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 Jon Batiste, Michael McDonald Offer Real Advice To GRAMMY Camp Musicians

Jon Batiste

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

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Jon Batiste, Michael McDonald Offer Real Advice To GRAMMY Camp Musicians

As part of their New York GRAMMY Week journey, GRAMMY Camp — Jazz Session students received expert advice from two pros representing the creative and business sides of the music industry

GRAMMYs/Jan 25, 2018 - 10:04 am

Carnegie Hall. The Blue Note. Madison Square Garden. Radio City Music Hall. Broadway. New York is positively brimming with storied music history. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. For a young musician, it's certainly akin to being the proverbial kid in a candy store.

As a matter of fact, 18 young high school musicians are getting their opportunity to sample the sweets that form the rich music culture of the Big Apple as participants in this year's GRAMMY Museum's GRAMMY Camp — Jazz Session program. Their week-long musical adventure is anchored by select appearances and performances at official GRAMMY Week events such as GRAMMY In The Schools Live!, the MusiCares Person of the Year after-party celebration and the GRAMMY Celebration, the Recording Academy's official after-party.

But before they hit the downbeat, the Jazz Session students participated in an exclusive Industry Insider Night centered around a question-and-answer dialog with Jon Batiste, "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" bandleader, and Michael McDonald, artist manager for Mick Management and MusiCares Board Chair.

Taking place at New York's impressive Hudson Yards complex, the purpose of the intimate setting was to provide the students with an opportunity to gain credible insight from two professionals representing different sides of the music industry: the creative side and the business side. And Batiste is technically part of the family in being a flesh-and-blood alumnus of the GRAMMY Camp — Jazz Session program.

The dialog was compelling, the stories were interesting, the questions insightful, and the advice offered was candid. Here are seven tips that Batiste and McDonald passed on to the GRAMMY Camp musicians — principles that formulate solid advice for any young musician mulling a career in music.

1. Wherever You End Up, Find Your Tribe

New Orleans native Batiste picked up and moved to New York to attend the prestigious Juilliard School. While getting an education and furthering his music abilities were top of mind, the Stay Human bandleader drove home the point that his choice was also based on the potential to trade fours with like-minded musicians.

"College is a place to meet people, and New York is a hub of music," said Batiste. "There's so many opportunities. So I think that coming to New York was very important [for me] because it just exposes you to so many different things. And then going to Juilliard, I met so many people who I just considered to be part of my creative family. Wherever you end up: find your tribe."

2. Prepare For The Real World By Doing Things "Before It's Time"

As the saying goes, being school smart is one thing. But being real-world smart can be a totally different ball. And for music students, making that transition from music school phenom to is forged with potential obstacles. Batiste urged the students to keep an eye on the big picture by getting an early start on tackling the things they want to do in their careers.

"The biggest thing I learned from that whole transition [from school to the real world] is to be trying to do the thing before its time so that you're ready before the opportunity does come," said Batiste. "I wanted to lead a band so I was leading a band. I wanted to learn from musicians who I listened to on recordings so I sought them out. … When you get out of school, it will feel like more of a natural transition."

"I always say, 'There's always room for the real deal.'" — Michael McDonald

3. It's OK To Suck

Sometimes musicians can become obsessed with trying to play every note perfectly. While allotting countless hours to woodshed is no doubt part and parcel to honing one's instrumental prowess, Batiste turned the tables with a thought-provoking nugget of wisdom based on personal experience.

"I wished someone would have told me that it's OK for it to really suck at first. In fact, if it doesn't suck it probably means you're not trying hard enough," said Batiste, who regaled the students with tales of when he used to perform for NYC subway patrons. "Push it to the point where it's uncomfortable. We pushed ourselves to do stuff that we didn't see people doing and it wasn't comfortable, but I think that created an understanding of what we wanted to do and how to critique [ourselves] so the next time it will be better."

4. Focus On Finding Your Vision

While technology is considered a double-edged sword by some, the truth is that technological advances have afforded musicians more autonomy and flexibility. Starting a YouTube channel, social networking and recording album-ready music in a bedroom are just three examples of how young musicians can tap technology to their benefit. Technology and tools aside, McDonald stressed an aspiring musician should exhibit self-starter qualities and spend ample time to decide the direction they want to their career to head in.

"If you can't start something on your own, if you don't have a vision, if you don't know what you like, I can't do anything for you," said McDonald, whose client roster includes the likes of Batiste, Maggie Rogers, Ray LaMontagne, and Walk The Moon. "For me, to take on an artist, I want to see someone who has initiative, drive, and is resourceful, and can do a lot of things on their own."

"Wherever you end up: find your tribe." — Jon Batiste

5. Make A List And Let Creativity Flower

Lists are good for a number of things. Grocery lists. To-do lists. Shopping lists. Instruction lists. While formulating lists can help manage productivity, Batiste explained that he employed a certain kind of list to help spark connections and foster creativity.

"What I did at one point, because I really couldn't articulate it, I made a list of every single thing that I like," said Batiste. "It didn't even matter if it was music or not. There was random stuff on the list and I tried to make connections between them. The creative mind is mysterious. Stuff will emerge."

As it turns out, McDonald went through the exact same exercise on his own. Great minds really do think alike

6. Don't Chase Today's Trends

While keeping tabs on the Top 10 list can be enticing, McDonald recommended that the students shouldn't become consumed with altering their course to match the sounds of the artists landing billions of streams and YouTube views.

"Don't chase what's happening this year or what the trend is," said McDonald, who got his career start on the road with Dave Matthews Band in the '90s. "I always say, 'There's always room for the real deal.' Dave Matthews came out in the '90s. That was acoustic guitar, saxophone and violin. And it was coming out at the same time as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots. The trend was grunge but these guys just were who they are."

7. Heed Your Belief System

When asked about the age-old question concerning art versus commerce — or if a musician needs to "sell out" to make it — Batiste advised the students that the answer will come from within. Specifically, a young musician should be mindful of their values and beliefs and steer toward what moves them with passion and vigilance.

"The question is more about: What do you believe? Who are you? Why do you play?" said Batiste. "When you answer that, it's like, 'Well, that's why I play.  Let me figure out how to make money doing that and let the chips fall where they may.' Do the art because you love it. If you really love it, it's probably a part of who you are. I'm always singing. I'm always creating ideas. That's me. It's not my love for the art. It's who I am."

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Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY

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Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY

Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 02:09 am

The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.

In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.

The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip. 

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Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs

Photos: WireImage.com

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Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs

Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 05:39 am

What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.

Take a peak at Album Of The Year GRAMMY winner Bruno Mars, 60th GRAMMY Awards Host James Cordon, Cardi B minutes before her electrifying performance of "Finesse," and more!

Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

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Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs

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Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs

The Hawaiian native takes home Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like" at the 60th GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 08:11 am

Feeling the 24K Magic, Bruno Mars' successful progress through the categories he's been nominated in at the 60th GRAMMY Awards picked up another one at Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like."


Christopher Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence co-write with Mars under the name Shampoo Press & Curl. The other winning songwriters for Mars' hit tonight in this category are James Fauntleroy and production team "The Sterotypes" — Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and  Jonathan Yip.

For additional "Finesse" on stage at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, Mars was joined by Cardi B for a reprise of their 148-million-views hit remix.

The Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award wrapped up the night and wrapped up Bruno Mars' complete rampage through his six nominated categories — now six wins.

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Mariah Carey Tells Fans Fire Music Is Coming With New Album 'Caution'

Mariah Carey

Photo: David Crotty/Getty Images

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Mariah Carey Tells Fans Fire Music Is Coming With New Album 'Caution'

The sultry R&B/pop superstar has announced she will release her 15th studio album next month – what will she bring us this time around?

GRAMMYs/Oct 17, 2018 - 05:39 am

Never one to do things quietly, the GRAMMY-winning R&B/pop diva with the angelic voice Mariah Carey came boldly onto the scene in 1990 with her GRAMMY-nominated debut self-titled album. At the 33rd GRAMMY Awards she took home her first two wins: Best New Artist and for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Vision Of Love," which she performed on the GRAMMY stage. The song was the album's first single and Carey's first No. 1 song. Since taking center stage at the beginning of the '90s the star hasn't looked back, releasing 13 studio albums and plenty of hits over the years. Four years after the release of her last album, she has announced that her next one is a month away. What will she serve up on her 15th LP?

The star recently shared on Twitter that her latest album is called Caution and will be released on Nov. 16, 2018. We first got a hint of a new album on Sept. 13 when she announced an album was in the works and released the lead single, "GTFO." The album's second single, "With You," followed on Oct. 4.

On "GTFO" she confidently asks a soon-to-be-ex lover "How 'bout you get the f* out?" in breathy vocals over a slow, melodic beat by GRAMMY-winning producer Nineteen85. "With You" feels like a classic Carey R&B love song with her angelic vocals backed by snapping and a melodic slow jam groove produced by hip-hop beat maker DJ Mustard, who lets her voice shine on an uncharacteristically mellow track for him. These songs hint that her latest release will give us songs that not only showcase her incredible vocal range and versatility, but also give us both nostalgia-inducing tracks as well as radio-ready hits.

"GTFO" gives us a taste of some of the new flavor that she is bringing to her new album, singing the song's coy lyrics completely in more-understated breathy vocals without belting any big high notes, not even during the chorus. It's a catchy, playful breakup song, as she confidently sings "get the f* out/how 'bout you take your tings and be on your merry way?/Fly off with the wind, bye bye baby/How 'bout you scusami, Mimi'll call you a valet."

The song was co-written and co-produced by Jeff Jefferies aka Nineteen85, who is half of OVO R&B duo dvsn and is responsible for producing some of Drake's biggest hits, including the GRAMMY-winning mega-hit "Hotline Bling." On the Drake's song "Emotionless" from his latest album, Scorpion, he samples Carey's lyrics from remixed classic hit "Emotions." Hopefully Jefferies has some catchy hits up his sleeve for Carey, and maybe even brings in some OVO artist surprises.

Carey has released some great collabs over the years, a majority with R&B and hip-hop artists, including Boyz II Men on heartfelt slow jam "One Sweet Day" from 1995's Daydream and Jay-Z on the upbeat classic belter "Heartbreaker" from 1999's Rainbow. We can only hope that the new album will offer some new, soon-to-be-classic hits with some of our other favorite artists.

Her most recent album, Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, released in 2014, had more collab tracks than usual for her, which could perhaps point towards some hot features on Caution. The deluxe edition of the 2014 album had six songs with other artists, including rappers Nas, Fabolous, Wale and R. Kelly as well as R&B singers Miguel and Mary J. Blige. The  album's lead single, "Beautiful," has Miguel and Carey singing a soulful, feel-good duet, while "Dedicated" features a bounce-y, electronic-infused hip-hop beat with a verse from Nas. Seeing that she worked with big-time hip-hop producers on the new album's lead singles, we can only hope that they not only offered their production genus to more of the tracks, but perhaps brought some of their friends into the studio as well.

Fans only have to wait a month for the full dose of new music from Carey, but until then we will send our prayers to the music gods that the album will feature all of our dream collabs, perhaps some old and new friends, and offer up some new favorite songs, with some to slow dance to and others to belt out in the shower.

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