the best thing you can get from a program like this," Groelly says. Cangri gave her exactly that. Beginning with in-person lunches, this pair developed a sincere and deep bond. P La even invited her mentee out to Miami to shoot a music video for her song, "Atrevete." Groelly threw herself into the video shoot, taking constant photos and behind-the-scenes footage. One of Groelly's pictures even ended up on a billboard in Times Square.

"As a college student, an accomplishment like this would only be in my wildest dreams, so I can’t thank everyone involved enough for letting me be a part of something like this!"  

Groelly wasn’t the only one to benefit from the program, though. Beyond her parents, Cangri said she never had any mentorship programs when she was coming up in the industry. She feels that Tianna taught her to let go, and to trust someone else’s perspective every now and then, because they may see something you don’t. While the two started out as simply a mentor/mentee pairing, Groelly and Cangri plan to continue working with and learning from each other as equals.

Valeria Alvarez | Mentee | Florida Chapter

Dr. Donna Singer | Mentor | Florida Chapter

Valeria Alvarez is a sound and music business management student at Valencia College. She was paired with Donna Singer, PhD, who is an international jazz vocalist and is also a part of Emerald Baby Recording Company LLC.  

The two virtually met with three different people in the businesses of acting, music and modeling. They met with Carlos Pinera where they learned of how he got his start in a Colombian band. Alvarez also had a chance to speak with Hunter Isbell, a GRAMMY-nominated sound engineer who created the album Bogota. Alvarez said her interview with actress Crystal Tweed inspired her to "really get into action with the things I want to do in the music industry and music in general."

Raven Hayes | Mentee | New York Chapter

Deryck Vanerbilt-Nicholson | Mentor | New York Chapter

Raven Hayes, an undergraduate music business major at NYU, was paired with Deryck Vanderbilt-Nicholson, who has significant experience in artist management, marketing, sync and licensing, A&R and creative and corporate strategy.  

Hayes says she learned a lot from Vanderbilt-Nicholson about channeling her focus to be considered a serious candidate in the digital and artist marketing space. Hayes's mentor taught her to do the work, remain patient and research.  "I have new confidence in my future in the music industry after graduation thanks to the guidance of Deryck and our mutual dedication to the GRAMMY U Mentorship Program," Hayes says.  

Vanderbilt-Nicholson even learned a few things from Hayes. He said he learned time management, and through helping Hayes with her application process, he’s learned how much the industry is changing.  

"I’ve never had a program like this. I wish I did," he admits. "I try to do my best to create visibility and representation. I enjoy this program through the Recording Academy, in partnership with GRAMMY U, because it allows me to do that. It’s important work, and I look forward to continuing impacting the new faces in music that need assistance!" 

rebecca and ryan grammy u mentorship 22

Rebecca Sanchez | Mentee | LA Chapter

Ryan Shore | Mentor | LA Chapter

Rebecca Sanchez took part in the mentorship program with hopes that she would learn ways to break into the music industry, and was paired with film score composer Ryan Shore. Sanchez said he helped her build her music portfolio and taught her better ways to pitch herself.  

One of the best opportunities Shone was able to give Sanchez was connections to other songwriters, producers and musicians. He connected her with individuals working in pop and K-pop, such as artist/songwriter Celeste Scott. Sanchez says that because of her mentor, she is ending this program with a better sense of networking and collaborating with other industry professionals to further her career in the music industry.  

"If there’s someone like me out there who doesn’t know how to break into the music industry or is trying to break through all on their own, GRAMMY U and its mentorship program is the right step in the right direction," Sanchez says.

Amir Duke | Mentee | Atlanta Chapter

Tyronne Sanders | Mentor | Atlanta Chapter

Amir Duke is a rising senior at Morehouse College majoring in economics with a desire to be in A&R. He was paired with Tyronne Sanders, who has 10 years of experience in A&R, promotions and artist management. Amir said he came into this program simply hoping to learn a little more about the music business and how it operates. However, he walked away with much more.  

Through the help of Sanders, he grew his network outside of college students to executives at companies such as 300 Entertainment, Motown Records, Mezzo Agency and more. Duke got an amazing opportunity to assist Sanderse in having a private listening party for rap artist Big Boogie, signed to the label CMG. The event hosted over 400 guests. Duke jumped in and assisted with setting up a marketing plan for fans, visuals for activation, and the run of show for the event.

Sanders wanted to teach Duke to follow up on your word, be efficient, and to be one of the "good guys."  "The biggest thing I wanted to teach him is that his work directly affects the dreams and livelihood of artists. So, he shouldn’t take what he does lightly," Sanders says, adding that he didn’t have a program like when he was starting out in the industry.  

"Overall, the advice I've received throughout this program has prepared me for the next step in my music industry career," Duke adds. "I believe that the A&R advice I received from Ty allows me to approach new artists with an opportunity that can take them to the next level."    

Stories like these are the heart of the program, and inspire music industry professionals to pay it forward, so that the next generation can flourish. These one-of-a-kind relationships are not only a memorable part of a student's journey, but provide hands-on experience that sometimes cannot be provided anywhere else.  

The GRAMMY U Mentorship program hosts around  1,000 participants each semester, offering an exclusive benefit for GRAMMY U members who are looking to find genuine and inspiring relationships during their collegiate journey in the music business.  

GRAMMY U will open its mentorship program again this fall, with applications opening in late summer/early fall 2022. Each semester has proven to be even better than the last due to the growth and success of the program. If you are interested in participating as a mentor or mentee next semester, please follow us on Instagram @grammyu for updates.   

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grammy u monthly member playlist updated look

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Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: In Bloom Monthly Member Playlist

The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from our talented members. This month's mix of pop, indie and jazz-influenced tracks are the perfect jams to turn on as spring takes full bloom.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2024 - 12:50 pm

Did you know that among all GRAMMY U members, songwriting and performance are some of the most sought after fields of study? This playlist dedicates a space to hear what these members are creating today!

The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that members are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.

Each month, we accept submissions and feature 15 to 25 songs that match each month’s theme. This month, we’ve crafted the perfect mix of pop, indie, and jazz-inspired tunes to jam to as the sun comes out and spring takes full bloom. Highlighting our Nashville Songwriter Showcase Finalists, alongside lively songs from our members, we're confident you'll discover a new track to freshen up your current rotation. So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.

Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our summer playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip-hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify, Apple Music and/or Amazon Music link to the song. Artists must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.

About GRAMMY U:

GRAMMY U is a program that connects aspiring professionals and creatives ages 18-29 with the music industry's brightest and most talented minds. We provide a community for emerging professionals and creatives in addition to various opportunities and tools necessary to start a career in music. Throughout the program year, events and initiatives touch on all facets of the industry, including business, technology, and the creative process.

As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.

Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.

Former GRAMMY U Reps Heather Howard and Sophie Griffiths contributed to this article.

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Billy Porter at the GRAMMY U conference in New York City
Beanie Feldstein with keynote speaker Ben Platt at the GRAMMY U Conference

Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images for the Recording Academy

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5 Takeaways From The 2024 GRAMMY U Conference In New York City

GRAMMY U’s 2024 Conference presented an action-packed, motivating slate panels on everything from Broadway to studio albums with Ben Platt, a performance workshop with Billy Porter, and live music production on late night television with Remi Wolf.

GRAMMYs/Apr 30, 2024 - 02:45 pm

On April 20th, GRAMMY U members and industry professionals gathered at the Times Center in New York City for the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference presented by Amazon Music. 

The GRAMMY U team prepared an action-packed and motivating day of panels "Live From New York," focusing on topics from live performances to the business behind Broadway productions. Keynote speaker Ben Platt talked about the transition from a Broadway star to recording his solo studio album, followed by a performance workshop with Billy Porter, and live music production on late night television with Remi Wolf.

Once members arrived, they took advantage of professional development opportunities and mingled with other GRAMMY U members before attending the conference panels. Attendees visited the robust Career Center which included a professional headshot station, resume review station, and a dedicated speed networking hour with industry professionals within the Recording Academy, Amazon Music and more. These collaborations allowed for the next generation of music creatives and professionals to gain first-hand experience with mentors across various business sectors and musical genres.

Below are five impactful takeaways from the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference.

Shed Your Armor To Embrace Vulnerability 

After a two-year performance run on Broadway starring in "Dear Evan Hansen", Ben Platt shifted his priority toward making original music and sharing personal storylines.

In "Live! With Ben Platt," moderated by actor and long-time best friend of Platt's, Beanie Feldstein discussed Platt's bold choice of stepping back from portraying fictional characters on stage, to now releasing original music with his upcoming album Honeymind

"The gratification of connecting with your own experiences and seeing people really use the songs in their lives is so infinitely beyond the worries," Platt shared. 

Crossing over from a Broadway stage to pop music, Platt suggested that a key to success is trusting one's vocal technique and individual sound to translate your perspective.  

Beanie Feldstein and Ben Platt on stage at the GRAMMY U conference

Beanie Feldstein with keynote speaker Ben Platt at the GRAMMY U Conference | Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Consistently Perfect The Fundamentals 

During the performance workshop "Standing in the Spotlight with Billy Porter," GRAMMY, Emmy, and two-time Tony Award-Winner Billy Porter sat down with SiriusXM Program Director Julie James. They discussed the importance of performance critique in helping artists perfect their craft and captivate audiences, as well as strategies for maintaining overall health while on tour.

Porter mentioned that while critiques are important for artists to continue improving their vocal abilities, knowing how to meet personal needs and goals is just as important.

"As you sift through [critiques], you have the right to choose what's right for you and what isn't," Porter said before posing the question, "What notes are good for your vision, and which aren't?"

Billy Porter stands to deliver advice to the audience at the GRAMMY U conference

Left to Right: GRAMMY U Performer Roy Gantz, Billy Porter and moderator Julie James | Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

This marked the first time GRAMMY U included a performance workshop in its programming, and it provided a fresh perspective from the best in the business. GRAMMY U National Membership Representative Roy Gantz sang "Someone to Watch Over Me," accompanied on piano by Tedd Firth, and received real-time feedback from Billy Porter in front of a live audience. 

"From the minute you hit the stage, to when you get to that mic[rophone], it's about your presence. Keep connecting with us [the audience]," Porter told Gantz.

Porter emphasized the importance of mastering the original melody and musical notations of a song before incorporating riffs and embellishments of popular pieces, and praised Gantz for his advanced technique and interpretation.

"Believe in what you have to offer. In honoring your authenticity, you teach people on the outside how to receive you," Porter advised the audience. 

Stay Vocal, Relationships Are Everything

"On the Screen: Performing On Live TV" featured panelists Yeji Cha-Beach, the Music Associate Producer on NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers Show, Marnie Stern, former member of the 8G Band on the Seth Meyers Show, and pop recording artist Remi Wolf. Moderated by Siobhan Schanda, the panelists discussed the intricacies of playing on a live TV set including lighting, sound, and design choices. Wolf mentioned her preference for performing with her touring musicians and a live band. 

"Put the music first and try to develop your own style," Wolf said. "The most I've ever felt proud of my work was when I followed my gut." 

Stern remarked that although socializing and navigating the music industry network did not always come naturally, connecting and playing with other musicians was vital to her success as a live TV musician. She described one of the biggest differences between playing on live television and working on her own recording artistry.

"You're selling a commercial product and your job is to entertain," Stern said. "With your own work, your job is to present your feelings and emotions. Everyone is working to further not only the artist but the network." 

Cha-Beach offered guidance for aspiring TV music producers, stating, "Be curious, try as many things as you possibly can. Knowing when to say yes is just as important as knowing when to say no."

The “Sounds of the Stage” panel at the GRAMMY U conference

 Left to Right: Siobhan Schanda (moderator), Yeji Cha-Beach, Marnie Stern, Remi Wolf; Close-up photo of Remi Wolf | Photos: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

A Great Musical Takes Time 

The "Sounds of the Stage" panel conducted a candid conversation about the behind-the-scenes process of composing and writing music for musicals. Kurt Deutsch (Senior Vice President at Warner Music Entertainment and Theatrical Ventures) was joined by David Lai (Co-Founder Park Avenue Artists), Kathy Sommer (Composer, Conductor, Producer), and moderator Thomas Winkler (Head of Publisher, Songwriter, and Society Relations at Amazon Music). 

These panelists conducted a candid conversation about the behind-the-scenes process of composing and writing music for musicals. They focused on how Broadway theater experience translated into the process of recording live studio albums.

"You can't bring it to the stage until the bones are set, until things are solidified," Lai said. It's worth spending the time to use the resources we have to work on your material."

Deutsch described the nuances of recording a pop album versus a cast performance record which has quick turnaround times. Often, they are recorded in a single day-long session due to budgeting costs for the orchestra and cast members involved. 

The main goal of a cast album is to allow audiences to relive the emotional experience they had in the theater setting, and for newcomers to still be able to relate to the show's characters and themes through a sonic medium. 

Left to Right: Thomas Winkler (moderator), David Lai, Kurt Deutsch and Kathy Sommer | Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

'Content Is Queen': Prioritize Meaningful Storytelling

"Side Stage: The Team Behind the Curtain" featured Erich Bergen (Producer, Actor, Director, 6W Entertainment); Pete Ganbarg (President of A&R, Atlantic Records); Adam Hess (Executive Producer, DR Theatrical Management); Christen James (Tony Award-Nominated Broadway Producer); and Michael Kushner (Founder and Creator of Michael Kushner Photography & Dear Multi-Hyphenate).

Together, these creatives explored the business of Broadway and discussed the roles of producers and managers who bring the shows to life. James spoke about what she's most drawn to when beginning a new theatrical project.

"Meaningful storytelling is key [and] music absolutely makes the difference. Content is queen, the story as well as the music," she said. "Art is supposed to change what you're doing to the point where you're thinking about it, it's influencing you." 

Left to Right: Michael Kushner (moderator), Erich Bergen, Pete Ganbarg, Adam Hess and Christen James | Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Presented by Amazon Music and with participating sponsorship from Mastercard, GRAMMY U's 2024 conference "Live From New York" engaged members through an exhilarating two-day summit.

From the Friday showcase with GRAMMY U performers to Saturday's slew of panels covering all things show business, the GRAMMY U Conference in the Big Apple helped inform, connect, and inspire GRAMMY U members across the nation. 

Relive the experience and watch all the panels again here

5 Takeaways From GRAMMY U's Masterclass With Andrew McMahon: Be Bold, Build Bonds & Embrace Your Fears

Beanie Feldstein (L) and Ben Platt (R) speak onstage during the GRAMMY U Conference.
Beanie Feldstein (L) and Ben Platt (R) speak onstage during the GRAMMY U Conference.

Photp: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Recording Academy & Amazon Music Host 2024 GRAMMY U Conference In New York Featuring Ben Platt

The two-day conference included a showcase of GRAMMY U performers and Infinity Song, as well as panels and workshops geared toward live television and Broadway musical performances, in addition to a thought-provoking keynote from Ben Platt.

GRAMMYs/Apr 22, 2024 - 06:57 pm

GRAMMY U hosted a two-day conference presented by Amazon Music for GRAMMY U members in New York City on April 19 and 20. The event, spearheaded by GRAMMY U Senior Director Jessie Allen, offered an immersive experience designed to enrich and empower emerging talents within the music industry. 

An emerging artist showcase took place on Friday, April 19, followed by a day-long series of panels and breakout sessions on Saturday, April 20, highlighting the live performance industries of Broadway and television talk shows, featuring GRAMMY, Tony, and Emmy-winning artist and actor Ben Platt as the keynote speaker.

The summit marks the beginning of a new cornerstone collaboration between GRAMMY U and Amazon Music, in which Amazon Music will play an integral role in the growth of GRAMMY U’s year-round programming, development and impact. Mastercard was also a participating sponsor of the conference.

“We were all thrilled to bring the GRAMMY U Conference to the heart of New York City. It’s a testament to the dedication of Jessie Allen, whose leadership has elevated this event year after year,” said Ruby Marchand, Chief Awards Officer of the Recording Academy. “I extend heartfelt gratitude to the Amazon Music Team for supporting GRAMMY U; this marks the genesis of an extraordinary collaboration, and together, we look forward to crafting an array of programs that will empower our GRAMMY U members throughout the year.”

The emerging artist showcase featured dynamic performances by GRAMMY U members Kayla Erhardt, Kühlname, Serena Laurel, Nicknames, Liv Paris, and Your Future Is Now scholar Jawan Audè. The evening concluded with a captivating performance by New York soft rock sibling ensemble, Infinity Song.

Saturday’s programming kicked off with keynote speaker Ben Platt. In a thought-provoking keynote discussion moderated by actor Beanie Feldstein, Platt delved into his musical journey spanning Broadway, film and television, inspiring attendees with his insights. The day continued with a performance workshop led by GRAMMY, Emmy, and Tony-winner Billy Porter. Moderated by SiriusXM Program Director Julie James, attendees immersed themselves in a captivating session aimed at honing their live performance skills. 

Read more: Inside Ben Platt's 'Honeymind': How Queer Love, Live Performance & More Led To His Most Authentic Album Yet

The conference included a panel featuring “Late Night with Seth Meyers” Music Associate Producer Yeji Cha-Beach, former member of the “Late Night with Seth Meyers” 8G Band, Marnie Stern, and musician Remi Wolf. Titled “On Screen: Performing on Live TV,” the panel covered the challenges and nuances of delivering live musical performances on television, and was moderated by Siobhan Schanda, Co-Executive Producer of “SHERRI.” 

Programming continued with a panel titled “Sounds of the Stage,” moderated by Thomas Winkler, Head of Publisher, Songwriter and Society Relations at Amazon Music, featuring SVP of Warner Music Entertainment and Theatrical Ventures Kurt Deutsch, Co-Founder of Park Avenue Artists David Lai, and composer, conductor and producer Kathy Sommer, where they explored sound production on stage and cast recordings.

Additional panels included “Side Stage: The Team Behind the Curtain,” featuring industry executives moderated by Michael Kushner, founder of Michael Kushner Photography and Dear Multi-Hyphenate, featuring producer, actor and director Erich Bergen, President of A&R of Atlantic Records Pete Ganbarg, Executive Producer of DR Theatrical Management Adam Hess, and Tony-nominated Broadway producer and vocalist Christen James, where they detailed the business of Broadway and how teams bring shows to life every night.

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Singer and actor Ben Platt seated and posing
Ben Platt

Photo: Vince Aung

interview

Inside Ben Platt's 'Honeymind': How Queer Love, Live Performance & More Led To His Most Authentic Album Yet

Ben Platt's expansive artistry has taken him from Broadway to the recording studio, and his new album continues this evolution. 'Honeymind' shows Ben Platt at his most honest and vulnerable, embracing a new sound.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 01:47 pm

Ben Platt has never allowed the world to dictate his fate. The GRAMMY, Tony, and Emmy-winner's artistic outpouring has been relentless, and he's still early in his career. 

The 30-year-old actor and singer has performed in Broadway musicals like "Parade" and "Dear Evan Hansen," sold out Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl as a solo artist, and starred and co-wrote the film Theater Camp. Each project has marked a step into a new direction, but none more so than Honeymind — an album that captures what it's like to chase tender and safe intimacy in partnership, and the ecstasy that follows once found. 

His professional growth between 2021's Reverie and Honeymind is apparent not just thematically, but sonically and in production. This latest album sounds natural and lush, with input from GRAMMY-winning producer Dave Cobb and producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Alex Hope. While  Honeymind shows a version of Platt some listeners may not be accustomed to, he's never sounded more comfortable in his own skin. 

To celebrate the release of Honeymind, Platt will headline a three-week residency in New York City's Palace Theatre and a subsequent nationwide summer tour and serve as the keynote speaker at this year’s GRAMMY U Conference. He spoke with GRAMMY.com about his latest album, upcoming residency, and the beautiful and, at times, tricky trappings of romantic love.

This interview has been edited for clarity. The 2024 GRAMMY U Conference is presented by Amazon Music. Mastercard is also a participating sponsor of the conference.

Honeymind shifts away from the '80s electro-pop of Reverie and your Broadway roots. What made you gravitate towards a more tender, folky sound that exudes warmth and serenity?

The biggest catalyst was that I wanted to go and write Nashville because I admired so many songwriters there. When I started with my first round of writing sessions for this record — which was back in the spring of 2022 — what just very naturally started coming out was this super unadorned, very storytelling-forward type of music. 

When I made my first record [2019], it was very close after I had been on Broadway for a long time, and it was theatrically linked. Then, I experimented with leaning into pop and this Peter Gabriel vibe, but it felt like a landing pad this time. I closed my eyes and went, What's the most natural way to communicate in terms of what is specific to me? This seemed to fit really nicely. 

You worked with renowned producers like Dave Cobb on this album. There are times when the producer’s work stands out most, but Honeymind sounds like you. How did you ensure that all tracks sounded distinctly like you versus a Dave Cobb song?

​​I loved the idea of working with Dave! His specialty is unadorned things that are as essential as they can be. When it comes to my own sound, my priority is always obviously storytelling and songwriting, but certainly, to have the vocal performance be very much the focus. Dave was very amenable to that. 

I went and wrote the songs with my co-writers before starting work with Dave, and I sort of came in with all of his songs completed. He did a beautiful job of preserving the integrity of the songs I’d written. [He wanted] to present them in as organic and straightforward a way as possible, as opposed to trying to sort of put a secondary sound onto it. 

Your previous work has been personal to varying degrees, but your lead single, "Andrew," feels particularly candid.

I wrote that song with Alex Hope, one of my favorite longtime collaborators, and I had a session earlier in the week with someone else who was also wonderful. [This first songwriter] was talking to me about her son, who was 10 or 11, and how he had his best friend, a boy he loved so much. She shared that she had an inclination that more love was going towards this friend and was coming back to him [than] he could even really communicate. 

It reminded me so deeply and immediately of so many different experiences growing up: having straight friends in high school and middle school, who you just love and who aren't doing anything wrong, but just by virtue of chemicals and how we're born, you develop feelings that just can't be reciprocated. [That's] such a special kind of melancholy. It's no one's fault, and I hadn't heard that strain of unrequited love and that particular type of melancholy expressed in a song. 

The next day, I went in with Alex and pitched them a song, and they're queer as well and understood the perspective, so it came out very quickly.

What about queer love do you find most challenging to articulate?

Developing feelings for people that just don't have it in their blood to feel the same way is a uniquely queer experience, [as is] boundarylessness both positively and negatively. It's very particular to queer love in the sense that there are a lot less societal examples, and sort of prerequisites, for what queer relationships look like or shouldn't be. Which is so freeing and wonderful and makes for a really beautiful, honest relationship. Still, it's also a little scary because you're flying blind in a way that is very particular to being a queer person. 

There's an inherent sort of rebellion and statement that you have to be making every day when you're out in the world with your partner as a queer person because there remain so many people who are intolerant, don't understand, and are still fearful and judgmental. It requires an extra bit of courage just to engage in the relationship.

You have a three-week residency at New York City's Palace Theatre, where legends like Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, and Judy Garland performed and will tour afterward.  How are you feeling as you prepare for these concerts?

When I finish the record and sit on it, it exists in limbo; I start to second-guess it, feel like I'm losing my connection to it, or forget. I don't feel like I'm in the same place as I was when I wrote these things because they're so intimate. 

But for me, the whole shebang has always been getting to perform live, and that's just my greatest joy. The songs are the most mine when I'm singing them live. I also love sharing music with people, and hearing in person and online conversations, about how it applies to their lives, how it reminds them of things, and how they use it. The tour is always the part where I'm the most in love with the album, and when the tour ends, I'm ready to let it out into the world and say goodbye for a minute.

Beyond the risk of trying something new in your career, what roles do failure, trial, and error play in your creative process or other parts of your life?

For every song I've written that I love or even come out, there are eight to 10 that I never want to see in the light of day. 

It's hard to find the good things until you throw everything at the wall, and if you're too afraid to fall, then you'll never really try in the first place. And I was privileged because I started working quite young; things went from A to B to C in the sense that they went steadily. As I get older, I learn that a career is more about this longer journey that is not at all linear. Now that I have some hindsight, it's easy to appreciate the down moments and the valleys because that's the only way you recognize when something is going well. I try to be grateful for those moments of failure or misstep when they come because it's an essential part of being an artist — not the funnest part always, but necessary. 

You'll be the keynote speaker at the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference for young professionals. What do you want to share most with conference attendees?

I must share my transparency and experiences and try to help learn by failure and success. I've found, in all facets, that specificity begets universality, and I'm trying to be as specifically honest about my role in how I approached songwriting in my own artistry — whether that's something someone will directly connect to, create a tangential connection to something else, or be an example of something that doesn't work for someone. 

Art is so tailor-made, so it's just about sharing ideas and seeing what sticks.

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