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GRAMMY Camp With Silversun Pickups: 4 Things We Learned About Making It As Independent Artists
L-R: Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Joe Lester and Christopher Guanlao of Silversun Pickups on stage at 2022 GRAMMY Camp in L.A.

Photo: Courtesy of the Recording Academy™️/ Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images© 2022.

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GRAMMY Camp With Silversun Pickups: 4 Things We Learned About Making It As Independent Artists

Angelino alt-rockers Silversun Pickups recently spoke to a captive GRAMMY Camp student audience about their 20 years together, creativity and more.

GRAMMYs/Aug 9, 2022 - 02:52 pm

On day three of 2022 GRAMMY Camp at University of Southern California — the first in-person session since 2019 — Los Angeles alt-rock band Silversun Pickups visited the students to offer insight from their 22 years in the music industry.

They discussed the ebbs and flows of their journey, took questions from the students, and played an acoustic set. The questions were thoughtful and wide-ranging, asking about how they've stayed friends while working together and how L.A. influenced their career.

Read on for four things we learned about and from the "Lazy Eye" band.

You Don't Need It All Figured Out To Start

The band revealed they had no idea what they were doing in the beginning — all they knew was that they wanted to make music and play shows. They got their first gig at a festival run by a New York college radio station after bassist Nikki Monninger sent in a very lo-fi tape she recorded at one of their practice sessions. They ran into an East Los Angeles venue booker there, who offered them their second gig, beginning a run of several years playing the time slots no one else wanted to — joking that they'd play bars when they weren't even open. They were eager to play, even though they were still figuring out their sound and their identity as a band.

Monninger affirms that these early shows really helped them find cohesion as a band, which made them feel prepared for the bigger opportunities that would come later. As they began to grow a local following, they realized people were passing around bootlegs of their sets, because they didn't have anything to sell themselves — so maybe it was time to record some music and make a band tee to sell at shows. "We were just thinking about the music first," Monninger said.

Once they found themselves in a recording studio, it took them time to figure out how to translate the emotion and energy of their live sets to a record. The first of many great questions from the audience, one student asked if their transition into the studio as a live act was weird. "Yes!" frontman Brian Aubert exclaimed. "It took a lot to make the recording sound like how we felt when we play."

Similarly to their journey to sound good live, the recording process also took a lot of learning and trying and failing and trying again. An essential part of the equation was finding producers who really knew their craft, to help them learn the tricks of the trade as well. For their last album, 2019's Widow's Weeds, they linked up with legendary Nirvana and Garbage producer, GRAMMY winner Butch Vig, which they felt really brought their sound to the next level.

If You Need To Make Art, Make It — Whether Or Not It Makes You Money

Aubert recommended that if you're a creative person "that needs to get this stuff out of you," to find a way to act on your creativity — without having to depend on it to support you at first. He said it helps to compartmentalize your art and how you make money, so there isn't intense pressure to make art that is financially successful, as that can be very creatively stifling.

"We thought we were successful when it didn't cost us anything to be in a band. It just kinda happened," he said. Monninger added, "Try to create your life where you don't have debt. We weren't living large, we were just trying to be in a band and make music."

Silversun Pickups with GRAMMY Museum execs 2022

L-R: Julie Mutnansky (Senior Manager of Education, GRAMMY Museum), Silversun Pickups, David Sears (VP of Education, GRAMMY Museum) Photo: Courtesy of the Recording Academy™️/ Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images© 2022

It Pays Off To Work With People You Really Like

Another student asked about how they were able to stay friends once they began working together. Drummer Christopher Guanlao, who joined the band two years into their journey, said it was because they were friends before, and were always hanging out — to the point that, by the time he replaced their first drummer, he knew all the songs.

Aubert added that they only worked with people that they liked, and that it's very important to really support each as a collective unit. Letting egos get in the way and blaming issues on one bandmate and threatening to fire them will only wreak havoc. As a band, you're in it together. "You're supposed to be together there to help each other," the frontman said.

Not only has the band maintained a strong bond among its four longtime members, but they've built a strong and tight creative circle around them as well — stemming from their early days, when Silver Lake was more affordable and had a rich creative community. Aubert joked they're like a tumbleweed, picking up people they really like and trust to work with them along the way.

Above All, Follow Your Heart — As Cliché As It May Sound

To close out the GRAMMY Camp guest artist session, Aubert and Monninger delivered a captivating acoustic set. But before the band could pick up and leave, there were a few more great questions — this time from Ally Matheson, a student on the music journalism GRAMMY Camp track.

During their on-camera interview, Matheson asked the band to share more about how L.A. has influenced their sound and career (They wouldn't be the band they are today without the rich early aughts L.A. creative scene, as they suggested.) She also asked them for their advice for young musicians.

With a smile, Aubert said that the best advice is to not take others' advice. He explained that even if people don't seem to understand or connect with your music — but you are making something that really moves you and is coming from your heart — you will find others who also connect with it as you do. If you believe in your work and stick with it, the people who also believe in it, and find meaning in it, will find you.

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The GRAMMY Museum Announces 'Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience,' Honoring Her Creative Legacy; Opening March 2023
Shakira performs at Super Bowl LIV in 2020

Photo: Focus On Sport / Contributor / Getty Images

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The GRAMMY Museum Announces 'Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience,' Honoring Her Creative Legacy; Opening March 2023

To showcase Shakira's enduring career, the GRAMMY Museum presents 'Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience,' opening on Saturday, March 4, as part of the Museum's permanent Latin Music Gallery

GRAMMYs/Jan 26, 2023 - 03:20 pm

On Saturday, March 4, The GRAMMY Museum will open Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience, showcasing Shakira's enduring creative legacy spanning more than three decades as a singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, visual artist, philanthropist, and global icon.

Visitors can see the exhibit on display in downtown Los Angeles at the Museum's permanent Latin Music Gallery.

A multi-GRAMMY-winning and Latin GRAMMY Award-winning artist, Shakira has sold more than 85 million records worldwide and has won numerous awards in addition to those from the Recording Academy. Her albums and releases consistently break records, and she is the most-viewed and -streamed Latin female artist of all time on YouTube and Spotify. She was also honored as the Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year in 2011 for her artistic achievements in the Latin music industry as well as their humanitarian efforts.

"It's an honor to have the journey of my career displayed at the GRAMMY Museum," Shakira said in a statement. "These pieces are a testament to so many indelible moments that I cherish, and I'm so happy to be able to relive these memories with those who have and continue to support me as an artist."

Shakira, Shakira explores the artist's musical evolution, from her origins as a Latin rock-loving singer/songwriter in Barranquilla, Colombia, to a global superstar whose catalog spans multiple genres, from bhangra and bachata to rock and reggaetón.

Read More: 2023 GRAMMYs Performers Announced: Bad Bunny, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Steve Lacy, Mary J. Blige & More Confirmed

Early in her career, Shakira began fusing elements of her ethnicities and multicultural roots to construct a richly layered sonic universe that allowed her to grow as a creator while appealing to a worldwide audience. Partly by incorporating her Lebanese heritage on her father's side — along with Arabic dancing and the mainstream pop rock that she grew up with — she achieved international crossover success and broke boundaries for Latin artists.

To deepen visitors' appreciation and understanding of how these cultural elements have shaped every aspect of her songs, music videos, performances, and world tours, the first museum exhibit about Shakira features interactive features that provide fresh insights into her creative process.

It also includes a songwriting notebook with handwritten lyrics from her personal archive along with 40 other artifacts, acoustic and Swarovski-studded electric guitars, iconic outfits from her performances and album covers, three original films, and an immersive space that draws inspiration from her El Dorado tour.

Highlights from the Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience include:

  • Forty artifacts from Shakira’s personal archive

  • Shakira’s two 2020 Super Bowl LIV outfits (one red, one gold) and her Gibson Firebird electric guitar, covered with 70,000 black Swarovski crystals

  • Taylor acoustic guitar that Shakira uses for songwriting

  • Fender Stratocaster, covered with pink Swarovski crystals, that Shakira played on her Oral Fixation tour (2006-2007)

  • Gold Yamaha Revstar electric guitar Shakira played on her 2018 El Dorado tour

  • Iconic outfits from Shakira’s 2018 El Dorado tour

  • Leaf-covered bikini Shakira wore on the cover of her 2005 album, Oral Fixation, Vol. 2

  • Songwriting notebook with handwritten lyrics

  • And more!

This announcement comes on the heels of Shakira's latest release with Argentinian producer and DJ Bizarrap, "SHAKIRA || BZRP Music Sessions #53," which has made history in its own way. With the most streams in a single day for a Spanish-language song, it raked in more than 14 million streams in the first 24 hours and became the fastest Latin song to reach 100 million streams. Another historic moment for Shakira, the song debuted at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first solo woman to reach the Top 10 on the chart with a song recorded in Spanish. She has also broken the all-time record for most monthly listeners for a Latin artist in Spotify history. The video amassed 160 million views on YouTube in the first week. 

"Shakira is the rare superstar who has discovered a way to keep evolving as an artist while growing her expansive audience along with her," said Jasen Emmons, Chief Curator & Vice President of Curatorial Affairs at the GRAMMY Museum. "She's a serious student of music, and the GRAMMY Museum is excited to offer a dynamic exhibit that reflects her intelligence and artistry."

The GRAMMY Museum Announces Official GRAMMY Week 2023 Programming Schedule

The GRAMMY Museum Announces Official GRAMMY Week 2023 Programming Schedule
(L-R): Merck Mercuriadis, Nile Rodgers and THE-DREAM

Photo: Jill Furmonvsky; courtesy of THE-DREAM

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The GRAMMY Museum Announces Official GRAMMY Week 2023 Programming Schedule

Join in on the GRAMMY Museum's GRAMMY Week 2023 education programs and panels ahead of Music's Biggest Night. Here's the lineup for the upcoming, can't-miss events from Jan. 30 - Feb. 3.

GRAMMYs/Jan 23, 2023 - 02:00 pm

With the 2023 GRAMMYs just around the corner, the GRAMMY Museum has announced its official GRAMMY Week 2023 programming schedule ahead of GRAMMY Sunday.

Flush with unique education and community engagement programs, the events offer conversations, live performances and exclusive content from GRAMMY Award-winning and -nominated musicians and industry professionals. From panels discussing what it takes to have a career in the music industry to a celebration of GRAMMY nominee Muni Long, you won't want to miss the GRAMMY Museum’s GRAMMY Week programming.

Join in on these GRAMMY Week festivities from Monday, Jan. 30, to Friday, Feb. 3, with the full lineup as listed below.

Watch the 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, on Sunday, Feb. 5, live on the CBS Television Network and live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.

Mon, Jan. 30:

EVENT: Careers in Music: Music Producers Panel with Isla Management

WHAT: A conversation with GRAMMY® Award-winning and -nominated producers Boi-1da, Jahaan Sweet, Sevn Thomas, Leon Thomas, and Isla Management Founder and Manager Simon Gebrelul on the creative process, working with artists, and what it takes to have a career in the music industry as a music producer.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

EVENT: Careers in Music: Latin Music Panel

WHAT: A conversation celebrating the culture and impact of Latin Music with singer-songwriter, Gaby Moreno, Vice President of Latin Division at Peermusic, Yvonne Drazan, and Founder and President of Cosmica Records, Gil Gastelum.

WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Tues, Jan. 31:

EVENT: Backstage Pass: Global Music Panel

WHAT: A conversation celebrating music from around the world with GRAMMY-nominated artist Zakes Bantwini, CEO of Creative Agency GridWorldwide Adam Byars, TV/Radio personality and entrepreneur Anele Mdoda, Talent Manager and Music/Entertainment Executive Sibo Mhlungu, and Entrepreneur CEO & Founder of Bathu Sneakers Theo Baloyi. This program will also include a live performance by Zakes Bantwini and Nomcebo Zikode.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

EVENT: Backstage Pass: LGBTQ Panel & Performance presented by the Ally Coalition

WHAT: Backstage Pass is a career exploration program that gives students a first-hand look at what it takes to get a job in the music industry. This Backstage Pass program will consist of a question-and-answer session with music industry professionals from the LGBTQ community.

WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

EVENT: Celebrating GRAMMY® Nominee: Muni Long

WHAT: Join us for this exclusive GRAMMY Week event to celebrate this year’s three-time GRAMMY nominee, Muni Long, just ahead of GRAMMY Sunday. Nominated for Best New Artist, Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance, Long was an in-demand songwriter for Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Ariana Grande, and more before breaking through as a solo artist.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

TICKETS: Click here.

Wed, Feb. 1:

EVENT: Careers in Music: 1500 Sound Academy

WHAT: 1500 Sound Academy is a trailblazing music education institution that strives to produce passionate sound creators through mentorship, positive mindset and professional development. Join us for a moderated Q&A with founders of the 1500 Sound Academy and of the legendary musical ensemble, 1500 or Nothin', GRAMMY Award winners James Fauntleroy and Larrance "Rance" Dopson.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

EVENT: Live Out L!ve Presents: Beyond the Mainstage – Black Professionals in Live Music

WHAT: Join us as we go beyond the mainstage and explore the success, challenges and reality of being a Black professional in the live entertainment industry. In this conversation, we will hear from professionals of color who are leading innovation and change in their respective roles. Our panelists will share their journey of becoming a live industry leader and resources for breaking into the industry, and answer questions from the next generation of music industry leaders.

WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Thurs, Feb. 2:

EVENT: Backstage Pass: Hawaii Day w/ Bobby Moderow, Jr. & Kawika Kahiapo

WHAT: A celebration of the music and culture of Hawaii, this Backstage Pass program will consist of a question-and-answer session as well as a live performance of two to three songs.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Fri, Feb. 3:

EVENT: Careers In Music: Merck Mercuriadis, Nile Rodgers and 2023 Six-Time GRAMMY®-nominated Singer/Songwriter/Producer THE-DREAM

WHAT: A conversation with Merck Mercuriadis, Nile Rodgers and The-Dream discussing their background in the music industry, the importance and power of the songwriter, sustaining a career, and celebrating the songs past and present that have led to The-Dream having more than 20 GRAMMY nominations and five wins throughout his career. The-Dream is one of the first nominees for the inaugural Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical Award and we are here to celebrate his achievements and those of the other great songwriters being honored including his collaboration with Nile Rodgers, Beyoncé and others on "CUFF IT."

WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Where, What Channel & How To Watch The Full 2023 GRAMMYs

Global Spin Live: LAY Combines East And West With A Magnetic Performance Of "Veil" At The GRAMMY Museum
LAY

Photo: Zhang Yixing Studio

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Global Spin Live: LAY Combines East And West With A Magnetic Performance Of "Veil" At The GRAMMY Museum

Chinese rapper LAY combines traditional Chinese instruments with contemporary Western choreography in this live performance of "Veil."

GRAMMYs/Jan 17, 2023 - 06:00 pm

With every release, singer/songwriter LAY has paid homage to his Chinese heritage. His latest EP, West, is no different, as he croons over the sounds of traditional instruments.

Released as a sequel to his 2021 EP, East, West continues LAY's global exploration and comprehension of western culture through the lens of his upbringing in China. "I'm a proud Chinese person first before an artist," LAY detailed in a media conference. "I just want to share the good things about my culture. I hope it inspires others to do the same."

In this episode of Global Spin Live, LAY offers a highly energetic performance of West's lead single, "Veil," at the GRAMMY Museum. He smoothly transitions between English and his native language, Mandarin.

It's a metaphor for LAY's multicultural mindset that's not only manifested in his lyricism, but additionally in the song's choreography and production; he balances contemporary hip-hop moves with the soft tapping of the Chinese erhu.

Though West presents two versions of "Veil" — one in Mandarin and one predominantly in English — LAY performs the latter on the GRAMMY Museum stage. "'Veil' is [asking listeners to] be more real. Take off your mask and show me the real you," he shares, further emphasizing the message of "Veil" that encourages listeners to share our most authentic selves.

Global Spin Live is held in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum and GRAMMY.com as a live event extension of the popular online series, Global Spin, showcasing Global Music artists. Press play on the video above to watch LAY's suave performance of "Veil," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Global Spin.

It Goes To 11: The Rose Introduces The Acoustic Guitar That's Been Part Of Their Career Since The Beginning

Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist

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Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist

The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from student members. GRAMMY U celebrates new beginnings with fresh pop tunes that will kickstart 2023.

GRAMMYs/Jan 6, 2023 - 12:17 am

Did you know that among all of the students in GRAMMY U, songwriting and performance is one of the most sought after fields of study? We want to create a space to hear what these students are creating today!

The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that students are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify and Apple Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.

Each month, we accept submissions and feature 20 to 25 songs that match that month’s theme. This month we're ringing in 2023 with our New Year, It's Poppin'! playlist, which features fresh pop songs that bring new year, new you vibes. Showcasing talented members from our various chapters, we felt these songs represented the positivity and hopefulness that GRAMMY U members embody as they tackle this upcoming year of exciting possibilities.

So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify below and Apple Music.

Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our February playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the student member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify and/or Apple Music link to the song. Students must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.

About GRAMMY U:

GRAMMY U is a program that connects college students with the industry's brightest and most talented minds and provides those aspiring professionals with the tools and opportunities necessary to start a career in music.     

Throughout each semester, events and special programs touch on all facets of the industry, including the business, technology, and the creative process.

As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.

Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.