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Nnenna And Pierce Freelon Are The First Mother & Son Nominated Individually At The Same GRAMMYs Ceremony: How They Honor A Husband & Father Through Music
Nnenna and Pierce Freelon

Photo: Samantha Everette

interview

Nnenna And Pierce Freelon Are The First Mother & Son Nominated Individually At The Same GRAMMYs Ceremony: How They Honor A Husband & Father Through Music

When Nnenna and Pierce Freelon learned they'd been individually nominated for golden gramophones in different fields at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, one thing was certain to both of them — the very missed Phil Freelon was cheering them on

GRAMMYs/Mar 16, 2022 - 05:25 pm

The great architect Phil Freelon once said that "art is the most powerful force in the universe." And in a spacious, light-filled house he designed in North Carolina, the wife and son he left behind are meditating on that quote — how it comforts, nurtures and galvanizes them.

"Whenever I say that, I'm capturing the residue of his energy and essence," musician Pierce Freelon tells GRAMMY.com in a Zoom window with his mom, Nnenna. "I'm pushing it forward into the future, and I'm celebrating his legacy and his wisdom. Everything he told me — he gave me lots of gems. And sharing those gems — sharing a piece of him with other people — I think that's the best way I can do it."

Both Nnenna and Pierce released albums in 2021 — the former made the loss-imbued jazz album Time Traveler, and the latter made Black to the Future, a children's album that explores Afrofuturism. Phil plays a massive role in both, despite passing away of ALS in 2019 — it's like he's in the director's chair. Using sampling and stitching techniques informed by hip-hop, Pierce weaved his father's presence through both albums, even incorporating audio footage of his voice.

And then, a surprise: Nnenna and Pierce learned they'd both been nominated individually in different fields at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards. (Nnenna is up for Best Jazz Vocal album; Pierce, for Best Children's Music Album.) At press time, it's official — nobody can find another mother and son nominated for GRAMMYs in separate categories in the same year. And to hear both tell it, it was emotional watching the nominations roll in — and Phil was heavy on their minds. 

"Listen: he's laughing right now," Nnenna — a six-time GRAMMY nominee — tells GRAMMY.com. "One of the things he really, really wanted me to do was keep singing. He is happy, happy, happy right now." 

Read on for an in-depth interview with the Freelons as they discuss Time Traveler and Black to the Future, how they reacted when they learned about their 2022 GRAMMY nominations and how they keep the very missed Phil alive — in music and life alike.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

How did you guys react when you learned you were nominated for GRAMMYs as mother and son?

Pierce: I'd called my mom the previous day to say, "Hey, we should get together and maybe do an Instagram Live. It'd be a way to engage our audience. It'd be fun!" Talking my mom into a social media thing isn't always the easiest.

Nnenna: I said no.

Pierce: She said no! She was reluctant to join me. But it was totally cool — I spent the day with my wife and her parents at their place. We were sitting at the edge of our seats, super excited — Children's was first; it was pretty early in the day — and we were super pumped, calling my mom: "Hey!" She congratulated me, and it was really exciting.

But the highlight of my day came 15, 20 minutes later when they did the jazz category. I was sitting there at the edge of my seat, and when they announced her name, I was so thrilled — so excited. I picked up my phone and it was ringing and ringing — "Pick up!" — and she's not picking up the phone! So I called back again and again and again. I'm like, "Where is this lady?"

Meanwhile, I'm a complete mess. It's tears and snot bubbles galore. Way more emotion than when I heard about my nomination. I was just thrilled and moved because I knew what that album meant for her. It was about my dad, and a lot of his energy and presence was with me. And it was so frustrating that I couldn't reach her!

So then, finally, call number five, she picks up the phone. She's like, [Bewildered] "What is it, Pierce?" I'm like, "Where have you been?" She's like, "I was walking the dog." "Mom, you got the nomination!" It was enthusiasm and joy and…

Nnenna: Tears. I had a few tears too. I was like, "Really? Are you serious?" I decided I wanted to be in nature while all this was going down. So, I was walking the dog. There were all these messages from Pierce and other friends and colleagues. It was just an amazing day. It was so great.

Pierce, does everything you do feel like a tribute to your dad, at a certain point?

Pierce: I hold all my ancestors close to me. They influence my voice as an artist, as a father, as a husband. So, yeah, my dad is a big part of my creative voice. My grandmother — my mom's mom — Queen Mother Frances Pierce is another one.

There are a lot of other folks who are not in my family who are deceased, but whose voices ring in my ear with a type of clarity. Sometimes, I say something into a mic and I'm like [Glances upward], "Is that you, Baba Chuck? Is that you, Dad?" Different folks who've poured into me.

I think, absolutely, my dad has been an important part of my music. Particularly, in children's music, as I reflect on themes of fatherhood and love and caregiving. He was that for me, so I hear him a lot in my voice when I sing about those topics.

What was your dad like in person, Pierce? What was it like to have him in the room?

Pierce: Dad was a large presence, physically. He was 6' 5", athletic, charming, and had a great, beautiful smile and laugh. He was positive energy. He was optimistic, had a great sense of humor and was very loving. 

Sometimes, I meet other people's parents and I'm like, "I'm so grateful!" Nothing against them, but there's a brand of Black masculinity that can be very stoic and cold. Not just Black masculinity, but men in general around things like empathy and vulnerability. My dad was loving and goofy and silly and great. 

Nnenna: He loved to tell jokes. He loved puns. Word-y sort of jokes. There's this brand of dad joke that's so corny. It really isn't funny, but you crack up anyway. He was the king of the dad joke.

Pierce: He's up there. might be the king, but he's up there.

Tell me about the creative intent behind Black to the Future. I generally don't think of Afrofuturism as something easily funneled into a medium like children's music.

Pierce: Afrofuturism is a lot more infused into our daily essence than I think we give ourselves credit for. When I think about our family in particular, my mom and dad fell in love over "Star Trek" and books like Dune and authors like Octavia Butler. That was part of our childhood growing up. 

For me, telling stories about Black male vulnerability, celebrating figures like LeVar Burton — who played everyone from Kunta Kinte to Geordi La Forge on "Star Trek" — stepping into spaces of fatherhood that are rarely depicted. On songs like "Braid My Hair," I'm doing the primary caregiving and caretaking of my daughter's crown. 

Those things are very much rooted both in Afrofuturism and in our daily practice as Black people surviving and thriving in this country, which was not designed to happen. So, I think Afrofuturism shows up in a lot of different ways, and it shows up in my family on a daily basis. That's what I tried to communicate through the album. 

Nnenna: I also think that if you really want to look at the future, you need look no further than the youngest person in the room. We create these multiple futures by what we do in these moments that we have. It's not out there; it's right here.

I'm so proud of my son for activating this space, that is a nontraditional place to look for Black men.

Tell me about your experiences working on the record together.

Pierce: Going back to my dad and thinking about my previous album, D.a.D, it really was rooted in a grieving practice — which was connected to digging through the archives.

When my dad was ill, one of the activities we shared was looking at old family videos — VHS and Hi8 tapes. It was kind of a nostalgic grieving ritual that we did together. No music whatsoever — just sharing a moment and memory with my dad. At that point in his struggle with ALS, he was wheelchair-bound. 

But at the same time, as a creator and creative, digging through these archives was sparking a lot of ideas. I was finding things in these old tapes that were ripe for sampling, transformation and reinvention. One of those things was a tape of Mom in eastern North Carolina in 1980-something, singing a song as part of a residency at a school.

The song was really pretty and felt timeless. [Sings and snaps with jazzy cadence] "No one exactly like me/ No one exactly like you." I was like, "Mom, tell me about this! Did you ever record or release this?" It was this relic. She had forgotten about recording it. It was that old.

Digging into those archives and sampling them was part of my practice for Black to the Future. Also, bringing my mom and this lullaby she sang into the future.

Nnenna, I keep thinking about something you said in our last interview — how one needs to propagate grief like a plant with any containers you can, of any size. It seems like both of these albums were vessels of that sort.

Nnenna: Indeed they were. 

I came to music as a live performer. The recording part of what I do came after I developed as a live performer. Of course, now, there are artists who come to music through recording and they've never been on a stage until after the record comes out — and maybe never! There are some people who spend their entire creative lives in a virtual space, and they don't travel.

Pierce really helped me think about a new way of putting this music out there with Time Traveler, using my husband's voice. Incorporating his loving message to me. In that way, the record really became an instrument of time travel. The track ["Time Traveler"] opens with Phil's voice talking to me, even though he's on the other side of the veil. 

It isn't something I would have necessarily gravitated to without Pierce supporting and saying, "Yeah, Mom, yeah! This would be great!"

What's it like to hear Phil's voice these days?

Nnenna: It's a joy for me. He could see his death coming, but he thought, "Let me drop this piece of sweetness for my honey for a time she's really going to need it." He had to think of doing that. For me, it's a super-sweet moment when I hear his voice.

Pierce: I'd have to agree. Around when he passed away, it definitely choked me up. There have been times when a song popped up in a playlist that I didn't expect, and I'll hear his voice. I always smile.

We're at my mom's house right now, which my dad designed. As I pulled up, I felt his presence. I just said [Casually]"Hey, Dad." As if he were here, and he is here. His energy's here.

When I encounter him sonically, energetically, spiritually; when I walk into one of his buildings; when I hear one of his quotes; it's as if he were still here in the physical realm. And I speak to him and relate to him in that casual tone. It's very familiar, and I treat it as a real, human encounter.

I wish you all the best with the GRAMMYs ceremony coming up. Are you guys going?

Nnenna: Yes, we're going. I thought for a moment that maybe I wouldn't, but I have a super-handsome man to walk on the red carpet with.

Pierce: Eyyy!

Nnenna: Somebody that I love. My boo! You have me on one side; you have your beautiful wife on the other side! People are going to be like, "Man, how can we get it like Pierce has it?"

Pierce: I went to the GRAMMYs a ton as a kid, when my mom was nominated in the '90s and early 2000s. This is something I'm really looking forward to and excited about.

How psyched would Phil be about this?

Nnenna: Listen: he's laughing right now. One of the things he really, really wanted me to do was keep singing. He is happy, happy, happy right now.

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Vicente Fernández Posthumously Wins GRAMMY For Best Regional Mexican Music Album | 2022 GRAMMYs

Vicente Fernandez performs at the 2002 Latin GRAMMY Awards

Photo: M. Caulfield/WireImage

news

Vicente Fernández Posthumously Wins GRAMMY For Best Regional Mexican Music Album | 2022 GRAMMYs

The late Mexican legend, who died in December at 81, won the GRAMMY for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) for his 2020 album, 'A Mis 80's'

GRAMMYs/Apr 3, 2022 - 10:44 pm

Nearly four months after his death, Vicente Fernández
's legacy lives on.

The Mexican icon’s album, A Mis 80's, won Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano). The posthumous win marks Fernández
's 
fourth career GRAMMY.

Aida Cuevas' Antología De La Musica Ranchera, Vol. 2,

 Mon Laferte's Seis,
 Natalia Lafourcade's
 Un Canto Por México, Vol. II and
 Christian Nodal's <em>Ayayay! (Súper Deluxe)</em>
 were the other albums nominated in the category.

Fernández passed away in December at the age of 81. Throughout his prolific career, Fernández — known as the King of Ranchero Music — also won nine Latin GRAMMYs.

Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

The Recording Academy Announces Major Changes For The 2022 GRAMMY Awards Show

GRAMMY trophies at the 59th GRAMMY Awards in 2017

Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

news

The Recording Academy Announces Major Changes For The 2022 GRAMMY Awards Show

Process amendments include the elimination of nominations review committees and the addition of two new GRAMMY Award categories, including Best Global Music Performance and Best Música Urbana Album

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2021 - 01:27 am

Editor's Note: The 2022 GRAMMYs Awards show, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards, <a href="https://www.grammy.com/news/2022-grammys-awards-64th-new-air-show-date-location-las-vegas-april-3-announcement "https://www.grammy.com/news/2022-grammys-awards-64th-new-air-show-date-location-las-vegas-april-3-announcement"">has been rescheduled to Sunday, April 3, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The below article was updated on Tuesday, Jan. 18, to reflect the new show date and location.

The Recording Academy announced today that it has made significant changes to its Awards process that reflect its ongoing commitment to evolve with the musical landscape and to ensure that the GRAMMY Awards rules and guidelines are transparent and equitable. Among the changes are the elimination of Nominations Review Committees, a reduction in the number of categories in which voters may vote, two GRAMMY Award category additions, and more. These updates are a result of extensive discussions and collaboration over the course of the last year among a special subcommittee of Recording Academy members and elected leaders, and were voted on by the Academy's Board of Trustees. These changes go into effect immediately for the 2022 GRAMMY Awards show, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards, taking place Sunday, April 3. The eligibility period for the 64th GRAMMY Awards is Sept. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021.

Additional rule amendment proposals will be discussed and voted on at an upcoming Recording Academy meeting and the full rulebook for the 64th GRAMMY Awards will be released in May.

"It's been a year of unprecedented, transformational change for the Recording Academy, and I'm immensely proud to be able to continue our journey of growth with these latest updates to our Awards process," Harvey Mason jr., Chair & Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy, said. "This is a new Academy, one that is driven to action and that has doubled down on the commitment to meeting the needs of the music community. While change and progress are key drivers of our actions, one thing will always remain — the GRAMMY Award is the only peer-driven and peer-voted recognition in music. We are honored to work alongside the music community year-round to further refine and protect the integrity of the Awards process."

APPROVED RULE AMENDMENTS INCLUDE:

Voting Process Changes

  • Elimination Of Nominations Review Committees In General And Genre Fields

    • Nominations in all of the GRAMMY Award general and genre fields will now be determined by a majority, peer-to-peer vote of voting members of the Recording Academy. Previously, many of the categories within these fields utilized 15-30 highly skilled music peers who represented and voted within their genre communities for the final selection of nominees. With this change, the results of GRAMMY nominations and winners are placed back in the hands of the entire voting membership body, giving further validation to the peer-recognized process. To further support this amendment, the Academy has confirmed that more than 90 percent of its members will have gone through the requalification process by the end of this year, ensuring that the voting body is actively engaged in music creation. Craft committees remain in place (see below for craft category realignment.)
  • Reduction In Number Of Categories Voter May Vote

    • To ensure music creators are voting in the categories in which they are most knowledgeable and qualified, the number of specific genre field categories in which GRAMMY Award Voters may vote has been reduced from 15 to 10. Additionally, those 10 categories must be within no more than three fields. All voters are permitted to vote in the four General Field categories (Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist). Proposed by a special voting Task Force who brought forth the recommendation, this change serves as an additional safeguard against bloc voting and helps to uphold the GRAMMY Award as a celebration of excellence in music, with specific genre field categories being voted on by the most qualified peers.
  • Craft Category Realignment

    • To better reflect the overlapping peer groups within the voter membership body, six existing craft fields will be consolidated into two fields: Presentation Field and Production Field. In either newly consolidated field, voters would have the ability to choose how many categories they feel qualified to vote in, respecting category vote limits, without being excessively limited by the three-field restriction. This benefits the integrity of these Awards by embracing and utilizing the specializations of the voters, without restricting their choice or contributions due to the field limits imposed by the recent reduction of the number of categories voters may vote in. Field updates are as follows:

      • Package Field, Notes Field and Historical Field renamed and consolidated to Presentation Field

      • Production, Non-Classical Field; Production, Immersive Audio Field; and Production, Classical Field renamed and consolidated to Production Field

New Categories Added

Two new categories have been added, bringing the total number of GRAMMY Award categories to 86:

  • Best Global Music Performance (Global Music Field)

  • Best Música Urbana Album (Latin Music Field)

"The latest changes to the GRAMMY Awards process are prime examples of the Recording Academy's commitment to authentically represent all music creators and ensure our practices are in lock-step with the ever-changing musical environment," said Ruby Marchand, Chief Industry Officer at the Recording Academy. "As we continue to build a more active and vibrant membership community, we are confident in the expertise of our voting members to recognize excellence in music each year."

"As an Academy, we have reaffirmed our commitment to continue to meet the needs of music creators everywhere, and this year's changes are a timely and positive step forward in the evolution of our voting process," said Bill Freimuth, Chief Awards Officer at the Recording Academy. "We rely on the music community to help us to continue to evolve, and we’re grateful for their collaboration and leadership." 

The Recording Academy accepts proposals from members of the music community throughout the year. The Awards & Nominations Committee, comprised of Academy Voting Members of diverse genres and backgrounds, meets annually to review proposals to update Award categories, procedures and eligibility guidelines. The above rule amendments were voted on and passed at a Recording Academy Board of Trustees meeting held on April 30, 2021. For information on the Awards process, visit our GRAMMY Voting Process FAQ page.

The Recording Academy will present the 2022 GRAMMY Awards show on Sunday, April 3, live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on demand on Paramount+ from 8–11:30 p.m. ET / 5–8:30 p.m. PT. Prior to the telecast, the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony will be streamed live on GRAMMY.com and the Recording Academy's YouTube channel. Additional details about the dates and locations of other official GRAMMY Week events, including the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, <a href="https://www.musicares.org/person-year "https://www.musicares.org/person-year"">MusiCares' Person of the Year, and the Pre-GRAMMY Gala, are available here.

2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show: Complete Nominations List

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: How Illenium Went From An "Obsessed" Dance Music Fan To An Arena-Filling DJ & Producer
Illenium

Photo: Brian Ziff

interview

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: How Illenium Went From An "Obsessed" Dance Music Fan To An Arena-Filling DJ & Producer

With his fourth LP, 'Fallen Embers,' Illenium kicked off a new era that blends his love for electronic music and pop-punk. As he celebrates a GRAMMY nod, the producer looks back on his journey to stardom and shares how the dance genre changed his life.

GRAMMYs/Mar 21, 2022 - 07:37 pm

Growing up, Nick Miller never really listened to dance music. Now, he's one of the genre's most prolific stars, better known as Illenium — and is celebrating a GRAMMY nomination as a result.

Illenium's fourth album, 2021's Fallen Embers, is up for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards. It's a pinnacle moment for Miller, who became "obsessed" with the electronic music world in 2009, launched his career with a self-released EP in 2013, then made his major-label debut in 2016.

Since then, Illenium has put out three more LPs and countless singles, teaming up with fellow dance titans like Gryffin and the Chainsmokers, as well as a variety of singers, from Georgia Ku to Jon Bellion. His versatility is perhaps most apparent on Fallen Embers, which features Tori Kelly, iann dior and Thirty Seconds to Mars, among others.

Though he's already teasing new music — which will debut during Illenium's set at Miami's Ultra Music Festival on March 26 — the producer/DJ feels the next chapter of his career truly began with Fallen Embers. With a GRAMMY nomination to validate his new direction, it may really just be the beginning.

GRAMMY.com sat down with Illenium to discuss the importance of Fallen Embers, how he transitioned from the crowd to the stage, and the role music played in changing — and saving — his life.

What initially made you realize that you were interested in producing — and that you were actually pretty good at it?

I started messing around in GarageBand in high school, and it introduced me to the idea of spending time creating something — even though that stuff back then was really bad. I moved to Colorado, and had some life-changing moments, and I started putting a lot of my time into it. A lot of the encouragement I got from friends, even though it was just mediocre music, was really exciting.

I was writing for music blogs, and I just loved the whole electronic music scene at that time. I would try to create what my idols were doing, and try to learn how they were doing it. I became obsessed, passionate and excited. I got addicted to trying to make songs. The feeling of doing it yourself, and being able to control every aspect of that, was really addicting.

I went to a Red Rocks show in 2012, and seeing that community, especially in Colorado — the Denver-based music scene is really tight-knit and communal, and it's really genuine. It was just really special. It was an experience that really drove me to want to succeed in it.

Was dance music your No. 1 genre growing up?

No, not at all. I didn't listen to much dance music until, like, 2009. I first got into it when I was living in San Francisco. I really liked a lot of the house stuff and trance, and then once I moved to Colorado, it turned into the bass music scene.

I grew up listening to a lot of pop-punk and rock, and my family listens to country a lot. A lot of hip-hop [too]. So I was all over the place in middle school and high school.

That's kind of all I listen to now. I listen to some pop, and a little bit of hip-hop, but it's almost all rock music and pop-punk.

Considering you were a teenager during the pop-punk explosion of the mid-2000s, that makes sense.

Totally. I feel like there's so much emotion and — it's not even aggression, but it's like, intensity, in that kind of music, where it can be really pretty melodically or lyrically, but the instrumental stuff behind it just like, hits. It hits me more than a lot of electronic music does nowadays. So I think that's why I'm transferring it into my type of thing.

Fallen Embers is the first album that doesn't start with "A," but its title still fits into the overall theme that Ashes, Awake and Ascend present. What's the story behind that?

My logo is a phoenix, [because] the imagery behind the phoenix really relates to me and the music that I make, and why I make music in the first place. So my first three albums were kind of this whole birth cycle of a phoenix. They all started with "A," it was a trilogy of that cycle. So Fallen Embers was kind of my take on what pieces were left — the embers fallen from the phoenix throughout that whole journey.

I made that album when I wasn't touring, and that's the first album I made in a long time [that] I wasn't touring, because I've been touring like crazy. It turned out much more calm and much more like a recharge album for me. Lyrically, it [details] the ebbs and flows of a relationship — it doesn't have to be a relationship, but just through finding yourself, and forgiving yourself for making mistakes and moving on.

Sonically, Fallen Embers has more rock elements. It's definitely calmer than Ascend. I love emotional music, so my music is always going to have an emotional aspect to it. That is not going to change. But I don't want to just keep repeating and chasing [the same sound], so now I'm moving very — like, totally — different, post-Fallen Embers. Fallen Embers, for me, was like a farewell, almost. I just wanted to be very clear that that was a trilogy, and now we're departed.

When you announced Fallen Embers, you said this is "the start of a new chapter." So is that kind of what you were talking about?

Yeah. I've been in LA five out of the past six months to start from scratch and write rock songs, and heavy aggressive s<em></em>*, because I feel like I took a break and made music that's kind of calm. Now I'm [going] a little more aggressive and adding some metal aspects.

There's this middle ground of electronic, rock and metal that can be really cool. And I feel like there's a lot of people doing similar stuff, but the songs can be really authentic and healing to people — right now, especially.

You also said this album was "an incredibly personal journey for me." Since it was so personal for you, did you see an even more meaningful impact from these songs?

Yeah. I mean, these past two years have been really challenging for a lot of people, myself included. Especially since shows have come back, you can definitely see in people the excitement to get a release of some sort. And to [just] enjoy — it's hard after a long time of people just going through the motions.

Especially in the electronic music scene, a lot of these people use these shows and the music for their healing and their escape. And that's really important for 'em. So to be able to give them a show and also give them new music, and see how that music has been their kind of crutch this past year, has been really beautiful for me.

You had everyone from Tori Kelly to Angels and Airwaves on Fallen Embers. What goes into finding the right vocalist for a track?

It's a mix. A lot of it is availability-based. When I first am working on a song, especially if it's a demo, it'd be like, "Who would sound good on this?" The "Blame Myself" demo had Emily Warren, who has a really amazing voice, and a very unique tone. So it's hard to fill that.

You get this thing called "demoitis," where you're used to the demo so much, it's hard to separate. But you've got to just find the right vocalist that is gonna bring her own or his own whole attitude to it. And you just kind of have to sit with it for a second because you're so obsessed with the first version.

It's not about, necessarily, the skill of singing. It's a lot of tone. Sonically, how you make a whole song, and you have a vocal in there, you need someone that fits that exact same spot. And that can be really challenging.

For "Paper Thin" with Tom and Angels and Airwaves, that was just a bucket list [thing] for me, I've always wanted to work with him. When we sent it to him, we were like, "They're probably not going to do this." Same with Jared [Leto, Thirty Seconds to Mars' frontman]. I'm the biggest fan of all of the people I collaborated with, so it's really been special.

I feel like a lot of people who aren't as familiar with the dance music scene may assume that producers like you, who aren't on their tracks vocally, might not write them. But you, and people like Kygo and Zedd — all of these huge names in the producer world — have proven that wrong. Do you feel like that's a common misconception?

I think there's always gonna be a misconception of a DJ/producer type thing. I don't think there's any way to get around it, unfortunately. But at the end of the day, it's okay. People [who like] different music have a whole different perspective.

When people see "DJ," they're like, "Oh, like, Vegas DJ. Throw a party!" They have no idea the complexities that go behind that. There are some producers out there that can do insane stuff. It's hard to even start describing that. There's some songs where we start with a guitar, and we write from scratch. It's just about having an ear for what is going to be successful, and also just having an ear of what you enjoy.

In 2018, you shared a really personal story about how music changed your life. Was it a certain song, album or artist that did that for you? Or was it being able to use the music that you were creating as your outlet? Or a combination of both?

It's definitely a mixture of both. When I turned my life around from that time period, it was a mixture of getting so curious about music production, but I was also obsessed with music — I was like, "How do these producers create these things?"

That little thought sparked so much curiosity in me, and [I] wanted to figure out how to implement my love for music and love for different genres. For it to change my life, it had to have all of those aspects — being obsessed with music, loving other people's music, and wanting to create my own.

Doing an action in one of those phases every day is what got me going and got me into the scene, and into my career. But also [made me] confident with myself and feeling like I had some sort of purpose. It was a really healing process for me, because I was kind of a s<em></em>*show before that. I needed something to put all of my energy into, and something that my family supported, and I had friends that supported me. So that was just really cool.

When I was so low, I had no faith in myself at all. You just have no confidence, and you're pretty broken. For you to even have an idea of "I might be good at something" or "I might get good at something if I work hard enough at it and I love it," then it's just full speed ahead.

What does 2012 Nick at Red Rocks think of 2022 Nick being a GRAMMY-nominated producer?

It's just mind-blowing. You know, I told myself when I saw the Red Rocks show in 2012, I was like, "Maybe in 10 years, I'll get to play at Red Rocks." I wasn't even saying headline or anything, just play at Red Rocks. I apparently set a very low goal for myself. [Laughs.]

Constantly having goals set and then reaching them throughout my whole career has been amazing, but it's crazy to think about being a GRAMMY-nominated artist. That is a whole different world that I never even thought — I just got into bass music and EDM, you know? To think of that transition, that's crazy.

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Announcement: 2022 GRAMMYs Postponed
2022 GRAMMY Nominations

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Announcement: 2022 GRAMMYs Postponed

After careful consideration and analysis with city and state officials, health and safety experts, the artist community and our many partners, the Recording Academy and CBS have postponed the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards Show

GRAMMYs/Jan 5, 2022 - 10:45 pm

The following is a Joint Statement from the Recording Academy and CBS:

“After careful consideration and analysis with city and state officials, health and safety experts, the artist community and our many partners, the Recording Academy and CBS have postponed the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards Show. The health and safety of those in our music community, the live audience, and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly to produce our show remains our top priority. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant, holding the show on January 31st simply contains too many risks. We look forward to celebrating Music’s Biggest Night on a future date, which will be announced soon.” 

2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show: Complete Nominations List