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Hit-Makers Share The Specialized, Intuitive Art Of Crafting The Perfect Song

(L-R) Sarah Hudson, Rodney Jerkins, MarcLo, Shane Stevens & busbee
Photo: Antonio Espino

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Hit-Makers Share The Specialized, Intuitive Art Of Crafting The Perfect Song

"No one knows what a hit is until it happens," GRAMMY-winning songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins, aka Darkchild, explained during a highly informative industry event hosted by our Los Angeles Chapter

GRAMMYs/Apr 14, 2019 - 12:17 am

Yesterday, April 12, a large, diverse group of musicians, artists and music lovers began the annual trek to the desert for weekend one of Coachella. Working with this creative, inspired energy, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Recording Academy brought together songwriters with an impressive roster of hits to share their wisdom with aspiring songwriters and artists for a hands-on Craft Session at a beautiful house in Palm Springs.

During the first half of the intimate event, songwriters busbee, Rodney Jerkins aka Darkchild, MarcLo of Monsters & Strangerz (part of team behind Zedd's GRAMMY-nominated "The Middle"), Sarah Hudson (who has written for Camila Cabello, Katy Perry and others) and Shane Stevens went deep into the art of crafting the perfect track and the things they've learned along the way in their quest to navigate and excel in the music industry. They discussed the weaving journeys each took that led them to their first hit and eventually to where they are today, as successful songwriters and producers.

Photo: Antonio Espino

Their stories all underscored the importance of perseverance, believing in yourself and really putting your work out there, as you never know when the right person will be in the right place to hear or share your song. "You start with nothing, then all of a sudden, there it is," Stevens underscored. all of them have a "song mountain," as busbee, who received a GRAMMY nomination for co-writing with Maren Morris on "My Church," put it, of tracks that may never see the light of day, but helped them learn, make mistakes, improve and grow as creatives.

The insights made clear that not only is there not one path or five hard-set rules to becoming a hit songwriter, there is also no formula to making great songs. Even GRAMMY winner Jerkins, who began making his mark in the late '90s with his work with Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez, Destiny's Child (with "Say My Name in 1999 and "Lose My Breath" in 2004, among others), agreed that each session is different.

They all agree that building good rapport and understanding with each artist you work with is vital to the process. For example, when Jerkins met with a then-up-and-coming Lopez in the 1999, while they had just met for the first time in the studio, and she had yet to release music, he asked himself what might she want to say to a man that he could express for her in the track. He wanted to express vulnerability in a way that felt real to her experience, and her debut hit single, "If You Had My Love," was born.

"No one knows what a hit is until it happens...I truly believe that if is meant to be, its meant to be," -Rodney Jerkins

"No one knows what a hit is until it happens," Jerkins said. "I truly believe that if is meant to be, its meant to be."

"We couldn't be doing anything else. It's passion, passion meets you at the door," added Stevens, who began as an aspiring singer/songwriter in Nashville and at one point switched to his "back-up career" of hair styling, until, as he puts it, fate had other ideas, and now he's become an in-demand songwriter in both pop and country, working with the likes of Lady Antebellum to Selena Gomez.

His comment, and similar ones from the other mentors, all underscored the importance of not giving up on your dreams, and not letting your fears get in the way of using the skills and passion you were meant to share with the world.

"Nobody else is going to get what's yours," busbee said. He added, "You never know who's going to make the decision that changes the course of your life."

After the discussion, which left the audience visibly inspired and excited to create, the group broke out into work sessions led by each mentor; who gave individual guidance to demo songs presented by each participant, allowing them the space to ask more specific questions to their work and aspirations.

Photo: Antonio Espino

In busbee's breakout session, he made sure he had context for each group member's aspirations and personal background, so that his advice would be as tailored as possible. Even then, he reminded the group that at the end of the day, everyone's feedback is based on their opinions, so it's important to know your north, and put yourself in the other person's shoes to best understand where they are coming from and how to move forward, which is sound advice for any professional relationship.

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Glenn Danzig

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2017 - 05:28 am

There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.

The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.

This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.

"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."

Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

Lady Gaga

Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program

GRAMMYs/Oct 12, 2017 - 11:03 pm

On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.

Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.

"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."

The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.

"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.