meta-scriptQ-Tip, Mahalia, Maya Jane Coles & More To Play Coachella Valley's New 4xFAR Festival |


Photo: Darren Gerrish/WireImage/Getty Images


Q-Tip, Mahalia, Maya Jane Coles & More To Play Coachella Valley's New 4xFAR Festival

The brand-new event will throw its inaugural two-day event on Jan. 18–19, 2020, with an eclectic musical lineup and outdoor adventure-centric programming

GRAMMYs/Oct 30, 2019 - 11:52 pm

Today, 4xFAR became the newest music festival set in the pastel desert landscape of Coachella Valley, Calif. The brand-new event will throw its inaugural two-day event on Jan. 18–19, 2020, with an eclectic musical lineup headlined by GRAMMY winners Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Mark Ronson and Q-Tip, who are billed together, plus indie-rockers Young The Giant.

4xFAR will also help concertgoers take advantage of the beautiful natural surroundings, with outdoor activities like nature photography workshops, mountain biking, slacklining and yoga.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Join us for 2-days of music and adventure at <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#4xFAR</a> Festival presented by <a href="">@LandRoverUSA</a> . An experience for people with a passion for exploring the unknown. Limited GA + VIP passes on sale now. <br><br>For tickets + more information visit: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; 4xFAR Music &amp; Adventure Festival (@4xFARfestival) <a href="">October 30, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Other performers announced for the fest include psych-rockers Kurt Vile & The Violators, GRAMMY-nominated electro-pop duo SOFI TUKKER, Femme House founder LP Giobbi, who has been opening for the later act's R.I.P. Shame Tour, and house and techno queen Maya Jane Coles.

Long Beach-based surf rock outfit Tijuana Panthers, British alt-R&B powerhouse Mahalia and U.K. alt-rock duo Chappaqua Wrestling will also bring flavor to the rich musical offering. The fest states that more acts will be added.

Read: Mahalia On 'Love And Compromise,' Eartha Kitt, Songwriting & More | Austin City Limits 2019

"4xFAR is set to be the first experience of its kind in lifestyle focused entertainment—an intimate, celebratory adventure where guests can taste the cross pollinated nectar of music, art, adventure and culture in a gorgeous oasis under the desert sky. I'm elated to be in the mix as music curator!" 4xFAR music curator and KCRW host Garth Trinidad said.

Other special guests include big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton and Olympic volleyball player Gabby Reece—quite the power couple—who will be participating in the "series of daily panel conversations and experiential classes centered around wellness and pushing physical boundaries," as the press release states.

Los Angeles-based muralist James Goldcrown, whose colorful hearts you may have seen scrawled across buildings in L.A., Miami and New York, will be bringing his vibrant art to the festival grounds. The event is being produced by Corso Agency, who has curated experiences at big fests including Coachella, EDC, Outside Lands. 

Tickets are on sale now on the event's website.

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Amy Winehouse performs "Rehab" during 2007 MTV Movie Awards
Amy Winehouse in 2007

Photo: Chris Polk/FilmMagic


How Amy Winehouse's 'Back To Black' Changed Pop Music Forever

Ahead of the new Amy Winehouse biopic 'Back To Black,' reflect on the impact of the album of the same name. Read on for six ways the GRAMMY-winning LP charmed listeners and changed the sound of popular music.

GRAMMYs/May 17, 2024 - 01:05 pm

When Amy Winehouse released Back To Black in October 2006, it was a sonic revelation. The beehive-wearing singer’s second full-length blended modern themes with the Shangri-Las sound, crafting something that seemed at once both effortlessly timeless and perfectly timed. 

Kicking off with smash single "Rehab" before blasting into swinging bangers like "Me & Mr. Jones," "Love Is A Losing Game," and "You Know I’m No Good," Black To Black has sold over 16 million copies worldwide to date and is the 12th best-selling record of all time in the United Kingdom. It was nominated for six GRAMMY Awards and won five: Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best New Artist, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and Best Pop Vocal Album. 

Winehouse accepted her golden gramophones via remote link from London due to visa problems. At the time, Winehouse set the record for the most GRAMMYs won by a female British artist in a single year, though that record has since been broken by Adele, who won six in 2011.

Written in the wake of a break-up with on-again, off-again flame Blake Fielder-Civil, Black To Black explores heartbreak, grief, and infidelity, as well as substance abuse, isolation, and various traumas. Following her death in 2011, Back To Black became Winehouse’s most enduring legacy. It remains a revealingly soulful message in a bottle, floating forever on the waves. 

With the May 17 release of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s new (and questionably crafted) Winehouse biopic, also titled Back To Black, it's the perfect time to reflect on the album that not only charmed listeners but changed the state of a lot of popular music over the course of just 11 songs. Here are five ways that Back To Black influenced music today.

She Heralded The Arrival Of The Alt Pop Star

When Amy Winehouse hit the stage, people remarked on her big voice. She had classic, old-time torch singer pipes, like Sarah Vaughn or Etta Jones, capable of belting out odes to lost love, unrequited dreams, and crushing breakups. And while those types of singers had been around before Winehouse, they didn’t always get the chance — or grace required — to make their kind of music, with labels and producers often seeking work that was more poppy, hook-packed, or modern.

The success of Back To Black changed that, with artists like Duffy, Adele, and even Lady Gaga drawing more eyes in the wake of Winehouse’s overwhelming success. Both Duffy and Adele released their debut projects in 2007, the year after Back To Black, bringing their big, British sound to the masses. Amy Winehouse's look and sound showed other aspiring singers that they could be different and transgressive without losing appeal.

Before she signed to Interscope in 2007, "nobody knew who I was and I had no fans, no record label," Gaga told Rolling Stone in 2011. "Everybody, when they met me, said I wasn’t pretty enough or that my voice was too low or strange. They had nowhere to put me. And then I saw [Amy Winehouse] in Rolling Stone and I saw her live. I just remember thinking ‘well, they found somewhere to put Amy…’" 

If an artist like Winehouse — who was making records and rocking styles that seemed far outside the norm — could break through, then who’s to say someone else as bold or brassy wouldn’t do just as well? 

It Encouraged Other Torch Singers In The New Millenium

Back To Black might have sounded fun, with swinging cuts about saying "no" to rehab and being bad news that could seem lighthearted to the casual listener. Dig a little deeper, though, and it’s clear Winehouse is going through some real romantic tumult. 

Before Back To Black was released, Fielder-Civil had left Winehouse to get back together with an old girlfriend, and singer felt that she needed to create something good out of all those bad feelings. Songs like "Love Is A Losing Game" and "Tears Dry On Their Own" speak to her fragile emotional state during the making of the record, and to how much she missed Fielder-Civil. The two would later marry, though the couple divorced in 2009.

Today, young pop singers like Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, and Selena Gomez are lauded for their songs about breakups, boyfriends, and the emotional damage inflicted by callous lovers. While Winehouse certainly wasn’t the first to sing about a broken heart, she was undoubtedly one of the best.

It Created A Bit Of Ronsonmania

Though Mark Ronson was already a fairly successful artist and producer in his own right before he teamed with Winehouse to write and co-produce much of Back To Black, his cred was positively stratospheric after the album's release. Though portions of Back To Black were actually produced by Salaam Remi (who’d previously worked with Winehouse on Frank and who was reportedly working on a follow-up album with her at the time of her death), Ronson got the lion’s share of credit for the record’s sound — perhaps thanks to his his GRAMMY win for Best Pop Vocal Album. Winehouse would even go on to guest on his own Version record, which featured the singer's ever-popular cover of "Valerie."

In the years that followed, Ronson went on to not only produce and make his own funky, genre-bending records, but also to work with acts like Adele, ASAP Rocky, and Paul McCartney, all of whom seemingly wanted a little of the retro soul Ronson could bring. He got huge acclaim for the funk-pop boogie cut "Uptown Funk," which he wrote and released under his own name with help from Bruno Mars, and has pushed into film as well, writing and producing over-the-top tracks like A Star Is Born’s "Shallow" and Barbie’s "I’m Just Ken."  To date, he’s been nominated for 17 GRAMMY Awards, winning eight.

Ronson has always acknowledged Winehouse’s role in his success, as well, telling "BBC Breakfast" in 2010, "I've always been really candid about saying that Amy is the reason I am on the map. If it wasn't for the success of Back To Black, no one would have cared too much about Version."

Amy Showcased The Artist As An Individual

When the GRAMMY Museum hosted its "Beyond Black - The Style of Amy Winehouse" exhibit in 2020, Museum Curator and Director of Exhibitions Nicholas Vega called the singer's sartorial influence "undeniable." Whether it was her beehive, her bold eyeliner, or her fitted dresses, artists and fans had adopted elements of Winehouse’s Back To Black style into their own fashion repertoire. And though it’s the look we associate most with Winehouse, it was actually one she had truly developed while making the record, amping up her Frank-era low-slung jeans, tank tops, and polo shirts with darker eyeliner and much bigger hair, as well as flirty dresses, vibrant bras, and heels.

"Her stylist and friends were influential in helping her develop her look, but ultimately Amy took bits and pieces of trends and styles that she admired to create her own look," Vega told in 2020. While rock ‘n’ rollers have always leaned into genre-bending styles, Winehouse’s grit is notable in the pop world, where artists typically have a bit more of a sheen. These days, artists like Miley Cyrus, Billie Eillish, and Demi Lovato are willing to let their fans see a bit more of the grit — thanks, no doubt, to the doors Winehouse opened.

Winehouse also opened the door to the beauty salon and the tattoo studio, pushing boundaries with not just her 14 different vintage-inspired tattoos — which have become almost de rigeur these days in entertainment — but also with her signature beehive-like bouffant, which hadn’t really been seen on a popular artist since the ‘60s.It’s a frequent look for contemporary pop divas, popping up on artists like Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey, and Dua Lipa.

The Dap-Kings Got The Flowers They Deserved

Six of Back To Black’s 11 songs, including "Rehab," got their "retro" sound via backing from the Dap-Kings, a Brooklyn-based soul act Ronson recruited for the project. 

While Winehouse’s lyrics were mostly laid down in London, the Dap-Kings did their parts in New York. Ronson told in 2023 that the Dap-Kings "brought ['Rehab'] to life," saying, "I felt like I was floating because I couldn’t believe anybody could still make that drum sound in 2006." Winehouse and the Dap-Kings met months later after the record was released, and recorded "Valerie." The band later backed Winehouse on her U.S. tour. 

Though the Dap-Kings were known in hip musical circles for their work with late-to-success soul sensation Sharon Jones, Back To Black’s immense success buoyed the listening public’s interest in soul music and the Dap-Kings' own profile (not to mention that of their label, Daptone Records).

"Soul music never went away and soul lovers never went away, but they’re just kind of closeted because they didn’t think it was commercially viable," Dap-Kings guitarist Binky Griptite said in the book It Ain't Retro: Daptone Records & The 21st Century Soul Revolution. "Then, when Amy’s record hit, all the undercover soul fans are like, I’m free. And then that’s when everybody’s like, Oh, there’s money in it now."

The success of Back To Black also seems to have firmly cemented the Dap-Kings in Ronson’s Rolodex, with the group’s drummer Homer Steinweiss, multi-instrumentalist Leon Michaels, trumpeter Dave Guy, and guitarist/producer Tom Brenneck appearing on many of his projects; the Dap-Kings' horns got prominent placement in "Uptown Funk."

Amy Exposed The Darker Side Of Overwhelming Success

Four years after Winehouse died, a documentary about her life was released. Asif Kapadia’s Amy became an instant rock-doc classic, detailing not only Winehouse’s upbringing, but also her struggles with fame and addiction. It won 30 awards after release, including Best Documentary Feature at the 88th Academy Awards and Best Music Film at the 58th GRAMMY Awards.

It also made a lot of people angry — not for how it portrayed Winehouse, but for how she was made to feel, whether by the British press or by people she considered close. The film documented Winehouse’s struggles with bulimia, self-harm, and depression, and left fans and artists alike feeling heartbroken all over again about the singer’s passing. 

The documentary also let fans in on what life was really like for Winehouse, and potentially for other artists in the public eye. British rapper Stormzy summed it up well in 2016 when he told i-D, "I saw the [documentary, Amy] – it got me flipping angry... [Amy’s story] struck a chord with me in the sense that, as a creative, it looks like on the outside, that it’s very ‘go studio, make a hit, go and perform it around the world, champagne in the club, loads of girls’. But the graft and the emotional strain of being a musician is very hard. No one ever sees that part." 

These days, perhaps because of Winehouse’s plight or documentaries like Amy, the music-loving population seems far more inclined to give their favorite singers a little grace, whether it’s advocating for the end of Britney Spears’ conservatorship or sympathizing with Demi Lovato’s personal struggles. Even the biggest pop stars are still people, and Amy really drove that point home.

We Only Said Goodbye With Words: Remembering Amy Winehouse 10 Years Later

Dylan Chambers
Dylan Chambers

Photo: Courtesy of Dylan Chambers


ReImagined: Watch Dylan Chambers Channel Bruno Mars In This Groovy Cover Of "Uptown Funk"

Pop-soul newcomer Dylan Chambers offers his rendition of "Uptown Funk," Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' infectious 2014 hit.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 05:03 pm

In the latest episode of ReImagined, soul-pop newcomer Dylan Chambers delivers a fresh, heartfelt take on "Uptown Funk", using an electric guitar to drive the performance.

In the year of its inception, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" quickly made strides across the map, from a No. 1 peak on the Billboard Hot 100 to a Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance win at the 2014 GRAMMYs. Ten years after its release, it is the ninth most-viewed YouTube video of all-time and was named one of Billboard's "Songs That Defined The Decade."

Chambers named Mars as one of his most influential inspirations and praised Silk Sonic's Las Vegas residency as one of the "greatest concerts" he has attended in an interview with Muzic Notez.

"Don't believe me, just watch," Chambers calls in the chorus, recreating its notable doo-wop ad-libs with the strums of his instrument.

Chambers dropped his latest single, "I Can Never Get Enough" on April 10, following his March release "High (When I'm Low)." Both tracks will be a part of his upcoming EP, For Your Listening Pleasure!, out May 17.

Press play on the video above to watch Dylan Chambers' groovy rendition of Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk," and check back to for more new episodes of ReImagined.

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LP Giobbi & Femme House
Femme House participants and LP Giobbi (center) at a Seattle workshop.

Photo: Sarah Northrop/@sartakespics


How LP Giobbi & Femme House Are Making Space For Women In Dance Music: "If You Really Want To Make A Change, It Can Be Done"

Piano house DJ/producer LP Giobbi, who co-founded Femme House, tells about the motivating power of belief, getting asked to remix Taylor Swift, and creating a more equitable dance music scene.

GRAMMYs/Mar 25, 2024 - 01:36 pm

Back when LP Giobbi played synth in an all-woman band called LJ Laboratory, seeing Grimes perform and learning that she produced all her own music was a game changer. Although she'd been in music for a while, she'd never thought about producing her own. This is where she felt firsthand the power of visual representation — being able to see and imagine herself in spaces she hadn't before.

After the Oregon-born artist found her way into DJing and music production, her friendship and fruitful creative partnership with GRAMMY-nominated dance pop duo SOFI TUKKER gave her the support she needed to grow in dance music and find her artistic voice. 

Today, the "All In A Dream" producer is doing all she can to pay it forward. Through Femme House — an education program and party series that supports women and nonbinary people in production and DJing — Giobbi, co-founder Hermixalot, education lead Mini Bear and their small-but-mighty team are working hard to bring provide useful resources, workshops and a platform to as many people as they can.

“My partner is in the music industry and he does so much business on the golf course. We need our golf course, where we're building friendships, booking each other and collaborating on each other's work — all those things that happen when you have community,” LP Giobbi recently told She has witnessed Femme House’s in-person workshops as a fruitful example of this.

Given that only 6.5 percent of the producers of songs on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2023 were female (in 2022, that number was 3.4 percent), there's a lot of work to be done to make a male-dominated profession and industry less so. 

On March 1, Femme House released their second compilation album on Insomniac Records, highlighting the wealth of emerging women in dance music. The all-female tracklist features Hermixalot and educators Mary Droppinz and Mini Bear, along with a talented cast of newer names and rising acts including Baby Weight, PAUZA, Lisbona Sisters, and ZOF. Given the massive reach Insomniac has in electronic music, the release will likely expose them to a new, wider fanbase and lead to other opportunities. 

"At a time when the music industry was recognizing a problem, but not really providing any solutions or being proactive, LP Giobbi and Hermixalot took it upon themselves to do the hard work and actually create an entity that puts money where their mouth is," Baby Weight said via email. "The amount of opportunities they have been able to provide through workshops and sponsorships and takeovers at festivals is honestly super inspiring — and it should be proof that if you really want to make a change, it can be done." 

Femme House has also intentionally created safe spaces for all women and queer people, not just white cis-gender women.

"As a transgender woman, I sometimes feel like I don’t belong with the other girls in the industry and the cisgender straight males don’t understand me either,"  Baby Weight added. "The Femme House community, however, didn’t blink and welcomed me with open arms and acknowledged me for who I am. So being able to be a part of this tapestry, and provide that same validation to others out there who may have felt the same way, means the world to me."

Since Femme House launched in 2019, they've educated over 12,000 women and gender-expansive people through online classes and free workshops. They also offer six annual scholarships for creators in the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ community, which include free gear, one-on-one classes, and professional development.

"One of the reasons I decided to teach music production is because I knew how important it was to create safe and supportive learning environments for people who haven't traditionally had spaces where they can take up space and wholly be themselves," Mini Bear wrote via email. "I want to create the kind of space I wish existed when I was starting out, and to uplift those who have been underrepresented and shut out."

Femme House has grown at an impressive rate since its founding, adding new classes and workshops as well as more femme-centered parties and releases. They also sell affordable go-at-your-own-pace online courses on production, and a wide offering of free monthly classes on specific elements of DJing, production techniques, songwriting and more.

Read on to hear from LP Giobbi about the work Femme House is doing to bring more women into dance music and production.

Let's start with the Femme House Vol. 2 compilation album. It follows the first Femme House album that came out on Insomniac Records in 2022, but how did this one come together and how did you choose the artists and tracks for it?

Insomniac has been an amazing partner on this. I worked closely with their A&R team on both the first and second compilation. I had a list of artists in my mind that have been really supportive of the mission and that we've worked with. 

I had some ideas in my head and then sat within the Insomniac team. They had a lot of great ideas and turned me on to some artists that they had been supporting early on, so I got to discover new music through them. I really want to reiterate how amazing Insomniac has been on this mission. They do the biggest electronic festivals in the U.S. and so they have such a [huge] platform and a lot of power in the industry. So to see them put their hand up and care and realize Maybe we need to work harder on making sure our lineups are diverse [is really awesome]. How do you get diverse lineups? You have to help build artists from the beginning.

They really are aware of what this compilation could do for an artist and how it can help them and build their story. After we finally put it together — they were like "We really want to keep supporting these artists to eventually book them for EDC and our other big festivals." They really truly are partners in the sense of caring not just about this one compilation but the larger industry at whole.

How else is Insomniac helping you support women in building their DJ careers?

It's this chicken or egg thing that we really work hard on at Femme House: How do you get booked for a festival? By getting booked for a festival [before]. Promoters will look at other lineups and see who's playing. So we do a lot of stage takeovers with Femme House [with slots for artists who've never played a festival]. 

Insomniac was the first [promoter/event brand] to reach out to us and asked us to do one at EDC. We were able to book a full female and gender-expansive lineup. That's where our partnership started with them. Most of the folks who played that [EDC with us], it was their first time playing a festival. It really allowed them to start building their story and sort of sell what they're capable of and what they've done. Whenever we do stage takeovers, we save the opening slot for [the winner of] a contest we run where if you've never played a festival before, you can send us a mix.

Your track with Femme House co-founder Hermixalot that opens the compilation reimagines the Rapture's "How Deep Is Your Love"— the first dance track you fell in love with. How did y'all approach covering such a memorable tune while giving it your own touch?

My fiancé is the one who showed me electronic music and the Rapture, which was kind of a gateway for me. I remember listening to "How Deep Is Your Love" [when we first started dating] and having the most epic dance party... It was probably the most fun five minutes of my life. I always wanted to have a version of that song I could play in my sets. I made an [instrumental cover] track with harder hitting drums, and started playing it out and sets. I would throw in that piano line over a bunch of different tracks and was always weaving it throughout [my set] because it's so simple but it's so catchy. 

I played a festival set and Hermixalot was like, "That 'How Deep Is Your Love' [cover] is so sick, I love that track." Our musical tastes don't usually overlap; she's more R&B and everything outside dance music. I asked if she wanted to sing on it. She came with such a cool, unique [take]. She did a few different versions — some that had her more R&B flair to it where she did a few different runs — and we ended up piecing them together.

To get to cover my favorite dance track with the person that helped me believe I could be an artist and who created Femme House with me — where our mission is to be what you haven't normally traditionally seen — just so it feels so fitting and really special.

Can you talk about the Femme House tour you did last year,  where you had workshops in each city you headlined during your Light Places tour?

The workshops are free. They're safe spaces for women and gender-expansive folks, but all are welcome. I would play the show and an afterparty and then get on the first flight out because I needed to get to the workshop [in the next city], which was happening in the daytime. I would be [so tired] and then show up at the workshop and feel so fueled [by it]. 

We partnered with Ableton who brought on their female certified trainers in each city. I think there's only seven, which is like two percent of their trainers, but talk about a company that really cares about the mission. They have been so wildly supportive.

The workshop was Intro to Ableton, so we were targeting newer users. [The class helps you] get comfortable opening the program, loading a track and starting your idea, which sometimes can be the scariest part. We really wanted to focus on the basics and try to reach new people because once you're in, we have all sorts of online courses that cover topics way more in-depth. 

We also had our lead educator, Mini Bear, [a.k.a.] Lauren Kop, who's on the compilation, did a few workshops. The opener for the tour is an amazing artist named Bad Snacks, who studied electronic music at Berklee School of Music and is one of the most proficient humans in Ableton I've ever met. She taught some of the workshops as well.

What else is coming up for Femme House in 2024?

We're doing a big activation soon at Miami Music Week. We are [also] partnering with Armada [Music] to do an educational series with them and their Armada University. We are also doing a few more festival stage takeovers that I can't announce yet. We'll have that contest for the opening slots to make sure we're booking somebody that's never gotten to play festival before. 

[Femme House is] getting so many awesome incoming opportunities. The education is first and foremost, we'll continue to have monthly production and DJ courses and we are adding [online] show photography courses, which I'm really excited about.

The photographer I tour with a lot, Sarah [Northrop] — SarTakesPics is her Instagram — is gonna teach. Touring photography is also a male dominated industry. On the last tour, she started a program where at every one of my shows she picked a photographer to shadow. She would meet with this person and sit with them for an hour, share her knowledge, how she got there and let that person ask questions. That person would do a photo shoot with me to practice portraits, and they would shoot the show as well and have full access to the stage. It was an incredible program, so we'll keep doing that. She'll have a shadow at a few events at Miami Music Week.

And we have a series called Backstage Pass where we invite folks from the industry, not artists or music makers, but agents, promoters and managers and folks come and talk. Our community Zooms in and the [special guest] tell their story on how they got where they are. 

I think the contacts part is so important because some people start from nowhere. You had Sofi Tukker, who you've talked about being so vital to your career.

Yeah, oh my god. SOFI TUKKER had some success and they met the head of electronic [music] at Spotify and sent them my songs — they were promoting [their own] songs, but they sent mine. That is what changed everything for me, and then allowing me [the space to] learn how to DJ. That's why Femme House is so important to me, because the power of an artist supporting another artist is life changing.

I just launched a label this year, Yes Yes Yes, in partnership with Defected. There's one artist I just signed, Mascolo — how Sophie and Tucker felt about me, I feel about this artist. I'm gonna bring him on tour with me. I'm releasing his first records at the end of April. 

I'm sick of talking about myself and seeing myself in flyers. This artist has given me new energy again. This is so much more fun to me; to listen and believe in their music and see the little seeds of growing their own fan base.

He's the most talented songwriter, producer and artist I've ever been in a room with. He was signed with Ryan Tedder, so he was writing pop songs for massive pop stars. He started showing me some of his dance tunes. And I was like, "Dude, what?" His music is very different but he's like a Frank Ocean as far as a freak genius. I believe in him so f—ing much. I believe in him more than I believe myself. This feeling of deep conviction over somebody else is a really beautiful, powerful feeling.

I think we all need champions and affirmations, even as simple as when someone compliments your work.

SOFI TUKKER gave me a stage, literally started a label to release my music—they did everything for me. But the biggest thing they did for me was they believed. There's no greater gift than the power of belief because then you start believing maybe it is possible. It's not just the belief, it's all the work you have to do to get there. That gift allowed me to do everything I needed to do to actually sustain myself as an artist. I'm so excited to give that to somebody that I really believe in.

What do you think we can start doing now as a dance music community to support more diversity and equity across the genre and scene?

We at Femme House really believe that this change [needs] allies. It cannot just be the underrepresented people doing all the f—ing work. That goes for all movements, I believe. It takes the gatekeepers. It takes the people who are booking the festivals to go, "Wait, is this diverse enough?" When I get booked, I have my agent send out this thing that says if you're still in the process of booking your lineup, here's a bunch of women and gender expansive artists. I had a big learning lesson when one of the first Femme House workshops was all white women. That is why we started the BIPOC scholarship.

The most amazing thing about Femme House has been to see how many of these gatekeepers have come to us saying "How can we make a change.?" On a festival, 90 percent of the tickets are sold by the headliners. So that means that the undercard, the other 50 artists that you're booking, you have so much opportunity to diversify that bottom half of the festival bill. And I do believe that slowly but surely that's happening. 

The more women we have on these lineups, the more people in the audience will, subconsciously or consciously, go Oh! That would be a possibility for me. Then they'll do the work if they want to and slowly everything changes.

What are your biggest dreams for Femme House and for women and non-binary representation in dance music and music production?

My biggest dream is to have anybody believe they can do anything. At Femme House, we don't expect having more female DJs or producers will change the world. But having anybody believe they can do anything will change the world. Our outlet just happens to be electronic music, but I would love for everybody to see themselves represented in whatever they want to do and believe they can do it.

You had a really big year last year, which included remixing Taylor Swift's "Cruel Summer." How did that official remix come about and how did you feel taking it on?

I was in Marbella, Spain, about to go on stage and my manager called me. He's like, "I know you're going on stage right now but Taylor Swift reached out to work with you." And I was just like, "Wait, what? She knows my name?" [Chuckles.] I was so confused and blown away. [When] I got off stage, I immediately started working on it because I wanted to beast mode it without even having to be asked for it. She listened to it and liked it. I had no idea about a release or anything else.

I was asleep on an airplane flying to Amsterdam for [Amsterdam Dance Event]. My tour manager comes over and wakes me up to tell me Taylor Swift is gonna release the remix tonight. These things happen a lot and oftentimes nothing will come from it. You never say anything until it's actually happened. [Laughs.] I couldn't believe it. When I landed, literally every human I've ever met that maybe had my number had contacted me. Then I saw that she tagged me on her Instagram [post]. The last person Taylor Swift tagged in an Instagram post was Beyoncé, so that was crazy. She definitely did help change my career.

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Danielle Ponder's Powerful Song Of Reckoning
Danielle Ponder performs during 2023 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival

Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images


Danielle Ponder's Powerful Song Of Reckoning: How The Singer/Songwriter Melds The Personal & Historical On "Manhunt" Theme

Former public defender Danielle Ponder is known for her deeply emotive R&B. Her latest release is the theme for AppleTV+ historical thriller "Manhunt." Ponder unpacks music's power to connect and heal — whether that's on stage or on the silver screen.

GRAMMYs/Mar 18, 2024 - 07:32 pm

Danielle Ponder has an intriguing and eminently re-tellable origin story —  a many-forked path that winds through the courtroom and to the global stage. 

The Rochester, New York artist began her career as a public defender, later changing lanes to become a R&B and soul singer/songwriter. Most recently, Ponder is the composer and singer of "Egún." The theme song for the buzzy AppleTV+ historical thriller "Manhunt," "Egún" — which means "ancestor" in Yoruba — is as haunting as it is catchy. Its reverb-drenched, clap-driven refrain of "you can’t keep running" is an irresistible singalong about the inevitability of historical reckoning. 

It’s a perfect fit for a miniseries about the race to capture Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth, and a thematic branching out for Ponder, who specializes in woozy, soul-baring songs about individual heartbreak. Of course, from Ponder’s perspective, it’s all part of the same whole. 

"If my heart has been broken because of a man, or my heart has been broken because of experiencing racism, I'm still just sharing my life," she tells "But I don't got no man to cry about, so that has opened up a lot of space to cry about the government." 

After listening to her talk about the many-forked path Ponder has taken  — from being discouraged from listening to secular music by her pastor father, to performing in a family band, to leaving her career as a public defender, recording her solo album Some Of Us Are Brave and touring the globe with artists including Trombone Shorty — the question that lingers, thrillingly, is where else she’ll go. Ponder spoke with about the power of music to restore fuller humanity to incarcerated people, the joys of live performance and solo composition, and the hip-hop legend who encouraged her to focus wholeheartedly on music. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

As a former public defender, you have a very specific and elegantly synthesized belief about how music could contribute to actual criminal justice. How did you develop that philosophy, and how does it inform your work today?

When people ask me about being a public defender versus being a musician, there's two kinds of themes that I see. I think both require the art of storytelling, the ability to tell someone's story in a way that a listener is hearing you, and not only hearing you, but empathizing. And then when I say empathizing, it brings me to the second piece of it. I think music has such a beautiful way of placing us in someone's world. I use the example of Alanis Morissette, because that song, "You Oughta Know" — I heard it when I was 16, and, child, I thought I was going through a breakup! That song just made me feel. She articulated emotions in a way I couldn't even understand at that age, but I immediately can empathize with the pain she was going through.

We need that empathy so much in our criminal justice system. It's so easy to other people, to call people defendants, to call them perpetrators, and not see their humanity. When I was working in the criminal justice system, representing over 100 people in a day sometimes, you can lose faith in humanity, because you see those people being treated terribly, being dehumanized consistently. 

But then I got to play shows on the weekend, and I saw the best of us. I think about how we capture the energy of empathy that we feel in music, and apply that to other parts of our lives. Specifically, when it comes to criminal justice reform, how do we also hear those stories, and as human beings be able to connect with where a person is, or where a person was in their life?

You and your band performed at Attica Correctional Facility, where your brother was incarcerated at the time. Would you talk about that for a little bit? As soon as I heard the story, I wondered if you’d consider following in Johnny Cash’s footsteps with a live album recorded at a prison. 

I'm still trying to get my own footing, but I know that part of my work has to be highlighting not only criminal justice reform, but the people behind the stories. Being involved with people who are incarcerated is a beautiful way to do that. I do have some things that I'm working on right now that involve me working in a prison and I'm really excited about that. 

Going back to Attica, that was my favorite show. I play a lot of shows, but there’s something really beautiful and painful about seeing talented people in cages. There was a man who had been there since 1976, serving a life sentence. He plays the saxophone so beautifully, and as a society we’ve made it so the worst thing he has ever done has defined his life. We had people join us on stage, they rapped, and sang, and played the keyboards, and knowing that this is talent that the world may never see? The rate at which the U.S. incarcerates people, one of them could be our next Billie Holiday, or our next Miles Davis

The other piece was watching the guards and the incarcerated men react to the music equally. In the beginning of the show, the guards were really trying to just keep it together, but eventually, they started clapping along with the music, and it was beautiful to watch. Those lines between guard and inmate begin to fade, and two groups of people who have been institutionalized in many ways, connect and clap on the same beat. That's why art is important — it breaks down the walls that we build up. And it's our most ancient way of connecting. We need that more than ever right now.  

You’re well-known for your deeply personal songwriting, often about romantic relationships. "Egún" is quite different, it’s got a historical theme, and a significant invocation of ancestors. What’s the story of how you wrote this song — did it exist before you were approached to work on something for the series?  

The music already existed; it was a riff I wrote in law school, but the lyrics really came when [series creator and showrunner] Monica Beletsky spoke to me about one of the witnesses at the trial, who was a Black woman, Mary Sims. [Sims had formerly been enslaved by Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was tried as a co-conspirator with Booth.] I wanted to write something from that angle, from that character. I knew I could connect to that, but I needed it to go somewhere a little deeper. For me, that was to think of all of the people who lost their lives to the most horrific institution that this country has known, and that we fight for freedom — we are persistent in our fight not only for ourselves and for our children, but for those who have died under slavery. 

The song was much bigger than saying "we're gonna catch you for killing Lincoln." It was saying that a reckoning will always come; I wanted it to send a message that liberation is going to happen, and as dark as our world can feel, we have made great strides. I wanted it to feel like the ancestors will literally haunt you. You can't run away from it, you can't hide. When I think about people who spend so much time attacking trans folks or attacking Black folks, I just think that hate is living in your heart, how is it serving you?

It’s a fascinating song, because it’s so personal while mapping to something much bigger, thematically. This is such an extraordinary moment for personal and confessional songwriting, particularly among female artists. Who are the artists you respect and look up to in that cohort alongside you? 

Jamila Woods is such a great writer — she was a poet earlier. I'm always jealous of the songwriters who used to be poets, they’re so good at writing and they can also sing. I just did a project with Adi Oasis, too. I love her work, and this song that we've done, "Dumpalltheguns." Brandi Carlile is obviously the GOAT of songwriting. These are just a few in my rotation — there's so many people who I really admire, whose songs I listen to and feel like Oh, my God, why didn't I write that?

Along those lines, how do you discover music that’s new, or just new to you? A number of your influences are — and I mean this as a compliment to them — weirdo British eccentrics, but I know that you listened to very little secular music in your childhood. How did other genres of music and artists like Pink Floyd and Portishead come into your life?

It really started with Columbia House — I owe them like $10,000. My dad backed off of his no secular music rule when I was 16 years old. So I just went ham, and bought a lot of hip-hop, artists like Lauryn Hill, KRS-One, and Jay-Z. But I also bought Alanis Morissette and Pearl Jam. Through my love of alternative and hip-hop, I discovered trip-hop, which to me, is like the child of those two genres. That's how I became a Portishead fan. Pink Floyd is a band I discovered later in life, probably in my college years. It may just be because everyone had that damn poster on their wall. 

Trip-hop evokes so much emotion, and it's cinematic, and that's the type of music I love. I just live for emotion. I want to feel something deeply when I hear music, I want to get goosebumps! There's times when I just want to party, but mostly, I want to cry. I want to feel something really deep, and that's what I want my music to do for people.

So where are you now, as a songwriter? Are you writing your second album at this point? 

I am in it. I just came back from some sessions in London, and am going to do some sessions here — I was working on music this morning. 

A lot of space has opened up for what they would call political music — I don't love that title. Because it's just my life. You know, if I talk about heartbreak, or my heart has been broken because of a man or my heart has been broken because of experiencing racism I'm still just sharing my life. But I don't got no man to cry about. So that has opened up a lot of space to cry about the government. 

That interest in provoking emotional responses, and the cinematic quality of your own work, are such strong throughlines across your early material, and you’ve brought it with you on songs like "Egún." What draws you to creating songs so suited to TV or film?

Cinematic music is emotional music, because the person who's writing the score is attempting to get you to feel something. They're very deliberate and intentional about it. The music can change what you feel is coming in the next scene, how you feel about the characters. It's shaping the story, and I am obsessed with getting people to feel things. 

When I first saw one of my songs synced to the "Manhunt" credits, I cried, because it just felt perfect. I was in court two years ago, and now I’m watching the credits — I just started screaming. It's a perfect marriage.

You’re composing and recording, and you’re a relentlessly touring musician. What does playing live do for you like as an artist?

I mean, it's my favorite thing to do. Being onstage is my sanctuary; it is where I am most present in my life, it's a meditation. When I hit that stage, I could be stressed, I could be sick, but something happens where I kind of forget about things, it's when I'm most fully present. 

Community is very important for me, I don't want to be sitting in my house, playing the guitar to myself. And going back to this ancient way of connecting, it’s bringing your music to the public square and playing for the village. I think the intention, the purpose of music is to build community. And when I'm performing on stage, I feel like the luckiest person that I get to do that, and that someone gives me a check after, is really insane.

I can't overstate how lucky I am to perform live. But I will tell you that you have to take time to be in the creative space. And so right now, I'm not performing that much, and I'm really thankful for the break, because I need to know what's next to say.

When you’re in that creative space, or squeezing in those moments while you’re on the road, how frequently do you play songs in progress for a live audience?

Well, "Roll The Credits," for example, I wrote that song on tour. I had and loved the music, and I was like, "Let's just perform the song tonight! I'll freestyle something." And then at the next show, some of those lyrics stuck, they were actually good! So I added some more – honestly, I wrote this song live on stage. By the fourth or fifth show, I had the lyrics. 

Usually, the music comes first and I usually write lyrics last, sometimes grudgingly. There's a song right now I'm ready to perform, and I have not finished writing it, but I'm wanting to perform it next Friday. So hopefully these lyrics will finish themselves.

Let’s bring this full-circle. When you were playing in that first band with your brother and cousins, what did you imagine the future would hold? 

Honestly, we thought we were gonna be the Jackson 5.

I love that. Kids don’t have limited ambitions, they don’t hide their light under a bushel, so they straightforwardly plan to be the literal king of pop music. Why not?

I'm trying to do that now. As you get older, you start downsizing your dreams — I did that. And then the universe showed me I didn't have to, because things were happening that were beyond what I could imagine. 

And so now…I don't want to put any limitations on myself because of my age, or because of how late I got into this. If I’d done that, I wouldn't have believed that I could write a theme song for a TV series, I would have been too scared to do it. So I'm working on transforming my thinking, because I could actually do all the things. 

Was there one particular moment when you realized you were going to return to that youthful energy and feeling to pivot entirely to being a professional musician? 

There were several little moments within the span of a few months, but one that sticks out was a Zoom call with Q-Tip. And he said, "I know about your work as a public defender, and you've been an activist for years, and it's time for you to be rewarded for your work." 

It gave me goosebumps when he said that. It gave me permission — I’d been wondering, should I leave this very important work to just do music? — but also that permission was coming from Q-Tip! He heard my music, and it gave me some validation. So that was one of the moments where I knew I’d be telling my boss, "Hey, man. I can't be here much longer."

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