meta-scriptLightning In A Bottle 2020 Lineup: James Blake, KAYTRANADA, Doja Cat, Bob Moses, Four Tet, GRiZ & More | GRAMMY.com
KAYTRANADA at ACL 2019

KAYTRANADA at ACL 2019

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic/Getty Images

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Lightning In A Bottle 2020 Lineup: James Blake, KAYTRANADA, Doja Cat, Bob Moses, Four Tet, GRiZ & More

The beloved lakeside California music festival returns with an epic phase 1 lineup: Jon Hopkins, Sylvan Esso, DJ Shadow, Nina Kraviz, Justin Jay, DJ Holographic and Empress Of are also slated to perform

GRAMMYs/Jan 15, 2020 - 02:53 am

Today, Jan. 14, Do LaB announced the Phase 1 lineup for their flagship California music festival, Lightning in a Bottle, featuring James Blake, Jon Hopkins, KAYTRANADA, Bob Moses, GRiZ, Four Tet, Sylvan Esso, Nina Kraviz, Stephan Bodzin and many more of your favorite artists across the electronic spectrum.

The beloved long-running festival will return for the second year at its new, sunny lakeside Central California home at Buena Vista Lake, during Memorial Day Weekend, May 20–25. Purity Ring, Eli & Fur, Doja Cat, Empress Of, DJ Shadow, Justin Jay, DJ Holographic and Justin Martin are also slated to bring the vibes to the three main stages of the eclectic event.

Watch: James Blake On 'Assume Form' Collabs: "A Dream Come True" | GRAMMY Museum

The sunset-hued lineup poster also reveals details for special extended opening sets from San Diego's Desert Hearts squad and Joe Kay of Los Angeles' Soulection, taking place on Thurs., May 21 for early arrival campers. The colorful poster also notates the event's three main stages—the big-name, all-genre Lightning, the bass-heavy hitter haven aptly called Thunder and the fan-favorite underground house and techno Woogie.

Poll: Who Will Win Best Dance/Electronic Album At The 2020 GRAMMYs?

Current 2020 GRAMMY nominee Blake, who got his start as a DJ/producer making glitchy, vocal-less dance tracks, will be throwing down a special headline Thunder set. Experimental Brazilian trip-hop producer Amon Tobin will also headline the same stage, with his Two Fingers project.

Past GRAMMY nominee Hopkins, known for his cinematic soundscapes, along with electro-R&B king KAYTRANADA and jazzy house experimenter/proud Ariana Grande fan Four Tet will all be getting the Lightning stage lit. Dreamy Aussie dance trio Crooked Colours, Wajatta—comedian Reggie Watts and house stalwart John Tejada—along with Portland-based ambient DJ/producer Emancipator.

The Woogie at Lighting in a Bottle 2019 | Photo: Juliana Bernstein

The Woogie, pictured above, will not only feature a triumphant return from past GRAMMY nominees Bob Moses, who will play a club-inspired set, along with Russian techno queen/St. Vincent-remixer Kraviz, Ukranian house kings ARTBAT, Berlin techno forefather Bodzin and rising London melodic house duo Eli & Fur.

More artists for all stages will be revealed at a later date; please visit LiB's website for the complete lineup and ticketing info. Tier 2 ticket options are currently on sale now.

Ariana Grande To Perform At 2020 GRAMMY Awards On Jan. 26

Jungkook
Jungkook performing in New York City in 2023

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for TSX Entertainment

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New Music Friday: Listen To Songs & Albums From Jungkook, Meghan Trainor, Peggy Gou, & More

Bask in the pre-summer magic with fresh musical offerings from acts as diverse as Ski Mask the Slump God, Kaytranada, Thomas Rhett, and more.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2024 - 03:42 pm

We're still a couple of weeks away from the summer solstice, but the smell of cookouts and chlorine is already in the air. As parts of the country experience summer weather, there's plenty of musical delights ready to soundtrack the start of summer.

From pop to alt-country to rap, this New Music Friday sprouted sounds for listeners of all persuasions. Here's a cross-section of today's songs and albums to check out, from
Peggy Gou's debut album to the latest single from Jungkook.

Meghan Trainor — 'Timeless'

Just a few weeks before Meghan Trainor's breakthrough smash, "All About That Bass," turns 10, the GRAMMY winner rings in the anniversary in major fashion: a brand new album.

Trainor's sixth LP, Timeless, an irresistible split difference between bubblegum pop and woo-wop. Back in March, she released the lead single "Been Like This" with T-Pain; the "Buy U a Drank" star also appears on "Love on Hold."

"I cannot believe it has been 10 years since this all started. I have never been more grateful for this life that my incredible Megatronz have gifted me with," Trainor said in a statement — "Megatronz" referring to her rabid fanbase. "This new album and tour are all for them and my beautiful family."

Peggy Gou — 'I Hear You'

I Hear You might be South Korean DJ and singer Peggy Gou's debut album, but she declares it to be much more than that.

"It embodies countless hours of dedication in my journey to create something timeless, and is a testament to the power of listening, to ourselves and to each other," Gou said in a statement

And of the video to "1+1=11," in all of its shadowplay: "By bringing together dance — embodied exploration of space — with colorful shadows, lights, and mirrors, I was able to bring some of the key interests that have long shaped my art into an entirely new context."

If all this resonates with you, I Hear You is — well, a must-hear.

Listen: Leap Into AAPI Month 2024 With A Playlist Featuring Laufey, Diljit Dosanjh, & Peggy Gou

Orville Peck, Diplo & Kylie Minogue — "Midnight Ride"

As Pride Month kicked off, Kylie Minogue brought out two very special guests at Outloud Fest at West Hollywood Pride: her newest collaborators, Orville Peck and Diplo. The trio debuted the slinky, sparkling "Midnight Ride," a winning trifecta of their diverse talent pools.

Just a few days later, the studio version has arrived. In its full-fledged wonder, the track is just as much of a ride on record as it was on stage.

The single is the latest offering from Peck's forthcoming duets album, Stampede; though the full album's release date has yet to be announced, the alt-country star teased the exciting collabs to come with the seven-song Stampede, Vol. 1 on May 10, which featured Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Nathaniel Rateliff and more.

Glass Animals — "A Tear in Space (Airlock)"

On July 19, English indie favorites Glass Animals will declare I Love You So F***ing Much with their fourth album. They previously released the advance single "Creatures in Heaven." "A Tear in Space (Airlock)" arrives from smack in the middle of the forthcoming album.

A celestial, pulsing track replete with delicious production details, "A Tear in Space (Airlock)" marks another evolutionary step for the Oxford-rooted group. Their smash "Heat Waves" might be in the rearview, but they still know how to craft a song for just that.

Read More: Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Glass Animals' Dave Bayley On The Group's Slow Burn To Massive Success With "Heat Waves" — And How It Almost Never Happened

Jungkook — "Never Let Go"

Where would BTS be without its ARMY? It's an unthinkable prospect — and the boy band giants' beloved Jungkook has penned a worthy tribute to the fanbase that made them.

Released for BTS' annual debut anniversary celebration, Festa, "Never Let Go" opens its heart completely. "Without your love, I'm nothing/ You mean more than you know/ And words escape me whenever you're close," he croons. "I tried to put it into words but it don't measure up/ My pen and paper could never do quite enough."

Believe us: the radiant "Never Let Go" is more than enough. "It's the truth, it's the truth," Jungkook concludes. "We got something rеal nothing could break."

Learn more: Breaking Down Every Solo Act From BTS: Singles, Debut Albums & What's Next For The Septet

KAYTRANADA — 'TIMELESS'

The Haitian-Canadian producer, rapper, singer, and DJ born Louis Celestin has produced everyone from Anderson .Paak to Alicia Keys to Victoria Monét, but he's just as compelling when it's his name on the record sleeve.

The two-time GRAMMY winner proves just that with his third album,
TIMELESS. Of course, the producer recruited several collaborators for the project, and the list is a panoply of associates from across his career — not only .Paak, but Childish Gambino, Don Toliver, and more.

Maluma & Blessd — '1 of 1'

"A full production between two Colombian artists had never been done before," rapper and singer Maluma brassily proclaimed in a recent press statement. "If it's the first, it can't be done twice."

He's referring to the (aptly titled) 1 of 1, his new EP with fellow Colombian great Blessd. Co-produced by MadMuscik and the RudeBoyz, this six-pack is a reflection of the clear admiration and respect between the two reggaetón practitioners.

This pre-summer weekend, grab a bestie, hit the road, crank up tunes like "Call Me" and "Goyard/GTA," and let that feeling flow through you, too.

Ski Mask the Slump God — '11th Dimension'

Five years after his last LP, Floridan rap phenom Ski Mask the Slump God returns by taking listeners to the 11th Dimension.

If 11th Dimension's advance singles — the jovial "Ooga Booga!", the propulsive "Headrush" — whetted your thirst, get ready for the other 19 tracks, like head-spinning highlights "By Myself," "KillStreak" and "Him Jung Un."

And while Ski Mask the Slump God takes most of those tracks himself, the album's five features are equally as thrilling: Future and ATL Jacob, Skillibeng, Corbin, and two posthumous duets with late rap stars XXXTentacion and Juice Wrld.

Generally, when an artist has a blast making music, it seeps through the grooves — and Thomas Rhett had an absolute ball making his new album, About A Woman, out Aug. 23.

"I did this with a new batch of producers, a lot of different songwriters. This is the funnest album that I've made, I think," he told Backstage Country. "This is a very, very 'me' album. If you liked Tangled Up and Life Changes, Center Point Road, this album is sort of that on steroids."

He's already revealed the first single, "Beautiful as You"; its follow-up, "Gone Country," is a rough-hewn statement of down-home purpose. Every line and lick is true to his dictum that he "got back to the root of why I love to make music and put smiles on faces." 

Let that smile cross your face as you prepare for your summer adventures — and we'll see you on next week's New Music Friday!

On This Day In Music: 2 Live Crew's 'As Nasty As They Wanna Be' Becomes First Album Declared Legally Obscene, Anticipates First Amendment Cases

Tinashe performs at the 2024 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Tinashe performs at the 2024 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella

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Love "Nasty"? Get To Know Tinashe With 10 Songs That Show Her Honesty & Artistry

While you wait for Tinashe's new album, 'Quantum Baby,' dig into her impressive catalog of solo hits, and collaborations with the likes of Britney Spears and Ty Dolla $ign.

GRAMMYs/May 31, 2024 - 01:37 pm

Tinashe is a true triple threat, acting, dancing, and dropping banger after banger as a singer. In just under a decade, she’s released six studio albums, went independent in 2019, and has been showered with critical acclaim for her creative freedom. Regardless of major or independent label backing, Tinashe has shown a commitment to her craft, each release remaining at a high caliber.

Quantum Baby, her seventh studio album and part of the BB/ANG3L trilogy — and fourth to be released under her Tinashe Music Inc label — doesn’t have a concrete release date yet but its lead single, "Nasty," is doing a good job of getting people interested. Released in April, the song became an instant hit with Tinashe fans and garnered a wider audience after being used in a viral video. Even fashion brand Marc Jacobs hopped on the trend with a TikTok now viewed more than 2.9M times.

Because of the viral social media posts, streams for "Nasty" have gone through the roof. The song garnered 600k+ streams in a single day on May 22. Not only has "Nasty" become a hit, but it’s pushed many listeners to generate their own version of Tinashe’s "is somebody gonna match my freak?" lyric.

In honor of her latest hit, and ahead of Tinashe's highly-anticipated next album, press play on 10 essential songs from across her discography which showcases her chameleon-like ability to handle various music genres and styles with ease.

"Needs" (BB/ANG3L, 2023)

"Needs," the second single from BB/ANG3L, wastes no time getting straight to the point. When the sultry beat drops, Tinashe purrs about her many talents and offers a few clear directives for her romantic partner. By the end of this 2.5 minute song, there’s no denying it’s her declaration of total sensual independence.

At first glance, the music video’s setting inside a grocery store might seem random. But all it takes is one focused listen to the lyrics to find the connection between the song and its visuals. A grocery store provides its shoppers with a plethora of options and, as the title of the song makes clear, Tinashe isn’t afraid to pick up what wants when she needs.

"I Can See The Future" (333, 2021)

Tinashe’s music generally adopts a first-person perspective; her own thoughts and desires placed in the spotlight. On the bass-heavy R&B track "I Can See The Future," she subtly brings in the emotional perspective of a man she has her eye on. In the pre-chorus, she sings "He said I don't play 'bout what's mine/I'm not a psychic/I can't read your mind/If you with it, don't waste my time."

As Tinashe talk-sings through most of the song, her raspy voice exudes an enviable confidence while selling her partner a vision of love. By the time we get to the bridge, she explicitly responds to his concerns about her potential indifference. "Get ready for love/Get ready for me/I've made up my mind/I want you to myself," she sings, her vocals muffled in certain sections. Could that allude to her unwillingness to commit?

KAYTRANADA - "The Worst In Me" (BUBBA, 2019)

Listening to KAYTRANADA’s music is the equivalent of a perfect summer evening where you get to dance on a rooftop with your friends. Bring in Tinashe’s vocals and you only turn up the volume on these good vibes. That’s exactly what happened when the duo linked up for "The Worst In Me."

The song explores a relationship rife with uncertainties and bruised emotions. In the chorus, Tinashe sings "I want your love" which sounds encouraging enough. But when she slips into a higher register and immediately follows up with "You bring out the worst me," she hammers home how this is no love song.

Despite the somber message burning beneath the beat, KAYTRANADA and Tinashe succeed in getting listeners on their feet. Fans of "The Worst In Me" were excited when it was announced the duo would reunite for KAYTRANADA’s upcoming album, Timeless, out in June 2024.

"Bouncin" (333, 2021)

On "Bouncin," Tinashe explores a familiar topic — her undeniable sex appeal — but does so by tapping into her "divine feminine energy." In addition, she showcases a few different vocal layers, moving from her strong mid-range to a breathy falsetto. Sung high, the lyrics in the first verse are almost undecipherable. Chopped-and-screwed background vocals add an unexpected texture you can’t help but sing with once you know where they’ll come in.

Thanks to dwilly’s production, the song has just as much nuance as Tinashe’s explorative vocal performance. A plucky, synth melody brings in a playful video game quality while a ticking sound in the background introduces a sense of urgency. When all put together, these elements transform "Bouncin" into a sonic rollercoaster.

"Save Room For Us" feat. MAKJ (Songs For You, 2019)

With a driving beat and moderate tempo, "Save Room For Us" effortlessly captures the melancholic stage after a breakup we might not have initiated. Before Tinashe gets to the chorus, it becomes obvious she's begging her lover to reconsider their decision.

"I think for a long time I didn’t want people to see a vulnerable side to me because I thought they would think I was weak," Tinashe said about bringing more raw emotion to her music. While it’s true the song has plenty of believable yearning, she proves she’s also the type of pop star who knows how to spin her tales of sadness into a dancefloor anthem.

"Die A Little Bit" feat. Ms Banks (Songs For You, 2019)

"Die A Little Bit" stands out as one of Tinashe’s darkest, most experimental songs to date and depicts L.A.'s tricky social scene. While that may be the official line, the single was also her first as an independent artist and could easily describe her artistic journey/newfound freedom.

"Searching for something in someone without a soul," Tinashe sings on the highly danceable track. "Running in circles 'cause I suck at letting go/ Starting to feel like there's no chance of breaking through/Plenty time wasted, what am I waitin' for?"

"Superlove" (Superlove, 2016)

On "Superlove," Tinashe worked with industry juggernaut producers Tricky Stweart and The-Dream to create a slick and utterly infectious pop/R&B track. By incorporating the best elements of hip-hop subgenre Miami bass, "Superlove" manages to transport you to the past without sounding dated.

"Superlove" is technically included on the tracklisting for Joyride, Tinashe’s third studio album, and was meant to serve as its lead single but was released during a period in her career where her album was perpetually delayed. (Joyride was released almost two years after "Superlove.")

"Superlove" landed at No. 72 on Billboard’s 100 Best Pop Songs of 2016. With its feel-good energy paired with the type of music video that would’ve reigned supreme on MTV’s "TRL" (think attractive people rolling around in the sand and lifeguards performing provocative choreography), this song is a testament to the electrifying pop star Tinashe has always been.

Britney Spears - "Slumber Party" (Glory, 2016)

Tinashe has, multiple times, gone on record saying Britney Spears is one of her idols. In 2016, she was able to live out a childhood fantasy by featuring on a remix of "Slumber Party," a track originally included on Spears’ album, Glory. Over a pop-friendy reggae beat, the track details a night between two lovers.

Tinashe takes over the second verse, and layers in additional vocals and adlibs throughout. While none of the lyrics she sings are updated, she rises to the occasion and goes toe-to-toe with one of pop music’s biggest icons. Tinashe’s timbre, polished yet rich in texture, is perfectly suited for the modern pop soundscape. On "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Tinashe discussed  performing with Spears and how she could feel the star power radiating from the "...Baby One More Time" singer. "You’re that person now, too," Clarkson reassured Tinashe.

Ty Dolla $ign - "Drop That Kitty" feat. Tinashe & Charli XCX (Drop That Kitty, 2015)

At the time "Drop That Kitty" was released, each artist on the track was having their own respective moment. Ty Dolla $ign was gearing up to release his debut album, Charli XCX had the massive success of "Fancy," her duet with Iggy Azalea, and Tinashe had released the third single from her major label debut.

Each has their own distinct energy and bringing them together for the track could have been disastrous, but it was the type of chaos you want to listen to on repeat. Ty’s melodic rapping is tinged with autotune, while Charli chants lyrics. But when Tinashe’s vocals come in on the post-chorus, they’re as sweet as honey. Though the lyrics are fairly surface ("I know you want it all/I'm giving you a show/You like what I'm doin'"), the song continues to be a consummate pre-game banger.

"Pretend" feat. A$AP Rocky (Aquarius, 2014)

Those skills were put on full display with the music video for her debut single, "2 On." While the logical follow up might’ve been another energetic bop, her label chose to release "Pretend" a mid-tempo ballad featuring rapper A$ASP Rocky. But if you’re new to the world of Tinashe, "Pretend" delivers something special.

The song’s theme is relatable as it introduces the different ways people can ignore issues in a relationship or create imagined versions of happiness. Tinashe’s vocal performance, one of her strongest on a slower track, illustrates how she doesn’t need any feature to shine bright.

Chief Keef On Almighty So 2, His Long-Awaited Return To Chicago & Why He's "Better Now Than I Ever Was"

Machinedrum
Machinedrum

Photo: James King

feature

Machinedrum's New Album '3FOR82' Taps Into The Spirit Of His Younger Years

For his 15th album, Machinedrum drew inspiration from his early productions and ventured into the Joshua Tree desert. There, he collaborated with Tinashe, Mick Jenkins, Duckwrth and more, alongside his longtime friend and collaborator Jesse Boykins III.

GRAMMYs/May 28, 2024 - 01:20 pm

“If you were able to go back and hang out or collaborate with your younger self, what would you say to them? What advice would you give them?”

That question fueled Machinedrum’s new album, 3FOR82, out May 24. 

Unlike most people, the prominent electronic producer, real name Travis Stewart, has a direct line to his younger self through the music he’s made. He still has hard drives with productions from his teenage years, and on his new album, he sought to create with that same spirit. He wanted to hang with his younger self who was nothing but a kid who loved music with big dreams.

“In that early period where everything is just so free, there's nothing like it,” Stewart said. “I think, as creatives, we all try to find different ways to tap back into that.” 

By tapping back into that freedom, Stewart made 3FOR82 into a diverse and exciting body of work. On his 41st birthday (the album title 3FOR82 reflects Stewart’s birthday of March 4, 1982), he started exploring his older recordings, collaborating with his younger self. The result is an album that is more than the sum of its parts. Weaving a wide palette of genres together, including alternative hip-hop, drum & bass, and UK garage — along with a long list of collaborators — it has an experimental hunger to it as well.

Stewart worked with more vocal collaborators than on any past album, featuring artists including Tinashe, Mick Jenkins, and Topaz Jones on 11 of the 12 tracks. With this stronger external input, each track has a unique identity. While “HON3Y,” the only solo production, harbors Stewart's talent for erratic sonic motion, “KILL_U” with Tanerélle is a minimalist soul tune.

Clearly, when Stewart was just starting he wanted to make anything and everything. He started releasing music as Machinedrum in 2000. Since then, he has shared 15 albums and launched various aliases including Tstewart, his atmospheric side project, J-E-T-S, the club-focused collaboration with the respected house artist, Jimmy Edgar, and Sepalcure, his duo with Praveen Sharma that focuses on dubstep and UK garage.

After so much experience, he knows the music industry very well. The good parts and the bad. 

“Once you've released a few projects, this new pressure comes along with what your fans expect from you,” Stewart said. Conversely, his early recordings offered a window into an era without any pressure or expectations. 

Read on to learn more about where he found the biggest inspiration when he took a trip down musical memory lane during the making of 3FOR82

Impulse Tracker: His First Production Software

Every artist has to start somewhere, and Machinedrum started with Impulse Tracker, the music production software released in 1995. Stewart is now using industry-standard programs like Abelton, but when he was using Impulse Tracker during his early days, his music was imbued with a kind of youthful optimism that only comes when you’re starting something new. 

"For me it was going into these old Impulse Tracker sessions and finding these little nuggets of ideas that I didn't really know what to do with at the time."

When he was working in Impulse Tracker, he only had the skills to make cursory musical ideas, but when he listened back he was really proud of those ideas. “I was just so excited about music. Not to say that I'm not now, but when I listen to electronic music now, I can't help but think about how it was made. Think about what kind of numbers they're doing. Who produced it? What label released it?” Stewart said. “Whereas back then, I would listen to things for the pure sake of listening to them and just be so inspired.”

Finding Freedom In Rules

Stewart often suffers from what he likes to call “choice paralysis.” If there are too many options it can be difficult for him to make a decision. Well, music production presents endless choices. How much reverb to use? Whether or not to use samples? What plugins will make this track sound its best? So, when he was making 3FOR82 he laid down specific parameters to limit his choices.

First, he was only allowed to use sounds that he drew from his Impulse Tracker recordings. He spent a month going through the old pieces of music and created a sound library from them. Those sounds became the album. “That whole process of creating the sound library was incredibly inspiring. Being a digital archaeologist,” Stewart said.

He had two rules if he wanted to sample something outside those old files. One, he had to run the sound through Impulse Tracker so it maintained the same aesthetic. Two, he had to sample music from his birth year of 1982.

“That was one of the parameters that actually made it a lot of fun to explore what music came out the year of my birth and see what things resonated with me. I was finding a lot of interesting synchronicities of stuff that I didn't realize came out in 1982 that I'm actually a huge fan of,” Stewart said. 

The Legacy Of Joshua Tree Continues

Plenty of artists have found musical inspiration in the vast deserts of Joshua Tree National Park. Josh Homme founded The Desert Sessions there back in 1997. RÜFÜS DU SOL recorded their live album, aptly titled Live From Joshua Tree among the desert rocks in 2019. Now Machinedrum has joined the musical legacy of Joshua Tree by making 3FOR82 there as well.

He always had a great time there when he visited with friends and family in the past, but he also found a profound sense of clarity during those trips.

“Ideas come to me. I just feel so separated from the chaos of the world,” Stewart said. “I had always wanted to come to Joshua Tree for the pure reason of doing something creative.”

He set up a mobile studio in an Airbnb and invited myriad guest artists to join him in this temporary creative atmosphere and share in the clarifying experience.

His Dear Friend Jesse Boykins III

Jesse Boykins III is a vocalist who has collaborated with Stewart since the 2000s. He was also a groomsman at Stewart’s wedding. When Stewart was out in Joshua Tree, he spent an hour on the phone with Boykins discussing his idea of revisiting the past to make the album. During that conversation, he realized their long history together could further fuel the creative process.

Stewart made Boykins a co-executive producer, and Boykins brought in numerous vocalists Stewart had never worked with such as Duckwrth and aja monet. Stewart instructed Boykins to find seasoned artists when he was courting collaborators so they could bring their own past into the music. 

He asked each of the collaborators the guiding question at the beginning of each session: “If you were able to go back and hang out or collaborate with your younger self, what would you say to them? What advice would you give them?”

Sometimes Stewart sampled their responses and added them to the music like with Mick Jenkins’ track, “WEARY.” Other times, the question was meant to inspire trust between Stewart and the collaborators Boykins introduced to him.

“Just having him there, understanding the concept behind the album, and making sure that we're all keeping within the theme, whether literally, or in more of an abstract way, that was super important,” Stewart said of Boykins. “I'm super grateful for his involvement on the album and all the inspiration he gave me. Being there along my side throughout the process. It's very cool working like that with someone. I had never done that with an album in the past.”

Healing His Inner Child

When Stewart was producing 3FOR82 from songs he made as a teenager it was just as spiritual for him as it was technical. During those early years as an artist, Stewart felt very isolated. There was no community around the music he loved growing up in North Carolina in the 90s. Even when his preferred sounds migrated from the UK to the US, it was in cities like Miami and New York, far away from him. In his loneliness, he struggled to believe his dream of being a professional electronic musician was possible.

Well, over two decades later, Stewart has accomplished his dream and then some. By working with music from his past, he was assuring his younger self that everything was going to be OK. “This whole process of collaborating with my younger self on these new songs was so healing for me. It was like a way of me sending a message to my younger self. ‘You're gonna do all these amazing things. You're going to travel the world. You're gonna work with amazing artists. So keep your chin up. Don't worry so much about the future.  Just keep going. Keep doing what you're doing,’” Stewart said.

6 Reasons Why Fred Again.. Was Dance Music's Rookie Of The Year

Sofia Ilyas Q&A hero
Sofia Ilyas

Photo: Grace Phillips

interview

Beatport's Sofia Ilyas On Creating A More Equitable & Connected Music Industry

"What I love about the music industry is there are so many gaps, and so many observations you can make and sort of insert yourself in and create something quite special itself," Sofia Ilyas of carving out a career as a music professional.

GRAMMYs/May 7, 2024 - 01:42 pm

Given that Beatport Chief Community Officer Sofia Ilyas has dedicated the last 15 years or so of her life supporting burgeoning artists, subgenres and underrepresented groups, it's somewhat surprising that she grew up in a household without music.

As a teen, a Sony Walkman with a radio and mixtapes featuring the likes of Radiohead were a lifeline to a world Ilyas' family didn't want her to participate in. She was even kept home during school field trips to the National Gallery museum in London, where she's since hosted her Piano Day music and art event, and will soon be curating a room for their 200th anniversary celebration.

Ilyas has had to sacrifice a lot — namely, a relationship with her strict Muslim family — to carve out a career in music, and hers is a story of patience and resilience. After leaving her home in Cardiff, Wales for London to pursue higher education (against her family's wishes), she found solace and connection in live music. She'd hang out around the sound booth and introduce herself and ask questions about how things worked. Slowly but surely, she befriended people that worked at labels and venues, and even artists — Four Tet grew to know her by name after she kept coming back to his shows.

After years of being a part of the London scene as a dedicated fan, at age 30, Ilyas became co-manager of indie record label Erased Tapes, where she helped popularize neoclassical music and one of its purveyors, experimental German pianist Nils Frahm. Alongside Frahm, Ilyas launched Piano Day, where a diverse range of artists help them celebrate the past, present and future of the instrument alongside contemporary dancers and painters.

Now, as the first Chief Community Officer at major dance music platform Beatport, Ilyas is building community within and across disparate global electronic communities. She aims to bring more women and people of color into the mix.

"We're living in a time where people are feeling incredibly lonely and disconnected from community," Ilyas tells GRAMMY.com. "I [want to] facilitate people to come in to hear from each other, especially women, in a room that feels safe to hold discussion."

GRAMMY.com recently caught up with Ilyas for an insightful, engaging conversation on her work to support women and people of color in electronic music, making piano cool, her hopes for a more equitable music industry, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

You recently hosted your Piano Day annual events in Melbourne and London — tell me your vision for Piano Day.

When we launched Piano Day in London with Nils [Frahm], it gave me an excuse to try my own events. I had the artists performing in different corners of the room and a painter in the middle, watching and being inspired. I've always looked at different arts and wondered why they can't also be present in the music world and why we can't support each other across various industries. I've had a contemporary dancer at almost every event I've done in London. Piano Day was my way of having my own event that I could own and really show off my curation. Even with the first event, people were saying the space was beautiful and the curation was so good. I felt really validated.

[For Piano Day,] I always ask artists what they can do that's a little bit different, beyond performing their album or recent EP. I had one artist who had never played piano before, and he made a few mistakes and everyone was applauding him like it's okay. It's really important to me that Piano Day offers something that maybe the audience will never see again and they feel they've experienced something very special. An even bigger extension of that is the lineup that I curate for the National Gallery; coupling a piano player with a dancer who had never met before, and multiple artists only ever played piano maybe three times. I love that the artists have felt safe to trust me and that it's the type of event where they can take a risk.

I'm always looking for acts that are open to trying something a bit different and to be challenged by the fact that it's solo piano predominantly. And to also be inspired by the space, the National Gallery is such a prestigious, iconic venue. It's quite an unusual event because you've got people who've come to see the artists and regular visitors who have just come to see the paintings and they happen to stumble across what's happening. What's even more special for me is the audience is full of children. [I've been wondering] how we can do more music events that kids can come to, because I saw how inspired they were.

You'll be returning to the National Gallery in May to help curate their 200th anniversary event. How are you thinking about everything it stands for while bringing it into the future with music and women and people of color?

I've always had an attachment to the Gallery because there were school trips to it and my parents would never let me go. So for them to email me, "Hey, we've been to a couple of your events, would you like to bring Piano Day to the National Gallery?" I was just overwhelmed and hugely complimented.

I went to each room, sat down and thought about the feelings [it brought up]. I ended up landing on the blue room, it's got a lot of English paintings in it. I liked the idea of English artists against old English paintings, sort of breaking that mold of stiffness and classical looks to be like, this is now the future of London coming into the gallery. We placed the piano right in front of this really famous huge horse painting to really make that statement.

I am very mindful of having a diverse and interesting lineup. I always have one artist that starts the event that is a nod to the traditional kind of way of playing [piano]. It usually evolves to some artists playing the neoclassical sounds and then it moves into more the dance element and vocalist and then it ends on "this is the future" type of thing. I always like having that momentum.

Let's talk about your new record label RISE. What's your vision is with it and who are the artists you're currently working with?

I started Rise last year for artists that want help to get to the next level and get the attention of the label they want. I wanted to do a label that was within my bandwidth because I have a full-time job. If there're artists that I can help get from point A to B, then they go on to C, that's a great thing. I have Frank Hopkins on the label, who's an electronic artist, and Kareem Kumar, who's a Black artist who is known for playing in the streets of London. [Kumar] has built an incredibly huge audience on socials that has been a real inspiration to so many youngsters during COVID. They played together for the first time at the National Gallery, where Frank added some really nice ambient sounds and Kareem played the piano.

Too often, labels are quite a stiff experience, they want to assign that artist forever. If there are any artists that want help on press releases, overall branding and PR, that's exactly what RISE is there for. We can help them release some records, sort their online profile and offer guidance to basically uplift the artist so they can get the attention of booking agents, a label etc.

I see the future of labels where they are this sort of incubator-type of model, where they help an artist and the artists can grow into their own team or go off into another label. I envisage more labels existing like mine, where they're helping the artists onto that next level.

What do you think needs to shift for the music industry to be more supportive — financially and otherwise — of artists, particularly young people of color?

One thing that could be great is the labels that are doing well commercially — I'm sure they do this to a certain extent — choose two artists every year for an incubator program and make it more visible. Right now, most labels' A&R is a very closed thing. I think [it would help] if the labels made a very clear way of sending them demos. I know it is difficult because these days, even [people at] labels are so overworked and they don't have time to think about things like this. Maybe a music organization or a body out there could pick this idea up and take it to some of the major labels.

On the live side, [we need] more community spaces where an artist can come by and play regularly to fans and bring their friends and family around. Most venues are so hard to get on the bill, [so there's a need for] smaller 100-capacity-or-so spaces that open the doors more to local artists. We rely on the same names over and over again, whether it's festivals or local clubs, etc.

With your work as Beatport's Chief Community Officer, what are you actively doing to bring in and celebrate more women and people of color in dance music?

I've always been aware of diversity and my color and who I am in the music industry. Especially when I was around all those white male composers who knew everything about production and I knew nothing, that was very daunting. Even things like drinking — I don't drink and the amount of times it feels uncomfortable to be in the music industry. Many people in South Asian communities, especially Pakistani, grew up in a non-drinking culture, and we should have awareness to make those people feel comfortable otherwise they're never going to join the music industry.

What's been incredible is that Robb [McDaniels, Beatport's CEO] and the team have been, "You own it, you do what you believe." In the first few months, I hired a DEI consultant named Vick Bain, who was an amazing mentor for me. I'm a real big believer in experts. I was able to really upskill myself very fast through having her around.

Putting aside diversity, we're living in a time where people are feeling incredibly lonely and disconnected from community. That's why I'm doing panel events with DJ sets with Beatport. I [want to] facilitate people to come in to hear from each other, especially women, in a room that feels safe to hold discussion.

How have you taken it upon yourself to bring more women and artists of color with you along the way, and do you make space and advocate for people?

It's always something that's on the top of my mind because being a South Asian woman in music is already quite difficult at moments. You look around wondering Is there any support for me? And with my journey of having walked away from my family, part of me is already exhausted from that experience and existing in the music industry in an environment that often feels very alien to me.

Just being a woman in a C-Suite position isn't not easy. I've never been in a role where the focus is to champion women and that's why I'm so grateful for Beatport.

Throughout my career, I've always given out a lot of free PR and guidance, and quite often that's been for women. I've always wanted to be available and I'm always happy to give my time. If anyone reads this, and they want to email me and ask me any questions, I'm always really happy to help.

What's some advice you have for young women of color that want to work in the music industry but don't know where to start?

What I love about the music industry is there are so many gaps, and so many observations you can make and sort of insert yourself in and create something quite special itself. Once you start getting to know your local community, [you can get] so much support from others. I made a lot of my friends by going to vinyl markets and going up to my favorite labels and saying hi. When I was trying to work in the music industry and sending a ton of emails, I got nothing in return. But as soon as I started being a bit more active in the live [music] side, I met so many people.

Don't think you need to do it alone. For so many years, I kept what I was experiencing to myself and I would always present this polished person on Instagram. Lately, I've started really opening up more about how I feel. When I turned 43 recently, I posted on Instagram about how I sometimes overwork to avoid [loneliness]. I was surprised by how many people, especially men, messaged me and said I feel that way too. I'm learning to be more vulnerable.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. You just have to get over ego and fear. I can't sugarcoat it; unfortunately, there are [some] people who are going to make you feel really stupid for asking. Lean on your friends and know you're on the right path. Know that we need more women and more diversity in the industry. Look at people that inspire you. When I used to look at Four Tet, I'd be like, Oh my God, an Indian man on stage, that's so cool. So, look for your inspiration points and be vulnerable with your friends, because it is going to be difficult sometimes. And you can definitely email me anytime. [Chuckles.]

What does a more equitable music industry look like to you?

Well, that's a big question. I think [it would involve] everyone being more conscious. Whether it's a booking agent or a label looking to sign someone, if everyone is thinking around diversity and consciously looking and making their spaces more open to women. I always think about open doors. How can everyone open their doors more while considering the space people are entering into. It's one thing opening your door but it's another thing if that person enters a space and doesn't feel safe.

For me, a place where everyone's consciously thinking about this, and it isn't just on the organization or a few artists or someone like me in my role to try and figure it out. I think if everyone was conscious of it, things would just happen more seamlessly.

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