The Naked And Famous Talk New Album 'Recover,' Covering The Weeknd & Allyship With The Black Community

The Naked And Famous

Photo: Larsen Sotelo


The Naked And Famous Talk New Album 'Recover,' Covering The Weeknd & Allyship With The Black Community

Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers also spoke candidly about staying grounded during a pandemic and how the music industry can better support Black artists, among other vital topics

GRAMMYs/Jul 25, 2020 - 05:28 am

New Zealand electro-pop act The Naked And Famous were big in the golden era of the indie/alt scene, thanks to their powerhouse 2010 debut album, Passive Me, Aggressive You, and survived to talk about it, with creative energy to spare. After their romantic relationship ending in 2014 and the other members leaving the band in 2017, Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers recentered and reinvented the project's creative flow, even shifting the sound to somewhat sunnier territory.

The result is Recover, their fourth studio album, released today, July 24. Across its 15 tracks, the duo explores themes of death, mourning, heartbreak, recovery and identity, all with an unwavering sense of honesty and lightness. Throughout the project, there is a powerful feeling of the pair exploring and creating space for all emotions. There's even unbridled gratitude and joy, with an ode to Xayalith's dog on the effervescent "Sunseeker."

Ahead of the album's drop, Xayalith and Powers called in from New Zealand and Los Angeles, respectively, to chat with and dive deep into creative process behind it. They also spoke candidly about staying grounded during a pandemic and how the music industry can better support Black artists, among other important topics.

Your new album Recover comes out in July. What are you most looking forward to about sharing this project with the world?

Xayalith: I think I am just really excited to get it out there. I mean Thom and I have gone on a journey the last two years to get to this point. For me personally, I'm just relieved to just finally get the work out there so people can listen to what we have been working on. And I really hope that during this time it helps people escape from the current state of the world. I also hope people can see it and enjoy it.

When did you finish working on it?

Xayalith: We finished everything around December.

When did you start the album and what was the seedling of the beginning of the album? Also, what was the creative process like along the way?

Powers: We began recording this one around 2017, which is right about when our other band members left. Alisa and I began doing what we usually do; we start writing songs and we make demos. Regardless of what we are doing, we are often making demos. But we didn't really hit our stride, really figure out what we were doing until the summer of 2018. Everything up until that point was trial and error, we were trying writing positions, working with other people. Some of them came out okay, but we were looking for a new sound, a new direction, a new framework. We had this exceptionally productive burst of creativity in the summer of 2018.

The first song that was written for the new album was "Recover," which is one of the reasons we advocated for it to be the name of the album and the first track because it was really symbolic. It was this turning point. The way that song was written, I was waiting at Alisa's house in her studio with a friend of ours who was doing some co-writing and co-producing with us, his name is Simon Oscroft. He's an old friend of mine from childhood and he does songwriting and producing in L.A. now. Alisa was out, running an errand. She comes storming into her house while we're having coffee, like "I've written this song in the car." She burst into the room with "Recover," with the chorus already written. That was the moment when we hit our stride.

The bulk of the album was written then, in summer 2018, I want to say two-thirds of it. And the remaining third, was the good songs from the time prior to that that we hung on to, but we had to wait until we had the new direction to re-approach and re-conceptualize them. That is the short version of how this came about.

I would love to hear a little bit more about what finding that new sound felt like.

Powers: Yeah it was definitely a eureka moment with that song. It was an obvious turning point, and right after "Recover" we dove right into the album. There were a handful of other songs like "Sunseeker," "Come As You Are," "Easy," "Everybody Knows," that we were just churning out over the course of the month. In the first two weeks most of them came out. It was very clear to us when we had "Recover," that we had something new. And then "Sunseeker" followed it up very promptly, we knew we'd found our new direction. We had found our new way to complete this album, which was great.

Xayalith: When we wrote "Recover," originally it was very traditional sounding, kind of a soft folk song. We recorded it with guitar, some piano and vocals. And Thom was like, "How about we record it this way and then reverse engineer it, drop it into a session and then add some electronic production." So the scene would change quite rapidly in the song and you're not expecting so. How Simon and Thom produced it prompted how they would continue to work together on writing in the days after. I think that alone added some evolution to the production of the songs that you hear on the record.

Where did the idea for the "Bury Me" video come from? And was as fun shooting it as it looked.

Xayalith: Thom has been wanting to direct music videos more, and it was like the perfect opportunity for him to jump in. The minute I read [the treatment,] I just cracked up, I thought it was absolutely hilarious. We finished it out with our creative director, who helped us organize everything and put it together, but it was Thom's hilarious brainchild of the video treatment.

Powers: I came up with it one night at a bar. I had the idea that Alisa just kept killing people, and then I would cover it up. I got worried along the way that it was going to be sort of a male savior complex. It made more sense to have me equally as responsible for all the catastrophes in the video. We tried to combat that [complex], I cover up her mistake and I am driving the car and the first thing I do is run Luna [Shadows, who co-wrote and co-produced the track with them] over. So hopefully I got rid of that angle and parodied it a bit.

I loved making that video, it was a lot of fun. I don't usually have fun making videos per say. I do enjoy being on set and there is a joy that comes from doing it, it is exciting with all the drama and fuss of making videos. But it can be kind of anxiety inducing because it is very difficult to make something satisfying on a low budget. We don't have millions of dollars to spend on a video. And fortunately, that video had so much planning that went into it that it came out really well for not having a massive budget. We are really proud of it. We had an amazing team on it as well that made it come to life. They are all in the credits on YouTube, we always want to direct people to check them out.

Xayalith: If we go back and look at the music videos, we've never really gotten in them as much. We really took the opportunity to make music videos to tune in on an identity that wasn't really there before. And this music video, I feel like it gave Thom and I a chance to not take ourselves so seriously and so people can see another side of us that they have never seen before. I think that has been something really fun and new for ourselves and people who have been a longtime fan of the band.

The one scene where I have blood splattered on my face, we only had one shot for that, one shot because we only had just enough blood for one squirt, so I had two people on either side of me on their knees with their hands held up to my face and they squeezed it and I was like "Okay, I cannot laugh." It was so funny, after we cut everyone erupted into laughter.

Read: Lady Gaga, The Naked And Famous, Bruno Major & More Artists Talk Staying Grounded During Quarantine

On the album, the messages on "Recover" and "Death" feel especially poignant during these trying times. Can you speak to the story behind "Death," what it meant to you recording it then and how it feels listening to it now?

Powers: Thank you, that is such a flattering question. That song has an interesting story about how it was put together, and the starting point particularly. But the line that I stole, again, stealing more of Luna Shadows' creative content. We live together and she has this gorgeous, secret solo project which she just keeps on voice memos. She sent me one of them and it has that line "We both like the idea of / dying by the ocean side / maybe there is nothing more?" It is a love song but I wanted to steal lyrics from her own song and sing it back to her.

And then Alisa, Simon and I wrote this love song and it was fun for me to get an opportunity on this record to be a topliner. For that song, I got to switch roles. Usually I am the one sitting at the computer and doing the tracks. Like on "Recover," and you can hear it is very much Alisa's story, her lyrics. You couldn't create that on a committee, which a lot of Los Angeles songwriting is like—very impersonal and without a universality to it, weirdly, even though it is written that way. With "Recover," Alisa is the topliner, and Simon and I were the producers and the co-writers, so we might fill in lyrics and suggest melodies and lines, but the narrative is coming from one person. My belief is you really need that in a song. I got the opportunity on this album to do that, where Simon was running the computer and Alisa was my co-writer. I haven't had an opportunity to do that on other albums because we haven't worked with someone like Simon who I trusted enough to run the session.

I am not a happy person, I am someone who is consumed by thinking about death and ethics and mortality and the pointlessness and meaninglessness of existence. I wanted to try and write a song about that. But it ended up being really—I don't want to say fun, but it's groovy and it has a gentle quality to the song which is really beautiful and satisfying.

The song is kind of challenging ideas that people have about finding meaning in life. There is this silly idea that if you don't believe in a higher power, or something superstitious, or don't have magical thinking, then why do you get up in the morning? I think there is a deeper meaning in that this is all you have, this is it—it is even more precious. All the meaning you can get in life is right in front of you. "Death" is both a love song but also a love song to that idea. I am really proud of it.

I love your cover of The Weeknd for Triple J—why did you choose to sing "Blinding Lights?"

Xayalith: I am a huge fan of The Weeknd. So when he released it, it was just something I was listening to a lot. Out of a few choices we had, it was the one that made the most sense. If you listen to the song, and the album, he's taken a lot of '80s pop and synths on this record. It was kind of exciting for us to take that. Thom just nailed, just whipped up the demo really quickly.

We turned it around pretty quickly. In the history of the band, we normally go over everything for a while. It was just like, "cool, the music is done, let's go." It was a really fun challenge for us to do that. We have never done a Triple J "Like A Version" before, so we wanted to make sure it was a song that we enjoyed.

If you could record any other cover, what would it be?

Xayalith: Well, I am a huge fan of Caroline Polachek and "So Hot You're Hurting My Feelings" was another one of our choices. I absolutely adore that song. If we were to record another, that would be the next one.

So, it's now been a decade since you released your dreamy debut album, Passive Me, Aggressive You. If you could go back and give that version of yourself any advice, what would it be?

Xayalith: Don't fight the process.

I really fought with myself. I put a lot of pressure on myself when I was younger to get things done, without realizing that part of the process is the work and going through the motions of coming up with an idea. I would get frustrated at myself because I didn't like the pace at which I was creating. If I could go back in time, I would just tell myself to not fight the process and to just flow through it.

Powers: Oh my god. I feel like it's things I would correct myself on. We've been talking about this a lot in interviews lately because of the time period. I guess for some reason it's a symbolic check point. And it feels long enough as a measurement to want to ask "What is different now, how do you feel now?" I think I regret so much of who I was.

I am a person who is self-loathing by nature anyways. I think that looking at myself 10 years ago, I hold myself responsible for so many things that I am unhappy with about my life now. I think I can really see the faults in myself and in the life I have and the things that I am unhappy about as being a product of me. So I really do wish I could go back and correct and adjust my attitude.

I think I could teach myself a few things that I am really happy our culture has created. I am a fan of PC culture. I think it is better than what we had before, better than being able to say something casually sexist, casually racist. I think for all its faults, at which I do believe there are many, I am really happy that words like toxic masculinity exist now. They shine a bright and important light on human psychology. I think it's helpful in our daily lexicon. I think if I could give myself an insight into the way our culture has changed, I would be a better person for it earlier on.

I am sure everyone feels this, but the older you get, the wiser you get; the more you realize how ignorant you are. With wisdom comes the sense of the extent of your own ignorance. I wish I could've taught that to myself earlier on. I would've made some more well-informed decisions and some less-arrogant ones.

Read: Jessy Lanza Is Still Trying to Look On The Bright Side

I would love to hear a little bit about each of your musical backstory; how you got into making music initially and how you two met.

Xayalith: My mom and dad immigrated to New Zealand, and I grew up listening to Lao music. And my dad was in a Lao community band, so I would often go and see him play. And I love singing, and really loved it at a young age. Music was something that I found myself finding so much joy in compared to anything else. I found ways to be a part of it; I was in the talent competition, choir, I would join a vocal group and drama classes so I could participate in the musicals. I was always searching for some ways to be a part of it.

I also took up guitar, I taught myself how to read music. I fell in love with alternative 90's rock music; PJ Harvey, Smashing Pumpkins. Then I enrolled into this musical college where I met Thom and Aaron, who was in the band, and we started making music together.

It was my first band ever, and it's been the only one. It was pretty unreal. Bu my search for wanting to pursue music I think I really followed my instincts and didn't give up on it. I think my instincts are pretty spot on most of the time. I was pretty tuned in to what I found joy in, and I felt it without knowing.

Powers: I mean, my musical history, is pretty standard to be honest, it is not super interesting. My dad played guitar, he is a musician. I think it runs in my family; we're very musical. I became a guitar player, a little metalhead at age 12. Little white suburban kid gets a guitar and you know, gets dreadlocks by 14. I was a typical—we would call them like a bogon down in New Zealand, which is like an Australian version of Bevis and Butthead. When I hit about my teenage years, about 15, I started getting into more alternative music.

And then I met Alisa, we were both still discovering alternative music culture. So the early Naked And Famous songs, they are somewhat a reflection of the things we were listening to at the time, the bands we were obsessing about. When we started making music we were still discovering ourselves as musicians and discovering what we liked and the kind of music culture that we wanted to participate in.

2006 is when Alisa and I started making music and going to gigs. We both worked at a record store and we were so involved in the music scene back then. Every gig that would come to Auckland, we would go to see. It is funny because I was just writing a list before of potential covers that I want to do. I was trying to put down songs that were influential around that time. There is a Bloc Party song, a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song, a Fyfe song. It makes me feel very nostalgic.

Related: 'It's Blitz!' At 10: How The Dancefloor Classic Marked A New Era For The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

With all the craziness going on in the world right now, what has helped each of you feel most grounded these days?

Xayalith: Getting enough sleep. I know it sounds really silly, but when I don't have enough sleep I don't feel like I can focus or perform to the best of my ability. But in times where I need to feel grounded I usually just exercise.

Powers: Alisa is a very grounded person.

Xayalith: Actually, you know what I do? I cook. That helps me feel grounded. I was on tour earlier in the year, so I hadn't been able to do that very much. But cooking and baking is something that helps me feel super grounded. Which is why I have gotten into making sourdough bread and I have things that I love to cook. Just the process of preparing everything, cooking everything, and the end product is going to be delicious. It always feels good to me.

Thom probably just plays video games.

Powers: I don't really have one thing that I do to stay grounded. Maybe reading. I think I am a grounded person by nature just by being very critical, by working on my critical thinking skills as a hobby. I am not a very smart person, I didn't go to university or get a degree in anything. Critical thinking is probably what keeps me grounded and realistic. Also, my partner keeps me very grounded when I get delusional, or worried about things.

I think when I am least grounded, I have a very unrealistic view, a very envious, jealous and comparative view because of the way music culture has shifted to this online content provider paradigm. Some days when I wake up and I feel negative, I just feel this immense pressure to be this content provider, which is something that does not come naturally to me, it's difficult. But some people, it just comes so naturally to them to put their unedited selves up on the internet. Some days I want to participate and it is really fun and I want to be a person who can get into TikTok. But other days I'm like "this is just empty narcissistic sh*t."

Xayalith: I feel like maybe it is just today. Today you're just not in the mood. Tomorrow you might feel differently. I think everybody feels the same way about social media. We fluctuate between wanting to engage in the conversation and then feeling like you can't keep up in the conversation and we don't want to be a part of it. Social media is this ongoing conversation and there are days that I don't want to participate in it, I can't be bothered. I feel like the mood you're in Thom is probably one that will fluctuate.

Powers: Yeah, you're right.

As a non-Black ally, why is it important for you to speak out and join the Black community in solidarity?

Xayalith: I think it's essential for us to be vocal and to use our social platforms to help amplify Back voices that need to be heard. Learning about anti-racism is necessary to implement change on a global scale, and we're learning every day. It requires a long-term commitment. We want the Black community to know that we stand with them, and we're listening.

Powers: I don't feel it's about whether it's important to us, but whether it's morally and ethically necessary. I don't mean to sound grandiose, but we feel (happily) obliged to participate. America has been good to us—we've made this place our new home. I think we feel a growing patriotism, although it's clear that this is still a global problem. We're under no illusions about the limits of our reach or social clout, but we can pile-on to the conversation and direct people towards the organizations leading the change; places like and

Read: Black U.K. Music Executives Call For Bias Training, End Of "Urban Music" Term

In your opinion, how can the music community at large contribute to dismantling racism?

Xayalith: I think the music industry at large is homogeneous. Perhaps we can change that with outreach programs to Black communities. This may create more opportunities to work at record labels, music studios, music management, concerts and events—careers in music that would apply to young Black adults who might otherwise be denied those opportunities. Action speaks much louder than words, and right now, action is needed. 

Powers: Uneven business models continue to earn the music business millions of dollars while passing on only a small amount of that wealth to artists. For example, the royalty split on an average major-label deal is 82 percent to the label, 18 percent to the artist. The music industry has been benefiting from and exploiting Black artists for a long time. Adjusting these antiquated models would help all artists, but also result in a considerable redistribution of wealth to Black artists—a tide that would lift all boats.

The music industry is corporate America—its goal has always been to grow and maintain its wealth. It knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. For the music industry to change, it needs companies (as well as individuals) to prioritize art, culture, social equality and redistributing wealth, over unbridled capitalism.

I don't think we should underestimate the power of political correctness, i.e., the recent jettisoning of the term "Urban." I'm old enough now to see what a difference political correctness can make. There are plenty of words and ideas that can no longer be approached or used with casualness, which is a great thing.

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

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


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

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

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say She She

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

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


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

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

Shiro Schwarz

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

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


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

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

Franc Moody

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

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

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

Photo: Steven Sebring


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

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

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic: The Recording Academy


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

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

GRAMMYs/Nov 23, 2022 - 03:01 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Kelsea Ballerini — "HEARTFIRST"

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

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

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

Zach Bryan — "Something In The Orange"

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

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

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

Miranda Lambert — "In His Arms"

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

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

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

Maren Morris — "Circles Around This Town"

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

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

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

Willie Nelson — "Live Forever"

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

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

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

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List

Listen: All Of The Latin Music 2023 GRAMMY Nominees In One Playlist
The Recording Academy

Graphic: The Recording Academy


Listen: All Of The Latin Music 2023 GRAMMY Nominees In One Playlist

Ahead of Music's Biggest Night on Feb. 5, 2023, celebrate with this immersive playlist of every Latin Field nominee at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Nov 22, 2022 - 11:48 pm

The Latin GRAMMYs may have just honored the genre's trailblazers in Las Vegas on Nov. 17, but the celebration will continue at the upcoming 65th GRAMMY Awards ceremony in February. There are five categories in the Latin Field of the 2023 GRAMMY nominations — and you can hear all of the nominees in one playlist.

In the Best Latin Pop Album category, are Christina Aguilera's Latin GRAMMY-winning AGUILERA will compete with Rubén Blades & Boca Livre's Pasieros, Camilo's De Adendro Pa Afuera, Fonseca's VIAJANTE, and Sebastián Yatra's Dharma+. Channeling their lively Latin roots while traversing pop landscapes, these albums all magnetically merge tradition and modernity.

Reggaeton, dancehall, hip hop, and funk coalesce in the nominated works for Best Música Urbana Album: Rauw Alejandro's Trap Cake, Vol. 2, Bad Bunny's Un Verano Sin Ti, Daddy Yankee's LEGENDADDY, Farruko's La 167, and Maluma's The Love & Sex Tape.

The genre-blending jubilation continues with the Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album category. This year's nominees are Cimafunk's El Alimento, Jorge Drexler's Tinta y Tiempo, Mon Laferte's 1940 Carmen, Gaby Moreno's Alegoría, Fito Paez's Los Años Salvajes, and Rosalía's MOTOMAMI.

For Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano), 2021 winner Natalia Lafourcade's Un Canto por México - El Musical is up against Chiquis' Abeja Reina, Los Tigres Del Norte's La Reunión (Deluxe), Christian Nodal's EP #1 Forajido, and Marco Antonio Solís' ​​Qué Ganas de Verte (Deluxe)

As for Best Tropical Latin Album, Marc Anthony — a two-time winner in the category — returns as a nominee with Pa'lla Voy, alongside pioneers Tito Nieves (nominated for Legendario), La Santa Cecilia (Quiero Verte Feliz), Víctor Manuelle (Lado A Lado B), Spanish Harlem Orchestra (Imágenes Latinas), and Carlos Vives (Cumbiana II).

Listen to all of the above albums in this comprehensive, 338-song playlist of the Latin music GRAMMY nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

​​Check it out on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music — and we'll see you at Music's Biggest Night on Sunday, Feb. 5!

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List