Photo: Luke Rogers
Stephen Sanchez On His Love For Retro Music & Why His Next Tour Will "Change Everything"
After a wildly successful 2022 thanks to his breakout hit "Until I Found You," Stephen Sanchez is selling out venues around the country — but in his eyes, this is only the beginning.
In the midst of his first-ever headlining tour, Stephen Sanchez is already looking to the future. "This first tour is a slow build into the next tour," he teases to GRAMMY.com, alluding to his recently announced October-December stretch. "The fall is going to change everything — it's going to feel like you've stepped into the '50s and '60s."
For Sanchez, embodying an old-school vibe has both defined his career and propelled his success. Case in point: his breakout single "Until I Found You," which became a radio staple last year and has since garnered more than more than 1.7 billion global streams. The lovestruck ballad boasts his crooning voice and a classic chord progression with an echoing electric guitar, creating a sound that conjures up a past generation.
Although he's just 20 years old, Sanchez's love for artists like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole stems from his childhood. He's filtering those retro influences through a distinctly modern lens — and a sensitive one at that.
"[Those artists] gave me a sense of direction as to how to fall in love with somebody and give my love to somebody," Sanchez says. "Love's this passionate fight, but it's also a surrender. Without that music, I wouldn't know that."
Now, armed with a co-sign from Elton John — more on that later — Sanchez is riding high with a new single, the similarly retro "Evangeline." Just before launching his tour, Sanchez spoke to GRAMMY.com about his influences, success and the real-life story behind "Until I Found You."
"Until I Found You" is a song that's bursting with passion while coupled with a distinctly retro sensibility. How did it all come to life?
It all started after making a bad financial decision. I bought a black Rickenbacker guitar and an amp, and both of them cost me well over a couple thousand dollars. So I got home after buying the guitar, sat in my room and wrote "Until I Found You" that day in 15 minutes.
The lyrics are about a girl I was dating at the time, actually named Georgia [who is mentioned in the song]. I sent a demo to my label and my girlfriend, and that was it. Nobody really gave much attention to it, but then I posted it online and everybody paid attention to it. It took off and now it's almost a double platinum song, which is unreal.
Classic question for your classic song — what comes first for you, music or lyrics?
It's always lyrics. Nothing usually starts out as a song, but as a poem. I'm always trying to write the most beautiful parts of someone from my perspective.
Everyone must sing along to the song when you perform it live. Can you describe what it was like the first time that happened?
I burst into tears, honestly. I wrote all of these songs in my bedroom, I didn't think anyone would ever sing them back to me because they were only meant to mean something to one person. It's a wild feeling.
I feel like I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask if you and Georgia were still dating…
We are not still dating. It's been exciting for the both of us to get to see the success of the song. She actually is on the recording of it — she sang the background vocals. But I do love that other people have attached their love to it because it's very much an immortalized time of our love.
It's hard to make a song that sounds classic, but also resonates with today's audiences. It seems like you found something new while also honoring the past. What are your takeaways from its surprise success?
Everyone's individual truths become universal, you know? I think when people get the chance to hear someone's love for another person, like my love for Georgia in the song, it resonates.
I didn't think "Until I Found You" was going to be anything more than what it was. I wrote it about her because I loved her, and the fact that people have taken it upon themselves to apply it to their own love stories is beyond me. So it's really special and we need more than that. We need more truth in music!
The song has such a classic feel, it made me wonder who your favorite artists were growing up?
The Platters, the Ink Spots, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole all inspired me growing up. The love that they used to sing about is just amazing.
How did you initially get into that generation of artists? Did you have a relative who introduced you to them?
Yeah, my grandparents! They had a lot of land in San Jose, California that sat in between these two barns. Inside both of those barns are vinyl boxes everywhere. In the mornings, my grandma would make me breakfast and send me to those barns to pick through vinyls. It was an amazing thing.
What was it like as a kid listening to those artists while all of your peers — in school and the industry — probably have never been introduced to them?
God, it changed everything. I feel like I'm a big romantic and I give credit to that music as to why that is. It gave me a sense of direction as to how to fall in love with somebody and give my love to somebody. Love's this passionate fight, but it's also a surrender. Without that music, I wouldn't know that.
Your newest song, "Evangeline," is another passionate love ballad that transports listeners back into a bygone era. In addition, you have your debut album in the works. What can you reveal about either?
I had just got back from touring Europe when I went into the studio with Nick Lobel and Trent Dabbs who are both amazing songwriters and engineers. We wrote the song in 15 minutes using a sample of Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey," taking the first 10 seconds of that song, building the track and writing the song that day.
As for my debut album, it's 12 songs and set between the years 1958 and 1964. That's all I can really say about it!
The week after "Evangeline" came out, you attended your first GRAMMY weekend. What was that like?
It was really unreal. I didn't feel like I was there actually, I felt like I was somewhere else; like I was floating away.
I know you also rubbed elbows with Elton John and wound up getting to know him?
Yes! He's so supportive and I'm grateful to call him a friend. We sat next to each other at the MusiCares [Persons Of The Year event] and sang "My Girl" to each other while The Temptations played on stage in front of us. He also teased me when I freaked out about Brandi Carlile. He does this thing where he gives my face a little smack when I see him. It's an honor to know him.
You just embarked on your first nationwide tour of the US. What has that experience been like for you?
This first tour is a slow build into the next tour. We're playing all the music that is out right now and keeping things in the singer/songwriter vein with these live shows for the time being.
The next tour we're planning [in the fall] is going to change everything. It's going to feel like you've stepped into the '50s and '60s. But touring is really fun — and I'm very tired.
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Graphic Courtesy of the Latin Recording Academy
The Latin Recording Academy Announces New Latin GRAMMY Award Categories And Field: Best Songwriter Of The Year, Best Singer-Songwriter Song, Best Portuguese-Language Urban Performance & More
Ahead of the 2023 Latin GRAMMY Awards, the Latin Recording Academy is ushering in several changes — including a new field and categories to the awards process.
In a demonstration of its commitment to reflect the ever-changing musical landscape, the Latin Recording Academy has announced the addition of several changes, a new field and categories to the Latin GRAMMY Awards Process.
"Our priority is to effectively represent all the Latin music creators that we serve," Latin Recording Academy CEO Manuel Abud said in a statement. "We are excited to present these new categories that reflect the constant evolution of our music."
All new updates will go into effect immediately for the upcoming 2023 Latin GRAMMY Awards, officially known as the 24th Latin GRAMMY Awards, which take place this November. The Online Entry Process for this year’s Latin GRAMMYs opens on Thursday, March 23.
NEW LATIN GRAMMY AWARDS FIELD AND CATEGORY ADDED:
Best Songwriter Of The Year
As part of the newly-created Songwriting Field, this new category recognizes the written excellence, profession and art of songwriting. Songwriters must have a minimum of six newly written songs in which they are credited as a songwriter or co-writer and are not the performer, producer or engineer.
NEW LATIN GRAMMY AWARDS CATEGORIES ADDED:
Best Singer-Songwriter Song
To be eligible for this new category within the Singer-Songwriter Field, the singles or tracks must contain at least 51% of the lyrics in Spanish, Portuguese or any native regional dialect, and must be from a Singer-Songwriter Album competing in the Singer-Songwriter Album Category that year.
Best Portuguese-Language Urban Performance
This new category within the Portuguese Language Field recognizes the enormous amount of Urban music that is being created in Brazil and Portugal. The singles or tracks can include a fusion mix of Urban styles with other genres as long as the Urban character predominates.
The Latin Recording Academy has also made amendments to the following existing categories:
Album Of The Year
Albums within the General Field must contain at least 51% playing time of newly recorded material. Award to the Artist, Producer(s), Engineer(s), Mixer(s), Mastering Engineer(s) and Songwriter(s) of 33% playing time of the album if other than the Artist will receive the award.
It is now required to include the date of composition when submitting product for all of the Song categories.
New Criteria For Best Engineered Album
Award goes to Recording Engineer(s) and Mixing Engineer(s) credited with at least 33% of the album and Mastering Engineer(s) credited with at least 51% of the album within the Production Field.
The Recording Academy lauds its sister Academy for this thrilling series of developments; keep watching their space for more updates on the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs!
Listen: Celebrate Día Nacional De La Zalsa With The Latin Recording Academy's Official Playlist Of Latin GRAMMY-Winning Salsa & Tropical Songs
Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management
Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Has Officially Begun: Here's What Swifties Have To Say About It
From a colossal three-hour setlist to more than a dozen costume changes, Taylor Swift's Eras Tour is nothing short of sensational. Here's how Swifties are reacting on social media to the GRAMMY winner's massive stadium trek.
It's not every day that a city renames itself after you, but Taylor Swift added this unique honor to her ever-growing list of accolades on March 17, 2023.
The date marks the first leg of Swift's monumental Eras Tour, which kicked off in Glendale, Arizona — or, rather, "Swift City," temporarily renamed in tribute to the 12-time GRAMMY winner's highly-anticipated tour.
The versatile singer/songwriter kicked off her tour playing to more than 69,000 people at State Farm Stadium, breaking the 36-year-old record for the most-attended U.S. concert by a female performer. The record was previously held by Madonna's 1987 performance at Los Angeles' Anaheim Stadium on her MDNA tour.
The tour is the latest example of how Swift continues to one-up herself. After her tenth studio album Midnights smashed records, the Eras Tour emerged as one of the buzziest tours of 2023 (and even sparked a Senate hearing about Ticketmaster). Spanning 52 legs and 22 cities, the tour takes viewers on an odyssey through Swift's vast discography, divided into 10 sections for her 10 studio albums.
Now that the Eras Tour has launched, Swifties who have seen the epic show — and even those who haven't yet — are losing their minds over every detail. Sharing their creative outfits, takes on the setlist, and live reactions to the show's astonishing spectacles, the online Swiftie community is storming social media once again.
“You guys. This is a whole, entire experience,” one fan wrote on Twitter. “This isn't just a concert. This is a FULL experience. I'm not even there and I can tell already. She did this, for ALL her fans. This is incredible.
In honor of Swift's monumental tour launching last week, here are how some Swifties reacted to a few of the biggest moments from the Eras Tour's opening night.
Yes, The Setlist Is Longer Than 'Avengers: Endgame'
Think watching Lord of the Rings or taking the SAT… that's approximately the length of the Eras Tour. Considering Swift's discography, it's no surprise that the setlist is extensive, but fans were still impressed (and shocked) by the whopping three-hour show.
Her massive stadium tour for reputation was just over two hours, and four albums later (or six, if you include Taylor's Version re-releases), Swift needed an extra hour to pack in just a few more of her hits.
nothing but admiration for taylor because Wow this set list is unbelievably LONG— marina ✿ (@bubblewrapboys) March 18, 2023
honestly taylor is insane for such a long and perfect setlist— olka⁷ 🪞 (@komhvmin) March 18, 2023
someone explain how Taylor’s set list is 44 songs long, like how????— neve (@neve41379523) March 18, 2023
"Cruel Summer" Gets Justice As The (Almost) Tour Opener
All Swifties know that "Cruel Summer" should have been a single from Lover, and the popular deep cut is finally getting its deserved attention as the second song in Swift's setlist, after fellow Lover track "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince." Here are some fans reacting to the fever dream high in the quiet of night.
TAYLOR SWIFT PERFORMING CRUEL SUMMER OH MY GOD #GlendaleTSTheErasTour https://t.co/OZ2mLWLrNX— squid || fan account 💙 (@greedymotivez) March 18, 2023
me being airlifted out of the stadium after experiencing cruel summer at the eras tour— Daniel (@Daniel_Tigerr) March 13, 2023
CRUEL SUMMER BRIDGE OH MY GOD TAYLOR.. HER VOCALS #GlendaleTSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/bXqQE9AqfX— squid || fan account 💙 (@greedymotivez) March 18, 2023
shout out to my bf for filming me ascend to heaven during the cruel summer bridge without me even asking pic.twitter.com/V8bXRSDt4g— Jemima Skelley (@jemimaskelley) March 18, 2023
I JUST REALIZED THAT IT WAS THE FIRST TIME SHE PERFORMED CRUEL SUMMER LIVE IM SHAKING https://t.co/DYIHDC1fnc— c 💌 (@celestialswiftt) March 18, 2023
Even Kelsea Ballerini, who was 2,000 miles away on a stage of her own, paused her own performance to ask her audience if "Cruel Summer" had made the setlist.
💬 | Kelsea Ballerini stops her set at a concert in Detroit to ask about #TSTheErasTour:— Taylor Swift Museum (@theswiftmuseum) March 18, 2023
“I just have one question. I’m gonna stop after this but I just have one question," she said. "Has she ... is 'Cruel Summer' on the setlist?” pic.twitter.com/ku2EjR5jjR
Swift Assures Fans She Does Indeed Love evermore
Since evermore's late 2020 release, fans have long advocated for Swift to show some extra love to her ninth album. While Swift celebrated the anniversary of its sister album folklore and released the live Folklore: Long Pond Studio Sessions, evermore was alternatively posted on the singer's socials the least, prompting fans to jokingly theorize that she doesn't know evermore exists.
Yet, at the Eras Tour, Swift reassured crowd goers that evermore does in fact hold a special place in her heart. To fans' delight, Swift performed "'tis the damn season," "willow," "marjorie," "champagne problems" and "'tolerate it," amping up the album's soft whimsy into a stadium-level spectacle.
“I’m here to dispel the rumors and prove wrong the allegations that I hate evermore… I don’t even wish people on social media a happy birthday.” SHE’S SO HAPPY AND NATURAL SPEAKING TO US AND MAKING JOKES ABOUT THIS 😭 #TSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/GW749ZFkYR— Taylor Swift Updates (@SwiftNYC) March 19, 2023
EVERMORE?????? TAYLOR KNOW THAT EVERMORE EXISTS GUYS OMG WTF pic.twitter.com/acNZCOBGVA— Taylor Throwbacks | fan page (@ThrowbackTaylor) March 18, 2023
taylor swift performing tis the damn season is the pinnacle of evermore rights— miguel I arlington 4/1 (@cowboyinwoods13) March 18, 2023
taylor put tolerate it on the setlist pic.twitter.com/VfRqFvGLCw— caro 🧸 (@stylesgala) March 18, 2023
SHE DIDN'T FORGET ABOUT EVERMORE #TSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/XOt5cOu1Iy— ًm (@jchnnyshan) March 18, 2023
But… Where's The Love For Speak Now And Self-Titled Debut?
It's impossible to please every Swiftie, but some fans spoke up about the Speak Now and Taylor Swift erasure on Swift's 44-song setlist. "Enchanted" was the only song from either album that made it to the setlist, though it's likely Swift will perform more Speak Now songs as her interchangeable "surprise" songs of each show.
it all makes sense now pic.twitter.com/jBsu4lzXTz— snowglobe allie leading the midnights rug campaign (@reckedmaserati) March 19, 2023
@clairenotdanes listen, im SO HAPPY about the setlist but also why speak now erasure 😭 #taylorswift #speaknow #erastour #setlist #swiftie #swifttok #longlive #haunted #taylorsversion #SeeHerGreatness ♬ You're On Your Own, Kid - Taylor Swift
She sang one speak now song …….. pic.twitter.com/ZmrVsxmMKe— shan (@wildIyenchanted) March 18, 2023
the biggest eras tour easter egg we all missed pic.twitter.com/rXctAQ2iVW— lina🧚♀️ (5/21 eras tour!!) (@tswizzlecat) March 18, 2023
6 songs from lover and 5 songs from evermore but only 1 song from speak now pic.twitter.com/LYob2Azk2V— 𝒍𝒊𝒂𝒎🌙 (@NotFancy_) March 18, 2023
From "Gorgeous" To Comical: Eras Tour Fashion Stuns
Whether it's a dazzling iridescent custom Versace for Lover or a golden flapper fringe dress for Fearless, Swift's tour fashion never fails to disappoint — and neither does fans'.
While Swift pulled off more than a dozen costume changes on stage, her fans dressed up in outfits inspired by her eras, iconic lyrics, fanbase inside jokes, and more. See some of the top dressing-for-revenge looks below.
taylor went from “not a lot going on at the moment” to “a lot going on at the moment” in 10 years #GlendaleTSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/xCP9HjKSx1— Ron || ERAS TOUR (@midnightstrack2) March 18, 2023
the midnight rain costume change is so good stfuuu 😭#GlendaleTSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/oLaSmEZ8DZ— 𝙠𝙖𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙖 (taylor’s version) 🦋 (@swiftiestanwbu) March 18, 2023
taylor’s reputation costume was the best part of the show last night like i am obsessed pic.twitter.com/Pj1xnxWVBx— becky 🥐 (@benditlikebecky) March 19, 2023
SOMEONE DID IT YOU GUYS pic.twitter.com/JVDiMMevOQ— lea | eras spoilers🍓SEEING GRACIE (@cowboylikehale) March 19, 2023
they’re having a camp off pic.twitter.com/OxWsZ4nYE6— 𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘆 💫 eras tour TX 4/1 & 4/22 (@xThisIsAndyG) March 20, 2023
We’re dressed up as TVs, a play on Taylor’s Version. 😂— KelseyLioness (@kelseyLioness) March 20, 2023
It was a hit and people took pics with us and all. 😊 @taylornation13 #erastouroutfit #erastour #erastourglendale pic.twitter.com/gwhsOdXEys
I went with a guy and we dressed up as Taylor in her getaway car outfit backstage hugging Joe. A couple girls picked up on it at our show & it was fun. pic.twitter.com/9sxqM2qPJb— Melissa - Eras Tour Vegas 3/24 3/25 (@MelissaEnchant) March 20, 2023
@briannaxrenee SEE U AT NIGHT 2 🏻💕✨ first time at a Taylor concert so excited! #taylorswift #erastour #erastouroutfits #swiftcity #taylornation #glendaletstheerastour #swifttok ♬ ERAS TOUR OUTFIT TRANSITION - paige!
Lucky Fans Caught The Jaw-Dropping, Fearless Dive On Camera
One of the most surprising moments of Eras Tour was most definitely Swift's shocking dive off stage. Stirring a collective gasp from the crowd, the moment served as a transition from her debut era to Midnights.
Between a three-hour show and a flawless swan dive, the Eras Tour begs one question: Is there anything Taylor Swift can't do?
Idk how I caught this @taylorswift13 #GlendaleTSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/y8FqEwMcWH— Daniel McGreevy (@DanielJMcGreevy) March 18, 2023
📲 UPDATE | Taylor has won the gold medal in the high dive!— kaitlyn 69 (@fearlesskait) March 18, 2023
The dive was the craziest thing ive ever seen I was so caught off guard LMAO— 𝒓𝒚𝒍𝒆𝒆 is seeing taylor!!!! (@ucanbemyjailer) March 18, 2023
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
What Was 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' Almost Called? 5 Facts About Pink Floyd's Masterpiece Ahead Of The 50th Anniversary Boxed Set
Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' has maintained its philosophical, psychological and exploratory power for 50 years. Here are five off-the-beaten-path things to know about it.
Rarely do a mere prism and spectrum of light signify so much.
The cover of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon is recognizable by all denizens of the Western world, rock fan or not. For so many, it also opens a treasure box of associations: The themes of irth and death, greed and madness, and the relentless tick-tock of time. An ecstatic vocal aria. The specter of a departed Syd Barrett. The lunatic on the grass. Money: it's a gas.
After half a century of headphone-clad zone-outs and The Wizard of Oz re-rewatches, The Dark Side of the Moon transcends mere codification and ubiquity; it remains a work of uncommon perceptiveness, concision and ingenuity. And the arrival of a new boxed set invites listeners back through the gates of its mind-expanding, incisive, philosophical universe.
Read More: 20 Albums Turning 50 In 2023: Innervisions, Dark Side Of The Moon, Catch A Fire & More
The Dark Side of the Moon — 50th Anniversary Boxed Set, out Mar. 24, encompasses a lavish array of ways to re-experience this classic rock staple. The set includes CD and gatefold vinyl of the newly remastered studio album, as well as Blu-Ray/DVD audio featuring the original 5.1 mix and remastered stereo versions, as well as a diamond-sharp Atmos mix.
Just as enticing is a CD and LP of The Dark Side Of The Moon - Live At Wembley Empire Pool, London, 1974, which illuminates how an album that stretched the boundaries of the studio took on new dimensions on stage. When you see Roger Waters continue to stage ambitious, polemic productions across the globe, trace a line backward to Floyd's culture-shaking live show 50 years ago.
To mark the re-release of what many consider to be Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason's crowning achievement, here are five facts you may not know about The Dark Side of the Moon.
Roger Waters Sought Unprecedented Lyrical Clarity
The Dark Side of the Moon wasn't just a leap forward aurally, or conceptually: the band had never been so vivid and specific with their words.
"I think we all thought — and Roger definitely thought — that a lot of the lyrics that we had been using were a little too indirect," Gilmour told Rolling Stone in 2003, referring to past albums like Obscured by Clouds and Meddle. "There was definitely a feeling that the words were going to be very clear and specific. That was a big leap forward."
Thus, the band produced a work of thematic depth and concision, full of unforgettable one-liners like "All you touch and all you see/ Is all your life will ever be" and "There's someone in my head/ But it's not me."
Watch Now: Inside Pink Floyd's Progressive Masterpiece The Wall | For The Record
Clare Torry Was Paid Just £30 For Her Vocal Performance
Despite the singer's lack of name recognition, millions and millions have heard Clare Torry's voice. Her cyclonic, wordless aria on "The Great Gig in the Sky" — they nixed a first attempt, partly on account of the word "baby" — is one of the most memorable parts of The Dark Side of the Moon.
So it might be surprising to hear that Torry was paid a standard rate of £30 for her work — and ended up suing the band in 2004 for a songwriting credit and lost wages. (The case was settled out of court.)
It Could Have Been Called Eclipse, With The Silver Surfer On The Cover
When a now-obscure band called Medicine Head released an album called Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd's desired title seemed under threat.
"We weren't annoyed at Medicine Head," Gilmour later said. "We were annoyed because we had already thought of the title before the Medicine Head album came out." But when Medicine Head's album failed commercially, the door was open to proceed as planned.
And, accordingly, while Pink Floyd desired the prismatic cover as soon as they saw it, the band had previously kicked around the idea of a Marvel superhero on the album sleeve.
"We were all into Marvel Comics, and the Silver Surfer seemed to be another fantastic singular image," Aubrey Power of art design group Hipgnosis remembered. "We never would have got permission to use it. But we liked the image of a silver man, on a silver surfboard, scooting across the universe. It had mystical, mythical properties. Very cosmic, man!"
Read More: Remixing Animals: How Pink Floyd's 1977 Album Set The Stage For Melodic Metal
The Band Performed The Album In Its Entirety A Year Prior To Release
Throughout 1972, the band performed a proto version of The Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics (its addendum at the time) in sequence. They also refined the song cycle as one continuous piece, with transitions at all, eventually landing on the continuum of music we know and love today.
That being said, there were significant differences in these nascent live versions — for example, "On the Run" was a guitar and keyboard jam, and "The Great Gig in the Sky" was hung on an organ solo, not a vocal solo.
There's A Beatles-Related Easter Egg Near The End
Paul McCartney, then finishing Wings' Red Rose Speedway, was among the various interview subjects interspliced into the finished project — but as his appearance was a comedic put-on against the band's wishes, they scrapped his appearance. But that doesn't mean there's no Fabs on The Dark Side of the Moon.
Near the end of "Eclipse," during the famous "Matter of fact, it's all dark" quip an orchestral version of "Ticket to Ride" can be faintly heard. This detail among so many others is more audible than ever in the new remaster — where the light shines through clearer than ever.
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Photo: Republic Records
Billy Porter Is Ready To Show Fans His True Musical Side: "You're Not Gonna Want To Stop Listening"
After captivating audiences in "Kinky Boots" on Broadway and the culture-shifting series "Pose," Billy Porter makes his return to music with a new album that sheds light on his life and journey.
Twenty-six years after Billy Porter's debut album Untitled hit stores, the multihyphenate artist is releasing a second album of original music — but this time, he's doing it entirely his way. It's a point of pride for Porter, whose 1997 debut forced him to submerge his Broadway career success — and sexuality — to appeal to mainstream R&B audiences.
For four years, Porter's then-label, DV8 Records, worked on crafting the perfect persona for the singer. And after making many difficult compromises, Untitled was released in 1997 with minimal promotion. This led the "Show Me" singer to a heart-wrenching realization: It was time to walk away from his deal and take his career into his own hands.
Decades of hard work and seized opportunities later, Porter has amassed a trove of professional milestones while blazing trails for emerging LGBTQ performers of color. He became the first Black gay man to win a lead acting Emmy for his performance in the acclaimed drama "Pose," earned a GRAMMY and a Tony for his role in "Kinky Boots," wrote an off-Broadway play and a best-selling memoir before stepping behind the lens to direct the 2022 trans coming-of-age rom-com, "Anything's Possible."
Along the way, music was always on Porter's mind — though he had released three cover albums in that time, his sights were set on developing an original project when he signed with Republic Records in 2021. Working with prolific singer-songwriter Justin Tranter — who's written hits for Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Linkin Park, Justin Bieber and more — Porter has ensured that his fifth studio album reflects his journey and how far he's come since walking away from DV8 Records nearly 30 years ago.
Now, Porter is kicking off his return with the infectiously catchy, dance-club single "Baby Was a Dancer," which recounts his journey to empowerment and showcases the real Billy — unlike his 1997 debut and its broader themes of love and desire. As Porter puts the finishing touches on his new album, he's already hard at work putting together a production for his forthcoming summer tour — the first solo outing of his musical career — and he's leaving no stone unturned.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Porter to chat about his new single, upcoming album, and how you can never put baby in a corner.
The past decade has been such a whirlwind for you. You've conquered TV, film and red carpets, won an Emmy, a Tony and a GRAMMY, wrote a memoir and directed a rom-com. Was there a standout moment for you among all these huge milestones?
That's a really interesting question. I think it's more about the culmination of being able to vibrate in all of these spaces that I've had the dream of doing all at the same time. And feeling redeemed in doing. There were so many naysayers at the beginning of my career telling me that I couldn't do everything — that I had to choose one thing. I stand before you as proof positive that that isn't true.
What stands out is that I get to do all of them, at the same time. All of the hyphens, all at the same time. That's really not something that happens very often.
I've been playing your new single "Baby Was a Dancer" on a loop and can't wait for it to drop so I can add it to my "going out" playlist. How did that song come together?
I signed with Republic Records, and they hooked me up with Justin Tranter and his camp. We really had a great time just learning about each other. The team focused on learning about me and what I wanted to say to the world. All of the songs that emerged from my working sessions on this album. My writing sessions on this album really were very, very personal.
If you listen to the lyrics of "Baby Was a Dancer," it tells the story of my journey in this business — and in the world. What I was told that I could and couldn't be — and how you can't keep baby in a corner.
It's such an upbeat song with an empowering personal message. A total 180 from your debut album.
What I love about this time around for me in the music industry — and the mainstream music industry, in particular — is that the material is actually coming from me. The stories, the message, the point, all of it is coming specifically from me out of my own mouth, which is really nice. All of the songs on the album, it's all my story, in one form or another, and that is really exciting.
Are there any plans to release a music video? Because the bootleg choreography I came up with is not going to cut it.
Well, that's an interesting conversation because everything is reduced to an algorithm these days, particularly in the music industry via TikTok. They do not support music videos anymore. Apparently, the attention span is too short, and people are more interested in content associated with a particular single, and that's what pushes the single and downloads, and that's what drives sales.
So unfortunately, with this one, we are trying to set it up so that we can push it out. This time around, it's gonna be more about expanding my social media presence, particularly on TikTok.
I came up during the golden age of music videos in the '90s, so I'm bummed about this pivot to shorter dance clips on social media.
Me, too! I'm not happy about it, but I'm trying to do what's best. [Laughs.]
Will the new album be as danceable and high-energy as the new single? Or are you going to mix it up?
Because I've been in the business for so long, I have vibrated in so many different kinds of spaces, particularly musically. I have sung all types of music in my life. I've recorded all types of music in my life. So this album has a real eclectic energy to it.
In terms of the sound, I think there is something for everybody. What makes it cohesive is me. What makes it cohesive is my musical history. It's vast. It's deep. I'm not new. I'm true to this. I've been doing it since the early '80s. When I listen to the record, it really does hit all types of genres.
I'm excited about that because it's not just a singles thing, you know. We've grown into this space where it's about the single. And there are many, many singles. And it can be about the single; it can exist in that space as well. But I think people will be pleasantly surprised when they press play on track one, and they don't want to stop listening to it for 14 tracks. You're not gonna want to stop listening.
Albums with 14 tracks are incredibly rare nowadays.
Well, I had some s— to say! [Laughs.]
Did the album come together quickly, or did the process take a while?
Because of my schedule, it wasn't too long. It probably took me a year or so, from when I started earnestly working on it. I did some stuff in my studio in Pittsburgh while I was directing my movie. Then I did some in LA and New York. I sort of recorded wherever I was traveling and working.
Last November you released a song called "Stranger Things," after an overwhelmingly positive response to your performance at the Global Citizens Festival. You've described the track as a "call to action," and I personally took it as a much-needed reminder that there's work to do and no time to dwell. What made you realize that the world needed to hear this particular message right now?
I wrote that song with the late-great Andrea Martin, a couple of months before her untimely death. This space that we're in is challenging, and there's work to be done. And yes, when they go low, we go high. And what does going high look like in this new world order?
One of the things that I've been leaning into is, with age comes wisdom. I wear my age like a badge of honor. I've earned it. I'm 53 years old and not embarrassed about it. And one of the things that was really striking to me and re-traumatizing to me during COVID was that it felt very eerily similar to what we queer people went through during the AIDS crisis. What I wanted to say with the song — and what I want people to remember — is that none of this is new. And the fact that we don't know our history is, I think, one of the reasons why there's so much panic surrounding it.
Exactly. As they say, the past teaches us about the present.
Yes. And it does us a disservice. Our news outlets, and the way it's covered very often, pisses me off because it's covered as if it's new. And what I wanted to say with the song is that stranger things have already happened to us. We are resilient, and we will get through this with love. Don't be afraid. Don't be terrified. Stop claiming that and stand up for what is right. Stand up for what we know is right and get out in these streets and fight for it.
There's no time to be fatigued. There's no time to be terrified. We have work to do. And that song is a call to action. And music is a universal language. It's always been the way that I have communicated my views to the world.
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