Latin Pop Producer Maffio: Why I'm Proud To Be A Voting Member Of The Recording Academy


Photo by John Parra/Getty Images


Latin Pop Producer Maffio: Why I'm Proud To Be A Voting Member Of The Recording Academy

"I'm grateful for the many opportunities and initiatives the Recording Academy sets forth, such as maintaining the traffic and/or providing the platform for composers, producers, songwriters and artists to mingle and exchange ideas"

GRAMMYs/Nov 10, 2020 - 11:50 pm

In a brand-new editorial series, the Recording Academy has asked its membership to reflect on their their career journey, the current state of the music industry and what we can do to collectively and positively move forward in the current social climate. Below, Dominican producer and Florida chapter member Maffio shares his open letter with readers.

Dear Recording Academy Members,

Being a GRAMMY member and a voting member has been an honor and privilege and I couldn’t be prouder of being part of this organization. Admittedly, I’m a proud and "diehard" member.

I’m grateful for the many opportunities and initiatives the Recording Academy sets forth, such as maintaining the traffic and/or providing the platform for composers, producers, songwriters and artists to mingle and exchange ideas for the better. In addition, my experience with the Recording Academy has been a supportive and collaborative experience and one in which provides and pushes artists to deliver the very best in music.

In conclusion, as artists, producers and songwriters, we have to make the best in music and ensure there’s quality control in our music. The gold gramophone awarded at the GRAMMYs represents a worldwide recognition from your own music industry colleagues. No other organization recognizes artists in this way. It is for this reason that the Recording Academy continuously pushes artists boundaries and we respond by raising the bar. This is what the GRAMMYs and the Recording Academy represents, and I can't emphasize enough how proud I am of being a part of this.


Doug Emery: Music Creators Have A Unique Opportunity In Polarized Times

Attorney Shay Lawson Talks #TheShowMustBePaused & Feeling Inspired By Industry Changemakers

Shay Lawson, Esq.


Attorney Shay Lawson Talks #TheShowMustBePaused & Feeling Inspired By Industry Changemakers

In a brand-new editorial series, the Recording Academy has asked its membership to reflect on their their career journey, the current state of the music industry and what we can do to collectively and positively move forward in the current social climate

GRAMMYs/Nov 11, 2020 - 10:20 pm

In a brand-new editorial series, the Recording Academy has asked its membership to reflect on their their career journey, the current state of the music industry and what we can do to collectively and positively move forward in the current social climate. Below, entertainment attorney and Atlanta chapter governor Shay Lawson shares her open letter with readers.

I’m honestly exhausted with how often I’ve sobbed ugly breathless tears seeing images of people who look like me, my brother, my father, my husband on TV being murdered in cold blood as if this is a video game or blockbuster film instead of a real life lost, real carnage in the streets, a real atrocity that is too gruesome to be televised.

The intersectionalities of being Black, being a woman, being an entertainment attorney and holding these identities along with my responsibilities as a member of the legal system and advocate within the music community leave me simultaneously exhausted and inspired.

I’m exhausted with the energy spent pointing fingers and shifting blame that could be used to improve broken systems (including those within the music industry), create access, and nurture the next generation. 

I’m exhausted with an election media cycle using American lives as pawns in a game amid a global pandemic, leaving the public with little to no real hope or guidance in one of the harshest economic realities we’ve faced in years. 

I’m exhausted with all the performative outcry and allyship, only to go back to business in the following weeks with no real work being done, no real change being sparked, no real shift in the internal barometer of how we engage with each other on a day to day basis both personally and professionally.

However, I’m most exhausted with the internal dialogue I have with myself daily on what role I play in all of this and what impact my daily actions and inactions have on the world around me.

In the midst of the comfort and complacency of a less chaotic world we had the luxury to conveniently and selectively ignore the enormous impact we have in the music industry. We love to highlight our impact when we sway locked arms to sing "We Are the World" but somehow have turned a blind eye to "industry standards" that lock music creators into unfair deals for decades and drive profits to mega conglomerates while music creators struggle to make ends meet or have adequate health care, and systematically exclude women, POC and the LGBTQx communities from executive levels and real power. 

Read More: Deep Asymmetries Of Power: How The Recording Industry Spent Decades Denying Fair Payment To Black Artists

But the clock is running out on that era. That is what 2020 has shown me and that is what keeps me inspired.

I am inspired by the bravery of Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas in leading the rallying cry that "The Show Must Be Paused" for us to start to do the work of creating equality in the music industry and in the world around us.

I am inspired by the work of Binta Brown, Jeffrey Azoff, Profit, and the Music Industry Coalition that is putting the funding and manpower in place nationwide to address racism, engage and mobilize young people to vote, and to enact laws that promote social justice.

I am inspired by artists like Offset and how he is using his platform to encourage former felons with restored voting rights to re-engage with the political process, to provide resources for underserved youth to be introduced to STEM through entertainment, to leverage relationships to fundraise for local communities devastated by the pandemic.

However, I am most inspired by seeing the growth and commitment to real impact in the organizations, communities and clients I serve. As a member of the Recording Academy, I can’t describe how the last four years have felt to advocate for legislation like the Music Modernization Act that has directly and immediately began positively impacting music creators. To see the shift in national advocacy conversations to include communities and equality. To be able to host Financial Wellness Open Mic sessions on a local level to give members firsthand access to government grants and resources to survive and thrive in the pandemic. As an attorney to advocate for my clients’ true value in the face of "industry standards," leverage them in positions of ownership and influence, and legally protect the legacy they are building through their works of art and works of the heart. As a regular person at the end of the day taking the opportunity to lean even harder into my humanity and be able to do so alongside my industry peers to have the hard conversations and come up with viable solutions and plans.

So maybe it’s not exhaustion that I feel. Maybe it is a fire that has been stoked inside of me. A fire built up by the disruption to my comfortable complacency when the world was a less chaotic place. A fire built up by the rallying cry put out, and answered by a music industry ready to move mountains. No more water, no more tears, maybe this time its fire to light the path to the best version of ourselves yet.

-Until the next time,

Shay M. Lawson Esq

Recording Academy Member since 2016
Governor — Atlanta Chapter
Atlanta Chapter Co-Chair Advocacy &  Co-Chair Diversity

Latin Pop Producer Maffio: Why I'm Proud To Be A Voting Member Of The Recording Academy

Global Spin: Avalanche Kaito Deliver A Magnetic Performance Of "Toulele" On A Stage Constructed From A Playground
Avalanche Kaito

Photo: Davide Belotti


Global Spin: Avalanche Kaito Deliver A Magnetic Performance Of "Toulele" On A Stage Constructed From A Playground

Avalanche Kaito — whose music combines West African griot storytelling with scuzzy noise punk — offer a live performance that's just as imaginative and unexpected as the trio's musical foundation in this rendition of "Toulele."

GRAMMYs/Aug 16, 2022 - 05:01 pm

Two vastly different musical styles and cultural worlds collide in Avalanche Kaito, a trio led by West African griot and multi-instrumentalist Kaito Winse.

Hailing from Lankoué — a village in the northern region of West African country Burkina Faso — Winse is a modern-day griot, carrying forward his country's tradition of oral storytelling through music. Winse is now based in Brussels, Belgium, and Avalanche Kaito was formed after he met two Brussels-based musicians: guitarist Nico Gritto and drummer/electronic musician Benjamin Chavel.

In this episode of Global Spin, the three artists deliver a colorful performance of their song "Toulele," embodying their cross-cultural and far-reaching musical stylings. At the heart of the music is the juxtaposition between an ancestral musical storytelling style and futuristic sonic instrumentation.

The group assembles inside a large, warehouse-style building for their performance, using an elaborately-constructed wooden playground as their stage. Each of the three performers gets a turn in the spotlight, with Winse's vocals giving way to scuzzy, electronic instrumental solos.

In other moments of the trio's 12-minute performance, Gritto and Chavel take a break from their instruments, allowing Winse a brief a capella moment. Here, it's easy to imagine the traditions that inspired his musical style, and to contemplate the griot sounds that span backwards through generations and continue to hold a prominent place in West African culture today.

"Toulele" is one of eight tracks on Avalanche Kaito's self-titled album, which arrived in June 2022. Listen to the album here, watch the group's full performance above, and keep checking back to for more episodes of Global Spin. 

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The Evolution of Video Game Music: From 8-Bit To The Metaverse And The GRAMMYs

Photo: Poppy Thomas Hill/Flickr


The Evolution of Video Game Music: From 8-Bit To The Metaverse And The GRAMMYs

Recognizing the impact of video game music, the Recording Academy created a new GRAMMY Award category: Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media. Industry experts discuss what's next for the billion dollar video game music market.

GRAMMYs/Aug 16, 2022 - 03:05 pm

From the introduction of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, video games have proliferated global markets — from massive, online interactive worlds to free smartphone apps. Like music, video games have become an integral part of daily lives, while sound and music are an increasingly important aspect of gaming.

According to a Deloitte survey, 83 percent of Millennials and 87 percent of Gen Zers play some format of video games at least once a week. Fifty-eight percent of adult gamers and 70 percent of teen gamers stated that video games help them to stay connected with their friends, make connections, and express themselves. As such, the music within video games are a vital part of the experience and identity of a game.

"Music and games have always been intertwined in my mind," says Tayler Backman, Sound Designer and Composer at Hyper Hippo. "Whenever I hear a theme from 'Super Mario 64,' I’m immediately brought back to my childhood and some of my favorite memories playing the game with friends."  

Music helps weave the tapestry that heightens a gaming experience through "emotion, immersion, and story," adds sound designer and composer David Fairfield. Games can also inspire; long-time gamer Jon Batiste told the Washington Post that he has been influenced by video game music since childhood.

Video games have given a broader platform to established artists and working musicians as well. Consider the connection between "Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater" and punk and ska music — the 1999 game introduced those genres to hundreds of thousands of new, young listeners — or the way the "Crazy Taxi" soundtrack featured Bad Religion and the Offspring. System Of A Down's Serj Tankian contributed to the soundtrack for "Metal Hellsinger" while jazz has been used in a variety of games.

The connection between video games and music has evolved into a massive market that's projected to exceed $200 billion globally this year. Recognizing its significant cultural impact, the Recording Academy has even created a new category: Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media.

Music will continue to evolve, but its fundamentals and importance will not. "In the beginning, video games reflected global culture. Over the next generation, video games began to influence culture," says Steve Schnur, Worldwide Executive & President of Music at video game company Electronic Arts. "Today, video games have become culture. And their principal cultural driver will always be music." 

The Past: Getting Into The Groove

From its inception, video games have maintained a complementary relationship with music. Yet the way music is used in video games has evolved substantially over the last 40 years (and its genesis can be traced back to the 50s before the first video game even existed). 

Early '80s gaming platforms like the 8-bit Commadore 64 home computer could only produce three notes; while the NES was a vast improvement, its musical output was still highly limited. Back then, a developer couldn’t make music and sound effects play simultaneously. This climate required composer-developers to exercise the full breadth of their creativity. 

"When video games first started, the composer was often a developer on the same project. It was a solo endeavor," Fairfield says. Working alone has its limits. It's understandable, then, that the sound of a game would take a backseat to its functionality. 

Still, the music and sounds from these older games are classics, and have had an undeniable influence on modern music, from EDM to synthwave. Today, game studios have entire departments dedicated to music and sound effects.

"We are now entering a time when technology enables greater collaboration and community. We inspire, push, challenge, and encourage each other to greater levels," Fairfield continues. "Game studios that recognize the value in creative collaboration will find better ways to enable it, and reap the rewards." 

The Present: Getting Into The Game

Video game music has several formats and pushes music forward in various ways. "It can be defined as the music composed natively for specific games or artists that activate/integrate themselves into existing games," notes Mark Rasoul, founder of MARK THE FUTURE and former VP of Marketing for 100 Thieves, a brand and gaming organization. "Ultimately, it’s important to understand the benefits from three different groups — the game publisher/studio, the musician/artist, and the actual gamers themselves, each of which has different POVs, needs and opportunities." 

The way composers and artists find their way into video game music is somewhat similar to the traditional music industry. Both require putting in the work to develop your talent, find your voice, and get your work out there. But the video game industry also requires a level of technical know-how, as well as knowledge about how sounds work in a digital or virtual platform. These particulars have left the music industry attempting to navigate a new landscape. 

"Video games have been making waves with new revenue streams for some time," says Uziel Colón, the former Senior Project Manager, Latin & Music For Visual Media at the Recording Academy, who played a role in the development of the new GRAMMY category. "There are lots of platforms through which people are monetizing video games, and the Metaverse brings even more new revenue streams. In the future, video games and music will merge — it’s already happening." 

As the music world catches up to gaming, be prepared to see fascinating innovations — not just in how music is distributed and marketed, but how it is created and how it interacts with fans.

That said, some aspects of the music composition side of things will remain the same. It’s important for artists to follow what drives them, not be driven by what to follow. "I think the best way to get started is to just spend as much time as you can making music that means something to you and that you're proud of. How things sound sonically really matters in such a competitive field," advises composer Jonas Friedman, who has created music for video games such as "Splinterlands" and "Halo: The Fall Of Reach," as well as numerous films.

The best way into the industry is preparation; Fairfield suggests 10,000 hours of learning is a good target.  "That's around 5 years of full-time employment, or 10 years of part-time evenings and weekends. I started earning my hours in middle school with my first [Digital Audio Workstation]," he notes. "Create, fail, learn, fix, and repeat. GET YOUR REPS IN. From there, it was evenings and weekends, side-projects, and tours." 

Any evolving and competitive market requires time and knowledge. It’s also important to know the gaming landscape, as well as its various fanbases, because this is also your fanbase.

The Present: Global Access

Gaming has a monumental global platform, offering the music within games an international recognizability that may otherwise take years or decades to cultivate. According to Deloitte, 34 percent of Gen Z gamers look up the music they hear in games to buy or stream; nearly a quarter share music recommendations with fellow gamers.

"Video games are bigger than the film and music industries combined," says Schnur. "And I believe one of the main reasons is that gaming has never feared technology. We’ve embraced technology from the very beginning, and often evolved it. Video games are an entertainment medium that always shifts towards the consumer. That’s why the future of this industry is driven solely by players’ imagination."

With constant enhancements in technology, access to music and the ability to create it will also increase. Fairfield believes that the decade-plus trend of proliferant music-making tech will only continue. 

"This will bring in a new pool of talented creators into our industry….The downside of this accessibility is that it will flood the industry with mid to low quality content, and potentially drive prices down due to supply and demand (we've seen this with Spotify)," he says. "It means that game studios will have a lot of unique talent available to them — when they learn how to parse through the noise — which will lead to some really amazing innovation."

The Future: AI And Evolution

Gaming is ingrained in Gen Z's culture and its earnings are projected to be over $260 billion by 2025, notes Rasoul. There are over 2.7 billion current casual gamers worldwide —  over a third of the world’s total population. Consider that number for a second: video games are a nearly unparalleled musical platform; it's like hitting a Konami code to access.

As video game music continues to evolve, there will be a whole host of new opportunities. These opportunities have yet to be fully capitalized on in the music industry, but the turn has already begun. 

"I think it will be a continuation of what we’re seeing now with more opportunities for game soundtracks and composers to be recognized and reach new audiences," echoes Friedman, adding his enthusiasm for the new GRAMMY category. "That sort of acknowledgement for the artists behind the music, and respect for the industry as a whole, I think will become more commonplace." 

Some even believe that musicians will soon prefer placing songs in a video game over films and television. 

"Movies are much more fleeting and moments in time. Video games, behaviorally, bring people back, over and over to play," Rasoul says, positing that the nature of video games makes them a more dynamic and evergreen platform. "Games update over time, which gives the artist more opportunities to re-engage their music and audience." With the metaverse peeking its head into the conversation, this interaction has the potential to become even more lively, organic, and customizable. 

In the future, Rasoul strongly believes musicians will inform gaming. "Artists will simply produce their own game experiences to communicate their music stories, versus needing a partnership with an existing title. Development resources are more abundant than ever, and creating their own franchises can produce long term fan engagement." 

Backman, the composer, agrees, suggesting that mainstream artists may release an album within a video game, or curate a radio station within the game's universe (like Flying Lotus and others did in "Grand Theft Auto"). "We just saw Dr. Dre in their last [downloadable content]; your mission involves helping him get his stolen phone back, but you also see him and Anderson .Paak record a song together. I think we’re only going to see more and more of this type of merging of video game music and mainstream artists."

"I also hope this means the more ‘mainstream’ composers — Hans Zimmer, Phillip Glass, Trent Reznor, etc. — will start creating themes for games as well," continues Backman. "The work that’s happening in game themes and music is already incredible, but I think our part of the craft of game making might gain a little more notice and prestige if we have an Oscar winner composing the theme to the next 'Uncharted' game."

Video games create new worlds — some familiar, some fantastical — but they all have music. The future of video game music is full of endless possibilities, with the chance to tell new stories in different ways, to have music interact with fans on a completely new level, and with unprecedented levels of global access.

 We're Probably On An Irreversible Course Into The Metaverse. What Role Will Music Play In It?

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Anäis Mitchell On Newport Folk 2022, The Power Of Musicals & Her Eternal Bond In Bonny Light Horseman
Anaïs Mitchell

Photo: Jay Sansone


Anäis Mitchell On Newport Folk 2022, The Power Of Musicals & Her Eternal Bond In Bonny Light Horseman

Anäis Mitchell released her first self-titled album two decades into her career — which speaks not only to the vulnerability therein, but her consolidative attempt to make songs with staying power.

GRAMMYs/Aug 16, 2022 - 02:16 pm

Songwriters have likened their craft to every medium under the sun; for Anäis Mitchell's purposes, photography will do.

When trying to capture a feeling, she tries to find a shot neither too wide nor too narrow — that "gauzy, beautiful, poetic space where there's imagery that speaks." That last word — "speaks" — reminds her of a slightly jarring story.

As the GRAMMY winner recalls backstage at Newport Folk 2022, she once met the Canadian songwriter Ferron. "She said, 'You have to understand that if you say an image, if you say a word, you summon a spirit. If you say the word 'door,' you summon the spirit of a door,'" Mitchell recalls.

As Ferron elaborated, this meant Mitchell must choose her words meticulously — so as to not agitate the spiritual plane.

"I loved that, because I think that is true," Mitchell continues. "There's something about imagery — it speaks to us that isn't always through the conscious mind. It speaks to your body and your memory and your senses." And while Mitchell has been making records for 20 years, this partly explains why she chose to make her first self-titled album — it spoke that it was to be.

In this interview backstage at Newport Folk 2022, learn about Mitchell's latest creative moves, her ineluctable bond with her bandmates in Bonny Light Horseman, and what musicals and parenting teach her about the ineffable art of songcraft.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What's been your relationship with Newport Folk over the years?

I definitely heard about Newport when I was coming up, even as a historical event — the Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Pete Seeger stuff. It's this legendary kind of place. I started to come to Newport several years ago; I think the very first time, I came in, played my set and then rolled out.

I've come back a few times — for my own music, and also with my band, Bonny Light Horseman. I've come to really appreciate how it can be if you hang out the whole weekend. How many folks you meet, and also, the level of collaboration that happens. It feels less like a festival and more like an artist residency.

Tell the readers about your bond with everyone in Bonny Light Horseman. I'm sure it's very familial.

So, the trio of Bonny Light Horseman [includes] Josh Kaufman and Eric D. Johnson. I met Josh when I was living in Brooklyn, and he was also living there. We started to mess around with these old kinds of British Isles folk songs.

He said, "Hey, you know who would be great for this music is my friend Eric!" And I'd just discovered Eric's band, Fruit Bats, and really flipped out for it. So, I was like, "Sounds great!" We got together and it felt very intuitive to make music with those guys.

Since then, I made a solo record this past year with Josh and a couple of guys who have often played with Bonny Light Horseman — JT Bates on drums and Mike Lewis on sax and bass. It does feel like the Bonny Light world has spilled into my own music-making and recording world, and I'm so grateful for it.

Read More: Bonny Light Horseman's Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson & Josh Kaufman Are Moving Folk Forward Together

I'm sure it feels like you're not working a day in your life with those guys.

[Laughs.] They're fun. They're funny. We have a good time. It feels easy, and that's funny for me. A lot of the time I think things need to be hard. I worked on this musical, and it took a decade of my life. I was like, "I'm going to work on this thing every day for however long…"

It's like the harder you're laboring over something, the better the end result will be.

Right? It isn't always the case! Sometimes it is; sometimes it's not. And then, I think, meeting those guys and falling in love with playing music with them reminded me how it can feel easy and also be good.

You've talked about how you "want your songs to walk on their own legs." What are your techniques to write a song that can exist apart from you and widely apply to others?

You know, I did this Pete Seeger tribute the very first night of this festival, and I sang a song I had learned as a kid, growing up. Someone had taught it to me and sang it to me. I never knew that Pete Seeger had written it; I never heard a recording of him doing it. I love that type of folk song; it makes its own way through the world.

For me, it's all about finding this sweet spot between what feels intensely personal and true — that you can stand in your shoes and sing — and then also what feels archetypal. Like you're tapping into something older and younger, you know? Something that could have been sung a hundred years ago, and could be sung a hundred years from now.

That's what thrills me the most when I'm writing — that I can be in the center of that Venn diagram.

I've noticed that songs tend to begin a little more generally, and then you fill in the details as it rolls on. Is that a conscious form of architecture for you?

I could talk about songwriting for, like, hours [Laughs]. But it's like a camera lens, right? You get the wide scope, and then the specifics — and then, sometimes, you turn the lens a little too far and it's a little too specific, and you have to pull back.

There's somewhere in the middle where it's kind of this gauzy, beautiful, poetic space where there's imagery that speaks — because images speak to us. Anything you say, you know?

Do you ever write a song and then stop yourself? Like, "This spirit I'm summoning isn't appropriate for right now! It's too raw and prickly!"

I mean, I like raw! This record I made recently is interesting, because it's a self-titled record. It's the first record I've made where all the songs actually are me — the speaker in the songs is me, and the songs are actually from my own life. I'm not taking on the voice or story of another character.

Did you have a propensity for that in the past?

I have, yeah! Obviously, working on that musical for years and years — that was a grand experiment in that type of stuff. And I love that stuff also, but there was something about this record that felt like: How honest can I f—ing be? That was the job; that was the task.

That's not easy.

Yeah. To put my heart all the way on the sleeve and be OK with it. There are a few songs that took a really long time to figure out how to write, and I think I had to figure out what was true.

Who are your go-tos, as far as confessional singer/songwriters? Joni Mitchell is often the first artist that people grab for, but there are obviously so many.

Well, Joni for sure was a huge influence early on. And then when I came of age musically, when I was in high school, it was the time of Lilith Fair in the '90s. Ani DiFranco was huge [for me], and I was on her record label for years. Tori Amos, you know.

All those women — it's almost embarrassing how emotional that stuff is, but I really responded to it as a kid. I wanted to emote and express like that. People come to music for different things. Some people will come to it…

To get drunk?

[Laughs] They want to get drunk! They want to dance! And music can help you do that. And some music is to help you cry, you know? That's a thing music can do, and sometimes, I think that's part of my job as a songwriter.

Were you particularly in touch with your emotions as a kid?

For the times that I was growing up, my parents were very OK with emotions. I have two kids of my own — a 9-year-old and a 2-year-old. The popular understanding nowadays is: "See the emotion and validate it!" When I was a kid, it was less like that. It was kind of like, "Get your s— together, come back to the table and we can talk."

I think it's a popular therapeutic tool to just acknowledge and observe the emotion rather than immediately assign it meaning.

That's lifelong work right there, to be able to be OK with that.

I love that you made a self-titled record, by the way. That's a classic choice.

You know, I always wanted to do it! Usually, you do it with your debut record, and I'm now 41. I thought it was funny to do it at this point in my career, but it really did feel like, first, a return to songwriting after a long time in the theater world. And second, it was so personal and heart-on-sleeve, like I was saying.

What notes did you give Josh as a producer? I'm sure you wanted the record to leap out in a certain way. A certain bodily impact, regardless of the contents.

You know, I hadn't made a new record in a long time — especially of new songs — because I was working on Hadestown, my musical. When the songs started to flow again for me, I didn't want to look too hard at them. I didn't want to overthink them.

I remember feeling that way about the record: I need to make this thing right now. I didn't want to get in my head about what kind of record it was; I just wanted to lay it down.

So, for Josh, maybe a guiding light was wanting to keep the focus on the lyrics and the singing, because they are very wordy. That's just what my DNA is, I guess. A lot of storytell-y kind of stuff. I think he tried to create a space where that story could shine.

An atmosphere that's conducive to the feeling.

Yeah. A buoyant kind of warmth around the vocal that doesn't necessarily compete with the vocal. What I hear in the record is that it sounds very live to me, which was how it was recorded — just us in a room.

That nice, organic bleed between the musicians.

Totally! I love mic bleed! You want it to be stewing together.

As a parent, is it a trip to hear music through your kids' ears?

It's fresh to hear what my 9-year-old is into. She's into some pop music that's caught on with kids, like Imagine Dragons and stuff like that, which I wouldn't necessarily be exposed to otherwise. It's like: These guys know how to write a song.

You can appreciate the craft. It's not like it's being piped into CVS, washing over your brain.

Absolutely. And it's fun to try to turn her on to cool stuff. She's into musicals, which I love, because I've been listening to my favorite musicals nonstop. I just have a crazy amount of admiration for that craft.

I've gotten into them just from being a jazz fan. Like, "That Rodgers and Hammerstein tune is pretty. What's that from?"

What a match made in heaven, Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Speaking of trying to craft a song that can walk through the world on its own legs: It used to be that the way a song got out there in the world was through a musical. That's what the musical theater was for — debuting these classic songs.

So, they were necessarily songs that could work in the musical, but they were repurposable. You could sing them at a wedding or a funeral and they would work.

What are your favorite musicals?

My all-time favorite is "Les Miz." I'll never get over that musical, and I've seen it a ton of times. It's so emotional for me, and epic, and political…

What's the best tune? I'll check it out later.

"On My Own" is a classic one. I love a lot of them — "Lovely Ladies," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." I love Sweeney Todd by [Stephen] Sondheim.


I know, right? I got tickets for my 9-year-old and I to see 'Into the Woods," which is in revival on Broadway right now. I'm very excited. But I tend to love sung-through musicals where there's not a book scene and then a song — where it's all sung. I love the trance you can get into with that type of show.

Black People Helped Invent Country Music, Yet Gatekeepers Haven't Let Them In. The Black Opry Is Changing All That.

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