Justice Tripp On Angel Du$t's New Album 'YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs,' His Brotherhood With Turnstile & Not Acting Like A Cop Online

Angel Du$t (Justice Tripp, center)

Photo: Kat Nijmeddin


Justice Tripp On Angel Du$t's New Album 'YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs,' His Brotherhood With Turnstile & Not Acting Like A Cop Online

With his rangey rock band Angel Du$t, Justice Tripp writes music that the average listener wouldn't peg as coming from hardcore guys. But their new album, 'YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs,' is all about the punkest value of all: Thinking outside the box.

GRAMMYs/Oct 8, 2021 - 11:06 pm

Like many others in the chest-piece tattoos and basketball-shoes set, Justice Tripp's early immersion in heavy music charted the course for his life and career. But parallel to Pennywise and Dead Kennedys, he communed with other genres—R&B, soul, pop, and rock 'n' roll. Most crucially, while studying rock history, the future leader of unorthodox punk band Angel Du$t learned there was punk before punk—and, in a sense, concurrent with it.

"I didn't know what hardcore was when I was six, you know?" Tripp tells of his early musical development. "I wrote this record touching on all the stuff I grew up loving." To that end, he cites Tina TurnerPrince, and Tom Petty as foundational—artists that some in the insular, masculine-to-a-fault hardcore scene might blanch at. The values he absorbed from those artists, though, are exceptionally, unmistakably punk: courage, vulnerability, and thinking outside the box.

"As far as a direct message, it's the same as it's always been," he says of Angel Du$t's new record, YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs. "Just do your thing and don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, as long as it feels natural and authentic to you."

Due October 22, YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs may have dyed-in-the-wool hardcore roots—after all, the band grew out of the bruising Baltimore group Trapped Under Ice. The same goes for Turnstile, who shares three members with Angel Du$t—rhythm guitarist Brendan Yates, guitarist Pat McCrory, and drummer Daniel Fang—and is having a banner year of their own with the critically acclaimed new album Glow On.

YAK's finest tracks, like "No Vacancy," "Fear Some," and "Cool Faith," show the band is far more inclined to ear candy the one they sprang from. Arguably, they bear far more similarities to alternative bands like the Violent Femmes or Teenage Fanclub than TUI.

Still, the album isn't a thumbed nose at Angel Du$t's heavy roots, but a lovingly executed off-ramp from them. To this end, they're in excellent hands with producer Rob Schnapf, who helmed edgy-yet-sophisticated classics by Elliott SmithGuided by Voices, and other greats.

In an in-depth interview with, Tripp opens up about Angel Du$t's creative process, how his rough-and-tumble past shaped his demeanor and worldview, and why being a punk means not acting like a cop on the internet.

This conversation has been edited for clarity.

You've done interviews for years now about pushing against the orthodoxy of what hardcore should sound like. Have things loosened up in recent times?

I wouldn't say I get too much heat, you know? People are on board. They get what I'm doing. We're still involved with the hardcore community and everybody in our band does other bands that play to that community. Angel Du$t exists in that community on some level. But some people don't get it, and that's fine too.

YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs sounds like you've absorbed many decades of folk and pop music. Early on, did you get into that stuff parallel to your interest in heavy music?

Oh, yeah. Definitely before heavy music, before punk. 

Just rock 'n' roll. My family has always had rock 'n' roll and doo-wop music. And I guess pop music, too, on some level. They played a lot of stuff from when rock 'n' roll was pop. And then you're a kid and you find punk, and you're like "Oh, s*. This is me. I'm different. This is the stuff I identify with." That really sculpts who you are—or who I am, at least.

But I grew up with music. I got my first guitar when I was six, and I didn't know what hardcore was when I was six, you know? I wrote this record touching on all the stuff I grew up loving. I don't know how much this influences anything I was making, but my mom was bumping Rod Stewart and Tina Turner religiously when I was a child. And Prince—Prince is one I heard a lot when I was a kid that stuck with me.

I'm just taking in all those things I heard when I was a kid, All the things I grew to love about hardcore and punk-rock music in the last couple of years—learning about production and the things I love about production—and all the things that Angel Du$t as a band has learned to do throughout our different records. 

We've made very different records, taking pieces of aggressive music that we've made and pieces of [other styles]. Pretty Buff was a pretty dialed-back record tonally and tempo-wise. It's finding a way to make something hopefully unique and creative out of all that.

I feel like part of getting into punk is realizing that it existed 25 years before the genre was coined. You get into '60s punk with the Nuggets box, and then you find elements of it in '50s artists like Link Wray and Gene Vincent, and then in the blues, and so on.

Absolutely. I grew with the punk that was around me at the time.

I think I was a little kid when I got the Pennywise record. And then I went back and got the Dead Kennedys CD. Which is, of course, before that time. But I kind of grew up with punk of that era. And then, when I was in my twenties, I discovered the Stooges and Iggy Pop, and that's kind of been the obsession for me.

Iggy Pop's my favorite artist of all time, 100 percent. In his career, there's a lot of peaks and valleys, but the one thing that nobody can take from that man is his endless rock 'n' roll nature. His desire to create something new—just to do whatever the f* he wants. You may not love this record or that record, but he did his thing. I love everything he's done on some level.

But what you're saying about the history of rock 'n' roll, I think the Stooges are a great way to discover that. They talked openly about their influences, and you can dig into that. They talked openly about the blues, and you can dig into that. You see all the stuff in the '77 era of punk that came from what the Stooges were doing. It's a good beacon right there in the history of punk rock and rock 'n' roll music.

What's your favorite off-the-beaten-path Iggy record that isn't Fun House, Raw Power, or The Idiot?

Aw, man. That's tough. Some of those records—no offense—I'm not listening to the whole record. Just a couple of songs. Blah-Blah-Blah is really good. I don't know if we can count Kill City. Can we count Kill City? It's Iggy Pop and James Williamson. I'm gonna go with that, for sure. I also like some of the newer stuff he's done. Post Pop Depression. He's kind of all over the place.

Both Angel Du$t and Turnstile grew out of Trapped Under Ice, embracing sounds not necessarily from the hardcore mold. They went in the direction they did, but how did you choose your own instrumental template—acoustic guitars, synths, and mellotrons?

Honestly, I'd say we all went in that direction—do you know what I'm saying?

We all make music together; half of Turnstile's in my band. We all grow together and push each other. In the times I'm learning about synths and production, at the same time, those dudes are over there in Baltimore—I live in LA right now—doing the same s*. We're showing each other music and teaching each other stuff all the time when we're together.

I've been really interested in sounds and playing with different synthesizers. That's something I got from Rob Schnapf, the producer. Those dudes are over there actually learning to play the keyboard. Like, I can't play the keyboard. I can f* around and make sounds. I can push the E note, hold it in and maybe add something else to it. 

But it kind of blew my mind when they were here recording the record. Dan [Fang] was playing—actually playing—the piano and keyboard a little bit, and Brendan [Yates] came a week later, and he's doing really good at that stuff. We're all growing and pushing each other at a similar rate and taking different things from it.

When you listen to the Turnstile and Angel Du$t records both, there's a lot of growth—a lot of new tools—just used in very different ways.

When I think of Rob Schnapf, I think of his work on Guided by Voices' Isolation Drills. Great record.

I've been a big fan of Rob before we worked with him. It happened almost by accident. A friend linked us up, and he's a producer on a lot of my favorite recordings. 

But I still didn't know his whole catalog, so when we were in the studio, I'd end up referencing something—"I like this one song from the '90s and they did this thing!" It'd always be him saying, "Well, what we did was…" and that's how I found out he did that record.

I referenced Guided by Voices and he was like, "Well, what we did was this on the record." I was like [Stupefied] "What?" That was a good way to know his catalog better.

You can take this question any way you like: What did you want to say with these songs that you didn't in past ones by any band of yours?

A theme I try to say on every record is: Just try something. Get out of your comfort zone and do something. But I don't know if I'm saying something that hasn't been said in the past—at least in the context of music. Maybe I'm speaking of elements that exist in music that I hadn't spoken to before.

But as far as a direct message, it's the same as it's always been: Just do your thing and don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, as long as it feels natural and authentic to you. Hopefully I spoke that message louder and clearer than ever before.

I've read that you're a big Tom Petty fan. What do you take from his music? To me, it's a sense of humility and courage I don't hear in a lot of stuff these days.

I think you nailed it. He was a great songwriter, obviously. His voice was so vulnerable. That's one thing I really strove for on this recording. He was up there in the list of people who influenced that particular element.

But then, you could say Tom Petty was not a great singer, you know? He was definitely great in the way he uses his voice to move people, but on a functional level, there are better singers—you know what I mean? But he could speak so honestly and so vulnerably. 

I relate to that. There's great singers out there. If you want a great singer, that's not really what I'm trying to offer. I'm just trying to give a piece of myself and create some moments on the record that spoke to that.

There were some [makings of] songs where I was listening to Tom Petty and didn't think much of it. And then I heard it as the songs were developing. I think one of the only songs I handed to Rob and was like "I want to reference this sound on the recording" was "Time to Move On." There's some drum tone—and the relationship with the vocals—that I wanted to reference.

Ian Shelton of Regional Justice Center and Militarie Gun is another iconoclast in this space. What do you appreciate about working with him?

Dude, Ian's my man. He's just relentlessly motivated, which is incredible. I can't believe he gets as much accomplished as he does.

I'll talk about an idea—like, I want to do a video or something—and he comes to my house and we start riffing. Then, he casually goes home when it's appropriate. I find out later that he was working on this video that morning. And after he left, he went and recorded some demos for the new Militarie Gun songs he's working on.

So, the next time I see him, we might get together and be like, "Hey, let's riff. Let's play guitar and sing or something, and go over some ideas." We get together and do that. I don't know where he finds the time. The man's on tour with two different bands.

Read More: "A Joyful Burden": How Ian Shelton Of Militarie Gun & Regional Justice Center Makes Art Out Of Negativity

I really appreciate his desire to step outside his comfort zone. That's what I appreciate most about artists—especially in current times. In guitar music—in rock music—I think people are more afraid to do that than ever. And then you have somebody like Ian Shelton who gets off on it and wants to keep pushing himself. He inspires me to do that more.

I feel like to be that motivated, you have to have an imaginary gun to your head at all times.

Dude, you just nailed it, man. I know he's like this, too. I love the gun metaphor.

Last night, I was getting ready to go to sleep and I got an idea in my head. I'm still recovering from COVID: "I should be asleep right now. I've got to rest." But then I was up and set my little studio up and started riffing until 5 a.m. 

You just can't turn it off if you've got that type of brain. It'll haunt you through the night and keep you awake and make you a crazy person. But it's just worse if you don't acknowledge it and scratch the itch. Again, Ian Shelton's definitely a great example of that. 

I'm not trying to be like, gothic, emo guy, but I don't relate to a lot of people on an individual level. I have people I really love and trust. Ian is somebody I trust, who I know differently than a lot of them. He has that creative, psycho drive. Maybe he doesn't think I'm a weirdo that I stay up all night and don't have a real job, quote-unquote. He's fully down.

What makes you so distrustful of others? Why do you keep your cards so close to the vest?

I'm from a crazy place, up top. I've seen crazy things. I've seen people murdered. I've seen the evil nature of people, and it manifests itself in different ways. If you're in Baltimore, certain things happen—someone might get murdered! If you're in L.A., it's the same s*—people being selfish and greedy. 

I mean, [obviously,] murder happens in L.A. But in a music-business sense, I've seen it. That's why we started our own record label—me, Brendan, and Dan—because we've seen the greedy nature of people and said, "Hey, we can do this. We can contribute this." Not that that's the only incentive; it's not like it's a spiteful thing because we've seen people do bad things. But we saw that we can do things better and treat people better than this.

For me, it's always been like that. I've got a tight little group of people that I really trust and, I think, understand me. That's Brendan and Dan. I try to be human and let people in. I have a lot of really great friends and people I trust, but when I say "a lot," it probably doesn't mean as much as it does to some people.

Angel Du$t. Photo: Kat Nijmeddin

I don't want to be like "Yo! I'm a tough street guy! I've seen murders on the street!" That's real. I've seen people do really ugly things. Then, you live your life and get away from that particular environment, but it follows you. It's in every environment. You see this in [all kinds of] people. It's not outside the nature of man to be s*y. It leads to a tighter circle. Being smarter about the kinds of people you have around.

It might sound strange because I think the average person knows I'm really nice. I'm really friendly. I might even say I let people in easily. But the second I see it, I can't. When I see selfish motives in a person, I just turn it off. I do that a lot. That's probably, definitively, one of the most specific personality traits I have: My unhealthy ability to cut people off.

I think of banal evil all the time, specifically, the way people treat each other online. Ruining someone's life on Twitter fulfills the classical definition of the word.

Dude, it's insane. You're so right. I see that on the internet a lot.

I was talking to someone about the evolution of social media. It's always this pattern that happens. The first social media in my recollection was Makeoutclub, which was a long time ago. I want to say it was about 20 years ago. And then it got weird with buying and selling. It became a marketplace on some level. And then it got sold out and died out or whatever.
And then it was Friendster, I believe. Same thing. Social media has the good intention of people connecting with each other, and then it becomes buying and selling. It switches and switches. It's gotten to the unhealthy point now where it's a place to sell something. 

And now, on social media, people see it as a way to sell themselves. They project the fantasy-life of themselves on the internet to sell you something. I don't have the energy to do that. Maybe it's jaded-old-man talk, but I don't really give myself on the internet. I actually have friends and people I care about.

I do think one thing that's specific about our particular music community is that it is a community. I know a lot of the people that I interact with on the internet. I do post on the internet [like], "Hey, it's me. I'm doing good. Here's this little update on my life." But it's interesting how it's so much about branding at this point.

It's hard to be a fully branded internet persona all the time. If you can make your life look perfect and then you come see me at the show, I'm still a dude from Baltimore who's seen murders and s. I can't be that internet guy all the time—everyone's friend and s.

Well, people are projecting more than their perfect house or relationship these days. Moral purity is their brand—it's used as a hammer.

And you've got to bring everybody down who isn't exactly like you. That's very far from who I am.

Don't get me wrong: This isn't me being like, "Yo, f* cancel culture!" I have a moral code. I do think the internet has brought attention to a lot of those evils of man that we're talking about. I think, in a lot of ways, it's helping make the world a better place. 

But I also see people being petty and evil on the internet, trying to tear people down for not being exactly like they are, and that's fing crazy to me. It's bully s. I didn't like bullies when I was a kid. Bullies have kind of changed now. You can't bully someone for what they look like or who they are, and that's real. The difference is that in the era when I grew up, there was no internet for people to talk amongst each other, so you'd go and beat 'em up [Laughs].

"As far as a direct message, it's the same as it's always been. Just do your thing and don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, as long as it feels natural and authentic to you."

I don't know if that's the right way, but [the current method] has created a level of policing where people are always looking for someone to call the bad guy—to tear them down and make themselves look better. That's ugly.

If we're really trying to create this perfect utopia that people are selling on the internet—I don't know, man. People need to talk more. Just talk. There are a lot of people in the world I don't agree with, but I can talk to them and find mutual ground and respect for where they're coming from.

Obviously, there's that place where I can't rock with you. People are just different, and we're not going to see eye-to-eye, and that's fine. But at least we talked. We gave it a shot.

Like you, I'm not interested in a prosaic discussion about "cancel culture," which can go in all kinds of embarrassing directions. It's just not OK to be a bully—full stop.

I'm not a cop. I'm not a police officer for a reason. I don't want to be a police officer. I'm a punk rocker; that's my identity since childhood. It's not my job to police everybody, but it is my job to stand up when I see someone doing something actually wrong. There's a big difference between the two.

To guide the conversation toward the light a little bit: I just saw you co-wrote Turnstile's "UNDERWATER BOI." That's a fan favorite right now.

It's a minor contribution. Brendan, straight-up, is like how I was talking about Ian Shelton. He's one of my biggest influences—a brilliant songwriter. He's always pushing himself; he's always pushing me. I was just lucky to be in the right time and place and have a minor contribution to the song. Maybe he gave me too much credit for it.

It's cool to be a small part of a writing process like that and then be able to sit back and listen to it as a fan. Because, again, I couldn't make that song happen. That's Brendan's brain. It's really cool to be part of that team and have any role in or influence on anything they might be doing.

Both bands have been blossoming at once. Is it inspiring to watch Turnstile rise while you do your own thing?

In the last couple of years, we've had a more conscious songwriting process where we don't want to influence the other too much. We don't want to make the same music. We're not super in each others' faces with everything we're writing, but it's not like we hide what we're writing.

I wrote most of this record myself. A lot of times, in the past, I would have song ideas and bring them to the team. We'd all flesh them out together. I wrote these songs, sent them to Dan, and Dan reworked some things—changed a lot of drum stuff. He took my ideas and made them real. Later in the process, Brendan and Pat flew out.

Before that, my vision is complete. I tried everything; I gave it all I had. These are my songs before anybody gets to re-decide the song structure. They're complete before anybody comes in and starts turning stuff. Brendan and Pat came in and contributed so much on top of the songs that I didn't see. 

I'm really happy with the outcome and everyone's input. It was a unique way of making a record together that we'd never really explored.

Before we jump off, where do you see Angel Du$t heading in the future?

Anywhere. I'm down to go anywhere. I never want to approach a record with a game plan in mind. I never want to say, "This record is going to be this." You just make songs and use all your new tools—the new things you learned—and apply them to what you're doing. 

For me, in this case, it's production. I knew virtually nothing about producing a record, despite making so many in my life. I just kind of show up and play guitar and sing. As with this, Rob Schnapf—and Matt Schuessler, his engineer—let me in on that process and showed me so much.

I feel like I have more tools than I've ever had in my life, right now. If anything definitively will stand out, it's going to be in terms of production and trying to explore that department. 

Angel Du$t has an identity as far as our songwriting and guitar sounds. But it's time to try some freaky s* on the computer.

Brendan Yates On Turnstile's Vibrant New Album GLOW ON: "The Goal Was To Breathe As Much Imagination Into These Songs As Possible"

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Turnstile On Mainstream Attention, Touring With Blink-182, Repping DOMi & JD Beck
Turnstile (L-R): Brendan Yates, Franz Lyons, Pat McCrory, Daniel Fang

Photo: Austin Ciezko


Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Turnstile On Mainstream Attention, Touring With Blink-182, Repping DOMi & JD Beck

By pouring fresh melodicism and imagination into hardcore, Turnstile have raised their subculture's flag on the world stage — and been nominated for three GRAMMYs for their efforts.

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2023 - 05:30 pm

Turnstile have deeply entrenched roots in hardcore, a genre and subculture as diametrically opposed to mainstream awards shows as you can possibly get.

But when you ask them about their first set of GRAMMY nominations, they dispense no punk-like opposition — just humility and gratitude.

"It's cool to be just honored from our circle," says Brendan Yates, vocalist for the Baltimore punks, who are up for Best Rock Performance ("Holiday"), Best Metal Performance and Best Rock Song ("Blackout") at the 2023 GRAMMYs. "But [the GRAMMYs represent] a whole other world of musicians, and recognition for things that the music industry does."

Read More: 2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List

This broad-mindedness tracks with the overall aesthetic and vision of Turnstile, who expand the often monochromatic palette of hardcore to include all manner of vivid hues. Their breakout 2021 album GLOW ON contains everything from synths ("Mystery") to spacey balladry ("Alien Love Call," with Blood Orange). It  even receives signals from Sly Stone on "T.L.C. (Turnstile Love Connection), which interpolates "Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again)."

From separate locations in Baltimore — guitarist Pat McCrory, bassist Franz Lyons, and drummer Daniel Fang outdoors in one Zoom window, and Yates in his cozy-looking house in another — Turnstile opened up to

Topics included strange bedfellows of punk and the mainstream, the fellow GRAMMY nominees they're thrilled about, their upcoming arena tour with a reconstituted Blink-182, and why "selling out" is for the birds.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What was the Turnstile fan community's response to the GRAMMYs news? Obviously, perceptions of prestigious awards shows can wildly vary when it comes to subculture.

Daniel Fang: You know, it's wild, because it might be a selective thing, but I feel this unconditional support that surrounds our band — where they'd still be so happy for anything we could receive, or do. It was full-blown love, and it feels like no matter what, they've always got our back anyway. 

But it was one of those things where you're kind of rejoicing together. When you actually look at the people, anyone at the show,  and see what they're saying or feeling — especially when we made these videos for that whole last tour — it feels like unconditional love somehow. 

And I think it goes both ways, so it's like: Right on, they'll celebrate.

Through a punk lens, what's your relationship to the GRAMMY organization and show?

Franz Lyons: First and foremost, getting any sort of recognition and accolades from something so giant and formal is amazing. 

When you start in a band and your parents are driving you, and you get the van and the trailer, and then you get a bigger van, and then you get the Sprinter — once you've taken all these steps and made it, being recognized on that grand scale is awesome.

And it's sweet that [the Recording Academy] took the time to watch someone do their thing, and then actually put them on a platform to be celebrated along the same lines — these are larger-than-life perks.

Brendan Yates: I feel like I always watched the GRAMMYs growing up, because the only TV I was really watching was music-related things. I was watching music videos all the time — MTV and VH1. 

When the GRAMMYs came on — especially because I didn't have the internet much — I was like, Oh, I can see all these people that I love that are doing music. I could see them act as humans — sitting in the chair and stuff like that. That was kind of cool. And then, as I got older, I always paid attention just to see what was going on — seeing performances. 

When I was younger, if I was playing drums, my mom was like, "Alright, it's 9 o'clock. You have to stop playing drums." "Come on, please, 10 more minutes!" And she'd be like, "Alright, you can play for 10 more minutes, but when you go to the GRAMMYs, you know who you're bringing, right?" I was like, "Yeah, OK, fine, I'll bring you."

She said that believing it, but also, it was kind of a joke. To see that actually come to fruition is kind of a shock, and really just cool all around.

How do these GRAMMY nominations color or frame your goals in the music business, now that they've upped the ante for what you can be recognized for on a global scale?

Pat McCrory: It's kind of wild, because it does seem like one of those things that you never really feel like you'll actively be able to attain. And then, after you're getting nominated for something, you're like: Whoa, OK, hold on. I don't know what's possible.

That's a cool feeling. It busted another door open. I don't even know what's on the other side, but there's no door now.

Fang: First of all, we never had any goals as a band other than to pursue the creative impulses that we all have, and work together and collaborate and make something that we all love, and then share it in as many ways as possible.

We keep having these new doors open, so to speak, and having really fun and fulfilling experiences of being able to make certain kinds of art and tour and play in all these different countries for all different types of people.

And then with the GRAMMYs — it's exactly like how Pat said it — we didn't expect it. I just think it's really exciting to know that unexpected, beautiful things can happen. That sets an unhealthy bar of expectation, but we're looking forward to [the ceremony] and  all the experiences we can share together.

Lyons: A great friend of mine phrased our band as "We like to move forward, not upward."

Yates: There are never expectations for great things — opportunities like that. I think we have had so many amazing opportunities. Sometimes, you play a festival and you're playing to 100,000 people — a sea of people. It's not necessarily that at that moment, everything changes. Since day one, I've always kind of felt the same, even up to this point.

And as Daniel was kind of touching on, the acknowledgements and opportunities are amazing, and I think it's cool to see. I don't think it necessarily changed the trajectory or intention behind the original goal of just creating music we love, and creating environments where we can play the music, and touring, and doing whatever feels right to us.

Read More: Like Turnstile And Code Orange? 10 More Bands Expanding The Boundaries Of Hardcore

"Selling out" used to be heresy in guitar-music circles; now, that concept has eroded to borderline nonexistence. Can you talk about that shift in your world?

Yates: I think things have become so accessible with the internet, and the idea of selling out is something that is so transparent. At the end of the day, I feel like the general idea of it is doing something against your will — selling yourself to do something against what you would want to do, for fame or recognition or money or whatever it is.

As it still exists, when you see someone doing something that's genuinely themselves, any sort of recognition or opportunity is almost more celebrated. You can really see genuinely if someone truly cares about what they're doing and has a lot of intention behind it, and is in touch with what they're doing.

So, I think with the accessibility and transparency of everything, you can see a little bit more about what's going on and decide whether you support it or not.

Fang: I think that's a larger, logical kind of observation of what "selling out" means in the context of punk, especially. But like Brendan was saying, things are so accessible. You can put something on YouTube, Spotify or Bandcamp; you can create with really minimal barriers to access.

So, I think what that results in is people being motivated and inspired by things, rather than seeing this inaccessible platform that seems so far away. I can understand why that can result in resentment or feeling detached from something that felt so intimate and underground and subcultural.

I don't think those ceilings exist anymore, in the same way. People's perception of something they love is because they see it growing, or individuals do something that they like to do. Now, I just think people are inspired by that [more] than anything, and that's amazing.

Lyons: Originality is celebrated, bro.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Franz mentioned he's ready to "kick it" for a bit after your tour-intensive 2022. Once you're recharged and reset, what's on the table for the year?

Yates: Our 2023 definitely has plans. We definitely have plans touring — not as much as [last] year, but there's some select touring. And there's time at home just to be making and living and existing. But, yeah, I think we'll just kind of take it day-by-day.

McCrory: It'll be a nice, busy year, but it will also buy us some time to do what we want. Write music or just sit on your ass, or go out and sit at the beach or in the woods or something. It's been a long couple of years since the world opened back up. 

It'll be a nice combo. I feel like it'll be a traditional mode, where we're out there and doing it a lot. And then there's also the affordable time where you can focus on anything you need to focus on.

What about you, Franz?

Lyons: Uhhh… skate. [Laughs.] Chill back in Ohio. Play music with Dan. Tour with Blink next summer! I mean, it's kind of like the year is going to be some playing shows, some creating. Finding our balance is to do that, but also maintain a healthy standard of living here as well.

Not being shoulder-to-shoulder for six months in a row.

Lyons: I mean, these are my guys. I'm down with the shoulder!

Fang: We all love spending time with each other. But it does have the sacrifice of seeing people at home and maintaining certain relationships. So, I have a lot of rainchecks to attend to — a lot of people I'd like to see, a lot of quality time I'd like to spend with my partner and family.

So, I'm really, really happy we're finding a better balance with that [this] year. It's a good problem to have, but I think it's really good for us to strike a balance.


Turnstile. Photo: Alexis Gross

That tour with Blink-182 will be a watershed achievement. What do you think about that, now that it's on the immediate horizon?

Lyons: I'm actually so incredibly down. But they [points to Daniel and Pat] really love that. Obviously, playing a big, giant show is sweet, but playing a show with the band that resonated so hard with my people, and playing with them all summer…

Not to mention that you get to see Blink every night, get to see Travis Barker play drums every night, and you get a whole venue to run around and just be crazy and do whatever — just completely soak up that environment.

Fang: We're pretty gassed up about it. For me, that was the first show I'd been to, so it's another full circle that'll be pretty surreal. Because you get another, different stage to do some wild stuff on, and be yourself for a sector of people, and also be inspired by one of the bands that changed the game.

Yates: It'll be our first arena tour as well. We always love accepting the opportunity to play in different environments — whether it's some field outside, or a basement, or a big festival, or a club venue. So, this will be checking off new territory, in that we're able to play in that environment for a full tour.

Before I let you guys go, what have you been listening to lately?

Lyons: I've been rocking the new SZA record lately.

Fang: JD Beck and DOMi. We're all really excited about them receiving GRAMMY nominations. We really want the world to see them and hear them. I think all of us are really looking forward to seeing how they blossom, because they're both really serious and phenomenal artists.

Yates: Fiddlehead. I've been listening to the new Caroline Polachek song; I'm excited for her album. Our friend Mary Jane Dunphe has a new album coming out; I'm really excited about that. The new Paramore album. [Editor's note: Yates directed a music video for the title track to Paramore's upcoming 2023 album, This is Why.] I'm also excited to see IDLES at the GRAMMYs.

McCrory: I was watching this Netflix documentary about drums last night, so I listened to a lot of Deep Purple yesterday. It's not a new band to shout out, but… shout out!

Brendan Yates On Turnstile's Vibrant New Album Glow On: "The Goal Was To Breathe As Much Imagination Into These Songs As Possible"

A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."


Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.


L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

The Rise Of Underground House: How Artists Like Fisher & Acraze Have Taken Tech House, Other Electronic Genres From Indie To EDC

Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage
Billy Idol

Photo: Steven Sebring


Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage

"One foot in the past and one foot into the future," Billy Idol says, describing his decade-spanning career in rock. "We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol."

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, spoke with Billy Idol about his latest EP,  Cage, and continuing to rock through decades of changing tastes.

Billy Idol is a true rock 'n' roll survivor who has persevered through cultural shifts and personal struggles. While some may think of Idol solely for "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," the singer's musical influences span genres and many of his tunes are less turbo-charged than his '80s hits would belie.  

Idol first made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the British punk band Generation X. In the '80s, he went on to a solo career combining rock, pop, and punk into a distinct sound that transformed him and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, into icons. They have racked up multiple GRAMMY nominations, in addition to one gold, one double platinum, and four platinum albums thanks to hits like "Cradle Of Love," "Flesh For Fantasy," and "Eyes Without A Face." 

But, unlike many legacy artists, Idol is anything but a relic. Billy continues to produce vital Idol music by collaborating with producers and songwriters — including Miley Cyrus — who share his forward-thinking vision. He will play a five-show Vegas residency in November, and filmmaker Jonas Akerlund is working on a documentary about Idol’s life. 

His latest release is Cage, the second in a trilogy of annual four-song EPs. The title track is a classic Billy Idol banger expressing the desire to free himself from personal constraints and live a better life. Other tracks on Cage incorporate metallic riffing and funky R&B grooves. 

Idol continues to reckon with his demons — they both grappled with addiction during the '80s — and the singer is open about those struggles on the record and the page. (Idol's 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself, details a 1990 motorcycle accident that nearly claimed a leg, and how becoming a father steered him to reject hard drugs. "Bitter Taste," from his last EP, The Roadside, reflects on surviving the accident.)

Although Idol and Stevens split in the late '80s — the skilled guitarist fronted Steve Stevens & The Atomic Playboys, and collaborated with Michael Jackson, Rick Ocasek, Vince Neil, and Harold Faltermeyer (on the GRAMMY-winning "Top Gun Anthem") —  their common history and shared musical bond has been undeniable. The duo reunited in 2001 for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers" and have been back in the saddle for two decades. Their union remains one of the strongest collaborations in rock 'n roll history.

While there is recognizable personnel and a distinguishable sound throughout a lot of his work, Billy Idol has always pushed himself to try different things. Idol discusses his musical journey, his desire to constantly move forward, and the strong connection that he shares with Stevens. 

Steve has said that you like to mix up a variety of styles, yet everyone assumes you're the "Rebel Yell"/"White Wedding" guy. But if they really listen to your catalog, it's vastly different.

Yeah, that's right. With someone like Steve Stevens, and then back in the day Keith Forsey producing... [Before that] Generation X actually did move around inside punk rock. We didn't stay doing just the Ramones two-minute music. We actually did a seven-minute song. [Laughs]. We did always mix things up. 

Then when I got into my solo career, that was the fun of it. With someone like Steve, I knew what he could do. I could see whatever we needed to do, we could nail it. The world was my oyster musically. 

"Cage" is a classic-sounding Billy Idol rocker, then "Running From The Ghost" is almost metal, like what the Devil's Playground album was like back in the mid-2000s. "Miss Nobody" comes out of nowhere with this pop/R&B flavor. What inspired that?

We really hadn't done anything like that since something like "Flesh For Fantasy" [which] had a bit of an R&B thing about it. Back in the early days of Billy Idol, "Hot In The City" and "Mony Mony" had girls [singing] on the backgrounds. 

We always had a bit of R&B really, so it was actually fun to revisit that. We just hadn't done anything really quite like that for a long time. That was one of the reasons to work with someone like Sam Hollander [for the song "Rita Hayworth"] on The Roadside. We knew we could go [with him] into an R&B world, and he's a great songwriter and producer. That's the fun of music really, trying out these things and seeing if you can make them stick. 

I listen to new music by veteran artists and debate that with some people. I'm sure you have those fans that want their nostalgia, and then there are some people who will embrace the newer stuff. Do you find it’s a challenge to reach people with new songs?

Obviously, what we're looking for is, how do we somehow have one foot in the past and one foot into the future? We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol. 

You want to do things that are true to you, and you don't just want to try and do things that you're seeing there in the charts today. I think that we're achieving it with things like "Running From The Ghost" and "Cage" on this new EP. I think we’re managing to do both in a way. 

Obviously, "Running From The Ghost" is about addiction, all the stuff that you went through, and in "Cage" you’re talking about  freeing yourself from a lot of personal shackles. Was there any one moment in your life that made you really thought I have to not let this weigh me down anymore?

I mean, things like the motorcycle accident I had, that was a bit of a wake up call way back. It was 32 years ago. But there were things like that, years ago, that gradually made me think about what I was doing with my life. I didn't want to ruin it, really. I didn't want to throw it away, and it made [me] be less cavalier. 

I had to say to myself, about the drugs and stuff, that I've been there and I've done it. There’s no point in carrying on doing it. You couldn't get any higher. You didn't want to throw your life away casually, and I was close to doing that. It took me a bit of time, but then gradually I was able to get control of myself to a certain extent [with] drugs and everything. And I think Steve's done the same thing. We're on a similar path really, which has been great because we're in the same boat in terms of lyrics and stuff. 

So a lot of things like that were wake up calls. Even having grandchildren and just watching my daughter enlarging her family and everything; it just makes you really positive about things and want to show a positive side to how you're feeling, about where you're going. We've lived with the demons so long, we've found a way to live with them. We found a way to be at peace with our demons, in a way. Maybe not completely, but certainly to where we’re enjoying what we do and excited about it.

[When writing] "Running From The Ghost" it was easy to go, what was the ghost for us? At one point, we were very drug addicted in the '80s. And Steve in particular is super sober [now]. I mean, I still vape pot and stuff. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but it’s incredible. All I want to be able to do is have a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or something. I can do that now.

I think working with people that are super talented, you just feel confident. That is a big reason why you open up and express yourself more because you feel comfortable with what's around you.

Did you watch Danny Boyle's recent Sex Pistols mini-series?

I did, yes.

You had a couple of cameos; well, an actor who portrayed you did. How did you react to it? How accurate do you think it was in portraying that particular time period?

I love Jonesy’s book, I thought his book was incredible. It's probably one of the best bio books really. It was incredible and so open. I was looking forward to that a lot.

It was as if [the show] kind of stayed with Steve [Jones’ memoir] about halfway through, and then departed from it. [John] Lydon, for instance, was never someone I ever saw acting out; he's more like that today. I never saw him do something like jump up in the room and run around going crazy. The only time I saw him ever do that was when they signed the recording deal with Virgin in front of Buckingham Palace. Whereas Sid Vicious was always acting out; he was always doing something in a horrible way or shouting at someone. I don't remember John being like that. I remember him being much more introverted.

But then I watched interviews with some of the actors about coming to grips with the parts they were playing. And they were saying, we knew punk rock happened but just didn't know any of the details. So I thought well, there you go. If ["Pistol" is]  informing a lot of people who wouldn't know anything about punk rock, maybe that's what's good about it.

Maybe down the road John Lydon will get the chance to do John's version of the Pistols story. Maybe someone will go a lot deeper into it and it won't be so surface. But maybe you needed this just to get people back in the flow.

We had punk and metal over here in the States, but it feels like England it was legitimately more dangerous. British society was much more rigid.

It never went [as] mega in America. It went big in England. It exploded when the Pistols did that interview with [TV host Bill] Grundy, that lorry truck driver put his boot through his own TV, and all the national papers had "the filth and the fury" [headlines].

We went from being unknown to being known overnight. We waited a year, Generation X. We even told them [record labels] no for nine months to a year. Every record company wanted their own punk rock group. So it went really mega in England, and it affected the whole country – the style, the fashions, everything. I mean, the Ramones were massive in England. Devo had a No. 1 song [in England] with "Satisfaction" in '77. Actually, Devo was as big as or bigger than the Pistols.

You were ahead of the pop-punk thing that happened in the late '90s, and a lot of it became tongue-in-cheek by then. It didn't have the same sense of rebelliousness as the original movement. It was more pop.

It had become a style. There was a famous book in England called Revolt Into Style — and that's what had happened, a revolt that turned into style which then they were able to duplicate in their own way. Even recently, Billie Joe [Armstrong] did his own version of "Gimme Some Truth," the Lennon song we covered way back in 1977.

When we initially were making [punk] music, it hadn't become accepted yet. It was still dangerous and turned into a style that people were used to. We were still breaking barriers.

You have a band called Generation Sex with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. I assume you all have an easier time playing Pistols and Gen X songs together now and not worrying about getting spit on like back in the '70s?

Yeah, definitely. When I got to America I told the group I was putting it together, "No one spits at the audience."

We had five years of being spat on [in the UK], and it was revolting. And they spat at you if they liked you. If they didn't like it they smashed your gear up. One night, I remember I saw blood on my T-shirt, and I think Joe Strummer got meningitis when spit went in his mouth.

You had to go through a lot to become successful, it wasn't like you just kind of got up there and did a couple of gigs. I don't think some young rock bands really get that today.

With punk going so mega in England, we definitely got a leg up. We still had a lot of work to get where we got to, and rightly so because you find out that you need to do that. A lot of groups in the old days would be together three to five years before they ever made a record, and that time is really important. In a way, what was great about punk rock for me was it was very much a learning period. I really learned a lot [about] recording music and being in a group and even writing songs.

Then when I came to America, it was a flow, really. I also really started to know what I wanted Billy Idol to be. It took me a little bit, but I kind of knew what I wanted Billy Idol to be. And even that took a while to let it marinate.

You and Miley Cyrus have developed a good working relationship in the last several years. How do you think her fans have responded to you, and your fans have responded to her?

I think they're into it. It's more the record company that she had didn't really get "Night Crawling"— it was one of the best songs on Plastic Hearts, and I don't think they understood that. They wanted to go with Dua Lipa, they wanted to go with the modern, young acts, and I don't think they realized that that song was resonating with her fans. Which is a shame really because, with Andrew Watt producing, it's a hit song.

But at the same time, I enjoyed doing it. It came out really good and it's very Billy Idol. In fact, I think it’s more Billy Idol than Miley Cyrus. I think it shows you where Andrew Watt was. He was excited about doing a Billy Idol track. She's fun to work with. She’s a really great person and she works at her singing — I watched her rehearsing for the Super Bowl performance she gave. She rehearsed all Saturday morning, all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning and it was that afternoon. I have to admire her fortitude. She really cares.

I remember when you went on "Viva La Bamback in 2005 and decided to give Bam Margera’s Lamborghini a new sunroof by taking a power saw to it. Did he own that car? Was that a rental?

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

He loved it. [Laughs] He’s got a wacky sense of humor. He’s fantastic, actually. I’m really sorry to see what he's been going through just lately. He's going through a lot, and I wish him the best. He's a fantastic person, and it's a shame that he's struggling so much with his addictions. I know what it's like. It's not easy.

Musically, what is the synergy like with you guys during the past 10 years, doing Kings and Queens of the Underground and this new stuff? What is your working relationship like now in this more sober, older, mature version of you two as opposed to what it was like back in the '80s?

In lots of ways it’s not so different because we always wrote the songs together, we always talked about what we're going to do together. It was just that we were getting high at the same time.We're just not getting [that way now] but we're doing all the same things.

We're still talking about things, still [planning] things:What are we going to do next? How are we going to find new people to work with? We want to find new producers. Let's be a little bit more timely about putting stuff out.That part of our relationship is the same, you know what I mean? That never got affected. We just happened to be overloading in the '80s.

The relationship’s… matured and it's carrying on being fruitful, and I think that's pretty amazing. Really, most people don't get to this place. Usually, they hate each other by now. [Laughs] We also give each other space. We're not stopping each other doing things outside of what we’re working on together. All of that enables us to carry on working together. I love and admire him. I respect him. He's been fantastic. I mean, just standing there on stage with him is always a treat. And he’s got an immensely great sense of humor. I think that's another reason why we can hang together after all this time because we've got the sense of humor to enable us to go forward.

There's a lot of fan reaction videos online, and I noticed a lot of younger women like "Rebel Yell" because, unlike a lot of other '80s alpha male rock tunes, you're talking about satisfying your lover.

It was about my girlfriend at the time, Perri Lister. It was about how great I thought she was, how much I was in love with her, and how great women are, how powerful they are.

It was a bit of a feminist anthem in a weird way. It was all about how relationships can free you and add a lot to your life. It was a cry of love, nothing to do with the Civil War or anything like that. Perri was a big part of my life, a big part of being Billy Idol. I wanted to write about it. I'm glad that's the effect.

Is there something you hope people get out of the songs you've been doing over the last 10 years? Do you find yourself putting out a message that keeps repeating?

Well, I suppose, if anything, is that you can come to terms with your life, you can keep a hold of it. You can work your dreams into reality in a way and, look, a million years later, still be enjoying it.

The only reason I'm singing about getting out of the cage is because I kicked out of the cage years ago. I joined Generation X when I said to my parents, "I'm leaving university, and I'm joining a punk rock group." And they didn't even know what a punk rock group was. Years ago, I’d write things for myself that put me on this path, so that maybe in 2022 I could sing something like "Cage" and be owning this territory and really having a good time. This is the life I wanted.

The original UK punk movement challenged societal norms. Despite all the craziness going on throughout the world, it seems like a lot of modern rock bands are afraid to do what you guys were doing. Do you think we'll see a shift in that?

Yeah.  Art usually reacts to things, so I would think eventually there will be a massive reaction to the pop music that’s taken over — the middle of the road music, and then this kind of right wing politics. There will be a massive reaction if there's not already one. I don’t know where it will come from exactly. You never know who's gonna do [it].

Living Legends: Nancy Sinatra Reflects On Creating "Power And Magic" In Studio, Developing A Legacy Beyond "Boots" & The Pop Stars She Wants To Work With

Hear All Of The Best Country Solo Performance Nominees For The 2023 GRAMMY Awards
2023 GRAMMYs

Graphic: The Recording Academy


Hear All Of The Best Country Solo Performance Nominees For The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

The 2023 GRAMMY Award nominees for Best Country Solo Performance highlight country music's newcomers and veterans, featuring hits from Kelsea Ballerini, Zach Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Willie Nelson.

GRAMMYs/Nov 23, 2022 - 03:01 pm

Country music's evolution is well represented in the 2023 GRAMMY nominees for Best Country Solo Performance. From crossover pop hooks to red-dirt outlaw roots, the genre's most celebrated elements are on full display — thanks to rising stars, leading ladies and country icons.

Longtime hitmaker Miranda Lambert delivered a soulful performance on the rootsy ballad "In His Arms," an arrangement as sparing as the windswept west Texas highlands where she co-wrote the song. Viral newcomer Zach Bryan dug into similar organic territory on the Oklahoma side of the Red River for "Something in the Orange," his voice accompanied with little more than an acoustic guitar.

Two of country's 2010s breakout stars are clearly still shining, too, as Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini both received Best Country Solo Performance GRAMMY nods. Morris channeled the determination that drove her leap-of-faith move from Texas to Nashville for the playful clap-along "Circles Around This Town," while Ballerini brought poppy hooks with a country edge on the infectiously upbeat "HEARTFIRST."

Rounding out the category is the one and only Willie Nelson, who paid tribute to his late friend Billy Joe Shaver with a cover of "Live Forever" — a fitting sentiment for the 89-year-old legend, who is approaching his eighth decade in the business. 

As the excitement builds for the 2023 GRAMMYs on Feb. 5, 2023, let's take a closer look at this year's nominees for Best Country Solo Performance.

Kelsea Ballerini — "HEARTFIRST"

In the tradition of Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini represents Nashville's sunnier side — and her single "HEARTFIRST" is a slice of bright, uptempo, confectionary country-pop for the ages.

Ballerini sings about leaning into a carefree crush with her heart on her sleeve, pushing aside her reservations and taking a risk on love at first sight. The scene plays out in a bar room and a back seat, as she sweeps nimbly through the verses and into a shimmering chorus, when the narrator decides she's ready to "wake up in your T-shirt." 

There are enough steel guitar licks to let you know you're listening to a country song, but the story and melody are universal. "HEARTFIRST" is Ballerini's third GRAMMY nod, but first in the Best Country Solo Performance category.

Zach Bryan — "Something In The Orange"

Zach Bryan blew into Music City seemingly from nowhere in 2017, when his original song "Heading South" — recorded on an iPhone — went viral. Then an active officer in the U.S. Navy, the Oklahoma native chased his muse through music during his downtime, striking a chord with country music fans on stark songs led by his acoustic guitar and affecting vocals.

After his honorable discharge in 2021, Bryan began his music career in earnest, and in 2022 released "Something in the Orange," a haunting ballad that stakes a convincing claim to the territory between Tyler Childers and Jason Isbell in both sonics and songwriting. Slashing slide guitar drives home the song's heartbreak, as Bryan pines for a lover whose tail lights have long since vanished over the horizon. 

"Something In The Orange" marks Bryan's first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

Miranda Lambert — "In His Arms"

Miranda Lambert is the rare, chart-topping contemporary country artist who does more than pay lip service to the genre's rural American roots. "In His Arms" originally surfaced on 2021's The Marfa Tapes, a casual recording Lambert made with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall in Marfa, Texas — a tiny arts enclave in the middle of the west Texas high desert.

In this proper studio version — recorded for her 2022 album, Palomino — Lambert retains the structure and organic feel of the mostly acoustic song; light percussion and soothing atmospherics keep her emotive vocals front and center. A native Texan herself, Lambert sounds fully at home on "In His Arms."

Lambert is the only Best Country Solo Performance nominee who is nominated in all four Country Field categories in 2023. To date, Miranda Lambert has won 3 GRAMMYs and received 27 nominations overall. 

Maren Morris — "Circles Around This Town"

When Maren Morris found herself uninspired and dealing with writer's block, she went back to what inspired her to move to Nashville nearly a decade ago — and out came "Circles Around This Town," the lead single from her 2022 album Humble Quest.

Written in one of her first in-person songwriting sessions since the pandemic, Morris has called "Circles Around This Town" her "most autobiographical song" to date; she even recreated her own teenage bedroom for the song's video. As she looks back to her Texas beginnings and the life she left for Nashville, Morris' voice soars over anthemic, yet easygoing production. 

Morris last won a GRAMMY for Best Country Solo Performance in 2017, when her song "My Church" earned the singer her first GRAMMY. To date, Maren Morris has won one GRAMMY and received 17 nominations overall.

Willie Nelson — "Live Forever"

Country music icon Willie Nelson is no stranger to the GRAMMYs, and this year he aims to add to his collection of 10 gramophones. He earned another three nominations for 2023 — bringing his career total to 56 — including a Best Country Solo Performance nod for "Live Forever."

Nelson's performance of "Live Forever," the lead track of the 2022 tribute album Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver, is a faithful rendition of Shaver's signature song. Still, Nelson puts his own twist on the tune, recruiting Lucinda Williams for backing vocals and echoing the melody with the inimitable tone of his nylon-string Martin guitar. 

Shaver, an outlaw country pioneer who passed in 2020 at 81 years old, never had any hits of his own during his lifetime. But plenty of his songs were still heard, thanks to stars like Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings. Nelson was a longtime friend and frequent collaborator of Shaver's — and now has a GRAMMY nom to show for it.

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List