meta-script9 "RuPaul's Drag Race" Queens With Musical Second Acts: From Shea Couleé To Trixie Mattel & Willam | GRAMMY.com
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Drag queen/singer Shea Couleé performs in Austin, Texas

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9 "RuPaul's Drag Race" Queens With Musical Second Acts: From Shea Couleé To Trixie Mattel & Willam

RuPaul broke down a barrier with her hit 1993 single "Supermodel," and these queens have stomped right through.

GRAMMYs/Mar 15, 2023 - 01:32 pm

When RuPaul first hit the mainstream in 1993 with the hit single "Supermodel (You Better Work)," it was the culmination of about a decade of work in music — from her time fronting the new wave band Wee Wee Pole to her years working the New York City nightlife scene as a club kid and dancer. "Supermodel" pushed RuPaul into the mainstream, giving her the opportunity not only to land cosmetics contracts and present VMAs, but also to get her brand out there. 

A talk show and some hosting gigs followed, and in 2009, Logo launched "RuPaul’s Drag Race," a then mostly unheralded reality competition show hosted by the queen herself. Since then, the show has aired more than 200 episodes featuring more than 270 queens. (That’s not even including the girls from the international "Drag Race" spin-offs, of which there are many.) RuPaul has also continued her musical career, to date releasing a staggering 15 LPs, six compilation albums, 68 singles, and 42 music videos. In short, RuPaul’s musical cred is bonafide.

That musical legacy has trickled down to Ru’s TV family, too. Now in its 15th season, "RuPaul’s Drag Race" has introduced the world to a generation of incredible drag performers, including more than a few who have made their mark on the musical world. Today, most queens who make it to the end of their "Drag Race" season end up releasing a collaborative single as part of the show, like season 13’s "Lucky" or "All-Stars" season two’s "Read U Wrote U."  

Some queens have gone beyond that, dropping solo LPs, fronting bands, and even touring arenas with their music. Here are nine "Drag Race" alums whose music has helped launch their second act. 

Shea Couleé

A stellar queen from Chicago, Shea Couleé first showed up on "Drag Race" in season nine, where she came in second behind Sasha Velour. She came back for "Drag Race All-Stars" season 5, which she won, and then took another stab at the crown for "All-Stars" season 7. 

That season, she was able to showcase her musical talent with a stellar performance of "Your Name." That song, along with a whole slate of other bangers inspired by Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, and Chaka Khan are on her latest record, 8, which she’s touring now.  Couleé also will join five other "Drag Race" alum on a recently announced U.S. tour.

Bob The Drag Queen

A true multi-hyphenate, Bob The Drag Queen is not only "Drag Race" season eight winner; he’s also a comedian, podcaster, actor, host and musician. Best known for tracks like "Purse First," which he dropped the same day he won "Drag Race," Bob's latest effort is a great listen, too. The six-song EP Gay Barz is filled with stellar club bangers that mix camp and hip-hop, showcasing Bob's true musical sensibility.

Trixie Mattel

You can’t talk about musically successful "Drag Race" queens without talking about Trixie Mattel. While the "All-Stars" 3 winner makes a good portion of her income doing everything from refurbishing a hotel to curating and creating her successful cosmetics line, she still devotes time to her music.

She’s released four records — all of which are folksier and Fountains Of Wayne-inspired than anything else that’s come out of "Drag Race" — touring extensively around each, as well as a number of music videos. Some of her songs, like "Mama Don’t Make Me Put On The Dress Again," can seem a little tongue in cheek, but Mattel backs it all up with legit musical skills, playing both the guitar and the autoharp quite well. 

Adore Delano

Fans loved Adore Delano on "Drag Race" season seven and that ardor only continued after the show. The performer’s musical career really started to take off with 2014’s Till Death Do Us Party, which reached No. 59 on the Billboard 200 chart. Subsequent punky dance records like 2016’s After Party, 2017’s Whatever, and 2021’s Dirty Laundry EP have helped Delano sell out venues around the world

Delano’s music bops all over the pop landscape, with tracks like "Hello, I Love You" merging Katy Perry styling with coyly bubblebum lyrics while the electro-tinged "I Adore U" would fit perfectly on a packed nightclub dancefloor. 

Alaska

Another "Drag Race" winner with a brazenly brash attitude and a heaping helping of musical talent, Alaska has released four albums, all with fairly spicy names. First came 2015’s Anus, followed by 2016’s Poundcake, 2019’s Vagina, and then 2022’s Red 4 Filth

Alaska’s singles have always been earworms, too, and she’s brought her "Drag Race" sisters along whenever she can. Kandy Muse features on  "Sitting Alone In The VIP," while "Girlz Night," which found Rose and Jan dropping in with their girl group Stephanie’s Child. Alaska has even brought her talent to the theater, crafting "Drag: The Musical," which sold out its entire debut run in 2022.

Willam

Willam might be one of the most controversial "Drag Race" contestants of all time, earning an early dismissal from season four after RuPaul accused her of breaking the rules behind the scenes. (Willam has since explained that she was getting illicit hotel visits from her husband during taping.) 

Still, she had a successful Hollywood career before "Drag Race," with guest spots on numerous television procedurals. She’s only become more notable since, even snagging a speaking part in Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born. Her musical output has always been as sassy and tongue in cheek as she is. Her parody tracks like "Aileen" and "Derrick" skillfully tread the thin line between musical triumph and well-executed gag. She’s also been a part of two drag supergroups: DWV with Detox and Vicky Vox, and the AAA Girls with Courtney Act and Alaska. 

Courtney Act

Courtney Act came to "Drag Race" fame after making the season six finale, where she’d ultimately lose to Bianca Del Rio. She’s been singing pretty much her entire career — she actually broke into entertainment by appearing on "Australian Idol" in 2003 — but much of her output has come since her "Drag Race" debut. 

Like her Australian sister Kylie Minogue, Act loves a soaring, inspirational club banger, as evidenced by singles like "Kaleidoscope" and "Fight For Love." She released  "To Russia With Love" in an effort to help shine a light on anti-gay purges in Chechnya.  

Since her "Drag Race" loss, Courtney Act has appeared on a variety of reality shows in both the UK and Australia, including "Dancing With The Stars" and "Celebrity Big Brother UK," the latter of which she won.

Katya

Known for her oddball humor, out-there drag, and frequent collaborations with Trixie Mattel, Katya came to "Drag Race" prominence on season seven before she returned to compete in "All-Stars" two. Her drag is half performance piece, half wacked out fashion show, and her drag persona is a sort of cold Russian uber-bitch. 

Katya's music follows suit, with much of her 2020 EP Vampire Fitness featuring songs in multiple languages as Katya channeled her favorite Russian nightclub singers. That’s not to say that the tracks don’t rip, though: "Ding Dong" is a certified earworm, Russian lyrics and all, while the breathy goth dance cut "Come To Brazil" (guest starring Alaska) has racked up over a million views on YouTube. 

Priyanka

The season one winner of "Drag Race Canada," Priyanka charmed fans worldwide with her charming earnestness and musical prowess. After snagging the crown, she released her debut EP, Taste Test, as well as a slate of five music videos in support of the record. The clips combine into a story of super villain-infused murder mystery that culminates in a battle royale between Priyanka and "Drag Race UK" contestant Cheryl Hole. The whole thing is as goofy as it is danceable. 

Fun fact: "Come Through," which is a great and catchy song as its own, also features a guest verse from Priyanka’s "Drag Race Canada" sister Lemon. The song has become so beloved among fans that a one-hour mix of just that snippet of the song has almost 750,000 views on YouTube.

Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More

Lizzo performs during at the 2020 BRIT Awards

Lizzo performs at the 2020 BRIT Awards

 

Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage

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Virgin Fest 2020 Lineup: Lizzo, A$AP Rocky, Anderson .Paak, Ellie Goulding & More Announced

The inaugural festival boasts an all-inclusive lineup, composed of 60 percent female artists, and an eco-conscious approach

GRAMMYs/Feb 20, 2020 - 10:10 pm

Virgin Fest, a brand-new multi-genre festival debuting later this year, has announced its inaugural lineup. The two-day event, taking place June 6-7 across multiple stages throughout Banc Of California Stadium and Exposition Park in South Los Angeles, has confirmed recent GRAMMY newcomer Lizzo and rap giant A$AP Rocky as the headliners. The lineup also includes Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Diplo's Major Lazer outfit, recent Best New Artist nominees Tank And The Bangas and many more. 

Virgin Fest, which is promoting an all-inclusive environment—its tagline boasts "All Are Welcome"—features a diverse artist roster. As Rolling Stone points out, the 2020 lineup is composed of 60 percent female artists, which include acts like Ellie Goulding, Kali Uchis, Jorja Smith, Banks, Japanese Breakfast, Empress Of and others. 

Read: The 1975's Matt Healy Pledges Only To Play Gender-Balanced Festivals

The festival is also celebrating the LGBTQ+ fan and artist community. In addition to booking LGBTQ+ artists and allies, including Clairo, Trixie Mattel, singer-songwriter and former Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui and others, Virgin Fest is offering gender-neutral restrooms and is screening all vendors to ensure they align with the festival's values of inclusivity and positivity, with a focus on the LGBTQ+ community and an "emphasis on correct pronoun usage," according to PRIDE.

Read: 2020 Pitchfork Festival: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Run The Jewels, The National To Headline

In an interview with PRIDE, Virgin Fest CEO and founder Jason Felts discussed the festival's LGBTQ+-focused lineup and its approach to creating an inclusive environment.

"Being a gay man who loves music and loves people and loves diversity and loves humanity on the whole, I thought, 'Why don't we have a festival that celebrates all of that?'" he said.  

Read: Firefly Fest 2020 Lineup: Billie Eilish, Halsey, Rage Against The Machine, Maggie Rogers & More 

Virgin Fest is also taking an eco-conscious approach focusing on sustainability. The festival is "handpicking vendors who share its values and have policies that comply with their commitment to sustainability"; it will also be the "first festival in California to employ a reusable cup deposit system instead of single-use plastic cups," according to a post shared on the Virgin Group's, the festival's parent company, website. According to the event's website, the festival is also banning all single-use plastics onsite and will feature a "robust renewable energy and solar program," among other green initiatives.

To purchase tickets and to view the full lineup for the inaugural Virgin Fest, visit the festival's official website.

Breaking Down The Coachella 2020 Lineup: Rage Against The Machine, Frank Ocean, Calvin Harris & More Announced

Shea Coulee

Photo: Photo: Santiago Felipe/FilmMagic via Getty Images

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Watch: Shea Coulee's Most Touching Video To Date For "Rewind"

Directed by Sam Bailey, the black-and-white visual takes viewers through Couleé's memory as they relive both tender and volatile moments with their lover

GRAMMYs/Aug 2, 2019 - 09:08 pm

Shea Couleé delivers a stirring dramatic performance in the video for one of their most vulnerable songs to date, "Rewind."

Directed by Sam Bailey, the black-and-white visual takes viewers through Couleé's memory as they relive both tender and volatile moments with their lover.

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b_SlvpQ1sao" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

"It has a very cinematic quality to match the cinematic quality of the song," Couleé exclusively told Billboard. "And it's kind of a glimpse into my life and my past .. the concept of rewinding, as if our lives were films that we have the ability to go back and re-do." 

They add that the video touches on how minds can alter memories to be less painful: "We try to get the best edit that we can so it doesn't hurt as much."

Putting their usual lively, fierce side on pause, Couleé let their guard down about a past relationship in the song with producer and songwriter GESS. 

"The fans had only seen this high-energy, dance-y, confident music [from me] and this was my opportunity to show a little bit of vulnerability," Couleé said. "The only relationship I ever had, other than the one I'm in now, he suffered from bipolar disorder and he wound up taking his life. It's really, really hard. It's such a weird heartbreak because there's so many unanswered questions." 

Music has allowed the former RuPaul's Drag Race cast member to show different sides of themselves. "I enjoy being able to surprise people and reveal my different sides to them – sometimes people only see a certain side, and music allows yourself to express yourself a bit more," they said. 

Up Close & Personal: Lizzo On The Essence Of 'Cuz I Love You,' Missy Elliott's Impact & More

Billie Eilish in Brooklyn, New York in May 2024
Billie Eilish at the 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' release party in Brooklyn, New York on May 15, 2024.

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Billie Eilish Fully Embraces Herself On 'Hit Me Hard And Soft': 5 Takeaways From The New Album

On her third album, Billie Eilish returns to "the girl that I was" — and as a result, 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' celebrates all of the weird, sexual, beautiful, vulnerable parts of her artistry.

GRAMMYs/May 17, 2024 - 07:50 pm

Billie Eilish has never been one to shy away from her feelings. In fact, she doubles down on them.

Since her debut EP, 2017's Don't Smile At Me, the pop star has held listeners' hands as she guides them through the darkest pages of her diary. The EP found a teenage Eilish navigating heartbreak while her blockbuster debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? — which swept the General Field Categories (Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist) at the 2020 GRAMMYs — was a chilling and raw look into her depression-fueled nightmares. And 2021's Happier Than Ever had her confronting misogyny and the weight of fame.

She could have easily succumbed to the pop star pressures for her third studio album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, out today (May 17). Instead, she reverts to her sonic safe space: creating intimate melodies with her brother and day-one collaborator, FINNEAS. Only this time, the lyrics are more mature and the production is more ambitious.

"This whole process has felt like I'm coming back to the girl that I was. I've been grieving her," Eilish told Rolling Stone about how HIT ME HARD AND SOFT revisited elements of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? "I've been looking for her in everything, and it's almost like she got drowned by the world and the media. I don't remember when she went away."

Here are five takeaways from Billie Eilish's new album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, where Old Billie is resuscitated and comforted by New Billie. 

Heartbreaking Ballads Are Her Sweet Spot

Tenderness remains at Eilish's core, and it's beautifully highlighted on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Despite her love for eccentric electro-pop beats, ballads have always been the singer's strong suit. After she first displayed that in her debut single, 2015's "ocean eyes," Eilish won two GRAMMYs and an Oscar for her delicate Barbie soundtrack standout, "What Was I Made For?" — and the magic of her melancholic balladry returned on the new album.

HIT ME's album opener, "SKINNY," mimics the self-reflection of Happier Than Ever's "Getting Older" opener, where she painfully sings about Hollywood's body image standards. "People say I look happy just because I got skinny/ But the old me is still me and maybe the real me/ And I think she's pretty," she muses. 

"WILDFLOWER" cuts in the album's center like a knife to the chest. Eilish's comparisons to a lover's ex-girlfriend are devastating over a bare piano melody — the simplest production on the LP: "You say no one knows you so well/ But every time you touch me, I just wonder how she felt."

HIT ME Isn't Afraid To Get A Little Weird

What makes Eilish so intriguing is her effortless balance between misery and mischief. On lead single "LUNCH," the singer/songwriter taps into the playful attitude of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? smash "bad guy."

Over an upbeat and kooky production, she lets her carnal fantasies about devouring a woman run wild. The fantasies continue on "THE DINER," with Eilish stepping into the stalker mindset that may be inspired by her own life (she was granted a five-year restraining order against an alleged stalker last year). "I came in through the kitchen lookin' for something to eat/ I left a calling card so they would know that it was me," she winks on the chorus.

She Lays The "Whisper Singing" Criticism To Rest

Eilish's subdued voice has been chided as much as it's been lauded. She first gave naysayers the middle finger on Happier Than Ever's title track, nearly screaming in the song's latter half. On her latest album, she showcases her range even further, from bold belts to delicate falsettos.

The gauzy synths and vocal yearning of "BIRDS OF A FEATHER" is the perfect summer anthem, soundtracking the feeling of kissing your lover as the salty Los Angeles breeze runs through your hair. On the second half of "THE GREATEST," she unleashes a wail-filled fury. 

"HIT ME HARD AND SOFT was really the first time that I was aware of the things that I could do, the ways I could play with my voice, and actually did that," she recently told NPR Music. "That's one thing I feel very proud of with this album — my bravery, vocally."

Her Vulnerability Hasn't Waned

Eilish is quite the paradox, as her superpower is her emotional fragility. Her music has doubled as confessionals since the beginning of her career, and that relatable vulnerability threads HIT ME together. Despite its lighthearted nature, "LUNCH" marks the first time the singer has discussed her sexuality in a song.

"That song was actually part of what helped me become who I am, to be real," Eilish told  Rolling Stone of "LUNCH." "I wrote some of it before even doing anything with a girl, and then wrote the rest after. I've been in love with girls for my whole life, but I just didn't understand — until, last year, I realized I wanted my face in a vagina. I was never planning on talking about my sexuality ever, in a million years. It's really frustrating to me that it came up."

Then there's "SKINNY," which is a raw insight into how much social media's discussions of her body and fame affected her. "When I step off the stage, I'm a bird in a cage/ I'm a dog in a dog pound," she sings. "BLUE," the album's closer, finds Eilish accepting her state of post-breakup sorrow: "I'd like to mean it when I say I'm over you, but that's still not true."

FINNEAS Has Unlocked A New Production Level

FINNEAS — Eilish's brother, producer and confidant — has grown as much as his younger sister since they first began creating music together. He continues to challenge himself both lyrically and sonically to excitedly push Eilish to her creative limits. He explores a myriad of sounds on the album, with many playing like a two-for-one genre special. Named after Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away heroine, the glittery melody and thumping bassline on "CHIHIRO" transport you into an anime video game. 

The first half of "L'AMOUR DE MA VIE" is deceptively simple with its plucking acoustic guitar strings, but soon finds itself under the glare of a disco ball with Eilish's vocals funneled through a vocoder. "BITTERSUITE" is arguably the best reflection of Finneas' experimentation: it starts out with Daft Punk-esque synths before dragging itself across a grim, bass-heavy floor. Then, it crawls into cheeky elevator music territory before ending with an alien-like taunt.

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is begging to be played live, as seen with fans' raucous reactions after the singer's listening parties at Brooklyn's Barclays Center and Los Angeles' Kia Forum. Fortunately for fans in North America, Australia and Europe, it won't be long before she brings the album to life — HIT ME HARD AND SOFT: THE TOUR  kicks off on Sept. 29 in Québec, Canada.

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Slash's New Blues Ball: How His Collaborations Album 'Orgy Of The Damned' Came Together

On his new album, 'Orgy Of The Damned,' Slash recruits several friends — from Aerosmith's Steven Tyler to Demi Lovato — to jam on blues classics. The rock legend details how the project was "an accumulation of stuff I've learned over the years."

GRAMMYs/May 17, 2024 - 06:56 pm

In the pantheon of rock guitar gods, Slash ranks high on the list of legends. Many fans have passionately discussed his work — but if you ask him how he views his evolution over the last four decades, he doesn't offer a detailed analysis.

"As a person, I live very much in the moment, not too far in the past and not very far in the future either," Slash asserts. "So it's hard for me to really look at everything I'm doing in the bigger scheme of things."

While his latest endeavor — his new studio album, Orgy Of The Damned — may seem different to many who know him as the shredding guitarist in Guns N' Roses, Slash's Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, and his four albums with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, it's a prime example of his living-in-the-moment ethos. And, perhaps most importantly to Slash, it goes back to what has always been at the heart of his playing: the blues.

Orgy Of The Damned strips back much of the heavier side of his playing for a 12-track homage to the songs and artists that have long inspired him. And he recruited several of his rock cohorts — the likes of AC/DC's Brian Johnson, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, Gary Clark Jr., Iggy Pop, Beth Hart, and Dorothy, among others — to jam on vintage blues tunes with him, from "Hoochie Coochie Man" to "Born Under A Bad Sign."

But don't be skeptical of his current venture — there's plenty of fire in these interpretations; they just have a different energy than his harder rocking material. The album also includes one new Slash original, the majestic instrumental "Metal Chestnut," a nice showcase for his tastefully melodic and expressive playing.

The initial seed for the project was planted with the guitarist's late '90s group Slash's Blues Ball, which jammed on genre classics. Those live, spontaneous collaborations appealed to him, so when he had a small open window to get something done recently, he jumped at the chance to finally make a full-on blues album.

Released May 17, Orgy Of The Damned serves as an authentic bridge from his musical roots to his many hard rock endeavors. It also sees a full-circle moment: two Blues Ball bandmates, bassist Johnny Griparic and keyboardist Teddy Andreadis, helped lay down the basic tracks. Further seizing on his blues exploration, Slash will be headlining his own touring blues festival called S.E.R.P.E.N.T. in July and August, with support acts including the Warren Haynes Band, Keb' Mo', ZZ Ward, and Eric Gales.

Part of what has kept Slash's career so intriguing is the diversity he embraces. While many heavy rockers stay in their lane, Slash has always traveled down other roads. And though most of his Orgy Of The Damned guests are more in his world, he's collaborated with the likes of Michael Jackson, Carole King and Ray Charles — further proof that he's one of rock's genre-bending greats.

Below, Slash discusses some of the most memorable collabs from Orgy Of The Damned, as well as from his wide-spanning career.

I was just listening to "Living For The City," which is my favorite track on the album.

Wow, that's awesome. That was the track that I knew was going to be the most left of center for the average person, but that was my favorite song when [Stevie Wonder's 1973 album] Innervisions came out when I was, like, 9 years old. I loved that song. This record's origins go back to a blues band that I put together back in the '90s.

Slash's Blues Ball.

Right. We used to play "Superstition," that Stevie Wonder song. I did not want to record that [for Orgy Of The Damned], but I still wanted to do a Stevie Wonder song. So it gave me the opportunity to do "Living For The City," which is probably the most complicated of all the songs to learn. I thought we did a pretty good job, and Tash [Neal] sang it great. I'm glad you dig it because you're probably the first person that's actually singled that song out.

With the Blues Ball, you performed Hoyt Axton's "The Pusher" and Robert Johnson's "Crossroads," and they surface here. Isn't it amazing it took this long to record a collection like this?

[Blues Ball] was a fun thrown-together thing that we did when I [was in, I] guess you call it, a transitional period. I'd left Guns N' Roses [in 1996], and it was right before I put together a second incarnation of Snakepit.

I'd been doing a lot of jamming with a lot of blues guys. I'd known Teddy [Andreadis] for a while and been jamming with him at The Baked Potato for years prior to this. So during this period, I got together with Ted and Johnny [Griparic], and we started with this Blues Ball thing. We started touring around the country with it, and then even made it to Europe. It was just fun.

Then Snakepit happened, and then Velvet Revolver. These were more or less serious bands that I was involved in. Blues Ball was really just for the fun of it, so it didn't really take precedence. But all these years later, I was on tour with Guns N' Roses, and we had a three-week break or whatever it was. I thought, I want to make that f—ing record now.

It had been stewing in the back of my mind subconsciously. So I called Teddy and Johnny, and I said, Hey, let's go in the studio and just put together a set and go and record it. We got an old set list from 1998, picked some songs from an app, picked some other songs that I've always wanted to do that I haven't gotten a chance to do.

Then I had the idea of getting Tash Neal involved, because this guy is just an amazing singer/guitar player that I had worked with in a blues thing a couple years prior to that. So we had the nucleus of this band.

Then I thought, Let's bring in a bunch of guest singers to do this. I don't want to try to do a traditional blues record, because I think that's going to just sound corny. So I definitely wanted this to be more eclectic than that, and more of, like, Slash's take on these certain songs, as opposed to it being, like, "blues." It was very off-the-cuff and very loose.

It's refreshing to hear Brian Johnson singing in his lower register on "Killing Floor" like he did in the '70s with Geordie, before he got into AC/DC. Were you expecting him to sound like that?

You know, I didn't know what he was gonna sing it like. He was so enthusiastic about doing a Howlin' Wolf cover.

I think he was one of the first calls that I made, and it was really encouraging the way that he reacted to the idea of the song. So I went to a studio in Florida. We'd already recorded all the music, and he just fell into it in that register.

I think he was more or less trying to keep it in the same feel and in the same sort of tone as the original, which was great. I always say this — because it happened for like two seconds, he sang a bit in the upper register — but it definitely sounded like AC/DC doing a cover of Howlin' Wolf. We're not AC/DC, but he felt more comfortable doing it in the register that Howlin' Wolf did. I just thought it sounded really great.

You chose to have Demi Lovato sing "Papa Was A Rolling Stone." Why did you pick her?

We used to do "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" back in Snakepit, actually, and Johnny played bass. We had this guy named Rod Jackson, who was the singer, and he was incredible. He did a great f—ing interpretation of the Temptations singing it.

When it came to doing it for this record, I wanted to have something different, and the idea of having a young girl's voice telling the story of talking to her mom to find out about her infamous late father, just made sense to me. And Demi was the first person that I thought of. She's got such a great, soulful voice, but it's also got a certain kind of youth to it.

When I told her about it, she reacted like Brian did: "Wow, I would love to do that." There's some deeper meaning about the song to her and her personal life or her experience. We went to the studio, and she just belted it out. It was a lot of fun to do it with her, with that kind of zeal.

You collaborate with Chris Stapleton on Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" by Peter Green. I'm assuming the original version of that song inspired "Double Talkin' Jive" by GN'R?

It did not, but now that you mention it, because of the classical interlude thing at the end... Is that what you're talking about? I never thought about it.

I mean the overall vibe of the song.

"Oh Well" was a song that I didn't hear until I was about 12 years old. It was on KMET, a local radio station in LA. I didn't even know there was a Fleetwood Mac before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. I always loved that song, and I think it probably had a big influence on me without me even really realizing it. So no, it didn't have a direct influence on "Double Talkin' Jive," but I get it now that you bring it up.

Was there something new that you learned in making this album? Were your collaborators surprised by their own performances?

I think Gary Clark is just this really f—ing wonderful guitar player. When I got "Crossroads," the idea originally was "Crossroads Blues," which is the original Robert Johnson version. And I called Gary and said, "Would you want to play with me on this thing?"

He and I only just met, so I didn't know what his response was going to be. But apparently, he was a big Guns N' Roses fan — I get the idea, anyway. We changed it to the Cream version just because I needed to have something that was a little bit more upbeat. So when we got together and played, we solo-ed it off each other.

When I listen back to it, his playing is just so f—ing smooth, natural, and tasty. There was a lot of that going on throughout the making of the whole record — acclimating to the song and to the feel of it, just in the moment.

I think that's all an accumulation of stuff that I've learned over the years. The record probably would be way different if I did it 20 years ago, so I don't know what that evolution is. But it does exist. The growth thing — God help us if you don't have it.

You've collaborated with a lot of people over the years — Michael Jackson, Carole King, Lemmy, B.B. King, Fergie. Were there any particular moments that were daunting or really challenging? And was there any collaboration that produced something you didn't expect?

All those are a great example of the growth thing, because that's how you really grow as a musician. Learning how to adapt to playing with other people, and playing with people who are better than you — that really helps you blossom as a player.

Playing with Carole King [in 1993] was a really educational experience because she taught me a lot about something that I thought that I did naturally, but she helped me to fine tune it, which was soloing within the context of the song. [It was] really just a couple of words that she said to me during this take that stuck with me. I can't remember exactly what they were, but it was something having to do with making room for the vocal. It was really in passing, but it was important knowledge.

The session that really was the hardest one that I ever did was [when] I was working with Ray Charles before he passed away. I played on his "God Bless America [Again]" record [on 2002's Ray Charles Sings for America], just doing my thing. It was no big deal. But he asked me to play some standards for the biopic on him [2004's Ray], and he thought that I could just sit in with his band playing all these Ray Charles standards.

That was something that they gave me the chord charts for, and it was over my head. It was all these chord changes. I wasn't familiar with the music, and most of it was either a jazz or bebop kind of a thing, and it wasn't my natural feel.

I remember taking the chord charts home, those kinds you get in a f—ing songbook. They're all kinds of versions of chords that wouldn't be the version that you would play.

That was one of those really tough sessions that I really learned when I got in over my head with something. But a lot of the other ones I fall into more naturally because I have a feel for it.

That's how those marriages happen in the first place — you have this common interest of a song, so you just feel comfortable doing it because it's in your wheelhouse, even though it's a different kind of music than what everybody's familiar with you doing. You find that you can play and be yourself in a lot of different styles. Some are a little bit challenging, but it's fun.

Are there any people you'd like to collaborate with? Or any styles of music you'd like to explore?

When you say styles, I don't really have a wish list for that. Things just happen. I was just working with this composer, Bear McCreary. We did a song on this epic record that's basically a soundtrack for this whole graphic novel thing, and the compositions are very intense. He's very particular about feel, and about the way each one of these parts has to be played, and so on. That was a little bit challenging. We're going to go do it live at some point coming up.

There's people that I would love to play with, but it's really not like that. It's just whatever opportunities present themselves. It's not like there's a lot of forethought as to who you get to play with, or seeking people out. Except for when you're doing a record where you have people come in and sing on your record, and you have to call them up and beg and plead — "Will you come and do this?"

But I always say Stevie Wonder. I think everybody would like to play with Stevie Wonder at some point.

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