Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Nathy Peluso On Establishing A Unique Rap Style And Spending Her Career "In A Permanent State Of Surprise"
Nathy Peluso

Photo: Alfred Marroquin


Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Nathy Peluso On Establishing A Unique Rap Style And Spending Her Career "In A Permanent State Of Surprise"

The self-described "chameleon" has been honing her genre-spanning musical abilities since she was a teen in Argentina. Even with a Latin GRAMMY and a spot on the 2022 Coachella roster, Nathy Peluso is 'still in complete disbelief' of her first GRAMMY nod.

GRAMMYs/Mar 23, 2022 - 06:01 pm

Nathy Peluso raps with the panache of a veteran MC, showing off her staccato flow with a rainbow of Latin accents. But she can also belt out a raucous salsa tune, deliver a silky bachata, or revisit a Camilo Sesto pop classic with the confidence of a woman who grew up on a steady diet of balada and rock en español.

All of those talents may make Peluso the most chameleonic pop star in contemporary Latin music — and a major global star in the making.

Born in Argentina, Peluso moved to Spain with her family when she was nine. As a teen, she uploaded a cappella versions of her favorite standards on YouTube, later seeing success as an underground rapper. But it was Calambre — her 2020 full-length debut — that made the world fall in love with her.

Calambre flows effortlessly from the raucous salsa groove of "Puro Veneno" and the hazy reggaetón vibe of "Delito"; the boundary-pushing album also explores aggressive hip-hop with "Sana Sana," and nostalgic textures of retro Argentine rock in "Buenos Aires." The album earned Peluso her first Latin GRAMMY in 2021 (for Best Alternative Music Album), and now, the 27-year-old star celebrates a GRAMMY nomination in the Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album category. caught up with Peluso about her Buenos Aires roots, how her music videos have helped her cope with fame, and her secret recipe for rapping with conviction.

When I listen to your music, I think of a chef who has mastered the art of blending spices from different corners of the world. The sheer breadth of your music is extraordinary.

It comes natural to me. It emerges from my desire to learn about music, to investigate. I feel that the field of music is so immense that the only way to do it well is getting your hands dirty — finding a crevice, a hidden corner, and then attempting to step in.

You grew up in Argentina and now live in Spain. Yet, the bachata you recently recorded with C. Tangana, "Ateo," is completely authentic. How did you manage that?

It was a joint decision with Pucho [C. Tangana]. When we started working on the song, it wasn't traditional at all. But once we added the guitars, it became more formal during the production. Bachata is a genre that I always listen to, and the idea was doing something that was genuine and respectful.

The same attention to detail informs your salsa tracks.

Yes, songs like "Mafiosa" and "Puro Veneno." It's almost like a thesis study of a particular genre — my interpretation of it becomes a way of doing research. Music awakens this passion in me, and I want to study every single genre. Salsa is the style that I listen to the most, and I wanted to delve in it simply because it moves me too much.

You even sing with the natural syncopation of the clave — almost as if you were the singer with La Sonora Ponceña.

[Laughs.] That's anchored purely in intuition. I wrote "Mafiosa" using just a conga, marking the bass line with my own voice. Because I didn't have a salsa orchestra to back me up when I composed it, I opened up a path using my vocals, and it stayed that way naturally.

Your Argentine roots are very present in your music. "Buenos Aires" evokes the classic rock en español vibe of a Luis Alberto Spinetta song. How did you connect with that energy?

It wasn't on purpose. I only realized that when people started telling me about it. My intention is to create something entirely new, but I guess it's inevitable to sound like your influences — at the end of the day, we are what we listen to. Those faint, unconscious references are there because I grew up listening to a lot of Argentine rock with my family: Serú Girán, Fito Páez, Charly García, and, of course, Spinetta.

On "Buenos Aires," I wanted to create a song that people could sing along to, devoid of any extravagant touches. I think it reminds people of rock because the lyrics focus on everyday details described with feeling. That's something that Argentine music does really well. We know how to describe the little things that affect all equally.

In your videos, you appear as this defiant woman who has had enough of the world and is definitely not holding back. What inspired this fascinating character?

It was instinctive. Step by step, this character became a way of communicating feelings, and it's given me many opportunities. It's a side of my personality, obviously, but I'm not like that all the time. [Laughs.]

It's a part of me that came to light and represents my public persona. As I grow older, I see it from a distance — sometimes I understand her, and other [times], not so clearly. Sometimes I think the construction of this character helps me to cope with fame.

Am I right in assuming there's a lot of humor in this character — the intensely angry, somewhat deranged woman?

One hundred percent. I love irony and employ it in everything I do. Humor is one of my favorite things in life, and the people I connect with are the people who understand irony. I construct a lot of material based on that energy.

I'm also making fun of that anger — the impotence that women can feel at times. When we laugh at things, that's when we really learn from them.

Your session with Argentine producer Bizarrap showcases your unique flow as a rapper. How did you develop such a distinct style?

I started writing poetry in the streets and rapping my verses. I found a Feng Shui in there, like a home. It was a difficult time in my life, and rapping helped me feel good about myself.

I had already performed live as a singer, but I gained notoriety when I started rapping. I fell in love with the genre and studied it deeply, because I didn't grow up with it. I owe rap a lot. It helped me in building a significant portion of my career.

Your accent is unusual when you rap. You could be from any Latin American country.

I looked for a style, and it emerged on its own. I'm crazy about the beauty and musicality of accents. The way you can pronounce a consonant, or use local slang.

Growing up surrounded by people from so many different places turned me into a bit of a chameleon. Traversing different phonetic soundscapes is a lot of fun.

Being nominated for a GRAMMY is a special honor. How do you feel about it?

I'm still in complete disbelief. I don't think of myself on that level. Not at all. Imagine, then, how grateful I feel about this opportunity.

I think this nomination is due to all the hard work I invested on Calambre — so much hope and illusion. That energy probably transcends the borders of understanding. The fact that my music evokes a reaction in people is the biggest reward.

In the end, what moves me about this ritual is the acknowledgment of the people who love and understand music. I cross my fingers that it won't be my last nomination. I will work hard so that I can revisit the experience, because it is very special to encounter the artists that you can meet in these events — to observe the workings of this complex universe, filled by people who pour so much love into music.

I still see it as a fantasy, though. I'm not sure how I would process the experience if I happened to win. I'd probably spend many years in shock until I finally digested it.

Was there a specific moment when you realized that you were becoming wildly successful?

It happens on a constant basis. When I started to rap, and suddenly I was playing in front of 400 people, it seemed unreal. Then I make an album, I win a Latin GRAMMY, and find myself performing [at] huge venues with thousands of people. It still seems unreal to me.

I prefer to react in a permanent state of surprise, because otherwise everything would be difficult. I've always chosen to follow the will of my destiny, what the world itself dictates that I should do next, giving everything I have in the situations suggested by life.

My responsibility as a communicator has now increased. You grow and become more conscious. A process that never ceases to surprise — it's the magic of continuing to grow and learn.

How has your family reacted to the commotion of global stardom?

I've been working on my career for so many years, that fortunately my intimate circle had plenty of time to grow with me, step by step. They have managed to digest the constant exposure quite well.

They miss me a lot and worry about me, because they see that I'm working so hard. But I'm still the same, and they haven't changed either. They always believed in me, and that provided a big push forward.

How do you approach performing at a huge festival like Coachella — knowing that part of the audience may not be familiar with your work?

Every time I have to face an audience that may not know about me is a challenge that I face with good humor. I'm eager to show them the best of me.

I'm going to set the stage on fire, no matter where in the world I happen to be. Also showing respect for the festival, which is legendary. I see it as a great opportunity. Here I am, ready to conquer some hearts.

Your videos singing a cappella as a teenager are still on your YouTube channel. Most artists would have removed those early steps.

Leaving those videos was a decision I took a long time ago, in order to share my evolution with people. I'm proud that I started from nothing. It's good to show proof that anyone can play with their destiny and make their dreams come true.

It gives me a feeling of tenderness, watching that person that I used to be, as she imagines that people are actually listening to her. And in the end, they did listen.

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: How C. Tangana Used His 'Own Interpretation Of Life' To Create 'El Madrileño,' An Album That Crosses Genres & Cultures

5 Essential Bizarrap Sessions: BZRP Music Videos With Shakira, Arcángel, Nathy Peluso & More
Bizarrap, left, with Peso Pluma

Photo: Pipe Ordoñez


5 Essential Bizarrap Sessions: BZRP Music Videos With Shakira, Arcángel, Nathy Peluso & More

BZRP Music Sessions are anticipated on a global scale, dropping unexpectedly every few months. After listening to Bizarrap's most recent session, a música mexicana track with Peso Pluma, read on for five of his most exciting releases.

GRAMMYs/Jun 2, 2023 - 02:55 pm

From a home studio in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, a young Argentine producer nicknamed Bizarrap has spent the past couple of years transforming the landscape of Latin music. Biza not only innovates the sound itself with a playful combination of trap, EDM and cinematic moods, but also the way songs are presented, consumed and dissected among his millions of social media fans.

His BZRP Music Sessions on YouTube drop unexpectedly every couple of months (he began the series in 2019, and is currently on No. 55) are followed and anticipated on a global scale. Each session features a new guest on vocals — most of them rappers. Biza provides the backing track, and the guest does the rest. The videos follow the same setup: a Spartan home studio, with Biza in the producer’s chair, arms flailing, while the guests stand in front of the mic, looking directly into the cameras documenting the performance. The visual aspect is so closely associated with Bizarrap’s mystique, that the set has been duplicated in every minute detail whenever the sessions take place outside Argentina.

Gonzalo Julián Conde will be 25 in August, and Time magazine recently selected him as one of its Next Generation Leaders. He continues to stir things up on the recently dropped session No. 55: his first foray outside the urbano genre, a música mexicana track with emerging star Peso Pluma

Here are five key sessions from the past four years that sum up the Bizarrap phenomenon. 

Session No. 36: Nathy Peluso (2020)

The first session to generate more than 300 million YouTube views, Bizarrap’s collaboration with fellow Argentine Nathy Peluso found the producer face to face with an artist as formidable as she is multi-faceted. Based in Spain, Peluso began her career as a rapper and evolved into an eclectic singer/songwriter who can ignite the dance floor with her authentic salsa jams, then move you to the core with an organic ballad about missing Buenos Aires. 

Peluso’s hip-hop roots are deep, and this session brims with her demented sense of humor, the use of syllables as a powerful rhythmic device, and her subtly menacing, rapper fatale persona. Biza spices up the track with hypnotic electro beats, then autotunes the chorus to brilliant effect. 

Session No. 53: Shakira (2023)

In strict musical terms, Biza’s tandem with Colombian diva Shakira treads similar ground than some of his previous sessions. But this is much more than just a song. A vitriolic revenge fest against Shakira’s former husband — soccer star Gerard Piqué — the track reveals the singer as a vulnerable, yet empowered human being. It connected with the zeitgeist of 2023 and became a cultural phenomenon. 

Followers of Shakira’s personal life have savored the many subtle and not-so-subtle digs and references, some of which are notoriously mordant (the way in which she sings "clara-mente" in reference to Clara, Piqué’s current girlfriend, is delightful).

Session No. 51: Villano Antillano (2022)

In interviews, Bizarrap has affirmed his intention to never censor guests in any way — they can do and say whatever they please. Inviting transfeminist Puerto Rican rapper Villano Antillano was a nod to inclusivity, and gave Villano a much deserved global platform for her dazzling skills. 

Her rhymes are brilliant, quoting Rihanna, literary vampires, the cast of Friends and Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. Biza is in high form, peppering the backing track with flashy touches of EDM and screeching the beat to a halt in the bridge. Don’t miss the colorful portable fan that appears in Villano’s right hand at the 2:11 mark — her playful smile and eye batting are priceless.

Session No. 54: Arcángel (2023)

Strangely enough, Biza’s collaboration with iconic rapper Arcángel boasts a relatively anemic (for Biza, anyway) 75 million views. A pity, because it’s one of the wittiest Latin tracks of the decade. 

The pair had already collaborated with Argentine trapero Duki on "Bottas," a vertigo-inducing track off Arcángel’s 2022 album Sr. Santos. The rapper makes a hilarious reference to that previous outing, and imitates Biza’s South American accent. The rhymes are inventive throughout, with nods to pot, Argentine soccer players, Roman gladiators and something about straightening out the Tower of Pisa. 

Biza’s ominous, sustained synth notes complement the MC’s high-pitched flow, and Arcángel hams it up for the camera.

Session No. 39: Snow Tha Product (2021)

If there’s one session that showcases Biza’s framework as a space where artists can let their virtuoso tendencies soar, this is it. Born in San Jose, California, Mexican American rapper Snow Tha Product was already known in the Latin hip-hop community for her formidable flow. Biza’s session allowed her to elevate her skills to an almost surreal level. 

Everything here is calibrated to perfection, from Snow’s speed, Spanglish rimas and stage presence to the producer’s raw bass lines and EDM climax. Following the track’s viral success — 220 million views and counting — the rapper posted a pinned message on Biza’s YouTube page expressing her amazement and gratitude.

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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Anitta On The “Insane” Success Of "Envolver," Representing Brazil & Reshaping Global Pop

Photo: LUFRE


Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Anitta On The “Insane” Success Of "Envolver," Representing Brazil & Reshaping Global Pop

After a decade of building a massive career in her home country of Brazil, Anitta took her success to a global level in 2022. The singer discusses her “brand new career” and the Best New Artist nomination that came from it.

GRAMMYs/Feb 1, 2023 - 04:45 pm

Before Anitta released her album Versions of Me last April, she already had four albums in her catalog. But as the title insists, Versions of Me is the project that showed Anitta has many layers to her success — and now, she has a GRAMMY nomination to show for it.

The Brazilian star is nominated for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs, which may feel like a long time coming for those who have been a fan since Anitta's self-titled debut album arrived in 2013. After becoming a household name in her native Brazil, and then in Latin America, she finally cracked the U.S. last year with the worldwide hit "Envolver." Ten years in, Anitta almost feels reborn.

"In Brazil I got the recognition before, but internationally, it's amazing because I've just started a brand new career," she tells "I feel really special. I feel like things are happening really fast and I'm really happy about it."

With Versions of Me, Anitta explored and embraced her cross-cultural appeal, even singing in Portuguese, Spanish and English across its 15 tracks. The album opens with "Envolver," which blends reggaeton music with an electronic allure; later, she put a trap music twist on the Brazilian bossa nova classic "The Girl From Ipanema" in "Girl From Rio," a tribute to her hometown of Rio de Janeiro.

Those personal details helped Versions of Me resonate with a global audience, and they were amplified by Anitta's unabashed ability to push pop music to new places. She embedded elements of funk carioca (Brazilian funk music from the favelas of Rio De Janeiro where she grew up) into genre-bending collaborations alongside stars like Cardi B, Khalid, and Saweetie.

Anitta has also become widely acclaimed for her show-stopping performances, from Coachella to the Latin GRAMMY Awards to the viral "Envolver" dance challenge on TikTok. Her charming transparency with her fans helps uplift women, her country of Brazil, and the LGBTQIA+ community (she publicly identified as bisexual in 2018) — in turn helping Anitta become one of Latin pop's most refreshing and boldest artists in recent memory.

Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs, Anitta spoke with about her first GRAMMY nomination, the viral success of "Envolver," and what's next.

How do you feel about being nominated for Best New Artist?

I feel really special. First of all for the nomination, to be part of the GRAMMYs. That makes me feel like I'm doing a good job. I'm on the right path. But also, I felt really special that I was nominated for the Best New Artist category. I feel happy that people understand that for me it's a whole new world.

Even though I have more than 10 years of a career in Brazil, for me, in these other markets, like singing in English and Spanish, it's brand new stuff. I am a new artist in these other markets. I feel really happy that people can understand that and see it like I do.

You're also representing Portuguese and Spanish music in the Best New Artist category. What does it mean to you to be able to represent those languages within the category?

I feel like it's really important. My country feels very special about it. They've never seen something like that. Last time they saw something like that was like 57 years ago <a href="">when Brazilian artists [Astrud Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim were nominated for Best New Artist], so they're really happy for me to be part of this. To be representing so much for my country, I'm really glad that I can do that.

Your song "Girl From Rio" interpolates one of Jobim and Gilberto's classic songs.

"The Girl From Ipanema"! It's crazy, it's like a cycle. It's amazing!

In your album Versions of Me, you sing in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Why did you decide to record music in those three languages?

Portuguese is my first language, obviously. And then I started to learn English when I was still a kid. I started to learn Spanish after I went to Spain for the first time because one of my songs in Portuguese, "Show Das Poderosas," was playing in Madrid. So I went to Spain to sing for a radio show, and I didn't understand anything that people were telling me, so I decided to start learning Spanish, and I loved it. And I started singing [in that language].

I think it's just part of my personality to enjoy learning languages. When I was a kid, I also learned Italian, so I have songs in Italian. I really enjoy it.

The album cover art features different versions of yourself throughout your career. Why did you decide to bring together those images from your past and present?

I think controversy is good when people talk about a subject, and they can see it's accurate and real, and they can get to know you a little better. I think it's a little fun.

I like being open about the [plastic surgery] procedures I've done. Being open about all the things in my life. I don't like to fake or hide situations. I feel like I would feel stuck in some kind of prison. I feel better if people just get to know me from a 360 point of view.

In the album, you explore genres like pop, R&B, trap, and reggaeton music. What was experience like to work with those different genres?

I wanted to show different types of music that I like singing. Like different versions of myself. I'm fascinated by people's music — the different countries and cultures. I love traveling and getting to know the way people consume music, the way people create music. It's really special when I can travel and get to know a new culture, and sing, and get that feeling running through my blood.

I love playing with the biggest amount of places and rhythms, and everything that I can, because I think that's what it is about, when you can create music that's more than just something fun to listen to. If you can bring cultures and bring people together, I think it's even more of a special thing.

How did the song "Envolver" come together?

The [COVID-19 pandemic] quarantine was over, but still the gates were closed to Brazil from America. To go to America, you had to quarantine for 15 days somewhere. I was in Punta Cana waiting for these 15 days to pass, and I decided to bring some friends of mine — artists to write songs with. It was Phantom and Lenny Tavárez. We started writing, [and when] we got to "Envolver," it was really special. We wrote it so fast. It was insane. It was amazing.

What was the inspiration behind that song?

We wanted to talk about a woman that is always in control and not the opposite. In songs, we always see guys talking like that to women, and I wanted to bring exactly the opposite — when a woman is in power.

Did you think that "Envolver" would become the massive hit that it was?

We did think that — but we also think that about so many songs, so it's like, we never know. It was insanely big. I think it wouldn't have been that big if I didn't have the support of the foundation of my country, and also if I [hadn't] done so much work in the Latin community. It got big because we were already doing a lot of stuff.

You've become known for your electric live performances. How important is it to express your music through dancing as well?

Even more right now, with TikTok and things like that, I think people are so engaged to dancing. They want to feel involved somewhere, so that's one way of how people are getting into music right now. Getting involved with the artists in some way more than just the music. I think dance is a very good way of doing that.

You incorporate elements of Brazilian funk music throughout Versions of Me. How important was it for you to bring that genre into some of the songs?

I put in a little bit. Not as much as I wanted to. I think in the next albums I will do more. I'm trying to introduce a little bit of [Brazilian] funk to the worldwide audience, and then I will [release] something really cultural that I really believe in.

Since I started traveling around the world, I'm fascinated about showing people where I come from, my origins. I think funk is my origin. It's so different, and it has the power to be the next big thing, so I feel really special about it. I feel like people are starting to get into funk and making more Brazilian funk music, and I really love that I'm part of this change.

You announced that your next album will be a Brazilian funk album. How is that coming along?

I'm still waiting. I'm working on the album. I have most of the songs kind of ready. I'm still adjusting some things and the features on it. But I'm going to wait for the best time to release it. I'm not going to do it in a rush.

I'm going to put effort behind it because this is the thing I always dreamed about doing. I always dreamed about having an album where I can truly feel my culture and what I really love about funk and Brazilian music. I think I'm going to wait for everything to be completely perfect for me to release it.

Throughout your career, you've proudly represented the LGBTQIA+ community, collaborating with artists like Brazilian drag pop stars Pabllo Vittar and Gloria Groove and being open about your own sexuality. How do you feel to be helping raise that representation and visibility?

I think it's amazing the more we can [do that], because it's still very hard for the LGBTQIA+ community to show up and to get a space to talk and be open without prejudice. The more that we can open room for artists who are openly gay, or trans, or drag queens — I think the scene needs more representation, more artists. The more I can do to bring people to me, or bring visibility to new artists like that, I will do it. It's really important.

Coming off of such a huge year in 2022, what can fans expect from you this year?

I'm going to rest a little bit. I thought I was going to do that last year, but with everything that happened with "Envolver," I ended up not resting the way I wanted to, so for sure this year, I'm going to take more time for myself.

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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Viola Davis On Sharing Her Life To Help People Change Theirs & Her Potential EGOT
Viola Davis

Photo: AB + DM


Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Viola Davis On Sharing Her Life To Help People Change Theirs & Her Potential EGOT

Viola Davis has already netted an Academy Award, two Tonys, and an Emmy, but now the iconic actor has earned her first GRAMMY nod for her performance of the audiobook for her memoir, 'Finding Me' — a work that Davis hopes can help change lives.

GRAMMYs/Jan 30, 2023 - 04:36 pm

"There are not enough words and pages to quantify one's life," Viola Davis says with a warm, stern certainty — despite having delivered a memoir that carries a remarkable weight and beauty.

Living through difficult experiences takes incredible strength. Living through them again to write a memoir and  then read them aloud as an audiobook must be a herculean feat. But it should come as no surprise that Davis has proven herself more than capable of meeting that challenge. 

The acclaimed actor’s memoir, Finding Me, reaches back to her difficult childhood, to trauma and struggle, and continues through on her journey of healing and artistic achievement — and Davis delivers it with an uncanny blend of fragility and strength. Davis, a first-time GRAMMY nominee, has been lauded for her efforts, with Finding Me receiving a nod for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

And now the audiobook extends the possibility to add a GRAMMY Award to her awards shelf alongside an Emmy, an Oscar, and two Tonys, potentially making her the 18th person to complete the EGOT. While joining those ranks would be an undeniable honor, Davis’ vision of achievement and impact remains much simpler: helping others find the hope and healing that she discovered. "When you begin to connect with yourself, to unpack your life and make peace with it, it's easier to connect to the world — and I want other people to do the same," she says. caught up with Davis to talk about how reading Finding Me differed from her usual style of performance, finding her calling in life, and what joining the ranks of EGOT winners would mean to her.

Let’s start at the beginning! How did you feel when you got the call that you were nominated for a GRAMMY?

I don't know if I expected it. When I wrote the book, I was just trying to write a good book. That was the goal. I wanted to be honest. I wanted to honor the people who were in my life and who were the subject of my story. And that was it. 

Everything else that came out of it has been the icing on the cake, those beautiful sort of boons and gifts that come when you put yourself out there. 'Cause they don't always come. The GRAMMY nomination and how the book has done have been truly a gift that I didn't expect.

And it’s something of your own. It takes such an incredible amount of introspection to write a memoir, and Finding Me is simultaneously so elegant and raw. I can imagine that the whole experience of writing  was incredibly powerful as well putting yourself at the forefront, but also giving yourself the time to honor that self.

Absolutely. The character that I played in The Woman King, Nanisca, who is the leader of this female army, has a line in the movie that has been motivating me in this part of my life. She says to her daughter, Nawi, "I'm sorry I left you. I wasn't brave enough." 

And I just never want to get to the end of my life with that turn, saying, "I wasn't brave enough." And I certainly do not wanna get to the point in my life that I say that to my younger self. I don't wanna leave my story behind. I don't want wanna leave it unexplored, not articulated, hidden, in a vat of shame. I don't want that.

With this book you got to tell your own story in your own time, and you get to shine a light on stories that haven't been told before. And now that might bring you into the storied halls of EGOT winners. You don't seem like the type of person driven primarily by ego, but the EGOT is a rare achievement and a huge moment to recognize all the work that you've done in the past as well.

I absolutely, definitely think about it as a huge accomplishment. I feel this way, even though it's probably a very dramatic statement on my part: I think that everybody wants their life to mean something. I believe in the Cherokee birth blessing, which is "May you live long enough to know why you were born." I do believe that you literally wanna blow a hole through this world in whatever way you can. 

A lot of people don't know how to do that. A lot of people haven't found that thing that they're passionate about, that they can do. Some have. But we all are looking for that, blowing a hole through this earth before we leave it. I think about that in my work a lot. I really found that thing that I love to do. So I always wanna make it meaningful.

You can feel that when listening to you read the audiobook. There's that passion throughout your work that's always there with you. How did you make sure that you punched that hole in the world with the audiobook, specifically?

Well, my briefing to myself was to be honest with my voice with each chapter, to match my heartbeat with my voice; to not make it feel formal. I always feel that when one is honest, words leap off of the page and they really enter someone's soul. When you speak from the soul, people receive it in their soul. I really wanted that, which sometimes is very difficult when you're reading an entire book that's over 300 pages. You get tired. But I have to say, I wrote most of the book at 2, 3 o'clock in the morning. That's when inspiration hit me. That's also the hormone reset time. [Laughs.] But I wrote it at that hour because things would hit my spirit. 

I really, really do believe that when it comes to artistic excellence — and this is not my ego saying it, it's a general statement — when it comes to things that are just good, they always have to move you. You cannot stay in your head and admire something from afar, the technical aspects and proficiency of it, the technical execution of it. It's got to hit your heart. And once it does that, you cannot downplay that value. That is what we are supposed to do as artists. And that was what I wanted to hit when I was doing the audiobook.

Three o'clock in the morning is, I suppose, a time when you can get out of your own way.


Your book showed that, and the story flows without impediment. But it must have been difficult at times to not have another actor to bounce off of. I'm so curious about how you've trained yourself as an artist to ensure you can still deliver a powerful performance in the audio booth.

It's a wonderful question. Listen, I'm always an actor in search of a director. I got my Equity card at 23. That's when I became a professional actress. That's 34 years ago. I have put in my 10,000 hours. [Laughs.] I cannot tell you how many speaking gigs I've had. I can't tell you how many times I've had performances where there was a director, but they weren't very good so I had to direct myself. Then there's my undergraduate degree, my degree from Julliard, as well as other schools where you learn a way of working. 

That's what being an artist is about. Being an artist is not getting up and making the bold statement: I wanna be an actor. Yes, I did say that, but the step in between is learning a process, learning how to warm up your voice, learning what to emphasize, learning what the main thought is, how to breathe, what exactly you are saying and what the journey is. I ask myself all of those big questions. If I did not have a process, I don't know, maybe I'd just be an entertainer. But I went to school to learn a process and it serves me when I am in a situation where there is no director other than the guy running the sound booth. 

You have to just check yourself. That process clearly helped ground you in the performance, but at the same time you're almost re-embodying your own past and experiences. Were you conscious of that as you were performing? Or was it more of a natural process?

Sometimes both. It is my story, so I know where I was at each moment — at the beginning, running as a 6-year-old little girl, being called ugly Black n—. Here's the thing, no matter what I wrote on the page, there are not enough words and pages to quantify one's life. As much as I remember, it only represents 30 percent of who I was. A huge part of what I was just still exists somewhere. Some memories were just lost. Some memories I just couldn't even interpret. 

But when I'm speaking them, there is a sort of backstory stream of consciousness, of emotional elements, that could not even be put on the page but can inform the words when I speak them. It's my life. My heartbeat. And at the same time, there is a technical aspect of it because you have to speak it in a way that people receive it. They have to understand phrases, pauses, those technical things, but for the most part I spoke from my heart because the story was birthed in my heart.

The mere existence of the book is proof of concept for the hope that exists in its pages, the hope that cycles of trauma and suffering can be broken through healing. How does it feel to know that that hope will impact readers? As an artist, you have similarly chosen roles that have really impacted people, so it must be a guiding principle for you.

It feels fantastic. I started out being an actor because it was the one thing I loved to do and I knew that it would get me out of my situation. But sometimes, it is divine intervention with what you choose in life. I was just driven to get out, and I found something that just made me jump out of bed in the morning. Sometimes when you fall in love with something, the reason why you fall in love with it becomes your purpose, which in this case is it helped heal me. 

It was almost like everything that happened in my life created this giant emotional cyst within me and I couldn't rein it in. It was just being fed by just holding onto secrets, holding onto shame, holding onto feeling not worthy. And then all of a sudden, whenever you're given a chance to express what is inside of you, to put your story out there, showing up as Viola, it slowly began to drain that cyst. That then provides extraordinary healing to people who are witnessing it. 

I've had so many people read my book, and I so appreciate it. More than even my acting, I'm really, really enjoying this whole experience with my book. But I find there's one thing that I wanna say to people, but I don't say, but in the back of my mind is my fantasy. There are so many people that read my book and say, "Oh my God, you've had a hard life. It's so unbelievable what you were able to accomplish. Oh my God. It was so hard. It was harder than anything I've been through." I always wanna say, "That's not why I wrote the book. I shared my story, now I want you to share yours." I'm not the only one moving through life with all of the sticks and stones and filthy swill and obstacles. We all have it because life is hard. 

But the other side of it is not sharing. Then what you do is you abandon people. You make them feel alone. We're not alone. I've had people read my book who I know have been abused by their spouses, who I know have been in jail for substance abuse, who I know have addiction issues. And they've said, "Wow, your life was hard." Well, their life was too. But you see, what I did was I unpacked it. I resolved it. I continue to resolve it and continue to not live in shame, to make peace with myself. That's a larger conversation. It makes me feel so wonderful when people say "Your book has shifted people." That for me is everything.

Speaking about the potential impact to shift people, it's incredible to look at your fellow nominees in the category. You've got Mel Brooks, who's obviously an EGOT winner himself. You've got three other people of color: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Questlove, Jamie Foxx. How powerful is it for you to see that your own story is sharing the category with these nominees?

It feels overwhelming. They say everything you are is the company you keep. Being with that level of excellence? I have to say, I've always wanted to be excellent. And I understand that in the path to be excellent, there's lots of failures along the way. There has to be. It's how you chisel yourself. It's how you become. But to be in the presence of these extraordinary artists — all men too by the way [laughs] — it makes me feel like I'm on the right path. 

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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: How Carly Pearce's Darkest Personal Moments Helped Her Reach Milestones
Carly Pearce

Photo: Allister Ann


Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: How Carly Pearce's Darkest Personal Moments Helped Her Reach Milestones

Blending her personal story of heartbreak with her passion for traditional country storytelling, Pearce’s "Never Wanted to Be That Girl" earned her new career highs — including her very first GRAMMY nod.

GRAMMYs/Jan 25, 2023 - 04:10 pm

Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde may reflect different corners of the country music spectrum, but they share a reverence for tradition and a penchant for heartbreak songs. The singers explore their stylistic common ground in “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” a duet that tells the story of two women who have been cheated by the same man.

The country ballad resonated deeply with audiences, both because of its traditional leanings and its gripping personal narrative. At a spring 2022 show in Albany, N.Y., Pearce even saw two fans holding a sign saying that the song told their story of being romantically entangled with the same unfaithful man. The experience brought them together, and they wound up becoming friends.

"Never Wanted to Be That Girl" reached the top of the country radio chart — one of only three female-female duets to do so since 1993. One of those, Reba McEntire and Linda Davis’ “Does He Love You,” specifically influenced Pearce and McBryde. In addition to its chart success, "Never Wanted to Be That Girl" won Musical Event of the Year at the 2022 CMA Awards, and earned Pearce her first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. 

Pearce’s personal missive is at the center of a breakthrough personal and musical era ushered in by two enormous heartbreaks: Her highly public divorce from fellow artist Michael Ray and the untimely death of her producer, Busbee. Rather than retreat from the spotlight, Pearce used her grief and trauma to create 29: Written in Stone, a grippingly personal artistic statement. The singer’s authenticity paid dividends: She started seeing more commercial success, more critical recognition and extra passion from her fans. 

Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, Pearce caught up with to discuss her first nomination, her powerful musical friendship with McBryde, and why she considers 29 to be the album that changed everything. 

After you learned you were nominated, what was the first thing you said to Ashley McBryde?

You know, this isn’t her first GRAMMY nomination, but it is her first No. 1 song, and so we’ve kind of had this thing where we’ve given each other firsts. It wasn’t my first No. 1 song, but it was my first GRAMMY nomination. So we were just texting, and I said thank you. 

I wanted so badly to collaborate with her  — and I knew that it was an unlikely pairing  — but I knew that if we really tried to write a song together we could do something really special. And we did.

Take me back to the day you wrote the song. 

I feel like this song in particular wasn’t written like any other song I’ve been a part of. We were in the room and we had zero ideas of what we were gonna write. No riffs, no hooks, no musical hints at all. We just started talking. She was privy to what was happening in my life, and obviously [co-writer and 29 producer] Shane [McAnally] was too, so when we wrote that song, we started a story. We had no idea where it was gonna land. 

We wrote this song in top to bottom chronological order. But we wanted to make sure that the choruses were the same, even though the women were experiencing different perspectives. I think we very carefully wanted to not pit the women against each other, but to show that you can both be burned by the same man. 

You and Ashley have known each other since early on in your time in Nashville, just from being at the same songwriter’s nights and shows. How has your relationship evolved?

I’ve always loved her. We did kind of come up together in a lot of ways. We would play shows together and sing each other’s songs, and I just felt like she understood my voice and I understood hers. I was making this album and brainstorming with one of the members of my team, and he said, "Wouldn’t it be so awesome if you had a collaboration with Ashley? She’s so different from you, but we miss those female-female duets. There haven’t really been any since the ‘90s." So I just texted her and asked, "I don’t know if this would ever interest you, but would you write a song with me for my record?" And she was in, immediately. It just felt like it was always destined to happen. 

Speaking of female-female ‘90s duets, one of your fellow nominees in this category is Reba McEntire’s new version of "Does He Love You" with Dolly Parton. I know the original version of this song with Linda Davis, in 1993 helped inspire "Never Wanted to Be That Girl."

We definitely referenced "Does He Love You" that day in the write. We knew we couldn’t touch that, but we were striving to make something as impactful. So it feels very full circle to have watched this song climb the charts, and watch it win all these different awards, and now be nominated in a category with the same woman that inspired us to even sing that song. 

Have you talked to Reba about your song’s connection to "Does He Love You"?

I haven’t seen her, but I’m hoping to get to do that. Maybe at the GRAMMYs! Not that she needs any other women to tell her she’s a trailblazer, but certainly, she inspired us to double down. 

When you think back to the beginnings of 29, when you were preparing to release all these personal songs. What were some of your biggest questions or fears, and how have they been resolved?

I remember turning in the first half of my album and wondering if my record label would even put it out, because it felt so personal — almost to a fault. And I remember thinking the production on it was so country that I wondered if it was going to be commercially accepted. I actually have a distinct memory of playing my song "29" for a group of friends and none of them were divorced, but they were crying, because they were inserting their own story into it. 

I think this is the album that I will look back on in my life and say it was the one that changed everything for me in my career. It gave me such direction. It gave me hope that I’m not alone. That’s been the most amazing thing;  when I look at it now, I go, Gosh, this album brought so many people to a place of feeling not alone, and in return, through their stories and their showing up for me when I needed it, they made me feel not alone. That’s all you ever want, when you’re an artist, to have that kind of connection.

Do you feel like people,  even outside of country fans,  are connecting with your story and responding to your music?

I’ve had a few albums out — this is my third — but I feel like in a lot of ways it was my first. I think we all go through the same struggles in life, and I think that people really resonated with me on a human level with this record. Everybody’s experienced heartache. And sometimes people need to feel hope, and that they’re not alone. So yes, I feel that very much. 

You’re in the middle of making a new album now. What can you share about that process?

As a writer, I wish I could go through a divorce every time I make a new album, because it makes you feel so inspired. But I think what I learned through making that record is, people wanna hear how I see the world. They wanna hear what I’m going through. From [age] 29 to 32, almost 33, there’s been a lot of life that I’ve intentionally kept more private. [Now], people say to me, "Oh my gosh, you’re so happy, but we’re not gonna get those Carly Pearce heartbreak songs." 

Honestly, yes, you can be happy and struggle to get there. I think there are songs that are reflective, there are songs that are nostalgic, there are songs that are in love and happy. But  you don’t realize how much you’ve been affected until you try to love somebody else. I don’t think that’s a topic that’s really talked about, but it’s something that I think a lot of people go through, and I kind of share my take on that. 

You’ve teased a little bit of a song called "Trust Issues." How does that song fit into your new music?

I felt very overwhelmed when I first started writing — just, you know, what this direction was. And I wrote in my phone, "trust issues." That’s kind of on the theme of, you never know how hurt you are until you try to love somebody else. But I wanted to spin it into a hopeful and happy thing, because I love titles where you look at them and you think it’s gonna be one thing, but it’s a totally different thing. 

So I got in the room with two of my favorite people, [songwriters] Nicolle Galyon and Jordan Reynolds, and we crafted this song that felt so hopeful. It’s a love song, but it’s a love song out of pain. And I remember when we wrote it — I see my albums in pictures, and I thought this was such an important facet to this transitional period of my life —of moving on. 

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