Photo: Jenny Anderson
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Lauren Patten On The Timelessness Of "Jagged Little Pill" And Owning Her Identity On The Broadway Stage
Actress and singer Lauren Patten tells GRAMMY.com about her experience working on "Jagged Little Pill" and using Alanis Morissette's music to start authentic conversations
Actress and singer Lauren Patten is responsible for one of the most vulnerable performances in recent Broadway history.
She delivered a riveting performance as Jo in "Jagged Little Pill," the Broadway smash inspired by Alanis Morissette's 1995 GRAMMY-winning album of the same name. On top of earning her critical praise and her first Tony nomination, the role landed Patten her first-ever GRAMMY nomination, for Best Musical Theater Album at the upcoming 2021 GRAMMYs Awards show. Her howling rendition of "You Oughta Know," which she unleashes after she's wronged by her partner and best friend, frequently earned her standing ovations. A star was born.
But she isn't just any star. Seeing her grapple with anguish and the process of self-discovery in "Jagged Little Pill" is like seeing an artist grow into themselves, exposing their darkest parts for audiences to witness. As Jo, a teen exploring her gender presentation while in the throes of first love, Patten exercises her voice like a mighty instrument, allowing audiences to witness a performance of unmatched force and nuance whether they've experienced the musical in person or only listened to the cast recording. By the end of "You Oughta Know," Patten is so submerged in Jo's turmoil, it's clear she's emotionally drained. Still, the excitement of witnessing the birth of something greater lingers long after her tears, and those from the audience, have dried.
GRAMMY.com spoke with Lauren Patten about the responsibility she feels as a bisexual queer woman in playing a character like Jo, working on such a resonant musical despite the ongoing, Broadway-shuttering pandemic, and using Alanis Morissette's music to start authentic conversations about identity, sexuality, race and beyond.
(Oh, and did we mention she started a band with some of the musicians from "Jagged Little Pill," too? Because, obviously, that was something we had to discuss.)
What kind of music are you listening to in quarantine? Have you rediscovered anything?
I recently rediscovered Damien Rice. I hadn't listened to any of his albums for years, and then his music appeared on my Spotify. It also happened recently with Glen Hansard. I went through a pretty big Glen Hansard phase and saw him in concert at the Beacon Theatre [in New York], which was amazing for his Didn't He Ramble album; and I hadn't listened to him for a few years and was like, "Wait, he's released new music?" That has been a little bit of a musical joy recently, going back to artists that I know and love and getting comfort from their work.
You performed in "Jagged Live In NYC: A Broadway Reunion Concert." Tell me about encountering "You Oughta Know" and "Hand in My Pocket" after nine months.
It was overwhelming but interesting, too, because we were doing this massive undertaking, creating a concert version of the show and revisiting the story we hadn't told for nine months. We did the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the "Best of Broadway" special. I also performed "Hand in My Pocket" on Zoom, but we hadn't been on a stage telling this story until rehearsals. Of course, we had to limit our time together because of COVID risks, so we didn't have a long rehearsal process.
I initially didn't register how I was feeling because it was like firing on all cylinders so we could do this concert in a way that felt true to the caliber of our show. It didn't hit me until we were doing it. I was like, "Wow, I'm backstage watching my castmates perform. I'm backstage waiting for my cue." We didn't have an audience or a full cast, which felt strange. But I knew many people were on this journey with us. Once it was happening, it was emotionally overwhelming.
You've created a tight-knit group of musicians around you. Damien Bassman, Eric Davis and Marc Schmied have been vital. How has it felt to create that bond and how does that collaboration look like in practice?
Damien and Eric are in our band for "Jagged Little Pill." Damien played our first reading in 2017 and afterward came up to me and said he wanted to start a band with me; I'd never been in a band before. We continued developing "Jagged," and after the out-of-town tryout in Cambridge [in 2018], I asked if he was still interested. At that point, Eric had always been the guitarist for "Jagged," so I knew Eric well, Damian knew Eric well, and they'd been in the original pit for "Next to Normal"; and then Damien brought Marc in.
It started as an outlet, to just be in that joy together and play songs that we liked, whether it was going to lead to a concert or not. It's extremely collaborative, and we know each other so well and know what our strengths are, so we all bring songs to rehearsals and choose the best ones. We primarily work on Broadway, but we have a deep love for many music genres, mainly rock, from childhood, so our sets end up being very diverse and eclectic.
I'm the song interpreter as far as lyrics go and whatever I'm doing vocally, but full credit for the musical arrangements goes to Damien, Eric and Marc. Taking an Amy Winehouse song for this acoustic set and making it into a kind of Spanish-influenced guitar and drum vibe, that's them. I learn from them every time we rehearse because of the different musical worlds I've ever been in, and their knowledge of musical styles is so vast. It's very exciting for me, as a vocalist, to watch them work, where they think it would be interesting to take a song arrangement, and then I can come in with how I can fit into that with my interpretation of the vocals and the lyrics.
I'm such a fan of "I Miss The Mountains." Why did you gravitate toward that song to cover?
That's the only time we've ever done a musical theater song in our sets! [Laughs.] We thought it would be nice to do something that shows our love for and our connection to Tom [Kitt] [musical supervisor, orchestrator and arranger of "Jagged Little Pill" and composer and co-orchestrator of "Next to Normal"] and do something of that genre in our way.
What was it like to adjust your Rockwood Music Hall sets to a virtual setting? What does the future of live music look like for you?
It has definitely been a highlight of my year, being able to be back with my band and play and share live music, because it's an enormous joy in my life and a relatively new one. We use my name, but it's an artistic endeavor among all four of us.
I long for the day [when] we can play Rockwood to a sold-out house, because the energy is irreplaceable. But there's something beautiful about piping live music straight into somebody's house. The number of people who purchased tickets doubled the number of people Stage 2 holds for a concert. People under 21 who usually can't come to Rockwood could watch it, and so could people from all over the world who can't come to New York!
You have great artists and technicians deciding on the sound mix and the camera angles at the moment with you to ensure the stream feels intimate and personal, so it becomes this other artistic endeavor. I don't think that it will replace live music; nothing will. This is teaching us about the possibilities of hybrids and having some concerts that are meant to be live and having some concerts that are tailored to be livestreamed and because there are benefits, mainly the accessibility of it.
Lyrics can be somewhat self-explanatory, but they also mean something different to everyone. What do the lyrics to "You Oughta Know" mean to you?
People have a perception of what that song is, and because of it, they've made a perception of what the entire album of Jagged Little Pill is, which is wildly off-base. There's obviously lots of rage, betrayal, and imagining revenge as a catharsis. But there's something when you interpret the song as a musical theater artist who is telling a character's story through song that you just listen to a song differently. How I would sing "You Oughta Know" with my band is very different from how I've ever sung it.
What strikes me lyrically is that there's something very specific in how these lyrics have been queered for the show, and that adds layers of meaning that weren't in the original song. What does it mean to say, rather than "Would she have your baby?" to say, "And you can have his baby?" It's a very different lyric, and it's very loaded. That also meant losing iconic lyrics like, "I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner."
One of the beautiful things about Alanis is that she's so generous with her work, which is no small feat when you have a song as known as "You Oughta Know." When you look at a song as a musical theater artist, you hear things differently. You look at the first lyric of the chorus and, musically, it's different from how you look at it on a page. When you look at it on a page, it's a sentence. "I'm here to remind you." It's really the full sentence, "I'm here to remind you of the mess you left when you went away." When you sing it, there are no vocals between "I'm here" and "to remind you."
Something about that hit me very deeply! This entire song from this person saying, "I'm here," is very different [from], "It's not fair/To deny me/Of the cross I bear..." This chorus starts with this person screaming, "I'm here," so it's a very different song to me than, "You cheated on me; f* you; you have to look at how you hurt me." "You have to look at me because I'm here, and I need to be seen." It became a song for a character who tries to deflect everything she feels with humor to say what she needs to say for the first time. It became a song that circumstantially came out of a queer person who was betrayed romantically, but that's not what the song is about to me anymore.
As a queer artist, did you feel the pressure of representing this group of humans?
The conversation about representation is so important, and I'm so glad that it's happening. It's also really complicated, because one person cannot represent the entire LGBTQ+ community since it's so diverse and varied in experiences. Still, I'm so happy to be able to represent even one specific person's experience.
You've poured a lot of yourself into Jo, and you've done the same with your music. Has playing Jo played a part in your personal growth at this stage in your life?
I don't think that, as an actor, you can spend the kind of time, energy and soul that you put into developing a character for years and not grow. At the beginning of developing this character, I'd recently come out. Telling this story of this person who doesn't know what that means for her yet and is actively trying to figure it out while I was, too, was a very parallel experience.
It's funny to be years into the show's development, and I'm in a different place than Jo and I've grown up with this baby Jo in my body. [Laughs.] There's a level of freedom to what I've gotten to do on stage as Jo that I haven't had anywhere, and that has changed me as an artist and a person. What I do on stage as Jo was in me; how I connect to Alanis' music was in me. I didn't know that before. As you mentioned, you can see it when I perform with my band, and I don't know if I would've found that if I hadn't had "Jagged."
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Photo: Jonathan Weiner
Meet Me @ The Altar Reveal The 4 "Badass" Female Artists Who Inspired Their Debut Album, 'Past // Present // Future'
On the heels of releasing their electric debut LP, pop-punk trio Meet Me @ The Altar celebrate Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, Alanis Morissette and Pink — and how those women played a role in the band's music today.
Long before Meet Me @ The Altar formed in 2015, the trio found inspiration from women who were doing exactly what they are now — breaking the mold for women in rock. So when it came time to name their debut album, there was a title no more fitting than Past // Present // Future.
"We're always going back to the music that inspired us in our childhood growing up and finding ways to make something modern out of that," bassist Téa Campbell tells GRAMMY.com.
While they initially bonded over Paramore — after Campbell and drummer Ada Juarez met on YouTube, they held auditions for a singer, and Edith Victoria won them over with a rendition of Paramore's "All I Wanted" — Meet Me @ The Altar had a separate set of influences in mind while creating their first LP: Demi Lovato, P!nk, Alanis Morissette, and Kelly Clarkson.
All of those artists' impacts are felt across Past // Present // Future, but Meet Me @ The Altar bring a youthful energy that makes the music feel less copycat and more well-informed. There's no denying they were kids of the pop-punk era, as apparent in the racing guitar melody of "Try" and their fearless shots at online trolls on lead single "Say It (To My Face)." Across the album's 11 tracks, it's clear that the MM@TA girls are simply having fun paying homage to the music they grew up on — but ultimately, making it their own.
Just before the album was released on March 10, Meet Me @ The Altar kicked off their first-ever headlining tour. Despite only being six shows in by the time they caught up with GRAMMY.com, the trio had already noticed that they're making a similar impact on fans that their heroes had on them. And with all three members being BIPOC and two queer, the band is serving the next generation in an even bigger way.
"We grew up not seeing people like us on stage — none that we directly saw ourselves reflected in — and we are that for a lot of people now," Campbell says. "That's something that we don't take lightly."
Below, hear from Campbell, Juarez and Victoria on how Demi Lovato, P!nk, Alanis Morissette, and Kelly Clarkson inspired Meet Me @ The Altar's debut LP.
Victoria: She's such a fantastic vocalist. She can sing literally anything — she can sing over a pop instrumental or over a rock Instrumental and she'll still sound fabulous.
Campbell: Demi was always a freakin' rock star. I just remember being like, 7, 8 years old, turning on the TV in my playroom. They would play the music videos in between the shows and stuff, and it was always so inspiring to see someone just, like, rocking out. Disney Channel doesn't get enough credit — they really made [everyone] look like rock stars. It was so iconic.
Victoria: The album that did it for me when I was really young was Don't Forget, with "Get Back" and all of that. I loved that record so much, because it was a fuse of pop and rock, and her badass voice over it was just amazing.
Campbell: Especially instrumentally, Demi's older stuff was a huge influence on this record. [On] "La La Land," the songwriting is really good. That's something I was really focused on with this album, having really good songwriting, because we really care about creating quality work.
"Here We Go Again" was also a main vibe that we wanted to go for, because it's a perfect amount of nostalgia. That's something that we wanted to emulate too.
For all of these artists, it's more vibes versus [trying] to copy their song, you know? We just really loved the energy that all these artists put out, and Demi's songs were just so solid and such good pop-rock songs. And we wanted to have that kind of iconic-ness about ours.
Juarez: Demi's music, since the beginning, has been really rock-based, and that's obviously something that we took into account with what we were doing with this album. We also worked with John Fields, who has produced some of Demi's albums.
We definitely wanted to sound, quality-wise, just like how she sounded in those albums. Those albums are so good.
Campbell: [John] had a bunch of photos and videos [of Demi] from that time when we were recording and stuff, so it was so crazy — especially thinking back to our 7/8/9-year-old selves. They would be freaking out!
Victoria: The melody for "Need Me" [on our album] reminds me a lot of that era. The "yeah, yeah"s were inspired by Demi because she loved her "yeah, yeah"s back in the day. The cadence reminds me of her a lot as well, and that Don't Forget period.
Campbell: "TMI" gives the most, like, Camp Rock-y kind of vibe. I can imagine Edith singing it by a lake, just looking out at the water.
Juarez: Also, just to say: As a person, Demi is amazing — how far they've come, where they are today and where they came from. Demi is definitely someone that I've looked up to for a very long time, to get to where they are today.
Victoria: All these people [inspire me] on a vocal scale, because they're so versatile and they kind of can sing anything, but my favorite parts of them was when they were singing over a rock instrumental. That really influenced me, and it made me realize I can have a more colorful voice than the basic pop-punk dude voice and still be able to sing over rock. Pink's poppier stuff is just as good as her rockier stuff, and I think it's really important to be able to be versatile in your voice like she is.
Juarez: The immediate thing that comes to mind is that P!nk is the best person in the entire f—ing world. She's so unapologetically herself, and always has been. Even how she raises her children today — P!nk is just, like, an angel.
Her music has always been really good. She's done many genres, and honestly, nailed them all. She's just one of those artists that, growing up, I always looked up to. There's never been a point in time where I didn't know that P!nk existed. I've always been like Wow, I want to be as influential as she is.
Campbell: P!nk has always been really inspiring in terms of just taking up space and having a voice. It's her way or the highway — she doesn't take anyone's crap. That mentality has really helped us navigate this whole thing, being young women in a scene that's very older male-dominated. It's hard to navigate sometimes, but having that inside of you, like, I'm just gonna do me and worry about what I got going on — that's something that I really took from P!nk. She's a badass, and that's how we want to be.
If you think about songs as a formula, she's got it down. That's something that we paid attention to. Her song structures are just perfect. It's that mix of that powerhouse voice with the real rock instrumentals. We also focused on more of a driving chorus for most of these songs — that's something that she did a lot and that was something that we really liked.
Juarez: She also has a lot of fun in her songs, and I feel like we get some of that from her. You don't have to take the song too seriously, you can still put your little spin on things.
Campbell: "Thx 4 Nothin" was heavily P!nk inspired.
Victoria: That was one where we were like, "We should write something that is very reminiscent of P!nk." We decided that before we went to the studio that day.
Edith: She's so unconventional and odd. I remember my mom used to play her all the time when I was growing up, and my mom was telling me that when Jagged Little Pill came out, people were so freaked out by her — they were like, "She's the devil" and all this stuff, just because she was a rock star and she sang a lot differently than what any other woman was doing at the time.
I love how unconventional she was and how unapologetic she was. I think that she carried all of that negativity and dealt with it with such grace, and she still just did what she had to do for her fans.
Juarez: I wasn't too familiar with Alanis Morissette for a really long time. But as I've gotten older and learned more about her, I've realized that she's always had her place in the rock scene — like, she played Woodstock '99! Taylor Hawkins was her drummer for the longest time. She's always had a name for herself, and that's something that we strive to do always in a male-centric genre.
Victoria: We cover "You Oughta Know" live, actually. It's one of my favorite songs ever — that whole album is one of my favorite albums ever, Jagged Little Pill. Her song "Thank You" is one of my favorites too.
"Kool" is a song that I wanted to be very kind of weird. That chorus melody is very Alanis-inspired with the way I'm moving my voice, because she moved her voice in a lot of odd ways too.
Victoria: I didn't recognize how much Kelly influenced me, because I was so young listening to all her hits on the radio that I didn't process who it was, I just knew I liked the song and the singer. "Miss Independent" and "Breakaway" — that whole album, I had it on CD, and I used to play it, like, every single day, but I didn't know who the heck Kelly Clarkson was!
When we started this album, and then I went back and I realized, "Oh my gosh, all of these songs are Kelly Clarkson. And they're all so good!"
She is one of my favorite vocalists ever. She's so versatile and her voice is so powerful. She's just amazing.
Campbell: Kelly Clarkson was one of the first people who made me realize how powerful music can be in the context of movies. The Princess Diaries — I think that might have been the first time I ever heard Kelly Clarkson. It made me feel so much.
It's just so cool what music can do. I think that's something that all of these artists opened our eyes to. Especially nowadays, we always find ourselves going back to that time period, because music today just does not feel the same.
All of these artists were songwriters too, and you could tell that their truth was in these songs, and it made you feel something. That's something that is super inspiring, and Kelly is so great at that.
Juarez: Kelly Clarkson — in particular, it was "Breakaway," but honestly that whole album, and even like "Since U Been Gone" and "Behind These Hazel Eyes" — that was one of the first times I felt that nostalgia emotion. Specifically "Breakaway" — I was like 4 or something — like, it would play at the YMCA, that's where I remember hearing it. It always stuck out to me.
Victoria: The melody for "Same Language," but specifically the post-chorus, reminds me so much of her. It's super high, it's super open. It's like a slap in your face in the best way. I can hear singing that part of the chorus so easily.
Campbell: I feel like a lot of our songs, vocally, have the same kind of vibe as "My Life Would Suck Without You." It's just up there and it's just like, goin'.
Juarez: I love that the music we make gives me the same feeling that "Breakaway" gave me when I first listened to it. It's, like, a vibe thing. And also Kelly Clarkson is like, the best person in the world. I think she can do no wrong.
Victoria: She's a ray of sunshine. I'm so happy we're able to be on her show, because that was very full-circle for all of us.
Juarez: We didn't get to meet her though, it was all pre-recorded. One day!
Victoria: I want to get all these people to know who we are so bad. I think they would really like us!
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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Anitta On The “Insane” Success Of "Envolver," Representing Brazil & Reshaping Global Pop
After a decade of building a massive career in her home country of Brazil, Anitta took her success to a global level in 2022. The singer discusses her “brand new career” and the Best New Artist nomination that came from it.
Before Anitta released her album Versions of Me last April, she already had four albums in her catalog. But as the title insists, Versions of Me is the project that showed Anitta has many layers to her success — and now, she has a GRAMMY nomination to show for it.
The Brazilian star is nominated for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs, which may feel like a long time coming for those who have been a fan since Anitta's self-titled debut album arrived in 2013. After becoming a household name in her native Brazil, and then in Latin America, she finally cracked the U.S. last year with the worldwide hit "Envolver." Ten years in, Anitta almost feels reborn.
"In Brazil I got the recognition before, but internationally, it's amazing because I've just started a brand new career," she tells GRAMMY.com. "I feel really special. I feel like things are happening really fast and I'm really happy about it."
With Versions of Me, Anitta explored and embraced her cross-cultural appeal, even singing in Portuguese, Spanish and English across its 15 tracks. The album opens with "Envolver," which blends reggaeton music with an electronic allure; later, she put a trap music twist on the Brazilian bossa nova classic "The Girl From Ipanema" in "Girl From Rio," a tribute to her hometown of Rio de Janeiro.
Those personal details helped Versions of Me resonate with a global audience, and they were amplified by Anitta's unabashed ability to push pop music to new places. She embedded elements of funk carioca (Brazilian funk music from the favelas of Rio De Janeiro where she grew up) into genre-bending collaborations alongside stars like Cardi B, Khalid, and Saweetie.
Anitta has also become widely acclaimed for her show-stopping performances, from Coachella to the Latin GRAMMY Awards to the viral "Envolver" dance challenge on TikTok. Her charming transparency with her fans helps uplift women, her country of Brazil, and the LGBTQIA+ community (she publicly identified as bisexual in 2018) — in turn helping Anitta become one of Latin pop's most refreshing and boldest artists in recent memory.
Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs, Anitta spoke with GRAMMY.com about her first GRAMMY nomination, the viral success of "Envolver," and what's next.
How do you feel about being nominated for Best New Artist?
I feel really special. First of all for the nomination, to be part of the GRAMMYs. That makes me feel like I'm doing a good job. I'm on the right path. But also, I felt really special that I was nominated for the Best New Artist category. I feel happy that people understand that for me it's a whole new world.
Even though I have more than 10 years of a career in Brazil, for me, in these other markets, like singing in English and Spanish, it's brand new stuff. I am a new artist in these other markets. I feel really happy that people can understand that and see it like I do.
You're also representing Portuguese and Spanish music in the Best New Artist category. What does it mean to you to be able to represent those languages within the category?
I feel like it's really important. My country feels very special about it. They've never seen something like that. Last time they saw something like that was like 57 years ago <a href="https://www.grammy.com/artists/astrud-gilberto/16737">when Brazilian artists [Astrud Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim were nominated for Best New Artist], so they're really happy for me to be part of this. To be representing so much for my country, I'm really glad that I can do that.
Your song "Girl From Rio" interpolates one of Jobim and Gilberto's classic songs.
"The Girl From Ipanema"! It's crazy, it's like a cycle. It's amazing!
In your album Versions of Me, you sing in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Why did you decide to record music in those three languages?
Portuguese is my first language, obviously. And then I started to learn English when I was still a kid. I started to learn Spanish after I went to Spain for the first time because one of my songs in Portuguese, "Show Das Poderosas," was playing in Madrid. So I went to Spain to sing for a radio show, and I didn't understand anything that people were telling me, so I decided to start learning Spanish, and I loved it. And I started singing [in that language].
I think it's just part of my personality to enjoy learning languages. When I was a kid, I also learned Italian, so I have songs in Italian. I really enjoy it.
The album cover art features different versions of yourself throughout your career. Why did you decide to bring together those images from your past and present?
I think controversy is good when people talk about a subject, and they can see it's accurate and real, and they can get to know you a little better. I think it's a little fun.
I like being open about the [plastic surgery] procedures I've done. Being open about all the things in my life. I don't like to fake or hide situations. I feel like I would feel stuck in some kind of prison. I feel better if people just get to know me from a 360 point of view.
In the album, you explore genres like pop, R&B, trap, and reggaeton music. What was experience like to work with those different genres?
I wanted to show different types of music that I like singing. Like different versions of myself. I'm fascinated by people's music — the different countries and cultures. I love traveling and getting to know the way people consume music, the way people create music. It's really special when I can travel and get to know a new culture, and sing, and get that feeling running through my blood.
I love playing with the biggest amount of places and rhythms, and everything that I can, because I think that's what it is about, when you can create music that's more than just something fun to listen to. If you can bring cultures and bring people together, I think it's even more of a special thing.
How did the song "Envolver" come together?
The [COVID-19 pandemic] quarantine was over, but still the gates were closed to Brazil from America. To go to America, you had to quarantine for 15 days somewhere. I was in Punta Cana waiting for these 15 days to pass, and I decided to bring some friends of mine — artists to write songs with. It was Phantom and Lenny Tavárez. We started writing, [and when] we got to "Envolver," it was really special. We wrote it so fast. It was insane. It was amazing.
What was the inspiration behind that song?
We wanted to talk about a woman that is always in control and not the opposite. In songs, we always see guys talking like that to women, and I wanted to bring exactly the opposite — when a woman is in power.
Did you think that "Envolver" would become the massive hit that it was?
We did think that — but we also think that about so many songs, so it's like, we never know. It was insanely big. I think it wouldn't have been that big if I didn't have the support of the foundation of my country, and also if I [hadn't] done so much work in the Latin community. It got big because we were already doing a lot of stuff.
You've become known for your electric live performances. How important is it to express your music through dancing as well?
Even more right now, with TikTok and things like that, I think people are so engaged to dancing. They want to feel involved somewhere, so that's one way of how people are getting into music right now. Getting involved with the artists in some way more than just the music. I think dance is a very good way of doing that.
You incorporate elements of Brazilian funk music throughout Versions of Me. How important was it for you to bring that genre into some of the songs?
I put in a little bit. Not as much as I wanted to. I think in the next albums I will do more. I'm trying to introduce a little bit of [Brazilian] funk to the worldwide audience, and then I will [release] something really cultural that I really believe in.
Since I started traveling around the world, I'm fascinated about showing people where I come from, my origins. I think funk is my origin. It's so different, and it has the power to be the next big thing, so I feel really special about it. I feel like people are starting to get into funk and making more Brazilian funk music, and I really love that I'm part of this change.
You announced that your next album will be a Brazilian funk album. How is that coming along?
I'm still waiting. I'm working on the album. I have most of the songs kind of ready. I'm still adjusting some things and the features on it. But I'm going to wait for the best time to release it. I'm not going to do it in a rush.
I'm going to put effort behind it because this is the thing I always dreamed about doing. I always dreamed about having an album where I can truly feel my culture and what I really love about funk and Brazilian music. I think I'm going to wait for everything to be completely perfect for me to release it.
Throughout your career, you've proudly represented the LGBTQIA+ community, collaborating with artists like Brazilian drag pop stars Pabllo Vittar and Gloria Groove and being open about your own sexuality. How do you feel to be helping raise that representation and visibility?
I think it's amazing the more we can [do that], because it's still very hard for the LGBTQIA+ community to show up and to get a space to talk and be open without prejudice. The more that we can open room for artists who are openly gay, or trans, or drag queens — I think the scene needs more representation, more artists. The more I can do to bring people to me, or bring visibility to new artists like that, I will do it. It's really important.
Coming off of such a huge year in 2022, what can fans expect from you this year?
I'm going to rest a little bit. I thought I was going to do that last year, but with everything that happened with "Envolver," I ended up not resting the way I wanted to, so for sure this year, I'm going to take more time for myself.
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Photo: AB + DM
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Viola Davis On Sharing Her Life To Help People Change Theirs & Her Potential EGOT
Viola Davis has already netted an Academy Award, two Tonys, and an Emmy, but now the iconic actor has earned her first GRAMMY nod for her performance of the audiobook for her memoir, 'Finding Me' — a work that Davis hopes can help change lives.
"There are not enough words and pages to quantify one's life," Viola Davis says with a warm, stern certainty — despite having delivered a memoir that carries a remarkable weight and beauty.
Living through difficult experiences takes incredible strength. Living through them again to write a memoir and then read them aloud as an audiobook must be a herculean feat. But it should come as no surprise that Davis has proven herself more than capable of meeting that challenge.
The acclaimed actor’s memoir, Finding Me, reaches back to her difficult childhood, to trauma and struggle, and continues through on her journey of healing and artistic achievement — and Davis delivers it with an uncanny blend of fragility and strength. Davis, a first-time GRAMMY nominee, has been lauded for her efforts, with Finding Me receiving a nod for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
And now the audiobook extends the possibility to add a GRAMMY Award to her awards shelf alongside an Emmy, an Oscar, and two Tonys, potentially making her the 18th person to complete the EGOT. While joining those ranks would be an undeniable honor, Davis’ vision of achievement and impact remains much simpler: helping others find the hope and healing that she discovered. "When you begin to connect with yourself, to unpack your life and make peace with it, it's easier to connect to the world — and I want other people to do the same," she says.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Davis to talk about how reading Finding Me differed from her usual style of performance, finding her calling in life, and what joining the ranks of EGOT winners would mean to her.
Let’s start at the beginning! How did you feel when you got the call that you were nominated for a GRAMMY?
I don't know if I expected it. When I wrote the book, I was just trying to write a good book. That was the goal. I wanted to be honest. I wanted to honor the people who were in my life and who were the subject of my story. And that was it.
Everything else that came out of it has been the icing on the cake, those beautiful sort of boons and gifts that come when you put yourself out there. 'Cause they don't always come. The GRAMMY nomination and how the book has done have been truly a gift that I didn't expect.
And it’s something of your own. It takes such an incredible amount of introspection to write a memoir, and Finding Me is simultaneously so elegant and raw. I can imagine that the whole experience of writing was incredibly powerful as well — putting yourself at the forefront, but also giving yourself the time to honor that self.
Absolutely. The character that I played in The Woman King, Nanisca, who is the leader of this female army, has a line in the movie that has been motivating me in this part of my life. She says to her daughter, Nawi, "I'm sorry I left you. I wasn't brave enough."
And I just never want to get to the end of my life with that turn, saying, "I wasn't brave enough." And I certainly do not wanna get to the point in my life that I say that to my younger self. I don't wanna leave my story behind. I don't want wanna leave it unexplored, not articulated, hidden, in a vat of shame. I don't want that.
With this book you got to tell your own story in your own time, and you get to shine a light on stories that haven't been told before. And now that might bring you into the storied halls of EGOT winners. You don't seem like the type of person driven primarily by ego, but the EGOT is a rare achievement and a huge moment to recognize all the work that you've done in the past as well.
I absolutely, definitely think about it as a huge accomplishment. I feel this way, even though it's probably a very dramatic statement on my part: I think that everybody wants their life to mean something. I believe in the Cherokee birth blessing, which is "May you live long enough to know why you were born." I do believe that you literally wanna blow a hole through this world in whatever way you can.
A lot of people don't know how to do that. A lot of people haven't found that thing that they're passionate about, that they can do. Some have. But we all are looking for that, blowing a hole through this earth before we leave it. I think about that in my work a lot. I really found that thing that I love to do. So I always wanna make it meaningful.
You can feel that when listening to you read the audiobook. There's that passion throughout your work that's always there with you. How did you make sure that you punched that hole in the world with the audiobook, specifically?
Well, my briefing to myself was to be honest with my voice with each chapter, to match my heartbeat with my voice; to not make it feel formal. I always feel that when one is honest, words leap off of the page and they really enter someone's soul. When you speak from the soul, people receive it in their soul. I really wanted that, which sometimes is very difficult when you're reading an entire book that's over 300 pages. You get tired. But I have to say, I wrote most of the book at 2, 3 o'clock in the morning. That's when inspiration hit me. That's also the hormone reset time. [Laughs.] But I wrote it at that hour because things would hit my spirit.
I really, really do believe that when it comes to artistic excellence — and this is not my ego saying it, it's a general statement — when it comes to things that are just good, they always have to move you. You cannot stay in your head and admire something from afar, the technical aspects and proficiency of it, the technical execution of it. It's got to hit your heart. And once it does that, you cannot downplay that value. That is what we are supposed to do as artists. And that was what I wanted to hit when I was doing the audiobook.
Three o'clock in the morning is, I suppose, a time when you can get out of your own way.
Your book showed that, and the story flows without impediment. But it must have been difficult at times to not have another actor to bounce off of. I'm so curious about how you've trained yourself as an artist to ensure you can still deliver a powerful performance in the audio booth.
It's a wonderful question. Listen, I'm always an actor in search of a director. I got my Equity card at 23. That's when I became a professional actress. That's 34 years ago. I have put in my 10,000 hours. [Laughs.] I cannot tell you how many speaking gigs I've had. I can't tell you how many times I've had performances where there was a director, but they weren't very good so I had to direct myself. Then there's my undergraduate degree, my degree from Julliard, as well as other schools where you learn a way of working.
That's what being an artist is about. Being an artist is not getting up and making the bold statement: I wanna be an actor. Yes, I did say that, but the step in between is learning a process, learning how to warm up your voice, learning what to emphasize, learning what the main thought is, how to breathe, what exactly you are saying and what the journey is. I ask myself all of those big questions. If I did not have a process, I don't know, maybe I'd just be an entertainer. But I went to school to learn a process and it serves me when I am in a situation where there is no director other than the guy running the sound booth.
You have to just check yourself. That process clearly helped ground you in the performance, but at the same time you're almost re-embodying your own past and experiences. Were you conscious of that as you were performing? Or was it more of a natural process?
Sometimes both. It is my story, so I know where I was at each moment — at the beginning, running as a 6-year-old little girl, being called ugly Black n—. Here's the thing, no matter what I wrote on the page, there are not enough words and pages to quantify one's life. As much as I remember, it only represents 30 percent of who I was. A huge part of what I was just still exists somewhere. Some memories were just lost. Some memories I just couldn't even interpret.
But when I'm speaking them, there is a sort of backstory stream of consciousness, of emotional elements, that could not even be put on the page but can inform the words when I speak them. It's my life. My heartbeat. And at the same time, there is a technical aspect of it because you have to speak it in a way that people receive it. They have to understand phrases, pauses, those technical things, but for the most part I spoke from my heart because the story was birthed in my heart.
The mere existence of the book is proof of concept for the hope that exists in its pages, the hope that cycles of trauma and suffering can be broken through healing. How does it feel to know that that hope will impact readers? As an artist, you have similarly chosen roles that have really impacted people, so it must be a guiding principle for you.
It feels fantastic. I started out being an actor because it was the one thing I loved to do and I knew that it would get me out of my situation. But sometimes, it is divine intervention with what you choose in life. I was just driven to get out, and I found something that just made me jump out of bed in the morning. Sometimes when you fall in love with something, the reason why you fall in love with it becomes your purpose, which in this case is it helped heal me.
It was almost like everything that happened in my life created this giant emotional cyst within me and I couldn't rein it in. It was just being fed by just holding onto secrets, holding onto shame, holding onto feeling not worthy. And then all of a sudden, whenever you're given a chance to express what is inside of you, to put your story out there, showing up as Viola, it slowly began to drain that cyst. That then provides extraordinary healing to people who are witnessing it.
I've had so many people read my book, and I so appreciate it. More than even my acting, I'm really, really enjoying this whole experience with my book. But I find there's one thing that I wanna say to people, but I don't say, but in the back of my mind is my fantasy. There are so many people that read my book and say, "Oh my God, you've had a hard life. It's so unbelievable what you were able to accomplish. Oh my God. It was so hard. It was harder than anything I've been through." I always wanna say, "That's not why I wrote the book. I shared my story, now I want you to share yours." I'm not the only one moving through life with all of the sticks and stones and filthy swill and obstacles. We all have it because life is hard.
But the other side of it is not sharing. Then what you do is you abandon people. You make them feel alone. We're not alone. I've had people read my book who I know have been abused by their spouses, who I know have been in jail for substance abuse, who I know have addiction issues. And they've said, "Wow, your life was hard." Well, their life was too. But you see, what I did was I unpacked it. I resolved it. I continue to resolve it and continue to not live in shame, to make peace with myself. That's a larger conversation. It makes me feel so wonderful when people say "Your book has shifted people." That for me is everything.
Speaking about the potential impact to shift people, it's incredible to look at your fellow nominees in the category. You've got Mel Brooks, who's obviously an EGOT winner himself. You've got three other people of color: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Questlove, Jamie Foxx. How powerful is it for you to see that your own story is sharing the category with these nominees?
It feels overwhelming. They say everything you are is the company you keep. Being with that level of excellence? I have to say, I've always wanted to be excellent. And I understand that in the path to be excellent, there's lots of failures along the way. There has to be. It's how you chisel yourself. It's how you become. But to be in the presence of these extraordinary artists — all men too by the way [laughs] — it makes me feel like I'm on the right path.
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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: How Carly Pearce's Darkest Personal Moments Helped Her Reach Milestones
Blending her personal story of heartbreak with her passion for traditional country storytelling, Pearce’s "Never Wanted to Be That Girl" earned her new career highs — including her very first GRAMMY nod.
Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde may reflect different corners of the country music spectrum, but they share a reverence for tradition and a penchant for heartbreak songs. The singers explore their stylistic common ground in “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” a duet that tells the story of two women who have been cheated by the same man.
The country ballad resonated deeply with audiences, both because of its traditional leanings and its gripping personal narrative. At a spring 2022 show in Albany, N.Y., Pearce even saw two fans holding a sign saying that the song told their story of being romantically entangled with the same unfaithful man. The experience brought them together, and they wound up becoming friends.
"Never Wanted to Be That Girl" reached the top of the country radio chart — one of only three female-female duets to do so since 1993. One of those, Reba McEntire and Linda Davis’ “Does He Love You,” specifically influenced Pearce and McBryde. In addition to its chart success, "Never Wanted to Be That Girl" won Musical Event of the Year at the 2022 CMA Awards, and earned Pearce her first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.
Pearce’s personal missive is at the center of a breakthrough personal and musical era ushered in by two enormous heartbreaks: Her highly public divorce from fellow artist Michael Ray and the untimely death of her producer, Busbee. Rather than retreat from the spotlight, Pearce used her grief and trauma to create 29: Written in Stone, a grippingly personal artistic statement. The singer’s authenticity paid dividends: She started seeing more commercial success, more critical recognition and extra passion from her fans.
Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, Pearce caught up with GRAMMY.com to discuss her first nomination, her powerful musical friendship with McBryde, and why she considers 29 to be the album that changed everything.
After you learned you were nominated, what was the first thing you said to Ashley McBryde?
You know, this isn’t her first GRAMMY nomination, but it is her first No. 1 song, and so we’ve kind of had this thing where we’ve given each other firsts. It wasn’t my first No. 1 song, but it was my first GRAMMY nomination. So we were just texting, and I said thank you.
I wanted so badly to collaborate with her — and I knew that it was an unlikely pairing — but I knew that if we really tried to write a song together we could do something really special. And we did.
Take me back to the day you wrote the song.
I feel like this song in particular wasn’t written like any other song I’ve been a part of. We were in the room and we had zero ideas of what we were gonna write. No riffs, no hooks, no musical hints at all. We just started talking. She was privy to what was happening in my life, and obviously [co-writer and 29 producer] Shane [McAnally] was too, so when we wrote that song, we started a story. We had no idea where it was gonna land.
We wrote this song in top to bottom chronological order. But we wanted to make sure that the choruses were the same, even though the women were experiencing different perspectives. I think we very carefully wanted to not pit the women against each other, but to show that you can both be burned by the same man.
You and Ashley have known each other since early on in your time in Nashville, just from being at the same songwriter’s nights and shows. How has your relationship evolved?
I’ve always loved her. We did kind of come up together in a lot of ways. We would play shows together and sing each other’s songs, and I just felt like she understood my voice and I understood hers. I was making this album and brainstorming with one of the members of my team, and he said, "Wouldn’t it be so awesome if you had a collaboration with Ashley? She’s so different from you, but we miss those female-female duets. There haven’t really been any since the ‘90s." So I just texted her and asked, "I don’t know if this would ever interest you, but would you write a song with me for my record?" And she was in, immediately. It just felt like it was always destined to happen.
Speaking of female-female ‘90s duets, one of your fellow nominees in this category is Reba McEntire’s new version of "Does He Love You" with Dolly Parton. I know the original version of this song with Linda Davis, in 1993 helped inspire "Never Wanted to Be That Girl."
We definitely referenced "Does He Love You" that day in the write. We knew we couldn’t touch that, but we were striving to make something as impactful. So it feels very full circle to have watched this song climb the charts, and watch it win all these different awards, and now be nominated in a category with the same woman that inspired us to even sing that song.
Have you talked to Reba about your song’s connection to "Does He Love You"?
I haven’t seen her, but I’m hoping to get to do that. Maybe at the GRAMMYs! Not that she needs any other women to tell her she’s a trailblazer, but certainly, she inspired us to double down.
When you think back to the beginnings of 29, when you were preparing to release all these personal songs. What were some of your biggest questions or fears, and how have they been resolved?
I remember turning in the first half of my album and wondering if my record label would even put it out, because it felt so personal — almost to a fault. And I remember thinking the production on it was so country that I wondered if it was going to be commercially accepted. I actually have a distinct memory of playing my song "29" for a group of friends and none of them were divorced, but they were crying, because they were inserting their own story into it.
I think this is the album that I will look back on in my life and say it was the one that changed everything for me in my career. It gave me such direction. It gave me hope that I’m not alone. That’s been the most amazing thing; when I look at it now, I go, Gosh, this album brought so many people to a place of feeling not alone, and in return, through their stories and their showing up for me when I needed it, they made me feel not alone. That’s all you ever want, when you’re an artist, to have that kind of connection.
Do you feel like people, even outside of country fans, are connecting with your story and responding to your music?
I’ve had a few albums out — this is my third — but I feel like in a lot of ways it was my first. I think we all go through the same struggles in life, and I think that people really resonated with me on a human level with this record. Everybody’s experienced heartache. And sometimes people need to feel hope, and that they’re not alone. So yes, I feel that very much.
You’re in the middle of making a new album now. What can you share about that process?
As a writer, I wish I could go through a divorce every time I make a new album, because it makes you feel so inspired. But I think what I learned through making that record is, people wanna hear how I see the world. They wanna hear what I’m going through. From [age] 29 to 32, almost 33, there’s been a lot of life that I’ve intentionally kept more private. [Now], people say to me, "Oh my gosh, you’re so happy, but we’re not gonna get those Carly Pearce heartbreak songs."
Honestly, yes, you can be happy and struggle to get there. I think there are songs that are reflective, there are songs that are nostalgic, there are songs that are in love and happy. But you don’t realize how much you’ve been affected until you try to love somebody else. I don’t think that’s a topic that’s really talked about, but it’s something that I think a lot of people go through, and I kind of share my take on that.
You’ve teased a little bit of a song called "Trust Issues." How does that song fit into your new music?
I felt very overwhelmed when I first started writing — just, you know, what this direction was. And I wrote in my phone, "trust issues." That’s kind of on the theme of, you never know how hurt you are until you try to love somebody else. But I wanted to spin it into a hopeful and happy thing, because I love titles where you look at them and you think it’s gonna be one thing, but it’s a totally different thing.
So I got in the room with two of my favorite people, [songwriters] Nicolle Galyon and Jordan Reynolds, and we crafted this song that felt so hopeful. It’s a love song, but it’s a love song out of pain. And I remember when we wrote it — I see my albums in pictures, and I thought this was such an important facet to this transitional period of my life —of moving on.
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