meta-scriptKesha Reveals The 10 Most Important Songs Of Her Career, From "Tik Tok" To "Eat The Acid" | GRAMMY.com
Kesha Press Photo 2023
Kesha

Photo: Vincent Haycock

interview

Kesha Reveals The 10 Most Important Songs Of Her Career, From "Tik Tok" To "Eat The Acid"

The pop hitmaker looks back on the singles and deep cuts that spawned some of the funniest memories as well as personal growth — and how it all led to her fifth studio album, 'Gag Order.'

GRAMMYs/Jun 5, 2023 - 02:51 pm

Upon listening to Kesha's new album, Gag Order, one thing is abundantly and immediately clear: She's not the same girl the world met in 2009.

While Gag Order is less upbeat than Kesha's previous albums, it's  the most introspective and vulnerable she's been as a songwriter. But all makes sense; this is a girl who has been through very public trauma and health struggles, who has finally broken through and found hope on the other side. Even still, she hasn't lost sight of the girl who once brushed her teeth with a bottle of Jack. 

"There are three albums I know in the history of my life that I have put every fiber of my f—ing being into — Animal, Rainbow, and now Gag Order," Kesha tells GRAMMY.com. "I'm incredibly proud of what [Gag Order] is, and who I've become through the process of it."

She refers to Gag Order as an "emotional exorcism," which is an undeniably accurate description of the album's dark, yet cathartic narrative. It feels like the deliverance Kesha has been building up to since 2017's Rainbow, and the older, wiser sister to the quirky character in 2010's Animal. And though Gag Order may have a different sound, Kesha is adamant that every stage of her career has played a role in getting her to this point — even if it has been an "emotional roller coaster."

To celebrate Gag Order's release, Kesha looked back at her entire discography and selected 10 songs that feel the most important to her story — whether they involved funny moments, career highlights, a special creation process, or a favorite live moment. Read the singer's picks below, and learn why songs like "Blow," "Praying" and "Happy" are crucial to the fabric of Kesha.

"Tik Tok," Animal (2009)

I was on a long plane ride from L.A. to London. It was the first time I got the upgrade to business class, and I remember thinking like, Oh my god, does this mean I made it?

Right behind me, there were these two kids, and they were being so annoying the whole trip — for like 13 hours, screaming and singing. And I remember turning to the person next to me, who was my manager at the time, and I was like, "Oh my god, these kids are so..." and then they started singing "Tik Tok," and I was like, "...cute."

I just started laughing. And I thought to myself, Well, I'm listening to two 5-year-olds sing about brushing their teeth with a bottle of Jack, so I love them now.

I went from playing a club in L.A. called the Echo to about 20 people, and "Tik Tok" came out, and my next gig was Lollapalooza, and there was a sea of people at the stage. And I was really confused. I thought maybe they had shown up for the wrong stage. And then when I started playing, everyone was singing "Tik Tok" to me, and it was so overwhelmingly exciting. That was another moment where I was like, "Oh, this is about to change the trajectory of what my life's gonna look like now."

And then "The Simpsons" redid the intro to [the show], but with "Tik Tok" — and I think at that point, they'd never done that before. I'm not sure if they have done it again. But I just remember being like, "I think I did something that is hitting the zeitgeist in a particular way that I had not bargained for."

"Blow," Cannibal (2010)

It's such a fun song, and I remember making the video for that with James Van Der Beek. And it was such a funny memory, because in the original idea for the video, we were supposed to kiss, but instead, we both decided it would be infinitely weirder to, like, eat cheese.

It was random, and he is the nicest guy in the world. Obviously incredibly talented, but so kind and so cool. It was such a wonderful experience working with him because he was really on board with making it as weird as we think it is. I was really pleased with how weird that video came out.

Playing that song live is one of my favorite experiences, because it's [the part of] my live show where I get to assault the world with glitter. I always have my trusted glitter backpack that I've had since 2008. I had a custom-built glitter backpack, which was the bane of the existence of the people I toured with because it would explode all of the time. Everyone had glitter everywhere to the point where they were getting upset. They were like, "I found the f—ing glitter in my belly button!" and I was like, "I don't know what to tell you about that, I'm really sorry." 

"Cannibal," Cannibal (2010)

I was just so pleased with my pen game on that one. Also, I wrote that with my mom, so it was just really funny writing this kind of dark, deranged song with your mom about eating people. I came from her, so she's as deranged as I am. That, like, sums up our relationship.

When I play it live, I've strapped my dancers to a S&M, like, kink cross, and pulled their heart out, and then proceeded to cover my face with fake blood — like, indulge in the cannibalistic routine of eating one of my dancers. My favorite moments of every show I've ever played is the glitter assault and the cannibalism routine. 

It's been really cool watching people on TikTok kind of reconnect with that song. I feel like it had this major resurgence like a year or two ago where everyone was doing moves to it. I always appreciate the "Cannibal" love.

"Bastards," Rainbow (2017)

I was walking into my old house, and I had this, like, overwhelming urge to pick up the guitar. I sat on my bed and wrote that song really quickly, by myself. That song was so f—ing special to me. I knew I wanted it to open the album.

The Rainbow album was when I made the switch to step over into strength and power. I love when that flip happens in the process of making an album, because there's usually self reflection, a little bit of self doubt, feeling sorry for myself, sadness, and then the moment that switches into the fuck you territory is when things really get good.

I am like any human. I don't like reading negative things about myself. But at some point, it turns from beating myself up and hating myself into this self defiance in who I am. And if you don't like me, then f— you. All my haters should know that they fuel some of my best songs.

Playing that song live, I love it when all my fans put their phone lights up and sing with me. Because it feels like this anthem of existence and pride in who you are, and really, not only surviving, but celebrating who you are, and not allowing other people's opinions to get the best of you. I really love playing it, because it's, like, an ocean of lights, and that kind of feels like you're swimming in this ocean of love. 

"Praying," Rainbow (2017)

"Praying" is, pretty indescribably, one of the highlights of my career. That was such a defiant song, and it's the most eloquent, graceful, beautiful song that I've ever heard. There's so much emotion to it, but at the soul of that song, it's standing in me knowing exactly who I am and what I stand for.

I will forever and eternally be grateful to that song. I feel like that was a cosmic interpretation from the universe that was gifted to me and the co-writers of that song. It was just the perfect combination for, in my mind, the best, most graceful f— you song that's ever existed. And I'm not like a megalomaniac narcissist, but I feel like having some distance from it, I can really see that now. 

"Praying" set a new bar for me. "Praying" became the song that I try to beat every time I write a song, because I was so impressed with what me and the other writers did.

Coming from a music family, it's like our lineage. And as a songwriter, I feel like I can make my ancestors proud with certain moments in my career. And "Praying" was definitely one of them.

"Raising Hell," High Road (2020)

That song was so much fun. That was kind of a reclaiming of my joy in a time where I didn't feel very entitled to have joy. I felt like the joy was not mine for the taking, and this was me stealing it back without permission.*

I'm a good person, with a love for, like, the bad and fun side of life. I think that I wanted to celebrate that instead of shaming myself, because I feel like everybody needs some level of badness to really enjoy life.

"Raising Hell" was a moment for me, especially making the video. That was so cathartic, because I got to celebrate the song, but I also got to make this amazing narrative video with Luke Guilford, where I got to be the character I've always dreamt of being — a cross between, like, an evangelical preacher, a murderer and a bandit.

There was a scene that got cut out when I'm dragging my a—— of a husband's dead body across the ground. I was actually dragging like 100 pounds in this tarp, and I remember just gutterally screaming for three minutes. We wanted to include it in the video, but it just seemed so psychotic that everybody else was like, "We can't have three minutes of you screaming." And I was like, "But why not?" [Laughs]

I'm gonna remember that scene forever, because it was so cathartic to drag a dead body across the room screaming. I don't know what [it was] about it, but it forever will be one of my favorite moments in my career.

"Eat The Acid," Gag Order (2023)

That's a direct quote from my mom. She said, "Don't ever eat the acid, you don't want to be changed like it changed me." She told me that when I was really young, and I still to this day have never eaten acid. That's the irony of the whole album, because that was the catalyst for my new album.

The night before I wrote that song, I was just having all of this anxiety, and really feeling destabilized in this collective trauma that was the past couple years for the entirety of the world. I had this spiritual awakening, ego death, psycho magic — that's what I call that night. And I had this full visual experience and conversation with what I now look at as the source energy. 

I truly felt like that was a psychotic breakdown, but then I talked to my therapist, and she said, "No, congratulations, that's a spiritual awakening." So I just decided, on this album, to lean into it, and really go into what that experience was. I wanted the song and the album to sound like how I was feeling.

I really wanted to end the song with confidence and power. It's this journey of disassembling to reassemble, and breaking down the illusion to create a new beginning — a rebirth. And by the end, kind of the final statement I'm making is, Now all I'm going to focus on, I realize now, is to be happy. All of the external validation, and these things that I always thought I wanted, they look differently than how I had expected. My focus, instead of obtaining fame, fortune houses, cars, boyfriends, online love, or anything material, is more learning to love myself and come to peace with my past and opening up a blank slate for my future."

"Eat The Acid" is the first song I wrote for the album. It was kind of an undeniable moment where I thought, this was really different, and I don't know if anybody is going to like this. But this is what being an artist is, and if I get the great pleasure of being an artist this lifetime, it would be a disservice to myself, and anybody that spends the time listening to my music, to not be completely honest with where I'm at. Because every album and every song is like a tiny chapter in the book of who I am. It's going to be what survives long after I'm dead.

"Hate Me Harder," Gag Order (2023)

That was the pivoting moment of the album in finding my strength. That was one of the first songs I wrote at this little mini writing camp with Justin Tranter at his mountain home. There were eight writers sitting around in his basement. We're all sitting on the ground, and I just remember telling them, "I really want this strong anthem, about how I have endured so much hate in my career at this point. I'm so happy to be at a point where it almost fuels me."

Sitting in a room full of eight people screaming "Hate me harder," I was envisioning doing that [with] an arena of my fans. It feels so powerful and so strong. 

"Only Love Can Save Us Now," Gag Order (2023)

The song that opened up the album was "Eat the Acid," and the song that anchored the album was "Only Love." Because throughout the emotional roller coaster that I was going through while making [Gag Order], I kept going back to the mantra of "only love can save us now." That's my mantra for the state of affairs in the world, that's my mantra for all of my interpersonal relationships — to try to lead with love, even though you're in the midst of all these other emotions. So it's the anchor, and it's really the heart of the album.

We were sitting at Shangri La, Rick Rubin's studio in a chapel, and I just had been so intensely on the emotional side of things on this album, so I went in one day and we banged this song out so fast. I kind of addressed everything that's going on in the world in this really concise idea that there's pain, and then there's the render. So the verses are pain and anger, and then the choruses are surrender and hope. 

I remember texting Rick Rubin saying, "Oh my gosh. I think my new song is gonna make you poop." And he said, "Yay!" [Laughs] And then I said, "Did you poop?" And he said, "Yes!" I'm pretty sure that meant he liked it.

"Happy," Gag Order (2023)

"Happy" is my rebirth. "Happy" is the blank slate. "Happy" is me walking out of the wreckage of who I've been and what I've gone through.

Happiness is my purpose now, whereas before it may have been tied to validation and material things — accomplishments and numbers, and stats, and cars, and clothes, and brands. "Happy" is now what I try to embody in every single thing I do, in every breath I take, in every sentence I say. Not only do I want to be happy, but I wish that for everybody else because I feel like there would be a lot less pain and violence in the world if we were all happy. So that's kind of me opening up to my future.

I could see myself never putting out an album again, or putting out an album in six months. I have no idea where I'm headed. All I know is that in everything I do, I want to not only be happy, and lead with happiness and love. 

I think that was what the experience of Gag Order was — realizing I have no control, so I might as well do this emotional exorcism, so I can truly be reborn. So I'm kind of just open to the universe to see where it takes me. And I'm really excited to see where that is, whereas before I felt like I had to be held to a standard of who I was. Now, I feel like I don't have to be held to any standards, it's all an illusion. I'm wildly curious what the universe has in store for me next, and I have no f—ing idea what that is.

Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More

Marcus King
Marcus King

Photo courtesy of the artist

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Marcus King Is Spilling His Guts On ‘Mood Swings’ — But He’s Always Serving The Song

The more Marcus King faces ugly psychic territory — as on his new album, ‘Mood Swings’ — his guitar playing gets subtler, not more strident. Read on for an interview with the GRAMMY nominee about working with Rick Rubin, his mentor Eric Clapton and more.

GRAMMYs/Apr 4, 2024 - 10:29 pm

I'll just match your energy. I love a good lie-down too.

That’s what flitted through young guitar great Marcus King’s mind as he worked with the preternaturally serene Rick Rubin — the prospect of which had blown his mind. (“I was just in a hotel room, beside myself with disbelief,” he told Variety about getting that phone call.) Despite any jitters, “we just kind of hit it off in that energy realm. It's positive.”

This isn’t how the GRAMMY nominee is used to working: when he hooked up with the Black Keys Dan Auerbach to make his last album, Young Blood, it was a more methodical and structured approach while Rubin’s is more relaxed and unconventional.

But these sessions were no spa days: perhaps in a Rubinesque paradox, King’s art bored deeper into his own psyche, and he focused like never before. But despite King’s openness about his struggles, and songs titles like “F*** My Life Up,” “Soul It Screams” and “Save Me,” his latest album, Mood Swings — released in February 2024 — doesn’t sound like a thrashing, cathartic nightmare, but sweet, healing soul music.

King can shred — but like his heroes, including mentor Eric Clapton, he serves the song always. “I don't like to do it where it's gratuitous, and I just like to play what needs to be played and say what needs to be said,” he said of his soloing on the record. “It was certainly a garnish that we held off on until the very end.”

Read on for an interview with King about the making of Mood Swings, his guitar and rig thinking, and the uneasy relationship between trauma and marketing.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Describe the bridge between working with Dan Auerbach and working with Rick Rubin.

Both are very profound individuals, and both of them I met in the same way, which was just out of the blue, cold called. And it just felt really similar and it felt like the right path. And I really just fell in love with Rick's energy as soon as I arrived in California.

And really different approaches — me and Auerbach stuck to a very regimented, some would say, Nashville approach. And we got a lot of really great stuff done together. And Rick's approach is wildly different and more lackadaisical.

I love Rick Rubin; I have all the respect in the world for him. But there’s sort of a dual perspective of him — what some call holistic, some might call hands-off. Did any perceptions of him melt away?

Well, I was really thankful. I'm almost finished with his book right now.

Rick, he's a fan first and foremost. It was really humbling to see that even someone with his pedigreed tenure as a producer and just a symbol of music as a whole, just to see that he still got nervous about interviews. And he still spoke about Paul McCartney like a fan — not as a peer, because they're both legendary in the music world. But he speaks about Springsteen and McCartney the same way that I would as far as them just being bigger than life.

I don't know, I didn't really have any preconceived notions about Rick, per se. I knew he was an eccentric producer, so I was expecting the unexpected. And for me, I try to match energies and I think maybe just some people are more thrown off by a barefoot yogi-esque producer lying down in the middle of a meeting while we're listening to music and stuff.

Are you kind of an all-genres guy yourself, as everyone knows Rubin is? I can’t imagine you sitting around all day listening to music that’s similar to yours.

Right, yeah. Very rarely do I listen to guitar music, even. I like to listen to all kinds of music, and just try to find inspiration from wherever it might be hiding. And that kind of changes from day to day.

What have you been listening to that might surprise people?

Well, I’ve been on a real Blaze Foley kick, which isn’t very surprising. Just a really wonderful songwriter out of Austin, Texas — a really tortured soul, and just an incredible voice. I remember a friend of mine actually introduced me to that music years ago. And when we both listened to it, it was a late night, but I remember we both just wept. He's got the most beautiful voice.

I find these songs sometimes, and the melody just kind of latches onto me, and I just listen to it over and over and over again. And this particular song by Blaze Foley, it's called “Rainbows and Ridges.”

And what's really interesting about him is there's hardly any good recordings of him. They're all just decent. And he never owned a guitar. He just borrowed them all the time and just kind of roamed from place to place. And there's obviously something romantic about that just to look at it as an artist. But he's a really interesting cat, man, and just one of those guys. I've been just being inspired by him again lately.

Stevie Wonder is another guy that's always constantly inspiring me. I got to meet him recently in LA for a brief moment, and that just relit that fire that I've always had. Early ‘70s Stevie Wonder when he did the “Sesame Street” theme song — I highly recommend you give that a Google. 

What else am I listening to? I mean, I'm moved by Beyonce's new record. I heard that song “16 CARRIAGES” and how heavy those hits are when they come in. I want to figure out how the f*** they did that, 'cause it moves me greatly.

You called Foley a “tortured soul.” In the music industry, our conception of that has changed, in a positive way. But it remains archetypal, and reading your press release, you talk about deep, dark stuff. Does it ever become tiresome to talk about your darkest moments as a marketing need?

I've often worried that it may come across as some kind of a marketing ploy, but it's really just the truth. And I'm hoping to use my experiences, and my depression is something that I feel I'm in remission of.

And when I'm on the road and I'm staying on a healthy regimen and I'm avoiding these things that I like to do — or overindulge in, rather — I feel that I have an opportunity and an ability to truly emote, and allow myself to be a vessel for the energy to flow through. And I just want people to be able to hear that and people to latch onto that idea that we can use our shortcomings in mental health, I guess, is the only way I can put it.

For me, Rick was one of the first people to explain to me that I could use what I saw as shortcomings or challenges. He kind of encouraged me to use my bipolar disorder or my depression or anxiety as a writing partner.

And now I just know that, although right now I'm feeling positive, I'm on a good regimen, microdosing psilocybin and taking my vitamins — eating my Wheaties, as they say — working out and doing a lot of mindfulness practices, and writing and trying to stay healthy in all regards, I could still get off the phone and still be hit with a really big wave of depression, 'cause it's just something that I can't really predict.

I know the things that I can do to try to avoid it, but it's an unpredictable beast, and when it comes around, I just kind of view it as a writing partner and I just kind of view it as a time for me to get back to work and just hope that they leave after the songs are written.

Do you take a community-oriented approach to recovery and mental health? In other words, are you like one star in a constellation of like-minded people, in any sort of formalized system? Or are you the type to stick to your own business and keep it moving?

Well, I think that's a really fascinating perspective to take. I guess, in a lot of ways we are part of the same galaxy, as it were, especially since I'm inviting people to come out and take part in this experience that we're bringing from town to town, which is really just as much for me as it is for anyone who's attending.

I think a lot of the abandonment issues and my anxious avoidant attachment style and all, it's just healed a little bit each night from getting validation from folks who were kind enough to come out and see me.

I mean, I’m trying to just fully understand that as a positive, because seeking validation from strangers from night to night could be taken as a non-positive. But it's what I love to do, and I hope that someone else can get some healing from it the same way that I do.

I love your guitar playing on the record. I love players who can be flashy, but often opt to weave in and out — the Richard Thompsons, the Doug Gillards.

Well, I think I'm like you, man. I don't like to do it where it's gratuitous, and I just like to play what needs to be played and say what needs to be said. It was certainly a garnish that we held off on until the very end.

For instance, on "Delilah," it's obviously a produced solo, because it's six or seven layers on top of one another. And that was kind of by design, just playing directly through the board with a fuzz pedal, in kind of a [David] Gilmour approach.

But playing something that was from the heart, but knowing that I was going to stack it. I got to go back and play it. I'm doubling it and then putting a harmony on it. A little bit more thought out in that regard. You're not going to be as overly flashy if you know you got to double it — but at the same time, you’re still allowing it to be straight from the heart and not too overthought. Kind of balancing out that middle of the road.

But when I play live, there's always moments for improvisation, where we can go on a trip together, me and the band. And just kind of dance together in an astral realm, to put it in a hippie-dippy way.

Where are you at with your rig lately?

Live, I use my Orange amplifier we did together. We named it the MK Ultra, and it’s got six L6 [power valves] in it.

It was my approach to do a hybrid of my two favorite amplifiers. I wanted a Fender Super Reverb, but I wanted it to have the output authority of a Marshall or an Orange — that real British power, and they really did a great job with it. It's super simple, just volume, treble, bass. And I just wanted something that was super intuitive, plug in and play, and we definitely achieved that.

Who are your heroes, as per “British power”? I’ve been going down some weird late-Sabbath rabbit holes lately.

Iommi is certainly a hero of mine. His accident in the factory caused him to lose the tip of his middle and ring finger on his right hand — he was left-handed, so he played that way. He fashioned some fingertips for himself, and that’s why they tuned down. Just all this s*** that happened that felt like it was just meant to be. I don’t think they would’ve tuned down otherwise.

Robin Trower is one of my favorite guitar players — a really incredible sound, and a good example of a great Strat player. Who else? Clapton, obviously. He’s a friend and a mentor, and you can’t go wrong with Cream or Blind Faith era Clapton. Just pure Gibson through Marshall power.

I’ve loved Eric Clapton since I was a little kid. What’s it like to be in the room with him?

Well, it's another situation of just a really heavy presence, and he's always been so gracious and so sweet to me and my guys. I feel like when I see Clapton, he's like if the Olympics were a person. It's like every four years, I get to see him and spend some time with him and borrow some of his energy.

The last time we hung out, he was really so gracious with his time and spoke with me and my dad. And my dad just talked to him for half an hour about learning “Sunshine of Your Love” when he was in high school, and he was just so cool about it. He could have had a s****y attitude about it, but he was just as gracious as could be, and I really admire that.

So many people of that stature would not give a damn, and it would show.

I think that's part of the thing that's so cool about him. He felt that what my father was saying was earnest and true, and I think he had enough respect for me to understand I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if my father hadn't been inspired by his playing in the first place and then taught me to play guitar later with those same riffs. I mean, it's all just so meant to be. He's a really deep, deep guy.

That’s a guy who’s been to hell and back. I’m sure you’ve had great conversations along those lines.

He's definitely an inspiration to us all who have that devil inside of us. He's certainly a good resource and he's provided a lot of good resources too. Yeah, he's a beautiful guy.

Anything else on your mind about Mood Swings before we hop off?

It's just a full release of where I was at mentally, and I hope that it resonates with people — whether it resonates with you personally, or from an empath standpoint. Maybe you know someone, maybe one of your loved ones is someone who struggles with these kinds of issues.

And if you don't want to go that deep with it, I mean, [drummer] Chris Dave and [organist] Cory Henry are dope as f***. Just enjoy it from the musical side of it.

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9 Times Queer Artists Made History At The Grammys lil nas x
Lil Nas X performs during the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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9 Times Queer Artists Made History At The GRAMMYs: From Elton John's Collab With BSB To Kim & Sam's "Unholy" Union

​​In celebration of Pride Month, GRAMMY.com has collected nine of the most meaningful and thrilling performances by queer artists from the ceremony’s history, which helped uplift the global LGBTIQA+ community.

GRAMMYs/Jun 13, 2023 - 06:26 pm

The 60-plus years of the GRAMMY Awards encompasses some of the most awe-inspiring and breathtaking moments in music history — and it should be noted that queer performers have produced some of the most dazzling highlights. From Elton John’s 1999 GRAMMY Legend Award to Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ 2023 performance of "Unholy," there is no shortage of iconic queer moments in GRAMMY history.

But more than merely honoring and showcasing queer artists, the ceremony is also the only major award to have moved beyond the outdated gender binary in its categories, an important step in ensuring that every artist feels welcomed. And as queer stars continue to deliver stunning performances in addition to award wins on Music's Biggest Night, young artists have meaningful representation and inspiration. 

​​In celebration of Pride Month, GRAMMY.com has collected nine of the most meaningful and thrilling performances by queer artists from the ceremony’s history. These moments commemorate some of the most impressive artists of the last few decades and helped uplift members of the LGBTIQA+ community around the world. 

Elton John & The Backstreet Boys - "Philadelphia Freedom" (2000)

When one LGBTIQA+ icon writes a song that honors another queer trailblazer, it’s bound to make for a special moment on stage. 

Performed at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards — the same night the Rocket Man was honored as MusiCares Person Of The Year, and a year after taking home the Legend Award — Elton John performed the bright and swinging "Philadelphia Freedom." With backing from the Backstreet Boys, the performance filled the room with sunshine.

The song was inspired by John’s close friend, tennis icon Billie Jean King. His piano flanked by the five Boys, John delivers a rollicking take on the number one hit, the mythic megastar in top form from every swaggery vocal growl to each thumping piano chord.

Melissa Etheridge & Joss Stone - "Piece Of My Heart" (2005)

Melissa Etheridge has always been an incredibly vulnerable artist, but when she walked onto the stage during the 47th GRAMMY Awards, her head bald due to chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, her legend of raw strength reached a new level. 

A loving grin plastered on her face and chopping out an explosive guitar riff, Etheridge didn’t waste a second, joining soul pop star Joss Stone for a tribute to queer icon Janis Joplin. Every syllable of "Piece of My Heart" coming out of Etheridge’s mouth shines sharply like a rough-cut gem, but her explosive howl as the song comes to its climax is the stuff of legend. 

The fact that Etheridge made it through her cancer treatment and can still rock stages to this day is only further testament to just how powerful this moment of defiance turned out to be.

Lady Gaga - "Born This Way" (2011)

While the conversation surrounding Lady Gaga’s early ‘10s award ceremony run will always center on her extravagant and boundary-pushing attire and stagecraft, she made sure to put her queer advocacy at full volume during her take on "Born This Way." 

Sure, she entered the 53rd GRAMMY Awards in an egg and took time in her performance to play a snippet of Bach made famous in "The Phantom of the Opera" on a keyboard topped with mannequin heads. But in the very next moment, she ensured that the whole track slowed to a righteous halt to deliver a core message: "No matter gay, straight or bi/lesbian, transgender life/ I’m on the right track/ I was born to survive." 

The white latex and space egg are important, but Lady Gaga wants to make sure you understand that the art is all in support of a message of inclusion, that stripped down to our strangest basics we’re all human.

Frank Ocean - "Forrest Gump" (2013)

Frank Ocean has proven to be one of the most mercurial stars in R&B, releasing just two studio albums since 2011 despite some of the most rabid anticipation in the music world. His changed plans, canceled performances, and vague updates only fuel that fire — but it’s performances like "Forrest Gump" that encapsulate that whole fandom experience. 

The 55th Grammy Awards were a big night for Ocean, with six nominations and two golden gramophones coming his way, but his tender, raw love song was perhaps the most memorable of a night full of impressive tributes and star power. Homosexual love songs don’t get televised too often, and that’s what "Forrest Gump" is: pure, unabashed and straightforward; a young, mesmerizing vocalist and songwriter laid bare, playing a keyboard and backed by a video screen. There’s nothing to distract from his voice and his words: "You run my mind, boy/ Running on my mind, boy/ Forrest Gump."

Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Madonna & Queen Latifah - "Same Love/Open Your Heart" (2014)

There may not be a bigger performance of queer love in awards history than Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ elaborate staging of "Same Love" from the 56th GRAMMYs. Their performance of the anthem included lesbian vocalist Mary Lambert and queer icon Madonna — oh, and Queen Latifah literally overseeing marriage ceremonies for 33 couples of varying sexual identities and orientations, when same-sex marriage hadn’t yet been federally recognized. 

Macklemore and Lewis won big at the ceremony, thanks in large part to inescapable upbeat hip-hop like "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us." But instead of getting everyone in the room with some easy fun, the duo opted for "Same Love" — a track in support of marriage equality and a protest to a tendency towards homophobia in the genre. Together, they provided a powerful statement of acceptance and love that surely opened eyes for audiences around the world.

Kesha, Camilla Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Andra Day, and Bebe Rexha - "Praying" (2018)

The whole world was changing for Kesha on the runup to the 60th GRAMMY Awards. After years of struggle against her alleged abuser and an attempt to fully reclaim her career and life, she had not only taken powerful steps in that direction — she was doing so on Music's Biggest Night. 

Her new album, Rainbow, had netted two nominations, and she was asked to perform. She opted for "Praying" (co-written by Ryan Lewis), a paean to the power of change and hope, even in the darkest hours. Surrounded by a cadre of powerful women and clad in white and embroidery of blooming flowers, Kesha’s performance shows a moment of new life and transformation, an inspirational moment that continues to grow with promise of even more new music.

Janelle Monáe - "Make Me Feel" (2019)

Janelle Monáe’s performance at the 61st GRAMMY Awards felt like a celebration of her quest to share her truest self. During a performance of the sensual, stylized, sci-fi epic take on "Make Me Feel," Monáe incorporated snippets of other Dirty Computer highlights into the breakdown — including the line "let the vagina have a monologue" from "Pynk" (probably the first time that request had been made on the GRAMMYs stage). 

Her black-and-white clad synchronized backup dancers gave shades of Robert Palmer, but Prince (another Black icon comfortable in gender-fluidity) was the true touchstone. But that’s in no way to say that Monáe is anything but an unparalleled icon of her own, whether on the guitar, in her dance steps, or on the mic.

Lil Nas X - "Dead Right Now"/"Montero (Call Me By Your Name)"/"Industry Baby" (2022)

After years of controversy and criticism (notably from talking heads and members of the public who had or would not listen to his music), Lil Nas X’s performance at the 65th GRAMMY Awards had a real sense of catharsis. 

Not that the Georgia-born rapper necessarily needed it — he’s proven plenty capable of pushing back and insisting on his identity on the daily, in social media and interviews. Still, the wide range of styles (both musical and visual) and performance versatility on display that evening felt special. His interstellar take on "Dead Right Now" proved he was capable of rising above all the noise; the hip-swiveling dazzle of "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" showed he was unafraid to show his sensual side; and the stomp-along "Industry Baby" (complete with an appearance from Jack Harlow) demonstrated that Lil Nas X is just flat-out one of the most exciting vocal talents in hip-hop.

Kim Petras and Sam Smith - "Unholy" (2023)

Trans representation on the GRAMMYs stage took a big step forward at the most recent ceremony, thanks to Kim Petras. Not only did the German-born pop star become the first openly trans woman to win a GRAMMY Award, but her blistering performance of "Unholy" with Sam Smith likely ignited more than a little bit of inspiration, intensity, and passion in the viewing audience. 

Cast in a red glow, the duo embraced the fires of lust, Petras playing the fiery cage dancer to Smith’s devilish ringmaster. Every second of the performance dripped with sweat and sex, refusing to bow to any expectation or censure, Petras humping a corner of the cage as Smith gyrated around a cane. The smoking hot fever dream more than earned the FCC complaints and the zealous fans who went on to devour more of Smith and Petras’ music. 

Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More

Dua Lipa performing in 2022
Dua Lipa performs in Sydney, Australia in November 2022.

Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images

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9 Artist-Hosted Podcasts You Should Check Out Now: Sam Smith, David Guetta, Norah Jones & More

From Dua Lipa to Joe Budden, some of music's biggest names have added "podcast host" to their impressive resumes. Grab your headphones and take a listen to nine of the most insightful and creative shows led by artists.

GRAMMYs/May 30, 2023 - 06:13 pm

As podcasts have become increasingly popular among listeners, they've also become a preferred playground for music makers to express themselves — and in turn, show a new side of their artistry.

Whether it's hours-long interviews courtesy of early adopter Questlove, breezy conversations with a musical accompaniment by Norah Jones, or a vital history lesson from Sam Smith, podcasts are allowing artists to further connect with their fans. And though there's already a disparate array of musician-led shows out there, it's seemingly just the beginning of a new podcast wave.

Below, get to know nine of the most interesting artist-hosted podcasts available.

Norah Jones is Playing Along

A relatively new addition to the podcast sphere, Norah Jones is Playing Along is exactly what it sounds like. Hosted by the "Come Away With Me" crooner, the show features Jones jamming on a piano with a cadre of her musician friends and colleagues. The show's guest list is similarly varied, with recent episodes including memorable conversations with indie folk artist Andrew Bird, country singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson and jazz virtuoso and Robert Glasper all of whom took viewers on a musical journey through their catalogs and beyond.

Broken Record with Rick Rubin and Malcolm Gladwell

Known as music's wise sage, legendary music producer Rick Rubin showcases his zen energy and insatiable passion for music on this informative podcast, which he hosts alongside  journalist-author Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times editor Bruce Headlam and producer Justin Richmond. Much like Rubin's list of collaborators — which has ranged from everyone including Johnny Cash, Adele and Rage Against the Machine — the show zig-zags between insightful interviews with a range of music's most accomplished names, including Giles Martin, Feist, Usher, The Edge, Aaron Dessner, and Babyface.

Dua Lipa: At Your Service

Aside from her GRAMMY-winning music career, pop icon Dua Lipa has a bubbling entrepreneurial streak in the form of Service 95, a multi-platform lifestyle brand which includes a newsletter and special events. It also produces the popular podcast At Your Service, on which Lipa interviews a diverse range of personalities including musicians (collaborators Charli XCX and Elton John), cultural luminaries (Dita Von Teese) and activists (Brandon Wolf) for laidback conversations about their respective careers.

Questlove Supreme

Amid his roles as a founding member of the Roots, bandleader on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," a prolific filmmaker and a best-selling author, Questlove adds podcast host to his rich cultural tapestry with Questlove Supreme. The show prides itself on loose, intimate and in-depth conversations with a who's who of music's luminaires, whether a multi-hour, emotional chat with Mariah Carey, an insightful conversation with trumpet legend Herb Alpert, or icons ranging from the late Wayne Shorter to Bruce Springsteen and manager Shep Gordon.

Table Manners with Jessie and Lennie Ware

British songstress Jessie Ware teams up with her mother, Lennie, on this effervescent podcast, which showcases the "Free Yourself" singer munching on a delicious home cooked meal while having a conversation that's equally scrumptious. Whether the two are having pink salmon with Pink, eggplant pie with Shania Twain or spinach pie and florentines with Kim Petras, it all makes for an extremely listenable (and hunger-inducing) spin on the medium.

Flea's This Little Light

Earlier this year, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Flea launched the interview series This Little Light, which zeroes in on the importance of music education. In short order, the podcast has already boasted heavy-hitter guests, including Cynthia Erivo, Patti Smith and Margo Price. "I wanted to do This Little Light to benefit my music school, the Silverlake Conservatory of Music," he said in a statement upon its release. "The idea behind it being music education, falling in love with music and embarking on a musical journey for your life. Everybody's path is so different, and it's fascinating to learn how every musician came to music and developed their study of it over time."

Sam Smith Presents A Positive Life: HIV from Terrence Higgins to Today

Five-time GRAMMY winner Sam Smith hosts a touching and informative history of the AIDS crisis from a UK perspective — from the earliest, heart-wrenching days of the disease to modern-day tales, including the death of Terry Higgins (one of the region's earliest deaths) as well as breakthrough treatments. Meticulously researched and told in a documentary-style, the BBC podcast is equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking — but above all, demonstrates that artists can effectively tell stories beyond the realm of music, while raising awareness at the same time. 

David Guetta: The Podcast

A departure from every other podcast on this list, dance music king and David Guetta strays from the interview format and lets the music do the talking. Guetta hosts this weekly hour-long podcast doubles as a playlist, which features a selection of songs handpicked by Guetta himself. Typically opening with a remix from Guetta himself (he recently featured his spin on Kim Petras' and Sam Smith's GRAMMY-winning hit "Unholy,") the show then explores a variety of electronic tracks from a disparate list of artists, including tracks from dance music mavens Olivier Giacomotto, Idris Elba and Robin Shulz. 

The Joe Budden Podcast

Still going strong eight years after its launch, The Joe Budden Podcast is hosted by the eponymous rapper and his friends as they talk through matters of hip-hop and their own lives, with recent topics focusing on everything from Cher's love life to the Met Gala. Each episode —  which regularly hovers around the three-hour mark — is like being a fly on the wall to Budden and friends. Of course, there's celebrity interviews along the way, with headline-making chats with the likes of Akon and N.O.R.E. 

10 Music Books To Dig Into This Summer: A Kate Bush Bio, A First-Hand Account Of The Grunge Scene & Feminist Punk Histories

Tom Petty

Photo by Mark Seliger

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Let Your Heart Be Your Guide: Adria Petty, Mike Campbell & More On The Enduring Significance Of Tom Petty's 'Wildflowers'

Ahead of Petty's long-awaited, expansive 'Wildflowers' reissue, GRAMMY.com speaks to those who know it—and its beloved late author—best

GRAMMYs/Oct 16, 2020 - 08:14 pm

For years, Tom Petty fans eagerly awaited the release of the second half of Wildflowers, Petty's esteemed second solo record, released on Nov. 1, 1994. Co-produced by multiple GRAMMY-winning producer Rick Rubin, Tom Petty and Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, Wildflowers was originally conceived as a 25-song double CD, though Petty’s new record label Warner Bros. asked that it be condensed to a 15-song one-disc album. Four songs from the Wildflowers sessions ended up on the She’s The One soundtrack. Another song, "Leave Virginia Alone," was recorded by Rod Stewart and debuted on "Saturday Night Live"'s 20th season finale. The remaining five songs never saw the light of day. 

Today, however, two weeks after the third anniversary of Petty’s untimely death and several days before what would have been the rock icon’s 70th birthday, Wildflowers & All The Rest has finally been released. Produced by Petty's longtime engineer and co-producer Ryan Ulyate, the collection was curated by Petty’s daughters Adria and Annakim, Campbell, Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench and Petty's wife Dana (the couple married in 2001). There are several editions available in various formats (digital/CD/vinyl), starting with a 2-CD/3-LP reissue of Wildflowers remastered and All The Rest comprising the previously unreleased 10 tracks, the Deluxe Edition (which also includes 15 home demos and 14 live performances ranging from 1995-2017) and the Super Deluxe Edition, which includes Finding Wildflowers and comprises 16 alternate studio takes.

A benchmark in his illustrious career and his fastest-selling record, Wildflowers, certified triple platinum within nine months of its release, held significant meaning to Petty. Speaking to author/journalist Paul Zollo in "Conversations with Tom Petty," Petty says, "I think it’s maybe my favorite LP that I’ve ever done. Though I’m kind of partial to a few of them. But I think, as a whole, it’s a real long piece of music—it’s almost 70 minutes long—but that’s the one that really gets me when I hear it. I can kind of go, ‘Wow, I’m really proud of that. That came out exactly like I wanted it to.'"

Sadly, as Petty wrote songs for Wildflowers, his marriage to his wife Jane Benyo was collapsing. (The pair married in 1974, had daughters Adria and Annakim, and divorced in 1996.) Filled with pain, loneliness and uncertainty, Petty’s songwriting shifted in accordance with the crisis in his personal life, reflected in Wildflowers' lyrics and song titles including "Hard On Me," "Time To Move On" and "Only A Broken Heart." More intimate and raw than ever before, Petty openly expresses his sadness, anguish and frustration amidst sporadic shimmers of light.

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Recorded at Sound City in Van Nuys over an approximately two-year period beginning in 1992, Wildflowers wasn’t technically a Heartbreakers record but all the Heartbreakers still showed up with the exception of drummer Stan Lynch, who was replaced by Steve Ferrone when escalating tensions with Lynch reached a breaking point. Ringo Starr, who played drums on "To Find A Friend," and Carl Wilson, who contributed backing vocals to "Honey Bee," were the record’s special guests.

On the opening and title track, the sweetly melodic “Wildflowers,” Petty sings, “You belong among the wildflowers/ You belong in a boat out at sea/ Sail away, kill off the hours/ You belong somewhere you feel free." Though it was never released as a single, "Wildflowers" was a huge hit with Petty fans. In audio posted to Tom Petty’s official Instagram page, Petty reveals the ad-libbed song was a departure from his usual songwriting process. “The 'Wildflowers' song was one of the only times it ever happened to me in my life. I really just stepped up in my little studio at home and I put the mic on and played the whole song straight from the top to the end with all the lyrics and the music in one go. And then I stopped the tape and played it back and I really was kind of, you know, confused. I kept playing it again and again thinking, ‘Well, what do we work on and what would I change?’ And then I thought, 'I’m not going to change it. I’m just going to leave it stream of conscious.'"

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While Petty wasn’t aware of it at the time, he actually wrote "Wildflowers" for someone very specific, someone who was desperately in need of compassion and freedom. He wrote it for Tom Petty. According to Warren Zane's bestselling book "Petty: The Biography" (2015), Petty’s therapist listened to the song and "asked the singer who he was addressing. ‘I told him I wasn’t sure,’ Petty says. ‘And then he said, ‘I know. That song is about you. That’s you singing to yourself what you needed to hear.’ ‘It kind of knocked me back. But I realized he was right. It was me singing to me.'"

Infused with rock, folk and blues, the critically acclaimed Wildflowers landed at number eight on Billboard’s 200 record chart. Rolling Stone gave the album a 4-star review. "Wildflowers' resolute passion and maturity grow more evident with each listen until the album acquires a haunting, enduring resonance." GRAMMY-nominated for Best Rock Album album, Wildflowers yielded four successful singles that each scored positions on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart; the tongue-in-cheek "It’s Good To Be King," "You Don’t Know How It Feels" (GRAMMY Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, and MTV Music Video Award for Best Male Video), "A Higher Place," and "You Wreck Me."

Originally titling the song "You Rock Me," Petty shared the backstory to "You Wreck Me" at VH1’s Tom Petty Storytellers session in 1999. "I was calling the song 'You Rock Me, Baby' and, you know, you can’t really say that anymore because it was pointed out to me, anyway, that the band kind of just held their heads and said, 'You can’t sing, ‘You rock me’ in a song,' which I suppose made sense...and then, one night, it hit me. It’s ‘wreck me.’ All I did was change ‘rock’ for ‘wreck’ and we had, ‘You wreck me, baby.” With that, Petty smiles, chuckles, and launches into the highly energetic rocker with the Heartbreakers. 

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There’s a chance the song might never have been recorded at all. Campbell, who wrote the music for "You Wreck Me" and co-wrote several Petty hits including "Refugee" and "Runnin’ Down A Dream," says initially Petty liked the demo Campbell gave to him. But when Campbell asked about the song months later, Petty said he wasn’t sure if he knew where he’d put it. At the studio one day, Rubin asked Campbell if he had any songs. When Campbell played it for him, Rubin told him to show the song to Petty, but Campbell said he already had. Rubin suggested he show it to Petty again.

"I showed it to Tom again and kind of nudged him and said, ‘Why don’t you write to this?'" Campbell tells GRAMMY.com. "The funny thing is, I think maybe because Tom was busy writing his own songs and he was overwhelmed with that, he wasn’t really keen on that track at the beginning. He kind of did it under duress a little bit. I got the feeling as we were recording it that it wasn’t one of his favorite songs. But when we went on tour, a couple of days into the tour, we played that song live and it went down so well, he leaned over to me and said, 'I get it now. This is really a good song.'"

Filmmaker/photographer Martyn Atkins, who directed both the "You Wreck Me" music video and the documentary "400 Days,” which he shot during the recording of Wildflowers and its tour, designed the record’s tastefully understated packaging and cover; four black-and-white photos, one of which shows Petty looking out the window of a van on his way to the recording studio, set against a craft paper-brown background with a red circle surrounding a red beaded flower in the cover’s lower-left corner, providing the only splash of color. Petty’s name and "Wildflowers" are written across the top in lowercase letters in Atkins’s handwriting. 

Atkins spent a lot of time with Petty, taking photos and shooting film footage, letting ideas spark organically. Inspired by the intimacy of Petty’s songs, Atkins opted for a low-key design. “My thought about the packaging and graphic for "Wildflowers" was that it should feel a little more homemade, something crafted that Tom was crafting. I got that feeling from the music. It was much more internalized coming from Tom. It felt like you were getting something personal,” says Atkins over the phone. He cut and printed negatives from his 16mm film footage for the cover photos instead of using a regular camera. “I wanted the grittiness and real grain for the album artwork. The idea was not to have something glossy.” 

He explains the red beaded flower's significance. "Tom had a tobacco pouch at his house, an American Indian suede pouch with a beaded flower on it. I think somebody had given it to him. He wondered if we could use it in some way. I took it away and photographed it and suggested we make it like a seal on the cover, something graphic that could become a motif. He liked that idea as the pouch meant something to him. We did stickers of it and included them in the CD packaging."

Petty himself stuck a Wildflowers sticker onto the upper-left corner of one of his favorite guitars, his blonde Telecaster (nicknamed "Torucaster" for luthier Toru Nittono), where the sticker remains to this day. Some of Atkins's Wildflowers-era photography, along with pictures taken by photographers Mark Seliger and Robert Sebree, are included in the new box set. 

For years, Petty longed to reissue the beloved Wildflowers along with its second half. "He thought it was really important because the legacy of the Wildflowers album loomed large in this career and he knew that the second half of Wildflowers was an important statement," said Rick Rubin, speaking to bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell on their "Broken Record" podcast in 2018. 

Ulyate and Petty first cracked open the Wildflowers vault in 2013, poring over tapes during breaks between recording sessions for Hypnotic Eye, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ final studio album. By 2014, they'd remixed the 10 previously unreleased Wildflowers tracks, which Petty sequenced and named All The Rest. Petty also selected some home demos to release as bonus material. He told Rolling Stone about a two-disc Wildflowers release slated for that Christmas. A year later, Petty released the Wildflowers-era song "Somewhere Under Heaven" as promotion for a Wildflowers: All The Rest collection that didn't have a release date yet. He was waiting to release Wildflowers: All The Rest when he could give it his undivided attention and promote it properly with a tour. Between touring Hypnotic Eye, working with his early '70s band Mudcrutch (whose members include Heartbreakers Campbell and Tench), and the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary tour in 2017, he held back Wildflowers: All The Rest until he could prioritize it. 

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"He wasn’t putting out music by the pound," says Ulyate over the phone. "He thought about it and was like, ‘I don’t want to just toss this thing out.’ He was never into flooding the market with stuff. If he had just put it out without promoting it, he felt it wouldn't have gotten the reception he thought it deserved so he decided to hold back. He was going to get back to it, take stock, and figure out how to move forward when they got off tour in 2017."

Throughout Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 40th anniversary tour, the 18-song setlist included five Wildflowers songs, alongside a bevy of classic Petty hits including "American Girl," "Free Fallin'," and "Mary Jane’s Last Dance." Two days after the tour wrapped, after three sold-out nights at the Hollywood Bowl, Petty told the L.A. Times that the Wildflowers project was probably where he'd turn his attention next. While he said he still had some research to do, he speculated that a three-city theater residency, instead of stadiums and arenas, might suit the material best. 

"We had several discussions about doing a tour of only Wildflowers songs, maybe in theaters," says Campbell. "For so many decades, it was a greatest hits tour, which is great, but this would have been a different type of thing. We could share this intimate album and we'd have different guest singers come in with the band to give it a different vibe and experience from the touring we’d been doing, which would have been artistically rewarding for us." Campbell says among the potential guest singers they’d discussed were Jeff Lynne, Eddie Vedder, Norah Jones and Stevie Nicks.

Tragically, five days after his L.A. Times interview, Petty, who suffered from emphysema, coronary artery atherosclerosis, knee pain and a fractured hip, died suddenly at 66 years old from an accidental overdose of prescription pain medications. But Petty’s incomparable legacy lives on with Wildflowers & All The Rest, which arrives on the heels of two previous Tom Petty posthumous releases: An American Treasure (2018) and Best Of Everything (2019). 

Over the past few months, several Wildflowers & All The Rest songs and videos have been released: Petty's home demos of "Wildflowers," "You Don’t Know How It Feels" and "There Goes Angela (Dream Away)," which was unearthed after Petty’s death. "We didn't find that when Tom was around," says Ulyate. "We found about half the demos with Tom and he approved them and liked them and then after he passed, we really scoured the bottom of the vault to try to find everything. That’s when we found more demos."

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"Confusion Wheel," the first official single from All The Rest, epitomizes Petty’s tormented and highly confessional Wildflowers-era songwriting. Petty sings, "So much confusion has torn me apart/ So much confusion has made me afraid/ That I don’t know how to love/ I don’t know how to trust/ And I don’t know why that is." Yet Petty hasn’t lost all hope for a fresh start as he sings, "One of these days, we'll drive away/ Drive away singing a brand new song/ We'll wake up singing a brand new song."

Mindful that the material was close to her father’s heart, Adria is also highly cognizant of its significance to the Wildflowers narrative. Speaking to GRAMMY.com over the phone, she says, "If the 'Wizard Of Oz' had another reel or if 'Let It Be' had another album you’d be like, ‘Woah! To me, that’s what Wildflowers & All The Rest is, and that’s why it’s so important for us to get it right because it’s a little gem in the archive."

"Everybody involved is trying to honor and use their sixth sense as to what it is he would like, to carry on the legacy as he would have if he were still here," says Ulyate, who worked closely with Petty for more than 10 years. He misses Petty terribly but notes that being immersed in his music has helped his grief somewhat. "I don’t think any of us will ever get over the loss but, in a way, working on the music has made it easier because he’s still here and he’s still coming out of my speakers. Finding this stuff and putting it out feels like we’re all doing our job in honoring him and his legacy. In that way, we’re doing the right thing and doing justice to his legacy so we’re keeping him around in a way and that part of it makes me feel good."

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Exploring Petty’s archives was tough for Campbell, however, whose history with Petty dates back 50 years. "It was a bittersweet experience going through the stuff and not having Tom there to do it with us," he says. "Going over the songs brought up a lot of joy and grief as well. He really wanted this stuff out though, so we worked very hard on it and took the best stuff of what was laying around. It was as if he was sitting there with us and we made decisions based on that.

Some of the tracks I’d almost completely forgotten about until I heard them and it was nice to hear this good music that we could share with the audience. At the same time, I’m still grieving and it was kind of hard to sit there and hear Tom’s voice in the speakers and him not be there. Sometimes I would just have to leave the room for a while, but we got it done."

Adria says when her father died, "It was such an eternal primal scream of disbelief to have him die on us so suddenly." She says it felt like a universal loss and that while the world mourned along with her family, they also gave Petty’s heirs a lot of support. As to her grief, three years later, she says, "I feel like I’m turning a corner with it, and as time goes on, I feel like parts will get easier. But no one ever gets over the death of their parent." At times, however, her grief is overwhelming. "There are times when you just don’t want to hear those songs...when they come on in the grocery store and you’re like, ‘That’s a lot.'"

She says, however, that listening to Wildflowers is uplifting. "There’s a lot of joy in listening to this particular era of the music for me. It touches my soul. It touches my heart and makes me feel good. It’s not the kind of stuff that makes you really think necessarily about the live shows or the hit-run of Dad’s catalog but it’s a little bit more of a pure experience." As of late, Adria says she’s been getting lost in her dad's lyrics and the purposeful manner in which he chose each word, constantly editing himself, as reflected on studio notes, legal pads and notebooks where he constantly scratched out and replaced lyrics.

Rick Rubin and Tom Petty 
Photo by Robert Sebree

Renowned for his anthemic songs, witty lyrics and compassion for underdogs, along with his uncanny skill for conveying profound wisdom and emotional depth using plain and concise language, part of Petty’s artistic genius was how deceptively simple he made his thoroughly relatable yet equally epic songwriting seem. In truth, he was a blue-jeaned, tirelessly working poet, inducted into the Rock and Roll Of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

While the more comprehensive editions of Wildflowers & All The Rest are a treat for fans, they also serve as a masterclass in songwriting as you hear the evolution of Petty’s songs. Some demos were reworked before being recorded in the studio. For example, before he changed the chorus for the completed studio version of "Crawling Back To You," on the demo Petty sang "coming back to you" and "running back to you." Other demos were set aside entirely, with portions of their lyrics transplanted into other songs. "There’s a Break in the Rain" is a beautiful and heartfelt demo that Petty never developed further. Instead, he used its lyrics "in a memory of a dream," in "You Don’t Know How It Feels," the first song recorded for Wildflowers. Years later, he recycled its chorus in "Have Love Will Travel" on The Last DJ (2002). 

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"He really cared about writing good songs and performing them well," says Ulyate. "He always wanted to keep getting better and better and refining his craft. He was more into that than being a famous guy," says Ulyate who says Petty’s meticulousness was all-encompassing. "He was into every facet of songwriting. The song had to be good, the first line had to grab you and the song had to have good construction, and he was into production, and how the songs were arranged in the context of an album was important. He wanted to make sure he was telling a story."

Petty would continue to scrutinize and change songs even after they were recorded. "I’d go into mastering and say, ‘OK, we’re going to master the album and finish it up’ and he’d call me two days before and say, ‘I have a better line for the third verse,'" says Ulyate. "Luckily, we had a set-up that made it easy for me to drop in a line at his studio and we’d listen back and I’d say, ‘Man, I’m so glad you called me. That was so much better.’ He was always thinking of ways of improving stuff."

Ulyate partially attributes Petty’s songwriting prowess to his "encyclopedic knowledge" of music. "If you want to be a good songwriter, you have to be a good song listener," he says. "Tom Petty was probably the best song listener of anyone I knew." Petty’s extensive and colorful musical palette ranged from the most obscure music Petty could find to the blues to his heroes Bob Dylan, the Byrds, The Beatles, Beach Boys and Elvis Presley

He laughs incredulously when recalling Petty’s meeting with director Thom Zimny who, at the time, was making the documentary, Elvis Presley: The Searcher. "Thom Zimny asked a couple of questions about Elvis and Tom Petty went into this thing where, basically, for the next 45 minutes he just schooled the guy about Elvis! He knew more about him and I was like, ‘How do you know this much about Elvis?!'"

"Even if you never shook his hand, you knew him, and it will always feel like we lost a friend, not just the standard-bearer for great songwriting." —Cameron Crowe on losing Tom Petty

In fact, when Petty was 11 years old, growing up in his native Gainesville, Florida, he was taken to meet Presley by his uncle who was working on the set of a Presley film shooting nearby in Ocala, Fl. Petty relays the Presley anecdote in Oscar-nominated director, screenwriter and author Peter Bogdanovich’s four-hour documentary, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down A Dream (2007). "Elvis appeared like, you know, a vision. He didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen and I’m just dumbstruck...I went home a changed man," Petty said at the time. "When I hit the street the next day, I was trying to find some Elvis Presley records. The music just hypnotized me and I played these records to the point my parents began to worry that something was wrong with me."

Speaking over the phone, Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Mask) says though he and Petty were both proud of the documentary, which won a GRAMMY for Best Long Form Music Video in 2009, ("I was thrilled. What director gets a GRAMMY?"), it's forever "tinged with sadness" due to Petty’s untimely death. He says when Petty had a three-week window between tour dates in 2017, the pair discussed adding material to Runnin’ Down A Dream. "We talked about maybe adding 10 to 15 minutes to it to include the last 10 years to bring it up to date. We had a nice talk about it and he was keen on the idea but it didn’t work out because he died."

Bogdanovich says he last spoke to Petty after he attended his penultimate concert at The Hollywood Bowl three years ago, and called Petty to rave about his performance. "It’s tragic. I miss him dearly. I just loved the guy," he says. "He was a real artist who cared about the art, singing terrific songs that he put his heart and soul into. It was everything to him. It wasn’t about the money. It was about the work."

Petty’s dedication to his fans matched his commitment to his art. During the 40th anniversary tour, Atkins expressed concern to Petty about carrying a heavy guitar every night while suffering from a cracked hip that needed surgery. He says he suggested the idea of stopping the tour to get better and touring the following year instead. Petty said, "I don’t want to stop the tour because people book their holidays around coming to see me and it’s important in people’s lives and I don’t want to let them down."

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Dating back to 1981, Petty famously fought his record label MCA who wanted to add a dollar to the price of his record Hard Promises. He withheld the album until MCA relented and didn’t raise the price. Petty describes his fan-philosophy in director and Oscar-winning screenwriter Cameron Crowe’s 1983 MTV hour-long documentary Heartbreakers Beach Party, which was Crowe’s first directing credit. Facing the camera directly, Petty says, "At the risk of sounding corny, you have to thank the fans. I’m still very reverent about that. I will stop and sign the thing because it’s that important. I think that if you lose that, if you get where they’re just them, then it’s all gone."

"Tom always carried himself as a fan," Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) tells GRAMMY.com over the phone. "First and foremost, I think, he was somebody who never forgot his music-loving roots in Florida and remained an avid music lover and collector his entire life."

Crowe says Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were one of his favorite artists to write about when he was a Rolling Stone journalist and that it was "a dream come true" for which he’ll forever be honored that Heartbreakers Beach Party was his directorial debut. As a matter of fact, but for Petty (and executive producer Danny Bramson), it would have taken Crowe much longer to have become a director, if it even happened at all. "We were on the way to the video shoot for 'You Got Lucky' and he said, 'Pick up a camera and I’ll play you a song.' I said I wasn’t a director. He said, 'Just film me.' So I did. He played the novelty song ‘I’m Stupid’ and when it was done, he said, 'Guess what. Now you’re a director.' Can’t think of a better person to convince to jump in the deep end and start a new career."

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He says Petty contributed music generously to Crowe’s film soundtracks over the years, including an exclusive mix of "It’ll All Work Out" for Elizabethtown. He also gave Crowe an opening quote to use in the first trailer for his TV show "Roadies."

"He was as down to earth as down to earth gets," says Crowe. "Even if you never shook his hand, you knew him, and it will always feel like we lost a friend, not just the standard-bearer for great songwriting, and a band that can pivot in any direction to deliver his songs."

In honor of their father’s unique relationship with his fans, both Adria and Annakim switched their private social media settings to public when Petty died. "His fans really came first for him in his career," says Adria. "That’s a lot of our job and our responsibility, to say, ‘We are here to still treat you well and to make things affordable and to give you access to all sorts of cool stuff he left behind.’”

Earlier this month, on the third anniversary of Petty's death, Adria posted a home video shot at Petty’s home studio at the family’s last Christmas together. Petty's strumming an acoustic guitar and singing "Crawling Back To You (one of Petty’s personal favorites) while Cammie, one of Adria’s and Annakim's younger cousins, plays the piano. In the caption, Adria writes that as soon as Petty heard Cammie playing the song, he took everyone into his studio to sing along and encourage her. The caption ends with, "I miss you too much every day, dad." On that same day, Annakim posted a selfie, captioned, "This was me a month after my dad died I feel greatful [sic] to feel alive again." 

Hundreds of Petty fans responded to the sisters’ posts. "His music has made many of us feel alive," wrote one fan while another wrote, "I've loved your dad's music since I was 10 yrs old. I'm 52 now. Was lucky to see him in concert about 19 times. Always the best and most memorable shows. Crying now...still hurts so much."

As to the possibility of a future Wildflowers & All The Rest tour, Campbell, who toured with Fleetwood Mac for a year and a half and has since been focused on his band The Dirty Knobs, becomes emotional at the thought of moving forward without Petty. "I’ll tell you how I feel about it," he says. "I don’t know how many stages of grief there are but I’m still in probably stage four or whatever it is. I don’t ‘feel emotionally comfortable with having all the Heartbreakers in a room and going ‘one, two, three, four’ and playing without Tom there. It’s a little too painful, but I’m not opposed to the idea only because this was something Tom really wanted to do. I would remain open to the idea when our grief settles to do what he would have wanted, and maybe get the band back together with some singers and learn the songs and do that Wildflowers tour in his honor." 

After a pause, Campbell says, "I need more time. It’s such a huge loss. He was my best friend for 50 years. I’ll probably never get over it completely and I am doing well but for something that close to Tom’s energy and soul, I need to be a little stronger to take that on."

In the meantime, Adria says she's currently in discussions with a director about a Wildflowers documentary, and that there will definitely be more Tom Petty music to come. "We have a big beautiful archive,” she says, “We’re just going to take our time with it and work on this one for the time being and then sit down and think about what should happen next."

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