Producer/Engineer Paul Womack On Happily Making A Million Mistakes, The Value Of Affordable Gear & Not Being "Apologetic" While Making Music
Paul Womack

Photo: Courtesy of Paul Womack


Producer/Engineer Paul Womack On Happily Making A Million Mistakes, The Value Of Affordable Gear & Not Being "Apologetic" While Making Music

In an in-depth interview, producer and engineer Paul Womack opens up about the arc of his career and how he made a litany of flubs along the way — only to get it right on the "million-and-first" time

GRAMMYs/Feb 2, 2022 - 08:55 pm

For almost two decades now, Paul Womack has honed his craft as a producer and engineer. There's a knob he can turn, or effect he can fire up, for almost everything — that is, except to cover up cautiousness, insecurity or tentativity from the performer in front of the mic. 

"If you don't believe you, I'm not going to believe you," the producer and engineer also known as Willie Green tells "Heartfelt songs have to actually have that [self-belief] in there. That translates through the speakers — that intention, that believability, that earnestness of the music. There's no plug-in for that."

That's the very philosophy that the Brooklyn-based Womack brings to all his clients, who mostly hail from the independent hip-hop sphere. Working from Backwoodz Studioz and at his owned GreenHouse Recording Co., he may change up his approach for every artist — but he does so with one primary, immutable value in place.

"It's not about me doing the certain tricks I like to do," Womack says. "I think the goal is to find the right sound for that artist on that song." How did he come to this conclusion, and push through an infinitum of learning experiences to find his voice behind the board?

Read on for an in-depth interview with Womack for the Recording Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing to learn about the arc of his postcollegiate career (he's a Berklee man), how he spent years learning the hard way, and the best advice he can offer a budding producer.

Tell me about how you developed your signature approach to production.

I was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up in a musical family. My uncle — my godfather — is a musician, so he steeped me in the music industry early on. He gave me my first keyboard, my first drum set, my first drum machine, everything.

So, by the time I was 15, I was playing drums in his cover band and playing in clubs around Connecticut. I got pushed into the professional-musician part pretty early on, which has been huge — just knowing how to show up for a gig, how to be prepared. All of those little things that you learn about how to be a professional over time, I was very lucky to learn early on.

Then, in 1999, I went to Berklee College of Music, and I did the MP&E program there — the production and engineering department. That was such a great experience because the thing with music school is, you learn techniques and tools and how to use mics and all that, but all your classmates, later on in life, become your colleagues and clients.

I have people I went to college with who are still clients to this day, 20 years later. So, that's not just the beginning of your knowledge in production and engineering, but your entrance into networking in the professional audio world. All those contacts still carry over.

I did the Berklee thing and graduated in '03, and then I opened my own studio in Boston. I was hardheaded, so instead of going and being a runner or a GA at a big studio, I decided I was going to do it my own way.

So, a couple of buddies of mine and I opened our own studio and made a lot of indie records. And then, the opportunity came to move to New York, where I was a manager at Right Track — [a.k.a.] Sound on Sound — when it became Legacy [Studios] in Manhattan. 

I did that for a few years, and then the economy crashed, and they did not need a second manager — I was the night manager then. So, I talked to my wife and I said, "Alright, give me eight months while I'm on unemployment to make this freelance-engineering thing work. If not, then I'll go get a job selling insurance." 

Life would have been very different if I hadn't made it work in that seventh month. I really brought it all together and was able to get by. I had jobs just pushing faders, and that was the main thing. So, I built from there — built my studio and client base. And fast-forward to now, 12, 13 years later, I'm lucky. I get to make records every day, and it's a beautiful thing that I don't take for granted.

Building a studio can be extremely expensive and time-consuming, and I can think of a million ways it can go wrong. How did you work smart in this regard?

 Oh, yeah, no, it went wrong in a million ways as well. It was that million-and-first way that it all worked out. I think the big thing with it is making smart purchases — things that will last over time, so you're not buying things every couple of years. You're buying quality things you have to replace over a much longer time than that.

The biggest piece of advice I can give on that: don't go into a lot of debt buying gear when you're 22, thinking, "Well, I have to have all the most expensive, finest things." Because gear is good enough now that even with more affordable things, you can make good records. 

But debt follows you for a long time, and when you max out your credit cards like I did when I was 20 — trying to buy all kinds of good stuff — it takes a long time to come back from that and get your financials right for the rest of your life. And you don't want to be playing from negative yardage your whole life trying to catch up with bad debt.

It's important to get what you need, but stay within your means and you'll be able to keep growing. So, a lot of the gear I have in my studio now, I've had a long time. Some of these things I've had from when I first started buying gear; I was able to keep them. I take care of my stuff and can still use it, so I think that's really important.

What was your first truly memorable session at your studio?

The first project we had, right when we graduated — and this is my first professional project — was, we were doing some post[-production] for an indie film someone in town was making. I can't say it was the greatest film on earth, but we got quickly plunged into client relations and managing large projects — figuring out how to do that and being professional about it.

It let me know that post is not my favorite thing, and I do prefer records. It was feature-length, so it was a 90-, 100-minute movie. As our first time doing something, it had all the roadblocks, but we overcame them. It taught us how to be professional because all the unforeseen things will pop up pretty early on.

Aside from not overspending on gear, give me something you learned the hard way as a producer.

I think it's important to stay up on modern technology when you're making these purchases, and knowing what's coming up — where trends are heading.

We opened the studio in 2003, and we were doing everything in a DAW [digital audio workstation], but all of our video was still on VHS. So, we went out and bought a pro VHS deck. And then, by the time we were finished with the project, everything moved over to QuickTime because that's where the world was shifting to at that point. 

So, we wound up with this big brick of a pro VHS machine that no one ever needed again. To this day, everything that I buy — whether it's a little cheap processor or microphone or anything in between — I do my research on and make sure that it's not only something I need, but going to last and worth having for a long time.

Technology moves so fast, and it increases exponentially. One invention means five more inventions. So, keeping an eye on where technology is headed is critical for modern ears, because things move so quickly.

How would you describe the ideal sound you get out of a client?

That's the goal, right? To find the ideal sound for that person you're working with.

I know that as an engineer and mixer, I do things that kind of make it my own, naturally. I'm a person, and I have preferences. But I think the goal is to find the right sound for that artist on that song. It's not about me doing the certain tricks I like to do.

If those things fit, then cool. But at the end of the day, what I'm trying to do is serve the song for that artist, and to serve that moment that they're creating. So, my goal is to pull the best performances and make them sound the best that they can in that moment.

The goal shifts based on the client's needs, but that's the whole idea — I'm serving the client. Engineering is very much client service.

Give me a recording that you feel represents the summation of your vision.

I would say one project that I think sums it all up would be the album Haram, by Armand Hammer, which came out last year, in early 2021.

Armand Hammer is a group from Brooklyn consisting of Billy Woods and Elucid — two phenomenal MCs and people I've had the pleasure of working with for a long time. I've been making records with Billy Woods since I moved to New York — so, now, for 15 years. He was the first call I made when I moved here, like, "I want to work with you."

Now, a decade later, the album was produced by the Alchemist, who's a legendary, top-tier hip-hop producer. It kind of all came together — all the work, recording in my kitchen and making beats at 4 in the morning — at this point with Haram. Everything we'd been doing before pulled together and coalesced in that album.

Any other advice would you give to budding producers who want to make the leap and make it happen sustainably?

The best way to do it is to enjoy the process. If you think about the end goal of things — "I want to make such-and-such money, or I want certain awards, certain accolades" — all those things are great and can come with enough work, patience, talent, and discipline.

But doing the job every day, and enjoying the process, and doing edits, and tuning vocals, and all the little nitpick-y things we do? That's the job. That's the everyday. You have to love that part of it, or you're not going to enjoy being an engineer.

Winning a GRAMMY isn't being an engineer. The path to get to that ultimate goal is the part that we have to love and enjoy, because that's life. That's every day. That's what we have to go through. So, if you're not into the ride and just into the end results, you're just not going to be happy in your day-to-day. And that's miserable. That's no way to live your life.

Rolling with the punches is important  — especially during those long hours where nothing's sounding good. What are your hacks for when you can't get the music where you need it to be?

That happens more often than we want it to — when it's not coming together. A great answer to that, for me, is just to walk away. Whether it's 15 minutes, 20 minutes, go watch a little basketball, take a walk, whatever you're going to do. Come back, hit "Save As" and get yourself a new version, strip it all down and try to find your way.

But don't lose that work you did before, because you might come back tomorrow and be like, "Oh, I really went left there at the end, but I can get back to the point where I can reapproach it and try something different." Or maybe it was a simple tweak that I wasn't catching at 5 in the morning, but with a little sleep — "Oh! It makes sense. I just have to do this thing."

Try and find something. Pull up a plugin that you've never used, or haven't used in a while. It seems wrong: maybe you're doing a gentle ballad, but throw an amp simulator on that vocal. Why not? Just see. It's probably not right, but maybe it'll spark another idea.

Ideas come from somewhere else. You do one thing and it might set off a lightbulb in another direction. So, just try stuff. Why not?

Is the barrier to entry lower than ever before? I feel like tools that were once prohibitively expensive are now bundled with Logic, just a click away. There's almost no excuse not to dive in and start making music.

I totally agree. The days of having to have a million dollars to have a proper music-producing setup are long behind us. It's simple: you don't even have to have a computer! I know a lot of cats who just make beats on their phone. It's easy to get started and start generating those ideas. 

Obviously, the super-high-quality gear is lovely, and we'd all love to have it. But you don't have to have it to create. You can work very simply and just generate ideas. It's so easy: we could write a song right now over Zoom; do a quick, little mix on it; shoot it over to DistroKid or whatever, and it's on the internet tomorrow. 

We can upload it to Bandcamp right away. We can create, release and share our art in such simple ways that are so much easier than before, that — you're right — there's no excuse not to be creative and experiment and try. The internet's a big place, and there's enough room for everyone to hop in and share what's on their minds, heads and hearts.

That makes for a lot more competition, and there's a lot of music out there. But it doesn't mean that for whoever's just getting started, that music can't also be yours that's out there. That's the only way to get started: to start, put something out, build from there, and develop yourself as an artist.

I feel like there's pressure to come out of the box immediately and sound like Drake, Timbaland or any of the greats. But just sound like you, and put it out there! That's what they did when they started.

Nobody comes out of the gate perfect, and that's not really how it works. That's not the artist's journey. The artist's journey is to keep developing and keep reinventing yourself. But you can only do that if you start somewhere, and you've got to invent yourself the first time to reinvent yourself over your career.

While recording my own music, I like very dry vocals and hard-panned instruments. I have no idea if other people will like that, but someone must. That seems to be the throughline with successful artists — they did their idiosyncratic thing confidently, and it landed.

You've got to have confidence in yourself. Because if you don't love your music, nobody else is going to. So, you've got to make it sound the way that you feel best about it. Because, then, you're going to present it the best. You're going to feel great about everything that comes with it.

There's nothing worse than feeling bad about something you didn't do the way you wanted to. Because, then, all the what-ifs start to pop up. "What if I did just go for it?" You don't want to have those regrets, like, "Maybe I should have just done the thing I wanted to." Do the thing you want to, because at least you have that, if nothing else. But that's the most honest music, so it's always going to translate the best.

I say it to my vocalists if I'm producing vocals, [and they say]: "I sound a little lackluster," or "I sound a little tired." I just say to the artist: "Look, it sounds like you don't believe yourself. And if you don't believe you, I'm not going to believe you."

Heartfelt songs have to actually have that in there. That translates through the speakers — that intention, that believability, that earnestness of the music. There's no plug-in for that. There's no knob I can turn to make you truly sound like you know what you're doing. That has to come from the artist.

No one likes apologetic music — like, "I don't mean to bother you with my crappy guitar playing." Play that guitar. Strum that thing. Let me hear what you do.

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Up Close & Personal: Shaggy And Sting Discuss Their Musical Beginnings, Songwriting Processes And GRAMMY-Winning Collaboration
(L-R) Chrissy Metz, Shaggy, Sting


Up Close & Personal: Shaggy And Sting Discuss Their Musical Beginnings, Songwriting Processes And GRAMMY-Winning Collaboration

Two GRAMMY-winning musical legends joined together in this Nashville Chapter member-exclusive program, which was filmed at Nashville's Ocean Way and moderated by Chrissy Metz.

GRAMMYs/Sep 28, 2022 - 05:16 pm

Friends and collaborators Shaggy and Sting came together for a conversation at Nashville's Ocean Way Studio recently — and the result was a lengthy discussion about the way they write songs, the backstories behind some of their biggest hits, and of course, their GRAMMY-winning work together.

In an in-depth installment of Up Close & Personal, presented by the Recording Academy's Nashville Chapter and moderated by "This Is Us" star Chrissy Metz, the member-exclusive program presented an informal conversation that took fans through both artists' careers to date.

The two stars hail from very different parts of the world — Sting grew up in England, and became the frontman for legendary rock group the Police, while Shaggy was born in Kingston, Jamaica. but over the years, they've found layers of commonalities in their work.

In speaking about his songwriting process, Sting — who has written classic-rock hits like "Roxanne" and "Every Breath You Take" — notes that he mostly writes solo, a rarity in the famed songwriting collaboration hub of Music City.

"I've always been envious of people who have a writing partner," Sting says. "Lennon and McCartney, they were constantly playing off each other, competing with each other, and that was one of the engines of their success."

"But I never actually found that person, and I'm still alone," he adds, with a joke: "Isn't it sad?"

But he found an unlikely but fruitful creative partner in Shaggy for the two collaborative albums they've released together. One of them is 44/876, which won Best Reggae Album at the 2019 GRAMMYs — and includes a number of songs that the two artists co-wrote.

Shaggy explains that one of the reasons their songwriting partnership was so successful was because of their friendship: Where songwriting can be a tedious, solitary struggle, the two artists found that heading into the writer's room together broke some tension.

"I write a lot of songs, I'm pretty successful at it, but I don't particularly love it," Shaggy notes. "I like the live aspects of it. That's why I like working with him, because it's not as intense. It's more [like] we laugh, and out of that laughter comes something that works, that we hopefully both like."

To learn more about the two artists' creative processes — plus Shaggy's stint on The Masked Singer, and why they think the original James Bond might have been Jamaican — press play on the video above to watch the full episode of Up Close & Personal.

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Durand Bernarr's 'Wanderlust': The R&B Singer Explains Why He's "Constantly In A State Of Arriving"
Durand Bernarr

Photo: LaQuann Dawson 


Durand Bernarr's 'Wanderlust': The R&B Singer Explains Why He's "Constantly In A State Of Arriving"

With Durand Bernarr’s 'Wanderlust' out now, the singer/songwriter speaks about leading the next wave of inclusionary R&B, merging comedy with his crooning, and why joining his congregation makes you family.

GRAMMYs/Sep 28, 2022 - 01:58 pm

Singer/songwriter and all-around tour de force Durand Bernarr has long excelled in showing how dope he is.

Born into a musically rich family — his mother was a professional music teacher and vocal coach, and his father did sound production for Earth, Wind & Fire — Bernarr not only had the chops for singing, but a larger-than-life personality.

Performing under the moniker "alcholharmony," Bernarr became one the YouTube’s first ever viral singing stars in 2007. Following the release of 8ight: The Stepson of Erykah Badu, Bernarr joined Badu as background vocalist, which elevated his profile leading up to his insta-classic album, Dur&, in 2020. The release netted Bernarr into a slate of notable appearances and viral offerings, as well as a legion of "cousins" who have joined his congregation of love, laughs, and lusciousness.

Fast forward to present day, and "the version of Little Richard that religion did not get to," has become a mainstay in R&B. His recently-released Wanderlust features 12 immersive songs ranging from self-reflective and confessional stylings ("Vacancy" feat. Just Liv) to the bouncy and boundary-setting like ("Boundaries," "H.I." feat. Devin Tracy), alongside instrumental work from Frank Moka and Braylon Lacy. 

The first single, "Lil Bit," produced by ActzMusiq and featuring Metta, finds the Cleveland-to-Los Angeles crooner looking for someone who is "little bit ugly." 

Bernarr and his brand of gangsta musical theater has made him become one of the inescapably popular voices in R&B, collaborating with The Internet, Ari Lennox, Patrick Paige II, Knxwledge, and Kaytranada. Add to the mix that Bernarr’s sold-out "Step Into My Office Tour" kept the summer active for many. The singer spoke with about Wanderlust, finding grace throughout the process and growing into his place as a playlist mainstay.

Whenever someone is around you, they’ll notice just how much your congregation flocks to you and appreciates your presence. What do you think it is about the Durand Bernarr Experience that connects so strongly with others?

First and foremost, I think people love it when someone has a very good attitude. They like it when they can come experience someone — whether in person or virtually — and feel uplifted by them.

With me having that familiar presence and feeling like a family member or best friend, it has that Midwestern/Southern charm that connects people to me. I feel a balance between them and me as a human being that goes a bit beyond just the music.

There are quite a few lyrical gems on Wanderlust that will surely find their way onto social media. "When the journey ain’t s—t, but the destination is lit," is affirming to those who are a work in progress. What inspired the hook for "Destination"...? What did giving yourself grace look like while putting together this album?

It came from a conversation I was having with someone; I was just trying to encourage them. This process of growth and getting out of one’s comfort zone is never comfortable at all. It takes going somewhere to get something. We sometimes forget to be present so that we can appreciate this journey from grinding to hustling to a space of arriving.

I’m constantly in a state of arriving, in a constant state of being in the journey. But these destinations are kind of like pockets, there is always going to be something else that we can learn and discover. And giving myself grace looked like not being so hard on myself. Grace looked like knowing I’m not going to get it right the first time and to allow myself to be a human being.

There’s this quote that I saw where it said, ‘When you’re talking down to yourself or negatively, your inner child is listening.’ We have to be careful of how we speak about ourselves to ourselves because we are always listening.

How would you describe your growth from your humble beginnings to now?

Dur& is my ninth project and I understand that overnight success is actually 10 years. From putting out mixtapes to a compilation project to the actual albums and EPs, I’ve built a brand from Alcoholharmony to now, and I let the music really tell the story. [With Wanderlust] I think I scaled back a bit on the vocal gymnastics and reveled in moments of simplicity. 

There’s a song on there in particular where I don’t adlib on the chorus at all, only on the bridge, and it is a bit more simple as opposed to my earlier approach. It’s like each instrument on the song has its part and that’s that. So, you’re able to catch things easier with this album.

Wanderlust is the first time you had a band joining you in the studio. Can you delve into the production and who joined you for this joyous revival?

I was talking to [producer and musician] Sam Hoffman about this. He did all of the interludes on Dur& and produced two songs on this project. Up until this point, I’ve had boot camps that were just full of musicians who loved to create moments. We did that constantly during a Monday night jam session and it ended up being something that turned into a project.

I cannot ever not do that ever again, because to be in the room with all these musicians was great. The first time I did that was with
the Free Nationals back in 2019. I got a chance to create from scratch working with them in the studio, which really inspired the need for me to do that with Wanderlust. So, playing with me are guys who I’ve been playing with for some time now. We were able to create so fast and get off so many different ideas.

It was dope to have these different perspectives. From
Frank Moka, [the] drummer with Erykah Badu to Brother B, who played on Mama’s Gun, to Daniel Jones — we have very strong vibes and a different musicality that came together to create Wanderlust. I’m so proud of it and proud of them.

I know which song is going to be the one that’s going to take off — and it’s not even the first single. I’ve been listening to it nonstop and if I have been sure about nothing else, it’s this — Wanderlust is a beautiful moment that I’m grateful to have had everyone a part of.

I hate to say that I’ve outdone myself because I wasn’t trying to do that, but I definitely outdid myself [

Wanderlust also features the voices of Just Liv and Devin Tracy, who offer some more range and color to the album. Did they share any lessons or words of advice that helped during the recording process?

My main struggle was just the timing of everything, making sure that we loved the song. I wanted us all to love them. It reminded me of something that T
eedra Moses  told me a while ago about her music: "I don’t like people to listen to my stuff until it’s completely done," she said. "I’ve done everything that I need to and put everything into it. So, if I release that and you don’t like it, well, hey, I get it. But if you don’t like it because I didn’t get a chance to really love it myself, then that affects me."

I’m in a space now where I love these songs on Wanderlust — from the nuances to the things I want to pout when people hear it.

This album is made for your headphones, for your cars. It is really to immerse yourself like my
CoronaJournal, which is also recommended listening because you’ll get some laughs or ‘I know that’s right’ moments when you listen to it [laughs].

How would you describe Wanderlust to someone who’s just becoming familiar with your sound?

I’d say that Wanderlust is still in the realm of gangsta musical theater. There’s humor in it throughout and full of perspective and sonic adventures. The album takes you on a myriad of different genres from African funk to ‘80s video games, where I tap into my Sault bag — I love me some Cleo Sol — to New Orleans church vibes. 

The quality of the music on Wanderlust has beautifully evolved. I feel like I can still go back to albums like Sound Check and Dur& and sing these songs 20 years from then.

Watch:  Durand Bernarr Unleashes "Melody" For Press Play At Home

There’s still things that are adult enough or age-appropriate enough for me to still be able to dig back into. Dur& has aged very well and on its two-year birthday; I love that people are still getting into it. Getting into songs like "Stuck," and I love that. 

Tyler, the Creator had recently said that one post about your art isn’t going to be enough. Every day is a new opportunity to introduce people to your work. And while I thought that Dur& was the masterpiece — and it was — Wanderlust came along and was like the Voodoo to its Brown Sugar.

It’s no secret that there’s a rise in there being more gender-fluid and inclusionary artists who are breaking through and impacting the charts. How does it impact you when people see you as a leader of this new wave? Do you view yourself as such?

I have to remind myself that I’ve been out here for about 15 years. My first YouTube video is about to be 15 come this December. [
Laughs] This means that it is now legally able to work. When I get approached by others or told that my music is being studied, I love it. To open people up to achieve agency to be themselves, to write the songs that they want to sing about is a powerful feeling. If Durand can say he’s in love with somebody’s grown ass man, then I can write my story about whatever because it is also important.

You never know the impact that you have on someone by just being yourself. Hopefully, by you being yourself, it can be seen as a positive thing. It is an asset to the space and not a liability. I’m grateful to …even have a moment where Lil Nas X and Normani are getting big eyes. I’m excited to see how much further being who I am can take me and what that can do for other people in their journey. 

How much of this music that I’ve put out is going to be the soundtrack to their lives, their adventures of self-discovery, and taking chances and believing in themselves? It’s an amazing and beautiful thing to think about because it’s such a tangible thing that I can feel [within].

It’s really showing that you’re laying the groundwork for others to follow. How do you deconstruct yourself to pull out these raw truths that make it into your lyrics?

I have to be in a space where either I’ve already worked through what it is that I’ve experienced and now I can tell the story, or I’m writing to work through it and get it out. 

I’ve mastered the art of being able to tell a story without really telling a story. It’s worded in a way where it is ambiguous enough to get a reaction, but depending on where you are in your life and what you’re going through, a person might interpret it in a completely different way than what the reality is for me and where it stems from.<em></em>

A few months back you drove the internet into a tizzy with your "Vocal Charm School" post, which namechecked some notable voices in the industry. When the spirit moved you to make the video, how did you respond to the reaction you got?

I was almost not going to post it because I felt like I needed to be focused on other things. But at the same time, I am a consumer, I’m a comedian, and this is funny [laughs]. I love to make people laugh and my whole thing was I don’t like to complain about something if I don’t at least have a solution to go with it. So, [for the R&B Verzuz,] if I see someone with shaky breath control or needs to work on their blending, I just put it out there that I’m willing to assist. [Laughs] That’s the thing: Hit me up, let’s work together, and we can get this moving in the right direction.

I was serious [in the post] when I said come to the show. I wanted them all to be there. They would’ve been taken care of and have a great seat. They would get a full comprehension of what it means to use your voice as an instrument. When you spend time with it, when you really take it serious, then the results are going to show. For a lot of us, if we did not have music or our voices, we would’ve pressed eject on this motherf—ker a long time ago.

After it was all said and done, has anyone taken you up on the chance to stay after altar call and workshop with you?

There were people who wanted to be in it, but as far as [those who were on
Verzuz], ain’t nobody responding [laughs]. It’s OK, I’m just gonna send them the DVD.

For those who missed your Step Into My Office tour, but are excited to delve into Wanderlust — sum up why this project is important to be placed into audiophiles’ rotation?

We are in dire need of some razzle dazzle in the music scene right now. Everybody is so sad. Everything is so dark. Don’t nobody know how to love. Their discernment is off. Mercury is in retrograde and I just want everyone to pop their shoulders effortlessly to this album. That’s why [on Wanderlust] there’s only three-and-a-half songs out of 12 songs that are below 80 bpm. Anything else that you hear is going to move the body, hell, even the slow stuff got some knocks to it [laughs].

I’m really interested in people dissecting "New Management," which was inspired by the end of Lil Nas X’s "Call Me By Your Name" video, and started out as a joke. But then as I’m writing the song, I made it into a song and started to dive into my childhood traumas, which led into realizing that everything I was taught to be afraid of was a fear tactic. Now, I’m able to live my life happily as a human being and revel in this opportunity to experience this beautiful thing called life. 

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Global Spin: Singer-Songwriter And Producer Ferraz Offers A Minimalist, Soulful Performance Of "Espérame"

Photo: Maria Gabriela Stempel


Global Spin: Singer-Songwriter And Producer Ferraz Offers A Minimalist, Soulful Performance Of "Espérame"

The singer-songwriter, DJ and producer pulls from a variety of different styles to create his own signature blend of Latin R&B — and in this performance of "Espérame," he leans into his soul influences.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2022 - 04:58 pm

Venezuelan singer-songwriter, producer and DJ Ferraz draws from various elements and sonic styles to create his signature blend of R&B. And in "Espérame," one of the tracks from his 2021 album Fino, he leans into gentle, lilting soul.

In this episode of Global Spin, Ferraz delivers a laid-back live performance of his song. Flanked by his gear and set against a plain white backdrop, the singer accompanies himself on electric guitar.

This minimalist, self-contained performance proves that Ferraz can create a sound-world all his own. Ferraz incorporates elements of Latin folk-rock and bossa nova into his performance, with classic R&B rhythms kicking in in the chorus.

Funk, house and hip-hop further influence Ferraz's music-making process, coming together to form a style of R&B both versatile and pliant.

As one of the singer's more reflective and laidback tracks, "Espérame" exemplifies his easygoing, luminous vocal delivery — a signature element of even his bouncier tracks, like 2022's "Seratonina."

Ferraz debuted in 2019 with his Rumbo album, and continued to grow his sound and style with the release of Fino two years later. Most recently, he put out Remixes FINO, a collection of reimagined versions of the songs from his Fino project.

Press play on the video above enjoy Ferraz's soulful "Espérame" performance, and keep checking back to for more episodes of Global Spin.

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11 Essential Brazilian Albums: From Bossa Nova To MPB
Gal Costa performs at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1980.

Photo: Donald Stampfli/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images


11 Essential Brazilian Albums: From Bossa Nova To MPB

The South American giant has always boasted a voracious appetite for assimilating foreign influences into its own, vibrant cultural stew. From samba and bossa nova, to Música Popular Brasileira, here are 11 essential Brazilian albums for your playlist.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2022 - 02:14 pm

You would need at least 500 albums to delineate a comprehensive aural snapshot of Brazil — one of the most passionate nations in the world when it comes to creating and consuming music.

From the foundational samba and its cosmopolitan cousin, the bossa nova, to the fertile movement of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), the funky axé and the rich fields of Brazilian rock, metal, hip-hop and electronica, the South American giant has always boasted a voracious appetite for assimilating foreign influences into its own, vibrant cultural stew.

Leaving aside the more obvious choices — we assume you’ve already heard "The Girl from Ipanema" once or twice — this list focuses on 11 legendary LPs that distill the essence of Brazilian music. 

Sylvia Telles - The Music of Mr. Jobim (1966)

When we think bossa nova, the name of Elis Regina comes instantly to mind, especially because of the classic Elis & Tom LP that she recorded in 1974 with genre architect Antonio Carlos Jobim. Before Elis, however, there was another singer who summed up the frothy lightness and poetry that make people fall crazy in love with the bossa.

Born in 1934, Sylvia Telles had an unforgettably jazzy and mercurial voice. This, her last album, was recorded in 1965 expressly for the American market and includes definitive renditions of standards like Dorival Caymmi’s "... Das Rosas" and Jobim’s exhilarating "Samba de Uma Nota Só." Telles has been unjustly forgotten by everyone but bossa collectors because she died, together with her boyfriend, in a car accident in 1966. She was 32. 

Roberto Carlos - Roberto Carlos (1969)

A misunderstood genius, Roberto Carlos is widely known as the Brazilian equivalent of Julio Iglesias. Before he went pop, he was part of the jangly jovem guarda movement in the late ‘60s, as South America fell in love with the Beatles and the Stones.

This transitional album finds his songwriting partnership with Erasmo Carlos (no relation) in full bloom. From the feel-good sunlight of "Do Outro Lado da Cidade" and the defiant funk of "Nao Vou Ficar," to the torrid balladry of "Sua Estupidez" (made famous by Gal Costa in an epic live version), this 1969 masterpiece pulsates with an indelible sense of nostalgia. Some of these songs were included in the film Roberto Carlos e o Diamante Cor-de-rosa, a colorful riff on the Beatles’ Help. 

Wilson Simonal - Simonal (1970)

A teen idol throughout the ‘60s, Wilson Simonal has been altogether ostracized from Brazilian cultural history due to his alleged political decisions during the ‘70s — a time of darkness and turmoil in South America.

This is somewhat unfair, as the man died more than 20 years ago at age 62. He left behind a prodigious discography that places his soulful vocals at the service of ballads and boleros, brassy funk and samba-rock. The brio of opening cut "Sem Essa" is worth the price of admission.  

Vinicius de Moraes with Maria Creuza and Toquinho - En La Fusa (1970)

There is something endearing about Argentina’s ongoing love affair with Brazilian music. When the royalty of bossa nova — lyricist Vinicius de Moraes, guitarist Toquinho and singer Maria Creuza — descended on Buenos Aires for a season of shows at the bohemian La Fusa club, it was quickly decided that the show should be recorded for posterity.

The resulting album was taped live in a studio, then augmented with audience noise from the actual venue. Few albums have captured the disarming beauty of this music so effortlessly. The unavoidable standards (yes, even "Ipanema") are enriched with light-as-a-feather gems like Jorge Ben’s "Que Maravilha" and Caetano Veloso’s "Irene." 

Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges - Clube Da Esquina (1972)

Hailing from the state of Minas Gerais, Milton Nascimento doesn’t really make records.

They’re more like a religious ritual, a celebration of sadness and joy, the flesh and the spirit. This transformational double LP was made by Nascimento and a collective of like-minded musicians, including the brilliant — if slightly esoteric — Lô Borges. There’s samba art-rock, psychedelia, Beatlesque melodies and a smoldering cascade of longing that permeates every single moment and refuses to let go. Its sequel, released in 1978, is just as good. 

Chico Buarque - Meus Caros Amigos (1976)

Look up the word warmth in the dictionary and you will probably find a picture of this album, dripping analog goodness and a million smiles.

The young Buarque’s 1966 hit "A Banda" was a defining moment in the emergence of the MPB sound. By the time he released this 1976 session, he was an established master of the Brazilian groove. Every track here is a classic: the fairy tale sweetness of "Você Vai Me Seguir"; the carnivalesque swirl of "Passaredo"; the homeric sorrow of "Mulheres De Atenas." Milton Nascimento guests on the samba-with-strings movie theme "O Que Será." 

Gal Costa - Gal Tropical (1979)

The bluesy voice of MPB diva Gal Costa is one of the most gorgeous sounds ever to come out of Brazil. Even though she appeared during the tropicália boom of the late ‘60s, the ‘70s was her best decade, with classic LPs such as Índia (1973), Cantar (1974) and this lavish session of tropi-pop that sold a million copies.

An eclectic song selector, Gal can focus her attention on a carnival march from the 1930’s ("Balance"), then melt hearts with a sparse ballad penned by Caetano Veloso ("Força Estranha.") Betraying subtle hints of post-disco decadence, her sultry reading of the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Dolores Duran oldie "Estrada do Sol" is haunting. 

Karnak - Karnak (1994)

Brazil was missing an album matching the ambitious scope of a Sgt. Pepper’s, and it arrived with the debut of Karnak, the cosmopolitan, genre-bending orchestra of musical globetrotter André Abujamra.

So many years later, this criminally underrated masterpiece sounds as fresh and inventive as it did in 1994. It combines field recordings of citizens from all over the world with fragments of reggae, funky Afro-pop, Arabic scales, tribal drums and operatic chanting in fictitious tongues. Delirious and exhilarating, it serves up the delights of a thousand records all wrapped up into one. 

Tribalistas - Tribalistas (2002)

Decade after decade, Brazilian music has always survived the decay of time by knowing when to renew itself. The life-affirming debut by MPB supergroup Tribalistas was one such sleight of hand, as was their self-titled collection of translucent songs for idealists of all ages  .

Singer/songwriter Marisa Monte had already proven herself as MPB’s bright new hope through her solo work. But there’s power in numbers, and the addition of percussion genius Carlinhos Brown and the gravelly-voiced Arnaldo Antunes resulted in one dazzling song after another — and over three million albums sold. 

Los Hermanos - Ventura (2003)

There are no grandiloquent gestures in the third album by this Rio de Janeiro indie-rock quartet. The songs are tuneful, emotionally direct and oddly bittersweet. Enriched by a brass section, arena favorites such as the punchy "Último Romance" and the jagged "O Vencedor" show how seamlessly the influence of Anglo rock can find fertile terrain layered into Brazil’s melting pot. Many critics have singled out Ventura as one of the best albums in Brazilian history, and it’s easy to see why.

Céu - Tropix (2016)

Originally from São Paulo, Céu appeared on the scene at the same time as a large wave of neo-bossa singers — but the sound of her 2005 self-titled album went against the grain. Jagged and unpredictable, her MPB futurism draws from dub and Afrobeat, post-disco and indietronica.

Céu’s songwriting was remarkably sharp from the beginning, but she found a state of grace on Tropix, her fourth LP. The digital beats throb and quiver on elegantly sculpted tracks like "Perfume Do Invisível" and "Varanda Suspensa," while the quiet fire in her voice ignites a delicious kind of tension — as eye opening as the Brazilian classics of the ‘70s.

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