meta-scriptShawn Mendes Wants You To Analyze His Music: "It's All About Being Vulnerable And Making People Feel Seen" | GRAMMY.com
Shawn Mendes Press Photo 2022 (better crop)
Shawn Mendes

Photo: Miranda McDonald

interview

Shawn Mendes Wants You To Analyze His Music: "It's All About Being Vulnerable And Making People Feel Seen"

With his new single, "When You're Gone," Shawn Mendes gets raw and real about his split with Camila Cabello. The upbeat track is the pop star's most lyrically transparent breakup song to date — and that's exactly how he intended it.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2022 - 07:02 pm

Since Shawn Mendes dropped his first single, 2014's "Life Of The Party," vulnerability has always been part of his image. That came to a head with the anthemic 2018 hit "In My Blood" (which earned the singer/songwriter a Song Of The Year nomination at the 2019 GRAMMYs), and continued on his 2020 album, Wonder. While his latest release is no different, it may be his most candid yet.

Titled "When You're Gone," the pop-rock track details a looming heartbreak in raw form. "I know what we're supposed to do/ It's hard for me to let go of you/ So I'm just tryna hold on," Mendes sings in the first pre-chorus.

Breakup songs aren't necessarily new territory for Mendes, but this one is particularly autobiographical: The single comes four months after he and Camila Cabello announced their split. With its predecessor, the melancholy piano ballad "It'll Be Okay," also addressing the November 2021 breakup, Mendes' music has perhaps become more scrutinized than ever before — but to him, that's a good thing.

"I want [my music] to be put under a microscope," he tells GRAMMY.com. "That's the whole entire point of making music, in my opinion, is to have people get closer to the song and the meaning."

Mendes sat down with GRAMMY.com to detail how "When You're Gone" came together, his inspiration for being so vulnerable (hint: Justin Bieber is involved), and why he wants fans to examine every word he writes.

One of the first teasers that you posted of "When You're Gone" was of you signing it as a piano ballad. What made you decide to turn it into an upbeat track instead of something more stripped back?

I don't really know. I think it was the nature of what the song had to be, not what we wanted it to be. It started off on the piano, and then when we heard what it could be with drums at that tempo, it just felt like it had to be that. I can't imagine it another way.

Your sound keeps getting bigger and bigger with each album — Wonder felt like a step up from Shawn Mendes, and "When You're Gone" feels like an elevated version of the instrumentation that you brought on both of those albums. How do you approach making music that sonically tops what you've done before, or at least expands on it?

That's a really amazing question. A huge part of that is working with people who are inspired. There's a lot of people who are great, but there's not a lot of people who are inspired, and inspired people create magic. You can have all the productions, techniques and all the best sounds, but if you don't have an inspired sense in the room that day, it's gonna sound different.

For me, it's never about trying to top things sonically by adding more — it's always about trying to top the magic. There can be three instruments in the song, and it can give you the same feeling.

One of my first thoughts when I heard "When You're Gone" was, "I wonder what fans are going to say about this." Because no matter the actual inspiration for a song, fans love to dissect its meaning. Is that something that goes through your head when you're writing songs? Or have you gotten pretty comfortable with knowing that your music might be put under a microscope?

I want it to be put under a microscope. I want people to think about what it means, and think about how it affects them, and how it relates to them. That's the whole entire point of making music, in my opinion, is to have people get closer to the song and the meaning.

I figured that releasing a single as vulnerable as "In My Blood" a few years ago, and seeing the response to that, might have helped you get more comfortable with releasing super personal songs.

I think what makes me feel like I have to be open in my music is the way people reacted after "In My Blood." I was expecting judgment and critique after that song, and all I got was love and tears. And people were telling me how that song was speaking their truth as well.

Every single song [I've written] after that one, the number one rule is, this has to be true. This has to be real. This has to be authentic. And that's kind of how I go about it.

So "In My Blood" set a bar for you, in a way.

Yeah, in a lot of ways, it's set the bar of authenticity. It doesn't always have to be as deep — there's no box, but it always has to be as authentic.

That's what the song is — people know what you're going through, and you're kind of addressing it head on with these lyrics. I feel like people are going to be really appreciative of you just kind of being like, "This is my side. This is my story."

Yes and no. The thing about music, the thing about people is, we're not so one-sided. We're not constantly feeling one way for months and months and months. We're constantly changing. So yeah, that's my reality some days, and some days it's not. I just hope that people who are going through similar things can connect with that.

Going back to what we were talking about with your music being under a microscope, you talked about that in your Wonder track with Justin Bieber, "Monster." I know you've talked about the advice that he's given you about dealing with fame — how have you seen his advice come into play in the last few years?

He's just been a real steady friend for me for a couple of years. He's also just hyper-focused on truth and authenticity. And I think that comes across. I just follow his lead, and follow anyone's lead who is living that way, you know?

So is "When You're Gone" a teaser for what's to come on a new album, or more of a standalone song to get you and fans hyped for your upcoming tour?

It's just a song that I really loved, so I decided it's time to put it out. But all of those things also!

I mean, I can only imagine this song live — this is gonna go off.

I was playing in Austin a couple weeks ago. We played the song before it came out, and it was like it's already been out for years.

You said in a previous interview, "The beautiful thing about fame is that it allows you to have a voice to get messages across and to that need to be heard." What do you feel like your message is, going into this next chapter?

It's just allowing people to feel seen, and to feel heard — to feel like they're not alone, and supported. There's so much judgment and so much divisiveness between everybody, that I just want everyone to just, like, take a big deep breath, and be like, "We're all just human, trying to do our best."

That's what I crave and try to do with the way I am, the way I talk, the way I go on social media, the music I write. It's just all about being vulnerable and making people feel seen.

How Camila Cabello Found Herself With 'Familia,' An Album That Ties Together Her Latin Roots And "An Unfiltered Me"

Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X
Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X

Photo: Courtesy Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X

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New Music Friday: Listen to Songs From Megan Thee Stallion, Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X, BTS' RM & More

May 10 is quite the stacked day of new music across all genres — from Post Malone & Morgan Wallen's country collab, to Stray Kids' team-up with Charlie Puth, to The Chainsmokers and Kings of Leon. Check out some fresh releases to enjoy this weekend here.

GRAMMYs/May 10, 2024 - 06:55 pm

As the summer quickly approaches, artists from every genre continue to unveil new music for warmer weather. Friday May 10 is particularly packed with anticipated and surprise releases from both emerging talents and established names.

The new albums alone prove just that: pop songsmith Alec Benjamin's 12 Notes, folk-rock band Judah & the Lion's The Process, regional Mexican stars Grupo Frontera's Jugando a Que No Pasa Nada, and GRAMMY-winning R&B singer Andra Day's Cassandra, to name a few.

Meanwhile, a big, cool glass of major rap releases is here to help wash down the piping hot Kendrick and Drake beef served up over the last week. Full album releases debuted from Gunna, Chief Keef, and Ghostface Killah — the latter featuring guest spots from Nas, Kanye West, Raekwon, Method Man and more. Hottie Megan Thee Stallion's powerful new single, "BOA", sets the stage for her Hot Girl Summer tour which officially starts on May 14. New songs from Ice Spice, Kodak Black, NLE Choppa, Coi Leray, G-Eazy, Yung Gravy, Ski Mask the Slump God set the playlist for a weekend full of slappers.

There's tons of collaborations, too, including the much-teased pairing of Post Malone and Morgan Wallen with "I Had Some Help," a track that showcases Malone's furtherance into country in a catchy, reflective anthem. But country music lovers also have more to enjoy this weekend: Orville Peck's duets project, Stampede Vol.1, features the likes of Willie Nelson and Elton John," while Scotty McCreery's Rise & Fall and Avery Anna's single "Blonde" fill the fuel tank for a rodeo-ready summer. 

BTS's RM delivers another solo track "Come Back to Me" and Stray Kids dropped a new collaboration with Charlie Puth, coming fresh off the K-pop group's appearance at the Met Gala earlier this week. And the electronic and rock scenes are not left behind, with A.G. Cook exploring a new twist on Britpop and Sebastian Bach's release of Child Within The Man.

Dive into today's releases from Megan Thee Stallion, The Chainsmokers, RM, Stray Kids with Charlie Puth, Camila Cabello with Lil Nas X, Post Malone and Morgan Wallen below. 

Megan Thee Stallion, "BOA"

Megan Thee Stallion's new single "BOA" continues to play up the themes of empowerment and self-realization that define her current musical phase and comes just days ahead of her Hot Girl Summer Tour starting on May 14. The song's cover art features Megan with a striking snake, a recurring symbol of rebirth that has been significant in her recent work, appearing in tracks like the Billboard Hot 100 hit "Hiss" and the 2023 song "Cobra." 

"BOA" is a continuation of Megan's snake-themed narrative, but serves as a saccharine homage to her favorite late-'90s and early 2000s anime and video game classics. The music video features references to Scott Pilgrim, One Piece, Dance Dance Revolution, and iconic 3D fighting games like Mortal Kombat, complete with visuals and Gantz-inspired outfits.

Speaking to Women's Health about her upcoming summer album, Megan discussed the personal growth and renewal she has experienced, inspiring this new era of music. "I was inspired to create this album about rebirth because I feel I am becoming a new person physically and mentally," she shared.

Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X, "HE KNOWS"

Camila Cabello teams up with Lil Nas X for the tantalizing new song "He Knows," delivering a radio-friendly track that's as catchy as it is lustful. The new music mirrors the infectious energy of their recent appearance at FKA Twigs' Met Gala afterparty, where they both were seen dancing the night away behind the DJ booth. 

"He Knows" serves as a precursor to Cabello's highly anticipated fourth solo album, C,XOXO, — set to drop on June 28 — and teases a glimpse of Cabello's evolving artistic direction. The single follows on the heels of her recent hit "I LUV IT" featuring Playboi Carti, part of the  reimagining of her sound and artistic brand.

RM, "Come Back To Me"

BTS member RM has released a new single, "Come Back To Me," accompanied by a music video. The relaxed track gives fans a taste of his upcoming second solo album, Right Place, Wrong Person, set to release on May 24. 

In the song, RM explores themes of right and wrong, capturing the complex emotions of wanting to explore new avenues while wishing to stay comfortable in the present. "Come Back To Me" features contributions from OHHYUK of the South Korean band HYUKOH, and Kuo of the Taiwanese band Sunset Rollercoaster. Additional credits include JNKYRD and San Yawn from Balming Tiger. RM first performed "Come Back To Me" during a surprise appearance at BTS bandmate Suga's concert in Seoul last summer, noting it as a favorite from his forthcoming album. 

The music video for "Come Back To Me" was written, directed, and produced by Lee Sung Jin, known for his work on the Netflix show "Beef." The video features actress Kim Minha from the Apple TV+ series "Pachinko" and faces themes of identity and self-reflection, showing RM confronting different versions of himself. Its cast includes notable Korean and American actors such as Joseph Lee, Lee Sukhyeong, and Kim A Hyun.

Post Malone & Morgan Wallen, "I Had Some Help"

Post Malone and Morgan Wallen blend their distinct musical styles in the much-anticipated release of their collaborative single "I Had Some Help." Merging Malone's versatile pop sensibilities while leaning into his country roots with Wallen's, well, help, the duet is a unique crossover that has had fans clamoring to hear more since the two first teased the song earlier this year. 

Finally premiering during Wallen's headlining performance at Stagecoach Festival on April 28, the uptempo song explores themes of mutual support and shared experiences, encapsulated by the lyric, "It ain't like I can make this kind of mess all by myself."

The collaboration has sparked significant buzz and showcases the duo's chemistry and shared knack for storytelling. This single highlights their individual talents as well as their ability to bridge genre divides, already promising to be a hit on the charts and a favorite among fans.

The Chainsmokers, No Hard Feelings

Maestros of mainstream emotion, The Chainsmokers continue to master the art of turning personal reflections into global anthems with their latest EP, No Hard Feelings. The six-song project see Alex Pall and Drew Taggart exploring the emotional highs and lows of modern relationships, weaving their signature dance beats with pop sensibilities as they have since 2015's "Roses." 

The duo's latest release serves as a soundtrack to both sun-kissed days and introspective nights. The collection includes the single "Friday," a collaboration with Haitian-American singer Fridayy, described by the duo as a direct descendant of "Roses." Other tracks, such as "Addicted," also underscore the Chainsmokers' knack for capturing the zeitgeist of contemporary love and loss.

Kings of Leon, Can We Please Have Fun

Kings of Leon return with their signature blend of rock and introspection on their ninth studio album, Can We Please Have Fun. The LP finds the band infusing their established sound with fresh, unbridled energy, reminiscent of their early days yet matured by years of experience. The album features standout tracks like "Mustang" and "Nothing To Do," which mix playful lyrics with serious musical chops, showcasing Kings of Leon's unique ability to combine rock's raw power with catchy, thoughtful songwriting.

The band is set to bring Can We Please Have Fun to life on their 2024 world tour, starting in Leeds, United Kingdom on June 20 and wrapping in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Oct. 5. Fans can expect a high-energy series of performances that blend new tracks with beloved classics, all delivered with the Kings of Leon's legendary fervor.

Stray Kids & Charlie Puth, "Lose My Breath"

Stray Kids have teamed up with Charlie Puth for their latest release, "Lose My Breath," a track that blends K-pop dynamism with Western pop flair, written by Stray Kids' own producer team 3racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han) along with Puth. The TK song details a whirlwind of emotions, describing symptoms of breathlessness and heart-palpitating moments encapsulated in the lyrics: "I lose my breath when you're walking in/ 'Cause when our eyes lock, it's like my heart stops." 

"Lose My Breath" is described as a "warm-up" for Stray Kids' forthcoming album, set for release this summer. The track further highlights the global appeal of Stray Kids ahead of their highly anticipated headlining set at Lollapalooza in August. It also continues Puth's engagement with K-pop, following his previous work with other K-pop acts including his collab with BTS' Jungkook, "Left and Right," and "Like That," a song he co-wrote for K-pop girl group BABYMONSTER

15 Must-Hear Albums In May 2024: Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Sia, Zayn & More

Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

video

GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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Ilsey Press Photo 2023
Ilsey

Photo: Caity Krone

interview

How Ilsey Transformed From Hit Songwriter To Artist On 'From The Valley': "I Have The Freedom To Say What I Want"

After writing hits for superstars like Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé, Los Angeles-born singer/songwriter Ilsey is embracing change on her soul-stirring debut album, 'From The Valley.'

GRAMMYs/Oct 6, 2023 - 03:21 pm

Ilsey is cruising down the path to self-discovery. For the past decade, the Los Angeles-born songwriter had a major presence behind the scenes, penning hits for the likes of Beyoncé and Shawn Mendes. Now, she's the one on the mic, ready to share her journey.

From The Valley  details the emotional weight of a crumbling relationship and finding the courage to build yourself back up. Lead single "No California" pays homage to the breezy Laurel Canyon rockers Ilsey grew up listening to, the folk-inspired "On Wrong Side" with Justin Vernon has poetic layers of interpretation, and the somber "Overcome" mourns a failed love.

"The [album] title was very specific with the double meaning. It's this emotional valley, but then I'm also from the actual valley in LA. This album is almost a road trip of self-discovery, where you have to leave where you are to figure out who you are. And then you end up exactly where it's supposed to be — you end up home," Ilsey explains. "That's been my process of moving through heartache and figuring out who I am as a person. You have to have these valleys in your life. Without them, there's no way to appreciate the peaks."

Born Ilsey Juber, the singer grew up in a musical family in Los Angeles, where her father Laurence Juber (who also plays on this album) was the lead guitarist for Paul McCartney and Wings. "My dad was playing guitar in the room when my mom was giving birth to me," Ilsey recalls with a chuckle.

The singer's parents introduced her to the Beatles, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Motown. She began playing the drums at age 11 — she credits that to her Hanson obsession — and began writing songs on her acoustic guitar at 15. Around 2012, Ilsey "tripped and fell" into songwriting professionally after signing a Sony publishing deal with her then-band. When the band broke up, she went to the publisher for advice on next steps.

"They set up a couple of sessions for me with some producers. I went in there thinking it was going to be for me. Then all of a sudden, I got this call: 'Rihanna has one of your songs on hold,'" Ilsey recalls. "I'm a big believer that when something is working, you can't really ignore that. It seemed really obvious that that was the path to take at that moment." 

While Rihanna didn't end up using the song, it was the gateway for Ilsey to kickstart her songwriting journey; some of her most notable credits include Miley Cyrus' "Midnight Sky," Panic! at the Disco's "High Hopes," Camila Cabello's "She Loves Control," Christina Aguilera's "Accelerate," and Beyoncé's "All Night." Even as From The Valley came together, Ilsey continued working with stars, including Lil Nas X, Kacey Musgraves, The 1975 and 6lack — but her debut album is her biggest dream come true yet.

Ahead of her album release, Ilsey spoke to GRAMMY.com about creating From The Valley, taking a chance on her artistry and the stories behind some of her biggest co-written hits. 

When did the first thought of making your own album spark?

I met BJ Burton, who is the producer of the album. He was introduced to me through Mark Ronson, who I loved and have collaborated with for a long time. He had worked on a Miley [Cyrus] song that Miley and I had written, and had done some production on it. It turned out that he was moving to LA the next week. So he said, "We should get together and try some stuff." 

I had been waiting to find the right collaborators and the people who could realize the sound that was inside of me. That was BJ. So we wrote a couple more songs, and then eventually I let him in on the fact that we were making [an album]. That was really the moment where it was like, "Oh, this is the thing that I've been looking for."

What was your process of shaping your own musical identity like?

All the songs were written for the album, with the exception of one [her cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold"]. But it was really a matter of wanting to intentionally do something that is me, and for myself. Whereas, when I'm writing songs with other people, I'm there to serve the artist. I'm there to help them realize what it is that they're trying to say. 

With this, I had this very clear intention of writing the songs for myself. I'm gonna have the freedom to say what I want to say. It was pretty easy to separate the two, because I knew that I wanted this album to really express who I was.

What was that feeling like, emotionally? 

I think there's a certain amount of hiding that you're able to do as a songwriter for other people. The vulnerability of stepping out in front and being the person who's actually singing the songs was definitely scary for me because I think we all have struggled with identity. That's one of the reasons I'm so grateful this is happening now and not when I was younger — I had to build that confidence over time to really feel like I deserve to be in front, and that people would actually want to hear my voice. So there was a lot of vulnerability in it, but also a lot of excitement because I've dreamt of doing this my whole life. 

I'm glad you mentioned that because as we get older, we learn more about ourselves. I think if you released it when you were in your mid or early 20s, maybe you would still have some questions as to who you are and what you want to express musically. But now that you've had all this experience with songwriting, you have more of a fully realized vision of what you wanted to do. 

Absolutely. The growth I have had as a songwriter and working with all these amazing people I learned so much from has really helped me to be a more fully realized version of a songwriter. Having all this experience is like training. I'm writing the songs I really want to write and I'm able to sing them in the way I want to sing them because I know my voice better now. It's all the things that lead you to become the most authentic version of yourself. 

That's the beauty of music. I read that you also went to Minnesota and Wisconsin to record the album. Did you record the bulk of it there? 

It was half and half because it was during the pandemic. So we had to find these windows where the world was a little more open. It actually ended up being really cool that we could put it down for a second, and then come back to it and have a whole different perspective on it. But we did a bunch in LA, and then more during the pandemic.

Did that change of scenery inspire some of the music as well?

Yeah, just working with Justin Vernon [of Bon Iver] and being at his place out in Wisconsin, which is gorgeous. It's almost farmland and gives you perspective on where you're from, too.

So much of this album is about California. When you leave California, you have a different view of it. So that helped as well. But also musically, it's why I like coming to Nashville, London and all these places. You have a different energy, you're in touch with the place that you're in, and it leads you to other places that you wouldn't normally go to.

I would love to know your experience working with Justin and BJ because I think it's important for artists to challenge each other. You all could push each other's limits in a positive way.

With BJ, we definitely challenge each other. He'll push back sometimes even when it makes me uncomfortable, in the sense that I'm pretty sure I know exactly what I want. But he's like, "Well, what if we did it like this?" 

You're right, it's so important to have those people who are going to get you moving forward because you'd have to be uncomfortable in order to make anything great. BJ tends to be a lot more like that. 

And when Justin and I write together, there's something really magical that happens that I've never really experienced on this level where we almost tap into the same creative energy or channel. We're able to freestyle and make it super open and easy and then we'll sort of interpret what the other person is doing through our own mind. There's something very special about working with him. I think probably a lot of people will say that. Also, our voices together felt so natural and comfortable. That helped too because when you're able to sing the idea, you really hear it for what it is.

Let's get into some of the music. When I was listening to "On Wrong Side" with Justin Vernon, it took me to another realm. There's so many layers of interpretation.

It's so funny because as time goes on, I find those other layers too. So it sort of morphs and becomes a different thing for me. It was the first song we ever did together and it was the thing that established our creative relationship. We wrote it within 20 minutes of meeting each other and the song only took about 20 minutes to write. 

At first, it felt like when you're on the wrong side of a heartbreak, you're able to look at the situation and then you see the other person is being on the wrong side. It's that process of trying to figure out if  there is anyone to blame in this or not. But as time went on, I started looking at it as it's also about being on the wrong side of history and being the person who's wrong in a situation. So it became a lot of different things for me, but that's the beauty of music too. Even with my own songs, the meaning can change over time. It's really up to interpretation.

My favorite is "Yellow Roses." This song is so poetic, just discussing that yearning for love that doesn't necessarily want you and hiding from the truth of what's actually going on.

This was a really central one for me on the album because it got to the heart of what the heartbreak was for me. Every rose has a different meaning and yellow is the color of friendship. When I discovered that I was like, "This is the perfect metaphor." 

When you fall in love with somebody that's not able to give you the thing that you're looking for, or you fall in love with the idea of somebody, there's so much heartache in that. Then you also have to face the fact that you're going to the wrong place for it. That one was the most painful to write because it really showed me why I was heartbroken and showed me where that came from. I think everybody experiences that feeling at some point.

"No California" reminds me of '70s-era Stevie Nicks. You're riding in your car with your hair blowing in the wind, wanting to ultimately run away from whatever issues are at home. Again, it's going back to that theme of self-discovery.

I think you hit the nail on the head. When you're going through something, everything around you reminds you of that person or that thing. So you want to run away. But that really comes back to the central theme of the album: wherever you go, there you are. Because you change the location or because you change the circumstances, you're still going to have to go through the thing that you're going through. 

"Heart of Gold" is the sole cover on the album. How did you initially discover the song?

That's a really good question. I can't remember the first time I heard it, because I've loved it for so long. But probably in high school at some point. 

It became this sort of touchstone that I kept coming back to when I was making this album. I went out to Wisconsin one time and I threw the idea out there to do a cover of it. I expected people to be like, "Yeah, I don't know about that." But everyone wanted to do it. So it came together really easily and naturally. 

I really wanted to do a different take on the song. Because I think it's important if you do a cover to make it your own. I think it turned out pretty cool.

Now let's go through your songwriting journey. How did "Nothing Breaks Like A Heart" with Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson come about? 

It was amazing. That was the song that started our relationships. It was the first time we ever wrote together. Me and Mark and [session musician] Tommy Brenneck were all jamming one day, and we got this seed of an idea. We were like, "I think we have something special here." Then Mark sent it over to Miley. She said, "I'll be there tomorrow." 

So we all met up at Shangri La. Miley and I dove into it and finished the idea. Then she recorded it right there. That one came out pretty easily. 

She and I have talked about at certain points the fact that it almost felt like a foreshadowing for her. There's a line about a house burning down and then her house burned down that year. It was crazy how it all ended up manifesting in certain ways. But that really started Miley and I's relationship and it was awesome.

I think the power of a good, strong writer is versatility. You started with "Nothing Breaks Like a Heart" and then worked together on Miley's Plastic Hearts album. Those have two totally different sounds. 

I tip my hat to her ability to move through genres and transform herself into whatever it is that she's trying to say at that moment. She definitely has very clear ideas of what she wants to do and who she is. That's one of the things I admire most about her. It's been really special to work with an artist that wants to experiment so much and has so many different sides of themselves.

Read More: Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

**Speaking of artistic expression, you co-wrote Beyoncé's "All Night" from Lemonade.** 

That really came out of years of collaborating with Diplo and getting to do different things with him. He had started this idea with some other writers like Theron Thomas from R. City and a few other people on there. She loved the idea but then wanted to lyrically point it in a slightly different direction. 

There's some songs where you do a little bit and there's some songs where you do a lot. I was really fortunate to be brought in to help on it, because I look at that album and my mind is always blown by how incredible it is and her artistry. She has such a clear idea of what she wants to say. It was really cool to interpret somebody's feelings like that.

Shawn Mendes' "Mercy" is such a passionate song. What was it like working with him?

Shawn's an amazing writer. Even back then — I think he was 16 or 17 at the time. At that point, he was so clear about who he was as an artist. We all played guitar on it, we all sang on it. 

One of the coolest experiences of that song for me, was when we started recording the vocals. He started singing, and there was a moment where he said, "Can we take the key down?" Because he felt like it was a little bit too high for him. But there was so much pain in his voice in the best way. And I was like, "Absolutely not, we can't do that." 

That was really one of those special moments where you're pushing yourself a little bit. I think he's talked about how that helped push himself to sing in an uncomfortable place. A lot of people want to stay where it's safe. That one was a risk for him. 

It's a risk that paid off. Are there other songwriting highlights that you wanted to mention?

I feel so fortunate to have gotten to work with all the artists that I've worked with. I think all of them are so special. I made this album with Lykke Li and that was my favorite.

**2018's So Sad, So Sexy, right?**

Yeah. Working with her was so incredible because I've been a fan for so long. So I walked into it and I was like, "I don't know if I can do this because I don't want to change it or make it anything else." She was so generous creatively and let me into her world. So that was really special and was a turning point for me in my career.

That album is underrated to me. She's an otherworldly artist. 

I felt so lucky to get to work with her. It was cool to be able to work on Mark's album [2019 Late Night Feelings] when she sang and wrote [the title track] with us because that put the two worlds together. Working with him was and is incredible. 

That was also a really important moment for me as a songwriter, to get to work with somebody I looked up to for so long, come into their world and see how they operate. It's really cool to get to make music with your mentors.

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Selena Gomez at the White House in 2022
Selena Gomez participates in MTV Entertainment's first ever Mental Health Youth Forum at The White House in 2022.

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for MTV Entertainment 

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10 Artists Who Are Outspoken About Mental Health: Billie Eilish, Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes & More

From Ed Sheeran to Janet Jackson, take a look at some of the major music stars who have shared their struggles with mental health — and helped fans feel supported and seen in the process.

GRAMMYs/May 9, 2023 - 06:28 pm

Sharing mental health issues with close family or specialized medical professionals can be challenging enough. Add in the pressures of fame and being in the public eye, and any struggles are exponentially more difficult to cope with.

In recent years, though, mental health has become a much more widely discussed topic in celebrity culture. Several artists have used their music and their platform to open up about their own struggles with depression, anxiety and the like, from Bruce Springsteen to Selena Gomez.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, GRAMMY.com highlights the inspirational impact of music superstars who speak out about what they're going through, and how they manage their challenges. These 10 performers are making change through their courage and candor.

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran takes fans behind the curtain of his personal life and struggles with mental health in Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All. The four-episode docuseries, which is now streaming on Disney+, details the pain of losing his best friend Jamal Edwards and his wife Cherry Seaborn receiving a cancer diagnosis while she was pregnant with their daughter Jupiter.

"What I think is really great about the documentary is the themes that it explores, everyone goes through," Sheeran said at the New York City premiere on May 2, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "Everyone goes through grief. Everyone goes through ups and downs of their mental health."

Sheeran dives deeper into his struggles — and is more vulnerable than ever before — on his latest album Subtract, which arrived on May 5. "Running from the light/ Engulfed in darkness/ Sharing my eyes/ Wondering why I'm stuck on the borderline," he sings on album cut "Borderline," which touches on battling suicide thoughts.

Lewis Capaldi

Like Sheeran, Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi also gave fans an incredibly upfront look at his mental health challenges in a documentary, How I'm Feeling Now. The new Netflix release details his experience with anxiety and Tourette's syndrome, taking viewers to physical therapy with Capaldi and discussing how his medication both helps and hurts the quality of his life.

Capaldi's second album, Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent (due May 19) will further explore his anxieties and vulnerability. While he has admitted it wasn't easy to be so raw in his music and on screen, Capaldi wants to make a difference in other people's lives. "If people notice things that are concurrent with what's going on in their life, then it's all been worth it," he told Variety.

Billie Eilish

While Billie Eilish's music has been raw and real from the start, her music has become increasingly more vulnerable throughout the years. Whether in her music or in interviews, the star has opened up about dealing with body dysmorphia, depression and thoughts of self-harm — hoping to inspire fans to speak up when they are hurting, and to know that it gets better.

"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help," she asserts in a 2019 video for Ad Council's Seize The Awkward campaign, which features stars discussing mental health.

"Kids use my songs as a hug," she told Rolling Stone earlier that year. "Songs about being depressed or suicidal or completely just against-yourself — some adults think that's bad, but I feel that seeing that someone else feels just as horrible as you do is a comfort. It's a good feeling."

Selena Gomez

As one of the most-followed stars on social media, Selena Gomez has often used her formidable presence to discuss her mental health and connect with others. In 2022, the singer launched a startup called Wondermind, which is focused on "mental fitness" and helping users maintain strong mental health.

Just a few months later, Gomez further chronicled her own mental health journey in an Apple TV+ documentary, Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me, which shows extremes she's suffered with her depression and bipolar disorder. She has said she was initially hesitant to share the film, but ultimately reflected on how many others could be helped if she did.

"Because I have the platform I have, it's kind of like I'm sacrificing myself a little bit for a greater purpose," she explained in a 2022 cover story with Rolling Stone. "I don't want that to sound dramatic, but I almost wasn't going to put this out. God's honest truth, a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure I could do it."

Shawn Mendes

In 2019, Shawn Mendes first publicly addressed his struggles with anxiety in the dynamic — and GRAMMY-nominated — hit "In My Blood." Three years later, the singer postponed his 2022 tour in order to focus on his mental health, opening up an important conversation to his legion of fans.

"The process was very difficult," he said in a February interview with Wall Street Journal. "A lot of doing therapy, a lot of trying to understand how I was feeling and what was making me feel that way. And then doing the work to help myself and heal. And also leaning on people in my life to help a little bit. 

"It's been a lot of work, but I think the last year and a half has been the most eye-opening and growing and beautiful and just healing process of my life," he continued. "And it just really made me see how culture is really starting to get to a place where mental health is really becoming a priority."

Bruce Springsteen

Even an artist as successful and celebrated as Bruce Springsteen has faced depression. In his 2016 autobiography Born to Run, the 20-time GRAMMY winner cites a difficult relationship with his father and a history of mental illness in the family, sharing that he has sought treatment throughout his life.

"I was crushed between 60 and 62, good for a year, and out again from 63 to 64," he wrote in the book. In that time, he released his 2012 album, Wrecking Ball, which featured a raw track called "This Depression." "Baby, I've been down, but never this down I've been lost, but never this lost," he sings on the opening verse.

As his wife, Patti Scialfa, told Vanity Fair in 2016, "He approached the book the way he would approach writing a song…A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself."

Janet Jackson

The physical and emotional abuse suffered by the famous Jackson family is well-documented in books, documentaries and TV dramatizations. But it's only been in recent years that Janet Jackson has talked about her own depression, which she has referred to as "intense." Her son Aissa has helped her heal from mental health challenges that have followed her all of her life.

"In my 40s, like millions of women in the world, I still heard voices inside my head berating me, voices questioning my value," she wrote in a 2020 ESSENCE cover story. "Happiness was elusive. A reunion with old friends might make me happy. A call from a colleague might make me happy. But because sometimes I saw my failed relationships as my fault, I easily fell into despair."

Elle King

After seeing global success with her debut single, "Ex's & Oh's," Elle King experienced the woes of sudden fame as well as a crumbling marriage. Her second album, 2018's Shake the Spirit, documented her struggles with self-doubt, medicinal drinking and PTSD.

"There's two ways out," she told PEOPLE in 2018, describing her marriage as "destructive," physically abusive and leading her to addiction. "You can take the bad way out or you can get help. I got help because I knew that I have felt good in my life and I knew I could get there again."

Brendon Urie

Certain public situations can trigger crippling anxiety attacks for Brendon Urie, who has been open about mental health concerns throughout his career. He can perform in front of thousands of fans, but he's revealed that being in the grocery store or stuck in an elevator for too long with other people are among some of his most uncomfortable scenarios in his life.

"You would never tell on the surface, but inside it's so painful I can't even describe," the former Panic! At The Disco frontman — who disbanded the group earlier this year to focus on his family — said in a 2016 interview with Kerrang.

Big Sean

Rapper Big Sean and his mother released a series of educational videos during Mental Health Awareness Month in 2021 — two years after the Detroit-born star started talking about his own long-held depression and anxiety publicly.

"I was just keeping it real because I was tired of not keeping it real," he said in an interview with ESSENCE in 2021. "I was tired of pretending I was a machine and everything was cool and being politically correct or whatever. I just was like, I'm a just say how I feel."

Like many of his peers, he hopes that his honesty will help others. "Whatever they can apply to their life and better themselves and maybe it just even starts a whole journey in a different direction as far as upgrading and taking care of themselves and bossing up themselves," he added. "Whatever they're trying to do, I hope it helps them get to that place."

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