Photo: Andy Pollitt
Jelly Roll Hopes To Bring "Back Road Tent Revival" With New Album 'Whitsitt Chapel'
As Jelly Roll officially crosses into country territory with his latest LP, 'Whitsitt Chapel,' the rapper-turned-country star feels like a changed man — and aims to provide hope to those who feel lost.
When Jelly Roll first attended church with his daughter, Bailee, he wasn't looking for salvation. But while sitting in a church pew, he realized the story of his own relationship to redemption and religion was one he needed to share.
"Outside of religion, the idea of being able to be redeemed is just a great idea. The idea that who we were is not who we are is so powerful," Jelly Roll tells GRAMMY.com. "At that moment, I was like, 'I want to write a conceptual album, that kind of outlines my journey of religion, my journey of spirituality, my journey of redemption, my journey of wrongdoings.'"
Born Jason DeFord, Jelly Roll spent a decade in and out of federal prison, and was incarcerated when Bailee was born in 2008. Her birth was a turning point for the singer, who started his music career as a rapper in 2011. But the Antioch, Tennessee native always loved country music, and when he realized he could sing, he tried his hand at writing country songs.
What followed is Whitsitt Chapel, Jelly Roll's first full-length country album. Named after the church where he was baptized at 14 years old, the LP is a self-effacing, honest and gritty dissection — and at times, condemnation — of his own life story and complex relationship with religion. Whether he's imploring "somebody save me, me from myself," on "Save Me" or reflecting on what it means to show up, in "Hungover in a Church Pew," Jelly Roll's kind of religion is one of understanding, forgiveness and growth.
Expanding on the rawness of his previous LP, 2021's Ballads of the Broken — which earned Jelly Roll his first No. 1 hit with "Son of a Sinner" — Whitsitt Chapel introduces Jelly Roll as one of country music's most intriguing rising stars. His honest accounts of his struggles — backed by compelling, gritty vocals and driving country-trap beats — transform his live shows into gripping performances, creating an almost church-like atmosphere for fans and the singer himself.
Speaking to Grammy.com on the day Whitsitt Chapel came out, Jelly Roll discussed making his latest album, his hopes for justice system reform and his own journey to redemption.
Well, first off, happy album release day. How are you feeling today?
Oh, thank you. It's better than a birthday. It's like having a prom that you're the king of. I never went to a prom, but I'm assuming this is the feeling.
You sold out the Ryman Auditorium this week for your release show. And I've heard a couple of people describe that show as feeling like going to church. I'm curious what it felt like from your side of things.
You know, man, I love that people compare this to going to church. Because I feel like that's how we try to make all concerts. I always say my shows are a little bit of hip-hop, a little bit of rock, a lot of country, and a little bit of a back road tent revival.
We mix up all the old stuff and the new stuff. So by default, there's a lot of genre crossing. But the back road tent revival is just kind of the theme of the whole project. It's this old fashioned "let's go to church, let's get a little rowdy, let's get a little hellfire and brimstone in here." And any good Sunday sermon has highs and lows, moments you cry, moments you're happy, moments you're scared, moments you're excited, and we just try to recreate that in the show.
Did you feel as though you were up there preaching?
I think the music does the preaching, I just talk. You know what I mean? I think the music's the sermon, I'm just the deacon.
When did you actually start rapping and sharing it with people?
I probably wrote my first rap when I was 10, maybe 11 or 12. And I shared it with my family immediately. Like didn't hesitate. The first rap I wrote sucked really bad. And I ran downstairs with great pride, people gathered around the kitchen table, and I watched them act like it was decent.
As family does. So then, how did you make the switch to do country music?
I always wanted to do country music because I'm just such a country music fan. And I feel like "three chords and the truth" was always the premise of my music. I just didn't know I could sing. If somebody would have told me I had a cool singing voice when I was 20, I couldn't imagine where this thing would be at now. I was, like, in my mid-30s when I found out I could sing.
I was doing karaoke and we were doing Bob Seger, "Old Time Rock and Roll." I came off stage. And a producer was like, "Man, you got to do a song where you're singin'." And I was like, "I would have done that 20 years ago if I thought I could sing, I'm a bad singer." He's like, "Not what I just heard." I started working at it, and you can see that I've got this album Whitsitt Chapel is the first time you can hear how comfortable I am with my voice.
The songwriting and everything, the music evolved. The way I say it is, the music followed the man: the man changed and then the music changed, this big old lug of human ions has just been dragging the music along with me, wherever I've ended up at the mic.
After that moment doing karaoke, you put out "Save Me," which I think of as your bridge to country music.
That was the big bridge, that was 2020, and that was the moment it started coming together. But you want to talk about great links as a singer — I had to relearn how to sing "Save Me" this year. This is the first time I ever told this story. When I first learned how to sing "Save Me," it was as high a register as I could sing, I was reaching for every single note. Now I can sing octaves above that. Now that I'm singing higher, I had to learn how to settle back into what the actual key of the song was.
That sounds like a bit of a surprise.
It was interesting. I didn't realize how off I had gotten over the last year or two. But it's been fun. It's been cool. Because I'm learning, I'm still new to this. I think that's why I'm so excited too, is that I'm just really understanding a little more about the theory of music. I'm understanding chord structure better. I'm understanding keys, octave, pitch, control. These are things I had no clue of when I did "Save Me."
Are you studying music theory as part of this transition?
No, I'm just playing a little guitar when I can, doing a lot more acoustic stuff. My daughter plays a little piano, a little guitar. So I'm just trying to soak up everything I can.
I think religion can do a lot of different things. And it's pretty central to Whitsitt Chapel. Can you talk to me a little bit about your relationship with religion?
I'm really, really, really kind of against religion. I'm not very religious at all. But I definitely believe in spirituality. I had this thought, how I look at church and how I see church now is different than I ever seen it. I realized that it's a bunch of people going to a place as an attempt to build community, seek forgiveness and be better.
And when done right, I don't care what your thoughts are on Jesus, God, Allah, any of that stuff, this is an incredible concept, right? That people go here with the idea of doing better, being better, and community. And looking at that as an adult — because I had a long time I was mad at the church, I think they kind of depicted Jesus wrong at times — but understanding and going back to it, I see what the spirit of it is.
But then you also write lines, like "I only talk to God when I need a favor." Can you rectify for me the real tension in that line, with what you just told me?
Well, it was sitting in the back of a church one day and listening to worship music. And just not being able to relate with it and where I am with my walk and spirituality. And you look at it from that perspective, and you're like, "What is my connection, how would my song to God sound?"
And I feel like it's, "I only talking to God, when I need a favor. I only pray when I ain't got a prayer." The third line in ["Need a Favor"], to me, is the most powerful line, "So who the hell am I, who the hell am I to expect the saving?" Just think about the word "expect" in that line, the entitlement of that. It was just being honest about how I view the church, and then there's my personal walk with God, and they're definitely different. So to me, it was trying to create that music with that spirit.
So then how do you come to name this album for your childhood church?
Well, it started when I went with Bailee to her church. So Bailee's my daughter, she was 14, when she started going to the church, she had alluded to wanting to get baptized. [I thought], well, I should go see what kind of cult she's going to, because that's kind of how I looked at church at that time. And then I went, and I was reminded of the genuineness that can be in those walls, too. I was reminded of the humanity and the compassion and the forgiveness, the love and the community, more than anything watching her and all of her friends there.
And I had started thinking about where I was at when I was 14. I'm going to a little church, too, on a little back road on a hill, there's just these little parallels. Bailee experienced and dabbled in marijuana for the first time, I caught her recently. Around the same age, I was dabbling in marijuana and trouble. It was just reflective.
And then you start thinking about redemption. Outside of religion, the idea of being able to be redeemed is just a great idea. The idea that who we were is not who we are is so powerful. At that moment, I was like, "I want to write a conceptual album, that kind of outlines my journey of religion, my journey of spirituality, my journey of redemption, my journey of wrongdoings." [It's] my take on all these things from a 14-year-old kid getting baptized at Whitsitt Chapel to the 39-year-old man that just watched his 14-year-old get baptized.
And I think 14 was a pretty big year for you, at least a complicated year for you. Your daughter's 14, what impact did that have on you?
That's what made me want to jump to action. The same year that I got baptized, I got arrested, and that started what would be a 10 year cycle of incarceration in and out. And she's in a way better place. She's so much better than I could have ever been at that age, or probably will ever be. But that was what drug it up too, because I know these are the years. I talk to people all the time. They're like, "What do you think the most important years of parenting are?" I say "Every day. But if there's a window, it's 14 to 18."
And at the Ryman show you talked about going back to Whitsitt Chapel to talk to your pastor. What happened when you went back, and how do they feel about you naming the album after it?
It restored my faith in stuff. They pulled my records and sent a picture over of my handwriting, The 14-year-old Jason asking to be baptized — you have to fill out a card. And this church has kept that record for 24 years. Crazy, right? So at that point I'm like, I want to meet 'em, can we go love on them a little bit? I wanted to go sit down and meet with Pastor Ken, and meet with the rest of his staff.
I'm anxious to hear what they think of the whole album. I played them a few songs that they loved. Their exact words was "Man, we're just glad he's thinking of us. We're thinking of him, we love him. We're praying for him. We're proud of him."
My goal in the next couple of weeks is to surprise them, pop by on a Sunday. Maybe I should go this Sunday.
There is a certain something to that timing isn't there?
Yeah, there is something ironic about that.
Now that you've released a country album, do you fully see yourself as a country artist?
I definitely consider myself a country artist. 100 percent. My wife once told me that even if I sing "Amazing Grace" anywhere north of Ohio, she said people would say I was country. She's like "You might not think that you sound country when you sing, but I'm from Las Vegas and you sound country. When you're singing songs around the house, like a Katy Perry song or something around the house being goofy you sound country." My wife's always picked on me about it.
Well the joke might be on her, if you're putting out a country album now.
Ain't that great? She loves it. My favorite thing she does is when she talks in my drawl, when she does her husband impression, it's the best.
Who did you write these songs for?
I wrote these songs for anybody that's dealing with the duality of life. Back to that Sunday service, I've went out and overserved myself, many a Saturday. Many a Sunday morning, I still woke up and showed up, and that's the duality of man.
It's kind of "Son of a Sinner" again. It's always about that somewhere between being right and wrong, because I think that's the exact place I live in. I know my heart's pure. I know my spirit's right. I also know that I make really politically incorrect jokes. And party sometimes, and I'm a little silly and outrageous. But I also know that my heart is to be a man of service and to help people. So I write for those kinds of people, the struggling poet of the broken man. Always trying to be the voice for the voiceless.
And you really end the album in that spot, "Hungover in a Church Pew," right?
Yes, that was important in the album that way, because I needed that. Because there's moments where it would sound like "The Lost": "I've been known to find my kind of people/ They ain't at home underneath church steeples." But even through this whole journey of this album, all "Hold on Me," my struggle with alcohol, my love song to my wife, "Save Me," "Need a Favor," "Dance with the Devil." Even after all that, I still found my way to that kind of upbeat, mid tempo, hungover "sunbeam down on that stained glass window, the preacher man preachin' that fire and brimstone." So to me, it was cool, because I was like, "I heard your fire and brimstone." I'm always looking for redemption.
And that middle of the road too, one foot in two places, right?
I'm curious about more of your backstory. You're really open about being a convict. And it's something that's central to your identity. I'm curious about the choice to keep that in the forefront of your identity.
Well, I'm reminded of it all the time. So I think that what my goal now is while I'm being constantly reminded that I want to remind people that you can change. I tried to buy a house four months ago, and I was turned down because of my felonies. I'm still dealing with it today.
I think it's more now about just trying to bring attention to the cause, to have some sort of justice reform. My felonies that are inexpugnable, that I got whenever I was 16 years old. You know, I wasn't thinking like a man that should have that held against it him for the last 20-some years.
So what do you want people to understand about that?
I think that we need to just re-examine the juvenile system, if we're focusing our efforts on discipline or rehabilitation. And I think that goes into the drug addiction pandemic in America, too. Are we properly focusing our attention on rehabilitation? Are we finding alternate means yet? Can we accept that the war on drugs was a war that we lost? My story is just an attempt to bring attention to those topics. And my thing is, I don't think it's a one-size-fits-all for everyone. Like, even down to my felony, I think that these things should be on a case by case basis.
You ended up donating your proceeds from your recent Bridgestone Arena show. Was that to a variety of youth programs or to the juvenile detention center where you were incarcerated?
We built a studio at the detention center where I was, we also granted some scholarships to some local high school students. I didn't want to limit the at risk youth to just incarcerated kids. Because I believe that there's kids that are at risk that haven't made that decision yet, but also don't know how they're gonna go to college. I want to help those problems as well.
What's your hope for what that money can do?
My hope is that it can create a safe space for kids to create music and express themselves. But this is bigger for me as far as like, I have a 10-year plan here that I want to change. I want to open group homes, eventually, I want to open aftercare programs, community centers. I want to bring other trade work into the juvenile facility that I was at. I started with music because it's what I know. But I'm hoping to bring barbering in and welding in, whatever I can bring in to help these kids realize that they might have another way to go about it.
Is that because of how far you've come?
I think it's because of how far I've came, and the ability to give back. I want to help. Who are you if your life has changed this dramatically, and don't try to help?
Do you feel like a different person than when you started making music?
I'm such a different person. You can hear it in the music. You can see it in the testimony. Hell, I'm proud to say I'm better today than I was a week ago. I've consciously made decisions and choices and realized things that I fell short on. I do self inventory every day.
It's just the idea that I learned through different programs, the concept of looking back at things and everyday doing a self inventory check: "Was I nice? Did I care? What did I do that didn't feel right? Did I say something I regret saying? Did I not call somebody? Did I not say something I should have said?" It'll keep you grateful. It'll also keep you humble. Because sometimes the inventory is just, "What am I grateful for? What's happened in the last 24 hours that I'm grateful for?"
Well these last 24 hours might have a few things for you to be grateful for.
Whooo, these last 24 hours are packed. It's going to carry me to the weekend. I'm now allowed a couple of f— ups. Nah, I'm kidding. It's that balance, right? "It's like okay, I've earned a night of recklessness."
Well, Sunday's coming, right?
2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See Miley Cyrus, Ice Spice, Noah Kahan, Kelsea Ballerini, & More Artists' Reactions
The 2024 GRAMMY nominations have been announced! Here’s how nominated artists from boygenius to Jelly Roll reacted on social media.
This afternoon, the highly anticipated 2024 GRAMMY nominations were announced, bringing loads of excitement to music enthusiasts.
After the announcements were made, nominated artists shared their reaction on social media. A series of appreciation posts flooded the timeline from the likes of first-time nominee Tyla, trend-charting rapper Coi Leray, country star Kelsea Ballerini, and more.
Dive into the social media celebration posts, while catching up on the full nominees list. Make sure to tune into the 2024 GRAMMY awards on Sunday, Feb. 4 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, will air live (8:00-11:30 PM, LIVE ET/5:00-8:30 PM, LIVE PT) on the CBS Television Network and will stream on Paramount+ (live and on demand for Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers, or on demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs).
"On My Mama" singer/songwriter Victoria Monét shared pre-nomination nerves last night, comparing the feeling to the anticipation of draft day. Little did she know, she'd be one of the most nominated artists of the year. She received six nominations in total: Record Of The Year, Best New Artist, Best R&B Album, Best R&B Performance, Best Traditional R&B Performance, and Best R&B Song.
Whew I am so nervous 😭😭😭 it feels like draft day— Victoria Monét (@VictoriaMonet) November 10, 2023
After Coil Leray found out she was nominated for Best Rap Performance for "Players" and Best Pop Dance Recording for her feature with David Guetta (“Baby Don't Hurt Me"), the rapper took to X, formerly known as Twitter: "Wow I'm really Grammy Nominated ? That's crazy. Let me let this sink in real quick and I'll brb."
Wow I’m really Grammy Nominated ? That’s crazy. Let me let this sink in real quick and I’ll brb. 😱— Coi (@coi_leray) November 10, 2023
Miley Cyrus specifically highlighted the women in the music industry, while celebrating her fans and team:
Congratulations to all of this years Grammy nominees. Watching women rule the music industry makes me proud. It’s fun to be nominated & exciting to win but having my music LOVED around the world is the real trophy.— Miley Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) November 10, 2023
To my Smilers - I celebrate YOU today. Your joy is my bliss.… pic.twitter.com/SSLjVAsOUY
Afrobeats star Davido's latest album Timeless was nominated for Best Global Album, while also receiving nominations for Best African Music Performance and Best Global Music Performance.
3 nominations at the Grammys!! Delay is not Denial!! 🏆🌎— Davido (@davido) November 10, 2023
Americana musician Jason Isbell thanked The Recording Academy for the Best Americana Performance, Best American Roots Song, and Best Americana Album nominations.
Dang alright thank you @RecordingAcad 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼— Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) November 10, 2023
Rising artist Tyla, whose song "Water" was nominated for Best African Music Performance, posted a series of tweets capturing her immense shock:
NO WAYSSSSSS— Tyla (@Tyllaaaaaaa) November 10, 2023
Atlanta based R&B singer-songwriter, Summer Walker, shouted out all the "lover girls/boys" after CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE EP was nominated for Best R&B Album.
Wow a Grammy nomination?? thank you to all my lover girls/boys— SUMMER WALKER (@IAMSUMMERWALKER) November 10, 2023
Country star Kelsea Ballerini shared a live-reaction video to her Best Country Album nomination.
Boygenius was nominated for Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, Best Alt Music Performance, Best Alternative Music Album, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. The trio posted a photo of them hugging while staring at the TV displaying their nominations.
And despite writing GRAMMY-winning and GRAMMY-nominated hits for the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Julia Michaels (respectively), songwriters Shane McAnally and Justin Tranter were both shocked their names were included in the Songwriter Of The Year category — proving that a GRAMMY nomination is always magical, no matter how many times it happens.
Photos: Def Jam Recordings, Capitol Records, Image from TiVO, Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET, Image from TiVO, Austin Hargrave, Image from TiVO, Ashley Osborn
Get To Know The Best New Artist Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
From new rap sensations to a country star with a second life, the 2024 GRAMMY nominees for Best New Artist are nothing short of inspirational.
The Best New Artist category is perhaps one of the GRAMMYs' most exciting. Each year honors artists from all genres who have the potential to become timeless legends in the future.
Whether the nominees have been in the game for decades or are fresh debutantes, the Best New Artist honor highlights the moment they are living now, and how they are breaking through the noise with distinctive voices, visions, and sounds.
The Best New Artist nominees for the 2024 GRAMMYs are Gracie Abrams, Fred again.., Ice Spice, Jelly Roll, Coco Jones, Noah Kahan, Victoria Monét, and The War And Treaty. Though only one of them will win the golden gramophone, their nominations speak to their excellence, and foreshadow exciting journeys ahead.
Below, get to know the nominees for Best New Artist at the 2024 GRAMMYs.
Since her 2019 debut single "Mean It," Gracie Abrams has been making every listener feel like her closest friend. Through confessional lyrics and a soft, raspy voice, she's caught the attention of fans, media and even other singers alike.
On her list of admirers are names like Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift — both of whom invited Abrams to be an opening act for their respective tours. Amid those prestigious gigs, Abrams still found the time to release her debut studio album, Good Riddance, in February.
Co-written by her and The National's Aaron Dessner (who also produced the album), Good Riddance was recorded at Dessner's famous Long Pond Studios, which added to the record's intimate atmosphere. "I think working with Aaron allowed for so much to come up that I don't think would have for me otherwise. So much of that is because of the trust that he and I share,," Abrams told GRAMMY.com earlier this year.
The 24-year-old grew up surrounded by art (she's the daughter of Hollywood director J.J Abrams and producer Katie McGrath), but that only made her talents bloom further. In a generation filled with remarkable female songwriters, Abrams' delicacy leaves a deep, gripping mark.
Fred Gibson, better known as the viral producer and DJ Fred again.., rose to popularity during the pandemic. When people couldn't go to clubs or even leave their homes, his mix-and-match dance tracks brought us just the right amount of nostalgia and euphoria.
His Actual Life album series started as an EP in 2020, but quickly expanded into three studio albums — the latest of which, Actual Life 3, arrived in October 2022. In each project, the trivialities of the world find a new veneer: voice notes from friends, clips from social media, and even the restlessness of public transport all become main characters, surrounded by Fred again..'s larger-than-life synths.
But before diving into his own complex creations, Gibson was already lauded as one of the UK's most prominent producers. He co-wrote and/or produced hits for a number of artists, from Ed Sheeran to Rita Ora, and was mentored by Brian Eno — who was his family's neighbor growing up. In 2020, he won Producer of the Year at the Brit Awards, becoming the youngest producer to do so at 26 years old.
Though Gibson has admitted that he's "not really fussed" by the glitz and the glamor, he's undeniably become the dance scene's hottest new star. And as the only dance act in the Best New Artist category, that may be evident at the 2024 GRAMMYs, too.
Who hasn't heard of Ice Spice? The rapper's chill bars and fiery curls dominated the world this year, whether it was on TikTok's latest viral hit or the Met Gala red carpet.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York City, the 23-year-old had a breakthrough with 2022's "Munch (Feelin' U)," followed by the equally popular "Bikini Bottom" and "In Ha Mood." The singles led up to her January debut EP, Like..?, and propelled Ice Spice — whose birth name is Isis Gaston — even higher.
In less than a year, she released collaborations with PinkPantheress ("Boy's a Liar Pt. 2"), Nicki Minaj ("Princess Diana" and "Barbie World," featuring Aqua), and Taylor Swift ("Karma"), becoming the first artist to land four top 10 singles on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart in 2023.
While Ice Spice hasn't even released a debut studio album yet, she's an undeniable phenomenon who is pushing the drill scene far and beyond. Her style and bravado have made a mark on the music industry, and will likely continue to do so.
"I want to write a conceptual album that kind of outlines my journey of religion, my journey of spirituality, my journey of redemption, my journey of wrongdoings," Jelly Roll explained to GRAMMY.com earlier this year.
That album is his first country LP, 2023's Whitsitt Chapel. It was named after Whitsitt Chapel Baptist Church in his hometown of Antioch, Tennessee, where he was baptized at 14 years old.
Jelly Roll had a turbulent journey before becoming one of country music's most exciting new artists. After breaking a cycle of felonies, he still spent almost two decades treading the waters of the music industry. Born Jason DeFord, the 38-year-old star spent a good amount of the early 2000s selling rap mixtapes out of his car. But the hard work paid off — he has since developed a unique mix of hip-hop, rock and country, which led him to a Grand Ole Opry debut in 2021, and to last year's smash hit "Son of a Sinner," off his 2021 album, Ballads of the Broken.
The success of "Son of a Sinner" inspired a full pivot to country, and his decision has proven right with the success of singles "Need a Favor" and "Save Me," the latter of which earned him a nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance this year for his duet version with Lainey Wilson. Along with coming full circle musically, Jelly Roll mends his past while becoming a new artist — and we're lucky to witness his becoming.
You might remember Coco Jones from the 2012 Disney Channel film Let It Shine. In it, she played the prodigious teenage singer Roxie — and offered a glimpse of her dazzling talents.
Although Let It Shine was the most watched movie of the year for kids and tweens in 2012, it took a whole decade for Jones to truly gain the recognition she deserves. The South Carolina-born, Tennessee-raised star spent the majority of the past years as an independent singer and actress, dropping four EPs and scoring roles in films like 2018's Flock of Four and in the 2022 television series Bel-Air.
It was only last year, after she signed a contract with High Standardz and Def Jam Recordings, that her efforts started to pay off. She released her first major label EP, What I Didn't Tell You, featured on Babyface's GRAMMY-nominated Girls Night Out ("Simple"), and earned her first No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart with the sultry "ICU."
Now, she attests to her potential as R&B's next soulful diva with her first GRAMMY nomination.
When Noah Kahan named one of his songs "Stick Season" — the Vermont-specific term to describe the dreary, gray days between Halloween and the first snow — he didn't know that this period of time would be more bountiful to him than any blossoming spring.
First teased on TikTok in 2020, "Stick Season" went viral in the next two years, culminating with its official release as the lead track off Kahan's 2022 LP of the same name. The album followed suit as a smashing success, earning the top spot on five Billboard charts upon its release (including Top Rock & Alternative Albums) and prompting collaborations with Kacey Musgraves, Hozier and Post Malone.
The 26-year-old folk-pop singer is still adjusting to all the prestige, which will only grow as he starts 2024 with a stadium/arena tour that includes dates at L.A.'s Hollywood Bowl and New York's Madison Square Garden. "It's f—ing unbelievable," he told GRAMMY.com in October. "It feels so fake that it's almost like, the more time I spend thinking about it, the more abstract it becomes."
Kahan's main strength is this unflinching honesty — he talks openly about his struggles with depression and anxiety, and his lyrics resonate because of their sharp vulnerability. His openness as well as his charming wit have helped him continue to reach bigger audiences, and have now helped him earn his first GRAMMY nomination.
While Victoria Monét has been releasing solo music since 2014 with her debut EP Nightmares & Lullabies: Act 1, she used to be best known for her work behind the scenes. Her expertise was writing hits for many of today's biggest pop stars, including Ariana Grande, Chloe x Halle, BLACKPINK, and more.
She has even been nominated for three GRAMMYs thanks to her songwriting prowess: two in 2020 for her work with Grande (Album of the Year for Thank U, Next and Record of the Year for "7 Rings") and one in 2021 for her work with Chloe x Halle (Best R&B Song for "Do It.")
Gradually, people started to notice the 34-year-old songwriter for her own singing as Monét came into her artistry more and more. Her 2020 independently released EP, Jaguar marked a breakthrough in her career and was critically acclaimed for its luxurious R&B melodies and classy undertones.
Following suit came her debut solo album, 2023's Jaguar II, through RCA Records. The album was equally acclaimed, and its supporting tour sold out minutes after being announced. Add to that seven nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs — including Best New Artist and Record Of The Year for "On My Mama" — it's more than clear that Monét is already a superstar to be reckoned with.
The War and Treaty
Tanya and Michael Trotter Jr. found each other in 2010, when they both played at Maryland's Spirit of Love festival. The name was a good omen, as the couple soon began a lasting partnership — both in love and in music.
The War and Treaty is their way to let us peek into their rich universe. While originally formed in 2014 under the name Trotter & Blount, they changed it in 2017 after several discussions. "Michael, calm down," Tanya said one day, as retold by Michael on BobbyCast. "This is not a war, we need to come to some sort of treaty about this."
Since then, they have been stirring hearts with emotional anthems inspired by soul, country, and gospel music. However, it was only in 2022 that they signed with UMG Nashville, already carrying one EP and three studio albums under their belt. In March 2023 came the devotional Lover's Game, their first major label LP, with production credits by GRAMMY winner Dave Cobb.
"This album isn't about whether you like the music or not," Michael said in an interview with NPR. "This album is about, 'Do you understand what we're trying to say? Can you get with this? Do you feel the inclusion in our voices? Do you feel the resilience? Do you feel the overcoming? And if you feel it, do you have a heart for the War and Treaty?"
As one of only eight artists with a Best New Artist GRAMMY nomination for 2024, it seems at least their peers do..
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy's Voting Membership.
Photo: Gary Miller/Getty Images
Inside Neil Young's 'Before And After': Where All 13 Songs Came From
The folk-rock titan's newest LP is a journey through the past — whether recent or decades in the rearview. But 'Before And After' is far more interesting than just an album of re-recordings.
More than his fragile tenor, knife-twisting pump organ, swarming Old Black guitar, or any other aural hallmark, Neil Young is defined by his dogged, locomotive-like (and somewhat wackadoo) resolve to surge forward. Come hell or high water, Young will continue the mission.
Which doesn't mean innovate, necessarily — even though innumerable contemporary indie and Americana artists owe their livelihoods to him. It's just that the fire he ignited in 1966, when he wrote his first song as a Buffalo Springfielder, remains furiously burning in 2023.
"I don't care. I figured that's why they like it, because I don't care. It's what I have to do. I want to do this," the two-time GRAMMY winner and 28-time nominee told a tickled Zane Lowe last year, while promoting his latest album with Crazy Horse, World Record. "That's why there's 51, 52 albums: because I want to do this, and I can still feel it. I'd be crazy to stop."
All of a year after World Record, Young is back with a new album, Before and After. (Would that be his 53rd? His recent cavalcade of archival releases renders the number hopelessly blurry.)
Before and After, out Dec. 8 is a collection of solo re-recordings of old songs; it shows that even with his foot on the accelerator, he tends to drift into a figure 8. Some tunes, like "Mr. Soul," are classics. Others, like the Trans outtake "If You Got Love," are exclusively recognizable to the real heads.
But despite his litany of stylistic detours, Young's essentially the same musician as when we met him; as such, this sequence is seamless. Which leads to another wrinkle; Young designed Before and After to be an unbroken suite of music.
"Songs from my life, recently recorded, create a music montage with no beginnings or endings," he wrote in a press release. "The feeling is captured, not in pieces, but as a whole piece — designed to be listened to that way. This music presentation defies shuffling, digital organization, separation. Only for listening. That says it all."
And another wrinkle: Although it's not billed as such, there are signs that the album was recorded live, with a few overdubs added in post — which he's done before, on albums like Rust Never Sleeps and Earth. Not only does the tracklist hew closely to the setlists from his West Coast solo tour last summer, but crowd noise is faintly audible in several spots, and the credits declare the recording location to simply be "USA."
As usual with this most mercurial of artists, Before and After seems simple, but there are layers of Youngian mystery. But where these songs initially hail from is no mystery at all. Here's a quick breakdown of exactly what we're hearing on Before and After.
"I'm the Ocean" (Mirror Ball, 1995)
A warts-and-all collaboration with Pearl Jam recorded in record time, Mirror Ball's actual songs have always had a hard time peeking through what Young described as "a big smoldering mass of sound." (Well, except the undeniable, immediate "Downtown" — perhaps the exception that proves the rule.)
But although its songs were written entirely in the span of the four-day recording session, the passage of time and a fair amount of dedicated listening — will bear out their merits. The Before and After version of "I'm the Ocean" is proof positive: What sounded a bit like an interminable garage-rock workout reveals itself to be a "Thrasher"-esque folk epic.
"I'm not present/ I'm a drug that makes you dream/ I'm an aerostar/ I'm a Cutlass Supreme," Young evocatively sings. "In the wrong lane/Trying to turn against the flow/ I'm the ocean/ I'm the giant undertow."
"Homefires" (Neil Young Archives Volume II: 1972-1976, 2020)
No doubt, it was a treat to hear Homegrown, one of Young's whitest whales. Recorded in 1974 and '75, it was shelved until Young finally released it in 2020 — the tip of the spear for a lot of unreleased material in its wake.
But for those steeped in Young lore, it seemed like there was a lot missing: where's "Give Me Strength"? Where's "Frozen Man"? Where's "Homefires"? Clearly, he didn't forget about the latter; there's a perfectly lovely version here.
But take it under advisement to seek out the original recording, which is deliciously vibey and aching as so much early Young music was.
"Burned" (Buffalo Springfield, 1966)
All these decades on, the bond between Young and his Buffalo Springfield/CSNY partner Stephen Stills is ironclad: if nothing's changed since early 2023, the musical brothers still get together to jam every Wednesday.
Young's devastated, precocious "Burned," from the eponymous first Springfield album, has lost none of its sting; it's downright thrilling to hear Young lay into it. Buffalo Springfield may have come out 57 years ago, but burned out on these tunes he is not.
"On the Way Home" (Last Time Around, 1968)
The studio recording of the yearning "On the Way Home" always felt a little incongruous with its sunshine-pop production; the solo, acoustic version on 2007's Live at Massey Hall 1971 always seemed like the take.
While that possibly remains true, this version acts as a worthy bookend, the after to the before: "Though we rush ahead to save our time/ We are only what we feel," Young sings, summing up his entire career.
"If You Got Love" (dropped from Trans, 1983)
Decades of snickers later, the electronic Trans has been redeemed in the critical aggregate.
It was never a thumbed-nose, label-baiting genre excursion like some of his other '80s albums. Rather, it was an honest response to parenthood of a nonverbal son. (And, it must be said, his burgeoning love of — bordering on a fixation on — Devo.)
While outtake "If You Got Love" lacks the aggressive vocoder of its Trans brethren, it remains shockingly commercial and soft-rock for this artist: Young himself called it "wimpy."
While your mileage may vary on the OG version, Young's Before and After take corrects that perception; performed alone on his trademark, rickety pump organ, reveals it to be blindingly pure and simple, a harbinger of Young's hymnlike, borderline childlike material in the new millennium.
"A Dream That Can Last" (Sleeps with Angels, 1994)
The largely muted Sleeps with Angels might be the most underrated album in Young's catalog. In terms of evocative songcraft, brooding atmosphere, and smoldering performances from Crazy Horse, it belongs near the top of the heap.
Two of its highlights are its bookends, both on sonorous tack piano: "My Heart" and "A Dream That Can Last." And this version sounds as emotionally naked as its predecessor, as Young revisits his vision of heaven: "The cupboards are bare, but the streets are paved with gold."
"Birds" (After the Gold Rush, 1970)
This slightly deeper cut from After the Gold Rush has followed Young around forever; perhaps the simplicity and companionability of this piano ballad has rendered it timeless.
And as always, it's moving to hear a 78-year-old Young still drawing power from something he sang as a twenty-something in coffeehouses.
Indeed, lines like "When you see me fly away without you" feel poignant in light of the numberless friends and loved ones — many indispensable to his creative arc — that Young has said goodbye to. When comparing original Horseman Danny Whitten to steel guitarist Ben Keith to his ex-wife, Pegi Young, "Birds" still feels elegiac to the maximum.
"My Heart" (Sleeps with Angels, 1994)
The aforementioned "My Heart" kicks off Sleeps with Angels with capacious canyons of silence and windswept lyrics: "When dreams come crashing down like trees/ I don't know what love can do/ When life is hanging in the breeze/ I don't know what love can do."
In reverse order, these two Sleeps with Angels tunes still carry potency and import — although nothing beats the dramatic arc of the original album, which all Young fans must seek out if they haven't.
"When I Hold You in My Arms" (Are You Passionate?, 2002)
Eyeballing the title, this writer figured "When I Hold You In My Arms" was a deep cut from Storytone, his 2014 paean to new love — and now wife and frequent collaborator — Darryl Hannah.
Rather, it's from 2002's Are You Passionate?, Young's curious team-up with Booker T. and the MGs. (Before tracking that one, a handful of its songs — some under different names — ended up on the long-shelved Toast, which Young finally released in 2022.)
But it could just as easily exist on that album-length tribute to new love: "When I hold you in my arms/ It's a breath of fresh air/ When I hold you in my arms/ I forget what's out there." And that's partly what renders this deeper-than-deep cut still resonant on Before and After.
"Mother Earth" (Ragged Glory, 1990)
Back in 1990, the chief ecological concern arguably wasn't global warming, but the hole in the ozone. Still, "Mother Earth" feels prescient — not only due to current climate woes, but as per Young's catalog itself, which has come to be saturated with climate-centric songs.
But Young's topical songs have always been most powerful when they sound deeply personal, too — and this fragile, organ-led version of "Mother Earth" sounds like a devotional by the Lorax.
"Mr. Soul" (Buffalo Springfield Again, 1967)
Like fellow Buffalo Springfield stone classic "Burned," "Mr. Soul" still feels bluesy and badass, best delivered with a heavy dose of spite. (Young's solo version on 1991's Unplugged, for which he was in the mother of bad moods, is stormy and unforgettable.
The kinder, gentler version on Before and After, though, is no less indispensable, for how ancient it sounds behind the organ — as if Young dredged it from the earth as a young man and it shines eternal.
"Comes a Time" (Comes a Time, 1978)
The ambling "Comes a Time" and its attendant, eponymous album have always been fan favorites: that rootsy 1978 album is where Young crossed a rubicon of earned maturity.
And despite Young's declaration that "I don't want to come back and do the same songs again" on said West Coast tour — if, in fact, this was drawn from that — "Comes a Time" feels like a requisite greatest hit. Which doesn't mean it's not good to hear it — quite the opposite.
"Don't Forget Love" (Barn, 2021)
Young bringing out an aged and grizzled Crazy Horse for three albums in a row — 2019's Colorado, 2021's Barn and 2022's World Record — might come across as a declaration to rawk.
But paradoxically — as Young has always been — these albums have featured some of the most restrained performances by the Horse since Sleeps with Angels.
Colorado concluded on a whisper-light note with "I Do," and Barn does the same, with the dreamlike "Don't Forget Love," performed here on upright piano.
These 13 songs may span seven decades, but Young is immutably Young — and if he gets to add more decades of work to his voluminous songbook, he will remain so. That's the thing about this prestige artist: most of us celebrate the Before, but the After is arguably even more interesting.
Source Photo: Nadav Kander; Graphic Courtesy of the Recording Academy
Sony Music Publishing Chairman & CEO Jon Platt To Receive GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons Honor At The Pre-GRAMMY Gala During GRAMMY Week 2024
Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, the renowned Pre-GRAMMY gala, hosted by the Recording Academy and Clive Davis, returns Saturday, Feb. 3, where Sony Music Publishing Chairman and CEO Jon Platt will be honored as the 2024 GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons honoree.
The Recording Academy’s GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons honor celebrates the music industry's leading lights and biggest supporters. Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, Sony Music Publishing Chairman and CEO Jon Platt will become the latest honoree.
The GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons honor is awarded during the invitation-only Pre-GRAMMY Gala, an annual celebration hosted by the Recording Academy and music industry icon Clive Davis that takes place the night before the annual GRAMMY Awards. Held on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, and sponsored by Hilton, IBM and Mastercard, the Pre-GRAMMY Gala has become one of the music industry's most distinguished events for the innovative and influential creators and professionals it draws. Jon Platt is certainly among them.
"One of the most influential figures in the industry, Jon has consistently set the bar for leadership in music," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. said in a statement. “His ongoing commitment to equity, his dedication to quality, and his advocacy for artists across all crafts and genres have been an inspiration to music leaders everywhere. We look forward to an incredible evening dedicated to honoring his incredible impact.”
“Jon Platt is one of the music industry’s most illustrious leaders and I am thrilled that he will be this year’s Salute to Industry Icons honoree,” Clive Davis said in a statement. “Jon’s longtime trailblazing commitment to supporting songwriters across the music spectrum as well as his staunch dedication to advocacy, diversity and equality in the music business are exemplary. Artists and the industry at large are fortunate to have his insight and passion at the helm.”
Since his appointment as Chairman and CEO of leading global music publisher Sony Music Publishing (“SMP”) in 2019, Platt has worked to revitalize the company’s Songwriters First mission. His efforts have focused on emphasizing service and transparency at every level, prioritizing equity, and reshaping the company’s administration services.
During Platt's tenure, Sony Music Publishing has strengthened both its legacy and its future, creating historic partnerships with songwriting legends like Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Ashley Gorley; signing the next generation of superstars like Olivia Rodrigo, Jack Harlow, Latto, Anitta, Central Cee, Kane Brown, and the Kid LAROI; and delivering opportunities for DIY creators through a landmark deal with BeatStars.
Throughout his career, Platt advocated for fair compensation for songwriters. Under his direction, Sony Music Publishing has focused on improving the lives of songwriters by putting more money in songwriters’ pockets, and getting that money in their pockets sooner. In an increasingly global music business, the company has also expanded its leading presence internationally into India, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Reflecting Platt’s commitment to artist development and his long-held belief that it’s better to grow hits than to chase them, SMP has built out its services for songwriters and composers at every stage of their careers. Songwriters Forward — a global initiative — has seen SMP providing mental health and wellness support to its roster through the Songwriter Assistance Program. SMP’s Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program has offered new financial opportunities to legacy songwriters. And SMP has provided over $1 million in grants to working songwriters in collaboration with organizations such as the 100 Percenters, Songwriters of North America (SONA) and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).
Jon Platt’s career in the music business began in the mid-‘80s, when, as a DJ in his hometown of Denver, he was credited with breaking records from Public Enemy and Arrested Development in the Midwest. He brought the same passion for spotting hits-in-the-making to his career in music publishing, signing and collaborating with some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, including Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Drake, Rihanna, Pharrell Williams and Usher. Platt is widely credited for elevating how hip-hop and R&B artists are respected and compensated as songwriters.
Platt has consistently shared his belief in building a music business every bit as diverse as the music it represents. He has increased diversity across senior leadership teams throughout his career, and supported the development of a pipeline of female executives with SMP’s global Women’s Leadership Program. His commitment to equity and inclusion extends to empowering the next generation of songwriters and composers with initiatives like SMP’s Screen Scoring Diversity Scholarship at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.
Platt previously served as chairman & CEO of Warner Chappell and led the company’s turnaround. He also spent 17 years at EMI Music Publishing, where he cemented his reputation for recognizing icons-in-the-making by signing Jay-Z on the release of his 1996 independent debut album, Reasonable Doubt.
Platt sits on the boards of Berklee College of Music, Songwriters Hall of Fame, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Motown Museum, Living Legends Foundation, and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), and his numerous recognitions include City of Hope’s prestigious Spirit of Life Award, SONA’s Warrior Award, NSAI’s President’s Keystone Award, SESAC’s Visionary Award, Billboard’s Power 100, Variety’s Variety500, and Morehouse College’s Candle Award. In 2005, he launched The Big Jon Platt Scholarship Program for college-bound students from his Denver community in Montbello.