meta-scriptNEIL FRANCES Just Want To Have Fun & Get 'Fuzzy' | GRAMMY.com
neil frances it's all a bit fuzzy
Marc Gilfry and Jordan Feller of Neil Frances

Photo: Pia Riverola

interview

NEIL FRANCES Just Want To Have Fun & Get 'Fuzzy'

The Los Angeles-based dream pop duo's latest is an ode to that post-big night out with your friends glow. Jordan Feller and Marc Gilfry dive into ‘It’s All a Bit Fuzzy,’ their Nile Rodgers-influenced creative process, and more.

GRAMMYs/Oct 6, 2023 - 04:30 pm

NEIL FRANCES was formed practically by accident. 

The Los Angeles-based dream pop duo of Aussie DJ/producer Jordan Feller and Southern Californian singer/songwriter Marc Gilfry first linked up in 2016 with hopes to write music for other artists. While they struggled to find artists to sing their tunes, but their fate was sealed when KCRW radio DJ Chris Douridas played one of their SoundCloud demos live on air.

Seven years later, NEIL FRANCES' dreams have come together and expanded on their lively, funky sophomore album, It's All a Bit Fuzzy. While leaning into a dance pop sound, NEIL FRANCES' latest highlights their penchant for collaboration, their love of indie and dance music, and open creative approach. 

It's All a Bit Fuzzy was inspired by the feeling after a great night out with friends, and its eclectic mix of layered, infectious tunes begs for multiple replays. All three of their collaborators reflect this feeling, effortlessly expanding NEIL FRANCES' sunset-hued sound. There are two tracks — one chill, one hype mode — with St. Panther, a killer '80s funk throwback with dreamcastmoe, and the dreamy "High" with PawPaw Rod.

Calling in from their studio in Los Angeles, Feller and Gilfry serendipitously embody this mood, tired from a late night of rehearsal for their imminent tour, yet bubbling with excitement to talk about anything music-related. They're the type of people you could find yourself talking to for hours at a party about music, always run into on the dancefloor, and really make you want to maybe even get into the studio yourself.

"The best song is something that reveals itself over and over again to both the listener and the artist," Gilfry muses. "We'll start with something specific, but there will be times where we'll be performing on stage and I'll think about a lyric in a completely different way. Good songs are these little beings, these constantly evolving animals."

Read on to hear from NEIL FRANCES about their new album, their favorite collaborative songwriting method, the artist they're digging right now (with some stellar deep cuts) and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What were you feeling going into working on It's All a Bit Fuzzy? How did the storyline and vibe come together and evolve as you worked on it?

Marc Gilfry: When we started we thought we were gonna do all collabs. We had just finished our previous album, which was very concept heavy. We told a rough narrative through the lyrics about this insect who was down on his luck and then ascends and transcends. We took that idea and ran with it and made a poem out of the song titles — it was a huge undertaking.

You don't ever really follow your plan to the tee. So, we do have quite a bit of collaborations on this one, and they're all amazing songs, but we continued to write [on our own]. Then I stumbled upon this Spanish digital painter named Angela Bacher on Instagram and she's created all these really cool, fuzzy warm but a-little-bit-sinister characters. I showed Jordan the artwork and we were inspired by it to name the album It's All a Bit Fuzzy.

Then we wrote [the opening] song called "It's All a Bit Fuzzy" and did a whole aesthetic campaign around the idea. So, we kind of reverse-engineered it a little bit. And to be perfectly frank, we didn't have that song written when we created a bunch of merch. It was the very last song that we wrote.

Jordan Feller: I think musically [it's different] as well. We got the chance over the last year or so since we put out the first record to play shows and see what other people are doing and the music that DJs are playing. I come from the electronic space and we've noticed that everything's kind of picked up tempo in that world. I feel electronic music as a whole is always kind of ahead of everything else in a cool way. I'm always influenced by that musically. 

I would say this record is potentially more electronic-leaning than the first one and where we initially started from. Who's to say that carries over into what we do next, but [on this album there's] some faster tempos, which is fun to experiment with. I had this threshold that we could never make anything over 120 BPM and I started pushing the tempo a little bit faster. How do we write something that's as fast as what some of these DJs are playing but still has verses and choruses? It's been a fun process to kind of dance around that world. 

I'm interested in hearing more about the different sonic elements of the album.

Feller: There are a lot of referential moments on this album. If we're going to do the '90s house-leaning thing, I definitely want someone that's representing the culture that sound came from. So, on "Let's Break It Down," we'd already worked with St. Panther and got them on that record. 

In my opinion, if you're gonna do ['90s style house], you've got to use 909 drum sounds and the Korg M1 piano sound, with a rhythmic piano line that maybe you've heard before but you haven't quite heard before. The particular style of the chords have to evoke that sort of minor feeling but at the same time makes you want to party, like melancholy happiness.

"Gimme" is probably one of my favorites on the record. We try to always push ourselves out of writing cute indie jams which is a bit of a comfort zone. I love that we pushed that song to 134 BPM. I found a technique that I'd never used before where I would slow the song down, record [Marc's] vocals and then speed the song and vocals back up at the same time. 

The pitch up effect of staying in tune with the song kind of sounds like Detroit Grand Pubah's "Sandwiches." It's a standard effect, don't get me wrong, a bunch of people have done this. 

On "She's Just the Type of Girl" with dreamcastmoe, I felt some funky Rick James energy.

Feller: Davon [a.k.a. dreamcastmoe] showed me the [original] song from a band by the name of Circuitry out of Washington D.C. from the 1980s. It's a big sample; I've never sampled as much of someone else's music. I didn't want to get in the way of the creative process with dreamcastmoe. We were playing records [for each other] and I was like, "Man, this is so sick. I can't believe I've never heard it before." We just riffed on it and thankfully Electro Wayne, whose uncle wrote the music, let us basically get on his uncle's song.

Can you speak to working with St. Panther and the message of LGBTQ+ support on "Let's Break It Down"?

Feller: When we finally got the chance to connect, I had a laugh because they left me on read when I reached out over Instagram three years ago, which Danny came up with some excuse for. I had a few beats that I played to Danny and they more or less went down the same path that Marc and I do where we sort of freestyle ideas back and forth. "Head Straight" came together really quickly.

I also had "Let's Break it Down" for a while, which got sort of buried in tempo a couple of times. By pure happenstance, I did the speed up thing again, and it went into the same key as Madonna's "Vogue." A little part of it was influenced by my relationship with my brother. When he came out, I wanted him to feel comfortable to do so, [for him to know] it's a safe space. And like I said, if we're going to do the '90s house, I don't just want to jump into the pool and jump out. I'll go all the way with not only sounds representing that era of music, but somebody from that community that can speak to it legitimately. It was another very quick session [with St. Panther].

Gilfry: To add to that, I love being in the safe space of a club. I think we feel a lot more liberated when everyone can be themselves and feel accepted and open. We wanted to kind of write an homage to that experience of being in a place where people are liberated and happy to be themselves. 

You mentioned in the album's press release that "Gimme" was inspired by San Francisco's Portola Festival last year. Paint that picture for me.

Feller: We saw Peggy Gou into Floating Points and Four Tet. I was tapping out their tempos and they were like 138 BPM but it was still accessible. It made me want to write a song up here. When we play mid-tempo songs live, sometimes if the people don't know the songs, they kind of stand there, which is strange for me coming from the DJ space. Why don't we give people body music that's going to move you in a physical way even if you don't know it? That was a cool experiment to see if we could still apply traditional songwriting techniques to what could otherwise be a pretty linear-sounding electro house or techno banger.

We ended up adding a lot of live drums [on "Gimme."] I sent the original song with just an 808 drum kit on it to a buddy of mine. He's like, "Dude, this is sick, but you should lean in and try to make it sound live." Three or four songs on the record have [our drummer] Rhythm on it to give it a little bit more life than just an electronic drum kit. "Gimme" is a really good cross section of everything that we do, from electronic stuff to drum machines to guitars, bass guitars; kitchen sink and all.

Gilfry: There's another song on the album, "Some Kind of Static," which paints the picture of us being at Portola last year. We had a great group of friends we were rolling around with that I'm talking about in the song. Sissy is Sophia, Jordan's girlfriend. We call her Sissy because we joke about Jordan being daddy, and she and I are sisters. It's a little demented inside joke. The alien in the song is my wife Mariel. She was wearing this reflective puffy jacket that every time we took a picture it would suck up all the flash.

Feller: I always say this, but years ago, Marc and I read Nile Rodgers' book where he goes on about DHM (Deep Hidden Meaning). Chic's "Freak Out" was originally "F— Off" because Studio 54 wouldn't let them in. We kind of write by that theory.

How does your songwriting process usually go?

Gilfry: It's such a crapshoot. There's plenty of songs where Jordan's yelling out the lyrics to me as I'm singing. There're other songs where I've got a whole pre-written 20 verses and choruses and I bring that in. Or we'll be in the middle of writing something and I'll be referencing a dream that I've written in my notes.

Are you always writing things down as you get inspiration?

Gilfry: I write a lot of haikus because I think it's a good discipline to be forced to stay within a syllabic kind of structure. It's good for practice. Not to get too arty farty, but I like the Jack Kerouac method of keeping constant notes on everything and then sitting down once you're ready to write you have it all and you compile and finesse. I'm trying to write all day, every day, everywhere. And I've got a ton of voice notes and voice memos for that reason too. 

I like that. When you're working on music, do you find that you're more creative when you're together, like fun stuff happens when you're bouncing off of each other? 

Gilfry: I'm more creative with him. I don't think he's more creative with me. He tries to kick me out, like "You're done. Thanks. See you tomorrow." I'll come in here by myself and will spend eight hours and I'll have nothing. 

Feller: The fastest, most efficient method of writing for us — this isn't always the way that we do it — is me presenting something that I'm really excited about and we'll put a microphone in front of Marc, first listen. We stay open to anything, yes to everything and spit out ideas. Give me everything. Then I organize all the stuff into what I think are the best bits and then we come in and we both finesse it into a finished state.

Gilfry: The first listen, first take thing is really important to me. Jordan will start showing me something and I'll be like, "Wait, wait, don't play it!" There's something about hearing something unfold in real time and working off of that and singing whatever comes to mind. It's hard to get that after the first listen.

When did you make the decision to make music together as NEIL FRANCES instead of songwrite for other artists?

Gilfry: We actually never did. We sent  a couple of songs to a few vocalists and that didn't end up panning out. We showed what we had done to a few of our close confidants and they're like, "Hey, this is really good, you should just put this out." 

Our mutual booking agent at the time — I was in another band and Jordan was DJing — shared our SoundCloud link of demos with the KCRW DJ Chris Douridas. Chris ripped it off of SoundCloud and played it on the radio. And then we were like, This is worth pursuing.

Feller: We did a School Night during the pandemic with Chris and told him the story. He didn't even remember. I told him, "Dude, you're literally the reason that we're a band. We tell this story all the time." 

Given that this album was originally going to be all collabs, what are some of your dream collabs that haven't happened yet?

Gilfry: I can never think of anyone when I get this question. I always say Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I would love to work with them, I'm a total fanboy of UML and Ruban [Nielson]. If we weren't doing this, that would be the exact kind of music I would want to be making. 

Feller: Kylie Minogue

Gilfry: Geez, that would be amazing. Robin. Cleo Sol. 

Feller: Little Simz. I'm really a big fan of everything that's happening in the UK at the moment where all of a sudden, UK drill and UK rap music is as big as it is. There's something about that hard East London vocal tone. And that new soul stuff that's happening over there with Inflo producing all of Little Simz and Cleo Sol. The Jungle guys are a part of that whole crew as well. That whole set is doing cool music that I'd like to have the opportunity to work with for sure. 

Who are some other artists also making funky music that you're really vibing to right now?

Gilfry: Jungle is really putting out some great music, especially the new stuff. I'm a huge fan of his band Cruza out of Florida. They're kind of lo-fi R&B. Just really vibey, downtempo with interesting mixes and production approach. Going back to the indie rock world, I love Hether out of Orange County. He's a classically trained jazz guitarist writing these really cool indie tunes now. 

Feller: PawPaw Rod's new one is really good. There's this crew out of Bristol that I'm loving called 1905 [thathas a release on] Former City Records of these party breaks that work great in a club and in your car. Parallel Dance Ensemble's this crew out of New Zealand with this Danish producer [Roblin Hannibal] who do basically like a new-school ESG…and Tom Tom Club. deem spencer's new record's great, Marc's been a fan of him for a while. 

This is a deep cut, but there's this Italian model from the '80s that Giorgio Moroder produced named Vivien Vee. She has a song called "Destiny," which if it was released now would be the most forward-thinking pop tune. Blue Hawaii's stuff is really cool. Also, St. Panther. 

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Photo of country singer/artist Anne Wilson wearing a brown jacket with pink designs, a white shirt, and light blue jeans.
Anne Wilson

Photo: Robby Klein

feature

Anne Wilson Found Faith In Music After Her Brother’s Death. Now She’s One Of Country’s Young Stars: "His Tragedy Wasn’t Wasted"

The Kentucky-based musician first arrived on the scene as a Christian artist in 2022. On her new album 'Rebel,' the singer/songwriter star melds the sounds of her "true north" with a mainstream country sensibility.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 02:40 pm

After breaking out in the world of contemporary Christian music, Anne Wilson wants to take the country world by storm. 

Out April 19, Wilson's sophomore album embraces the many aspects of her self. Rebel sees the Kentuckian lean into her country and horse farm roots just as she leans into her faith — a subject already deeply intertwined in country music — more than ever before. 

"I’ve never viewed it as switching over to country or leaving Christian music," Wilson tells GRAMMY.com. "With this new record I wanted to write something that was faith-based but also broad enough to positively impact people who don’t have a strong faith as well."

Rebel is just the latest chapter in a journey of triumph and glory first set into motion by tragedy. Wilson started playing piano when she was six but didn’t begin taking it more seriously until the sudden death of her older brother, Jacob Wilson, in 2017. Despite the weight of the moment, Wilson, then 15, returned to the piano to channel her grief — a move that culminated in her first live singing performance when she belted out Hillsong Worship’s "What A Beautiful Name" at his funeral.

"My life forever changed in that moment," admits Wilson. "I already knew that life was very short on this side and that we only have a small window of time here so I wanted to make mine count. It was a special, but really hard moment that has gone on to spawn my entire career. Hearing just how much my songs have impacted fans makes me feel like his tragedy wasn’t wasted and that it was used for good."

Soon after she posted a cover of "What A Beautiful Name" to YouTube that netted over 800,000 views and caught the attention of the brass at Capitol Christian Music Group, who promptly signed her to a deal. Her first release with them, My Jesus, earned a GRAMMY nomination in 2023 for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album in addition to its title track hitting the top spot on Billboard’s Christian Airplay chart. 

Similar to My Jesus, Rebel sees Wilson doubling down on her religious roots while continuing to preserve the memory of her beloved brother. Although she grew up in a devout Christian household in Lexington, Kentucky, Wilson says that she didn’t fully connect with her faith until Jacob’s passing. 

Nowadays she couldn’t see herself living without it.

"When it came to dealing with the loss and tragedy of my brother I knew I couldn’t have survived that without [faith]," she says. "As I started writing songs and moved to Nashville my faith quickly became everything to me."

The 16-song project hits the bullseye between contemporary Christian and country twang, with an assist from special guests including Chris Tomlin ("The Cross"), Jordan Davis ("Country Gold") and Lainey Wilson ("Praying Woman"). Of the Lainey feature, Wilson says the two wrote "Praying Woman" upon their first day of meeting, with the elder Wilson growing into big sister and mentor of sorts for Anne. The song was inspired by the power of prayer Wilson and Lainey each experienced from their mothers growing up.

"We’d been talking about memories from growing up and remembering our mother’s coming into our rooms, getting on their knees and praying for us," recalls Wilson. "There was a conviction in how they prayed and expected them to be answered that was so powerful and special that we wanted to capture the feeling of it in song."

Rebel's strong motherly influence continues on "Red Flag," a rockin' number that Anne Wilson wrote as guidance to her younger fan base about what to look for in lasting love. While she largely had to ad lib the concept, having no bad breakup or relationship experiences to pull from, many of the "green flags" she notes were the result of years of advice. Things like going to church, being down to Earth, hunting, fishing, and respecting the American flag were traits and hobbies Wilson's mother had been passing down to her for years.

"Growing up she was always teaching me about relationship red and green flags, what to expect and to never settle," explains Wilson. "I have a song on my last record called ‘Hey Girl’ that ['Red Flag' is] almost a continuation of. It started out as a fun joke and turned out to be an actual serious song about red flags that’s one of my favorites on the whole record."

Another tune that began lighthearted before adopting a more serious tone is "Songs About Whiskey." Playing into country music and her home state's obsession with songs about brown liquor, the upbeat banger is intended to instead illustrate how Wilson gets her high from G-O-D rather than A-B-V or C-B-D through lines like, "I guess I’m just kind of fixed on/ The only thing that’s ever fixed me/ That’s why I sing songs about Jesus/ Instead of singing songs about whiskey."

"It’s supposed to be fun, make you laugh and fill you with joy," describes Wilson. "But it’s also meant to show how my faith is my true north, not those other things that are going to try to fill you up, but never do."

Through all of Rebel Wilson not only proves how her faith is her true north, but also shows others yearning to get there a path toward. This feeling culminates on the record’s title track, which frames her open love of Jesus as an act of rebellion in today’s world. A lesson in "what it means to have faith, not backing down from it and clinging to what we know is true," Wilson says the song was also inspired by previously having a song turned away at Christian radio for sounding "too country."

"I’m not going to try to please Christian music and I’m not going to try to please country music, I’m just going to be who I’ve always been and let the songs fall where they want to," asserts Wilson. "That was fuel not just for the song, but going against the grain on this entire album to be my most authentic self yet."

At the end of the day, genre labels, accolades and being included in the Grand Ole Opry’s NextStage Class of 2024 are secondary to Wilson’s adoration for the man above and her brother who, albeit tragically, set her on the journey she’s on now.

"I want to make sure I’m honoring him in everything that I do," reflects Wilson, "because he’s the reason I started doing music in the first place." 

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Photo of Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City
Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

list

10 Record Store Day 2024 Releases We're Excited About: The Beatles, Notorious B.I.G. & More

In honor of Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, learn about 10 limited, exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 02:20 pm

From vinyl records by the 1975 and U2, to album reissues and previously unreleased music, record stores around the world are stocking limited and exclusive releases for Record Store Day 2024

The first Record Store Day kicked off in 2008 and every year since, the event supporting independently owned record stores has grown exponentially. On Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, there will be more than 300 special releases available from artists as diverse as  the Beatles and Buena Vista Social Club. 

In honor of Record Store Day 2024 on April 20, here are 10 limited and exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store. 

David Bowie — Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth

British glam rocker David Bowie was a starman and an icon. Throughout his career, he won five GRAMMY Awards and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. 

On RSD 2024, Bowie's estate is dialing it back to his Ziggy Stardust days to make Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth) available for the first time. The record features recordings of Bowie's sessions at Trident Studios in 1971, and many songs from those sessions would be polished for his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

The tracklisting for Waiting in the Sky differs from Ziggy Stardust and features four songs that didn’t make the final album.

Talking Heads — Live at WCOZ 77

New York City-based outfit Talking Heads defined the sound of new wave in the late '70s and into the next decade. For their massive influence, the group received two GRAMMY nominations and was later honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

While promoting their debut album Talking Heads: 77, the quartet recorded a live performance for the New Albany, Pennsylvania radio station WCOZ in 1977. The Live at WCOZ 77 LP will include 14 songs from that performance at Northern Studios, including seven that will be released for the first time. Among the previously unheard cuts are "Love Goes To A Building On Fire" and "Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town." During that session, Talking Heads also performed songs like "Psycho Killer" and "Pulled Up."

The Doors — Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968

The Doors were at the forefront of the psychedelic rock movement of the 1960s and early '70s. One of Jim Morrison's most epic performances with the band will be available on vinyl for the first time. 

Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968 includes recordings from a radio broadcast that was never commercially released. The 3-LP release includes performances of songs from the Doors’ first three albums, including 1967’s self-titled and Strange Days. In addition to performing their classics like "Light My Fire" and "You're Lost Little Girl," the Doors and Morrison also covered "Mack the Knife" and Barret Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" live during this session. 

Dwight Yoakam — The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s

Over the course of his 40-year career, country music icon Dwight Yoakam has received 18 GRAMMY nominations and won two golden gramophones for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1994 and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 2000.

On Record Store Day 2024, Yoakam will celebrate the first chapter of his legacy with a new box set: The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s. His debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. and 1987’s Hillbilly Deluxe will be included in the collection alongside exclusive disc full of rarities and demos. The 4-LP set includes his classics like "Honky Tonk Man," "Little Ways," and "Streets of Bakersfield." The box set will also be available to purchase on CD.  

The Beatles — The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable

Beatlemania swept across the U.S. following the Beatles’ first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964, setting the stage for the British Invasion. With The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable, the band will celebrate their iconic run of appearances on Sullivan’s TV program throughout that year.

The box set will include a Beatles-styled turntable and four 3-inch records. Among those records are the hits "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," and "I Saw Her Standing There," which the Beatles performed on Sullivan's TV across several appearances. 

Among 23 GRAMMY nominations, the Beatles won seven golden gramophones. In 2014, the Recording Academy honored them with the Lifetime Achievement Award.   

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan — From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan are two of the biggest pop stars in the world right now — Rodrigo hitting the stage with No Doubt at Coachella and near the end of her global GUTS Tour; Kahan fresh off a Best New Artist nomination at the 2024 GRAMMYs. Now, they're teaming up for the split single From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP, a release culled from each artist's "BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge" sessions. 

The special vinyl release will include Rodrigo's live cover of Kahan's breakout hit "Stick Season." The single also includes Kahan’s cover of Rodrigo’s song "Lacy" from her second album, GUTS. This month, they performed the song live together on Rodrigo’s Guts World Tour stop in Madison Square Garden.  

Buena Vista Social Club — Buena Vista Social Club

Influential Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club popularized genres and sounds from their country, including son cubano, bolero, guajira, and danzón. Buena Vista Social Club's landmark self-titled LP won the GRAMMY for Best Tropical Latin Album in 1998.

The following year, a documentary was released that captured two of the band's live performances in New York City and Amsterdam. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the documentary, the Buena Vista Social Club album will be released on a limited edition gold vinyl with remastered audio and bonus tracks.

Buena Vista Social Club is one of the 10 recordings to be newly inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame as part of the 2024 inductee class.

Danny Ocean — 54+1

Venezuelan reggaeton star Danny Ocean broke through on a global level in 2016 with his self-produced debut single "Me Rehúso," a heartbreaking track inspired by Ocean fleeing Venezuela due to the country's economic instability and the lover he had left behind. 

With "Me Rehúso," Ocean became the first solo Latin artist to surpass one billion streams on Spotify, on the platform with a single song. "Me Rehúso" was included on his 2019 debut album 54+1, which will be released on vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day.

Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Upsetters — Skanking With The Upsetter

Jamaican producer Lee "Scratch" Perry pioneered dub music in the 1960s and '70s. Perry received five GRAMMY nominations in his lifetime, including winning Best Reggae Album in 2003 for Jamaican E.T.

To celebrate the legacy of Perry's earliest dub recordings, a limited edition run of his 2004 album Skanking With The Upsetter will be released on Record Store Day. His joint LP with his house band the Upsetters will be pressed on transparent yellow vinyl. Among the rare dub tracks on the album are "Bucky Skank," "Seven & Three Quarters (Skank)," and "IPA Skank." 

Read more: Lee "Scratch" Perry Documentary Director Sets The Record Straight On The Reggae Icon's Legacy — Including A Big Misconception About Bob Marley

Notorious B.I.G. — Ready To Die: The Instrumentals

The Notorious B.I.G. helped define the sound of East Coast rap in the '90s. Though he was tragically murdered in 1997, his legacy continues to live on through his two albums. 

During his lifetime, the Notorious B.I.G. dropped his 1994 debut album Ready to Die, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest hip-hop releases of all-time. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the album (originally released in September '94), his estate will release Ready To Die: The Instrumentals. The limited edition vinyl will include select cuts from the LP like his hits "Big Poppa," "One More Chance/Stay With Me," and "Juicy." The album helped him garner his first GRAMMY nomination in 1996 for Best Rap Solo Performance. The Notorious B.I.G. received an additional three nominations after his death in 1998. 

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Singer and actor Ben Platt seated and posing
Ben Platt

Photo: Vince Aung

interview

Inside Ben Platt's 'Honeymind': How Queer Love, Live Performance & More Led To His Most Authentic Album Yet

Ben Platt's expansive artistry has taken him from Broadway to the recording studio, and his new album continues this evolution. 'Honeymind' shows Ben Platt at his most honest and vulnerable, embracing a new sound.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 01:47 pm

Ben Platt has never allowed the world to dictate his fate. The GRAMMY, Tony, and Emmy-winner's artistic outpouring has been relentless, and he's still early in his career. 

The 30-year-old actor and singer has performed in Broadway musicals like "Parade" and "Dear Evan Hansen," sold out Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl as a solo artist, and starred and co-wrote the film Theater Camp. Each project has marked a step into a new direction, but none more so than Honeymind — an album that captures what it's like to chase tender and safe intimacy in partnership, and the ecstasy that follows once found. 

His professional growth between 2021's Reverie and Honeymind is apparent not just thematically, but sonically and in production. This latest album sounds natural and lush, with input from GRAMMY-winning producer Dave Cobb and producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Alex Hope. While  Honeymind shows a version of Platt some listeners may not be accustomed to, he's never sounded more comfortable in his own skin. 

To celebrate the release of Honeymind, Platt will headline a three-week residency in New York City's Palace Theatre and a subsequent nationwide summer tour and serve as the keynote speaker at this year’s GRAMMY U Conference. He spoke with GRAMMY.com about his latest album, upcoming residency, and the beautiful and, at times, tricky trappings of romantic love.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Honeymind shifts away from the '80s electro-pop of Reverie and your Broadway roots. What made you gravitate towards a more tender, folky sound that exudes warmth and serenity?

The biggest catalyst was that I wanted to go and write Nashville because I admired so many songwriters there. When I started with my first round of writing sessions for this record — which was back in the spring of 2022 — what just very naturally started coming out was this super unadorned, very storytelling-forward type of music. 

When I made my first record [2019], it was very close after I had been on Broadway for a long time, and it was theatrically linked. Then, I experimented with leaning into pop and this Peter Gabriel vibe, but it felt like a landing pad this time. I closed my eyes and went, What's the most natural way to communicate in terms of what is specific to me? This seemed to fit really nicely. 

You worked with renowned producers like Dave Cobb on this album. There are times when the producer’s work stands out most, but Honeymind sounds like you. How did you ensure that all tracks sounded distinctly like you versus a Dave Cobb song?

​​I loved the idea of working with Dave! His specialty is unadorned things that are as essential as they can be. When it comes to my own sound, my priority is always obviously storytelling and songwriting, but certainly, to have the vocal performance be very much the focus. Dave was very amenable to that. 

I went and wrote the songs with my co-writers before starting work with Dave, and I sort of came in with all of his songs completed. He did a beautiful job of preserving the integrity of the songs I’d written. [He wanted] to present them in as organic and straightforward a way as possible, as opposed to trying to sort of put a secondary sound onto it. 

Your previous work has been personal to varying degrees, but your lead single, "Andrew," feels particularly candid.

I wrote that song with Alex Hope, one of my favorite longtime collaborators, and I had a session earlier in the week with someone else who was also wonderful. [This first songwriter] was talking to me about her son, who was 10 or 11, and how he had his best friend, a boy he loved so much. She shared that she had an inclination that more love was going towards this friend and was coming back to him [than] he could even really communicate. 

It reminded me so deeply and immediately of so many different experiences growing up: having straight friends in high school and middle school, who you just love and who aren't doing anything wrong, but just by virtue of chemicals and how we're born, you develop feelings that just can't be reciprocated. [That's] such a special kind of melancholy. It's no one's fault, and I hadn't heard that strain of unrequited love and that particular type of melancholy expressed in a song. 

The next day, I went in with Alex and pitched them a song, and they're queer as well and understood the perspective, so it came out very quickly.

What about queer love do you find most challenging to articulate?

Developing feelings for people that just don't have it in their blood to feel the same way is a uniquely queer experience, [as is] boundarylessness both positively and negatively. It's very particular to queer love in the sense that there are a lot less societal examples, and sort of prerequisites, for what queer relationships look like or shouldn't be. Which is so freeing and wonderful and makes for a really beautiful, honest relationship. Still, it's also a little scary because you're flying blind in a way that is very particular to being a queer person. 

There's an inherent sort of rebellion and statement that you have to be making every day when you're out in the world with your partner as a queer person because there remain so many people who are intolerant, don't understand, and are still fearful and judgmental. It requires an extra bit of courage just to engage in the relationship.

You have a three-week residency at New York City's Palace Theatre, where legends like Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, and Judy Garland performed and will tour afterward.  How are you feeling as you prepare for these concerts?

When I finish the record and sit on it, it exists in limbo; I start to second-guess it, feel like I'm losing my connection to it, or forget. I don't feel like I'm in the same place as I was when I wrote these things because they're so intimate. 

But for me, the whole shebang has always been getting to perform live, and that's just my greatest joy. The songs are the most mine when I'm singing them live. I also love sharing music with people, and hearing in person and online conversations, about how it applies to their lives, how it reminds them of things, and how they use it. The tour is always the part where I'm the most in love with the album, and when the tour ends, I'm ready to let it out into the world and say goodbye for a minute.

Beyond the risk of trying something new in your career, what roles do failure, trial, and error play in your creative process or other parts of your life?

For every song I've written that I love or even come out, there are eight to 10 that I never want to see in the light of day. 

It's hard to find the good things until you throw everything at the wall, and if you're too afraid to fall, then you'll never really try in the first place. And I was privileged because I started working quite young; things went from A to B to C in the sense that they went steadily. As I get older, I learn that a career is more about this longer journey that is not at all linear. Now that I have some hindsight, it's easy to appreciate the down moments and the valleys because that's the only way you recognize when something is going well. I try to be grateful for those moments of failure or misstep when they come because it's an essential part of being an artist — not the funnest part always, but necessary. 

You'll be the keynote speaker at the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference for young professionals. What do you want to share most with conference attendees?

I must share my transparency and experiences and try to help learn by failure and success. I've found, in all facets, that specificity begets universality, and I'm trying to be as specifically honest about my role in how I approached songwriting in my own artistry — whether that's something someone will directly connect to, create a tangential connection to something else, or be an example of something that doesn't work for someone. 

Art is so tailor-made, so it's just about sharing ideas and seeing what sticks.

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Chike
Chike

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Jason Lloyd

video

Global Spin: Watch Chike Light Up The Stage With A Technicolor Performance Of “Egwu”

Nigerian Afrobeats singer Chike celebrates the joy that music brings to the spirit in this electrifying performance of his latest single, “Egwu.”

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 10:53 pm

Nigerian Afrobeats singer Chike recognizes music's ability to release inhibitions freely. Instantly, it'll improve your mood or make you want to dance — and his new track, "Egwu," is a celebration of that movement.

“Music need no permission to enter your spirit,” Chike declares in the chorus of the song. “Anywhere, anyhow, you know say you go feel/ Life is life, life is life.”

In this episode of Global Spin, watch Chike deliver a vibrant live performance of “Egwu,” made complete by his intricately patterned colorful suit and neon stage lighting.

The original version of “Egwu,” released on Dec. 15 via Brothers Records, features the late Nigerian rapper Mohbad: “I made a ton of music with a great guy, and I’m happy I can share the first one with the world,” Chike revealed on Instagram. On March 29, he dropped a remix of “Egwu” with DJ Call Me.

In another social media post, Chike announced that he will offer “an intimate musical experience as well tell stories of love, romance, and life” at his upcoming show, Apple of London’s Eye, in England this July.

Press play on the video above to watch Chike’s technicolor performance of “Egwu,” and don’t forget to keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Global Spin.

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