Photo Courtesy of JYP Entertainment
K-Pop Superstars TWICE Talk New Album 'Eyes wide open,' Growing Together And Staying Close With Their Fans
The nine-member girl group chats with GRAMMY.com about their expansive new album, their monumental career over the past five years and how they've kept in touch with their global ONCE fan base during these trying times
TWICE don't need to ask for attention. With their striking looks and coordinated fashion, the nine-member K-pop ensemble is a sight that's impossible to miss. Backed by their vast discography, a cornucopia of catchy hooks, and synchronized, head-turning performances, the group stays in your mind long after they exit the stage.
Formed in 2015 through JYP Entertainment's reality survival show, "Sixteen," in South Korea, TWICE are a record-breaking, show-stealing, eye-magnet juggernaut. They have more than 10 million cumulative album sales, sold-out tours in Asia and America, including last year's Twicelights at The Forum in Los Angeles and Prudential Center in New Jersey, and an array of releases that regularly top the Korean and Japanese charts.
But ultimately, it's TWICE's individual charms that pull the listener into their world: the brightness of Nayeon's bunny smile, Momo's killer dance moves, Sana's natural sweetness. It's Dahyun's charismatic sense of humor complementing Chaeyoung's bold creativity, Jeongyeon's sultry allure pairing with Jihyo's unrelenting energy, Mina's graceful resilience matching with Tzuyu's elegance and sensitivity. Like a kaleidoscope slowly revealing different shapes and colors, TWICE shine in beautiful detail the more you get to know them as individuals and as a collective unit.
Still, the best phrase to define the group may come from the ladies themselves: TWICE is "[touching people's hearts] once through the ears and once through the eyes," Tzuyu told GRAMMY.com over a Zoom call, followed by cheers and laughter from the other members. The commotion-causing motto is well known for both the group and their fans, known as ONCE. First used by JYP Entertainment founder J. Y. Park, the phrase has since become a defining staple in the TWICE universe. But Momo hesitates. According to her, "it's hard to express TWICE into words, because it's through our performances that people can really get to know us."
Yet, an aversion to their peppy beginnings (see "Cheer Up," "Knock Knock") and the general perception of K-pop as an assembly-line production still keep several eyes shut to their talents. It's not that TWICE feel the need to change or that they care about impressing the unamused. But they do recognize the benefits of exploring new challenges—and therefore earning second thoughts.
In the past few years, the group has explored maturing sounds and visuals and has amplified their participation in writing lyrics and choosing visual concepts. The bittersweet pop of "Feel Special" (2019) reflects the pressures of being one of the biggest girl groups in the industry, while the '80s-infused "I Can't Stop Me" (2020) plays with the temptations of desire. Their latest release, "Cry For Me," released last month (Dec. 18), is a special single for ONCE and builds on yet another novel theme for the group: throbbing revenge underlined by a dramatic instrumental.
Their latest album, Eyes wide open, released Oct. 26 by JYP Entertainment and Republic Records, further signals the band's global success. Charting on the Billboard 200, and peaking at No. 2 on the World Albums chart in the U.S., the 13-track LP showcases a group at their peak. From '80s retro ("I Can't Stop Me," "Up No More") to Japanese city pop ("Say Something") to EDM anthems ("Do What We Like," "Believer"), Eyes wide open is a testament to TWICE's growth, artistry and versatility.
GRAMMY.com caught up with TWICE—minus Jeongyeon, who is currently on hiatus for health reasons—to learn more about their newest album, Eyes wide open, their ever-developing style and their future goals.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. An interpreter translated all answers from the group.
Congratulations, the group celebrated five years together in 2020. How have you been celebrating this landmark in your career?
Dahyun: These five years have been long, but also short when I look back at it. We made a lot of good memories with ONCE, and we also had our online concert this year. It's really sad we couldn't do our fifth-anniversary fan-meet in person, but I hope that next year we can meet offline. I'm also very thankful to the other members, ONCE and all JYP staff.
You recently released a special surprise single, "Cry For Me." Can you talk a bit about this song and how you prepared for it?
Jihyo: Since we haven't had the chance to meet ONCE in person, we discussed for a long time whether to release this song. We weren't thinking about it, but ever since we decided to, we have been practicing a lot to give this special present [to] ONCE.
Mina: Heize wrote the lyrics for us, and we really love that it approaches a new and interesting topic for TWICE.
Sana: We had many concepts in the past, but I personally think that since "More & More," we have been exploring more vibrant, active styles. "Cry For Me" is the completion of TWICE's 2020 story—this is an important point to enjoy the song.
So was it also a surprise for you to release the song?
Sana: It was a surprise performance for fans, but we thought their reaction was so good; we weren't expecting it. So we decided to release it fully, in hopes that fans will love it even more.
Since Sana mentioned that "Cry For Me" completes this new chapter for TWICE in 2020, how do you view the development of your musical style?
Chaeyoung: We have tried various concepts through our five years together and, most recently, concepts we hadn't tried before. First and foremost, TWICE is bright and energetic, and we know ONCE like that, so we can always go back to this image. But our aim now is to show that TWICE can also have all these different sides, too. We are putting our opinions in our comebacks a lot, and there are many other challenges we want to try.
This year, you also recorded English versions of your singles "More & More" and "I Can't Stop Me." How was that experience? Why is it important for you to release English versions of your songs?
Nayeon: When we were recording, we focused on pronouncing the words well so people could understand [them] when listening. Our lyricists also tried to make a natural translation of the meanings from Korean to English.
Momo: The reason why English versions are important for us is because TWICE has gained a lot of attention internationally, so expressing our songs in English means we can be closer to our global ONCE. And since we can't travel overseas now, we are able to meet them through these songs.
Despite the pandemic, you've had a really busy year with promotions in Korea and also overseas, albeit virtually. How have you managed that? What has changed in your schedules?
Tzuyu: Before COVID-19, we were able to meet fans directly in person. There were a lot of performances, concerts and fan meetings. But since now it's a dangerous time, we have done a lot of online events and concerts. At least we can meet with ONCE that way, but we can't wait to do these activities in person again.
What has changed since your debut five years ago? What has stayed the same?
Chaeyoung: Since our debut, we can't walk around anymore because people recognize us. I also don't feel like I'm getting older. I still feel like I'm 18 years old. [Laughs.]
Jihyo: The familiarity and how close we are has stayed the same.
Momo: I agree. We became much closer since [our] debut.
Dahyun: Our musical performance has grown and changed. While our debut was bright and cute, we reorganized our composition as nine members to show a cooler image—one that many people thought we couldn't. They might listen to "Cry For Me" and think, "How could TWICE do that?" But we are doing it now. A thing that hasn't changed is how much we love our fans and how hard we work for them.
Mina: Many people tell me that they can see our members are really close to each other through our performances, and I think that's a point that hasn't changed since [our] debut.
Do you feel any pressure in keeping up with all your accomplishments so far?
Jihyo: Numbers and records are important, but I think the most important thing is to live as artists, enjoying our music with our fans.
Nayeon: How many albums we sell and records we break is important, yes. But what kind of tracks we release, how we prepare for them and how we show our artistic abilities is the most important thing for me.
Sana: Debuting was our main goal when we started. But so far, we have gained a lot of awards, fans and attention, so I'm grateful for everything fans have done for TWICE.
Besides meeting ONCE, what are you looking forward to in 2021?
Mina: That the [pandemic] situation gets better.
Momo: Travel overseas.
Jihyo: I want us to perform as nine [members] together again.
Nayeon: We haven't performed our English songs yet, so I want to do that next year.
Sana: I want the same as the other members.
ZEROBASEONE's Big Year: From Winning "Boys Planet" To The World Stage
The nine-member K-pop act have seen a stratospheric rise over the past year. GRAMMY.com spoke with ZB1 about the most exciting moments of their career and their recently released EP, 'Melting Point.'
Rising K-pop stars ZEROBASEONE have experienced a rapid transition from boy group hopefuls to full-blown idols. While they're full speed ahead promoting their latest EP, Melting Point, it's necessary to turn back the clock and go into the very beginning to fully grasp how their growth has been unfolding.
Last fall, Zhang Hao, Kim Taerae, Sung Hanbin, Seok Matthew, Ricky, Park Gunwook, Kim Gyuvin, Kim Jiwoong, and Han Yujin received an announcement that changed the course of their personal journey: they were accepted into "Boys Planet," a televised K-pop survival series. This platform would introduce more than 90 idol trainees, each of whom strived for the opportunity to debut in a boy group.
Each week of the competition was an uphill climb, but the nine singers were resilient. ZEROBASEONE (shortened as ZB1) emerged as the victors of "Boys Planet," voted by hundreds of thousands of fans around the world who watched them unlock their artistic potential that drafted sky-high expectations.
That summer, the multicultural ensemble from South Korea, China, and Canada released their first mini album, Youth In The Shade. The six-track collection was helmed by "In Bloom," which alludes to the sentiments of flourishing despite the finite nature of a path. "Nothing lasts forever," they sing in the pre-chorus, later reassuring: "But I can change that, my fate."
It was a captivating entry into the world of K-pop and is now the best-selling debut record in K-pop history with almost two million copies sold to date — a milestone that elevated them as "monster rookies." And as such, in true K-pop fashion, they have been busy.
ZEROBASEONE have graced the covers of some of the most prestigious South Korean magazines, made television appearances and circled the globe, all while preparing for Melting Point. In addition to their first performances in Europe, Japan and the U.S., ZB1 performed at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, an event that sold out in a matter of minutes.
But what makes ZB1 truly shine is their essence as artists and individuals. "We have become one," Seok Matthew tells GRAMMY.com over a video call from Seoul. "I just get these random feelings that make me think how grateful [I am] that I got to be a part of this group, and that I have these eight amazing members beside me."
Before ZEROBASEONE continues forging ahead with Melting Point, the group spent some time reminiscing about their big year. From how far they've come since "Boys Planet," to fully stepping into their new facet as K-pop idols, this is the initial stride of nine youngsters etching a future together.
The following interview has been edited for clarity.
Winning Big On "Boys Planet"
Seok Matthew: To be honest, I didn’t even think I was going to pass the audition for "Boys Planet" because I went from company to company [when I was a trainee]. But, when I did get in, I was super happy because I found that Hanbin hyung also got accepted [into the show], and that made me feel a lot more relieved. I didn't have high hopes and I knew it was going to be a fierce competition…but he made me feel like I could go into this with a bit more confidence than I would have if I didn't go with him.
Sung Hanbin: When I met [my fellow ZB1 members] as trainees, I could tell from their eyes that they were not expecting "Boys Planet" to be hugely popular. We were all there because we just wanted to show off our potential and present something we hadn't been able to share with the world.
We cannot forget about all the hard work from the program's producers, writers, and all staff members, but on top of that, all trainees' passion is what I believe made the program do so well.
Kim Gyuvin: "Boys Planet'' was the program that made the dreams we have been desiring for a long time come true. I think it was the first step for us to receive the Rookie Of The Year awards [at The Fact Music Awards and the K-Global Heart Dream Awards], which [are] not easy to come by, so we are very thankful and feel extremely fortunate to receive that. "Boys Planet'' really served as a stepping stone for us, and I would say it was truly a life-changing experience.
Officially Becoming ZEROBASEONE
Park Gunwook: The realization [that my life was about to change] came pretty soon because after the final episode aired, we went to the dorm where we were going to live together. It was very exciting to learn that I was going to be starting my group activities and living together with these members that I love and respect so much. I felt like my stomach was full of butterflies every time I thought about that.
Ricky: For me, even before the final lineup was out, we already knew that "Boys Planet'' was getting bigger than we thought it would be. Honestly, I wasn’t not sure if I was going to make it into the group, so the moment my name was called, and I went upstairs to sit in [one of the] top nine chairs, I thought, Oh, this is a big turning point in my life.
Kim Jiwoong: Something I want to mention is that we are a very funny group. [Laughs.] I think it shines through the content that we share with our fans and the general public, and they are getting to know a different side of ZEROBASEONE.
Something that I learned by being close with the members is that I'm really cute — even more than I expected. [Laughs.] I'm the oldest member in the group and as I spend more time with the younger members, I find more pure and childish sides of me that I didn't even know. My relationship with the members has made me feel like a flower that is just blooming, and I'm glad I get to enjoy my youth with them.
Making A Statement At KCON Japan
Zhang Hao: It was our first [official] performance as ZEROBASEONE, and we wanted to show who we are as a group to the world. We wanted to demonstrate what we could do as artists because people have been seeing us since we were trainees, and now we are a debut group. I truly think that the KCON Japan performance was my life’s turning point because it announced the birth of ZEROBASEONE in front of everyone.
Kim Taerae: After we finished the performance, I felt very proud of our group because I think we did well. I also thought that we have a long way to go, and [I know] that we can do better, so we need to work even harder… and truly grow as artists while maintaining our youth and beginner's minds. That was something I was looking forward to right after coming off the stage.
Seok Matthew: I just remember vividly that we got to play with the fans, and we were handing out all these gifts to them. Everyone was having such a great time and I felt like we were actually giving back all the love that they gave us.
At the end of KCON, we all went to the stage to say goodbye [to the audience], and we got to see our sunbaenims [senior groups] we have always admired…it was really an honor. I think that was the big point for us where, after we finished our performance, we thought, wow, I can't believe we just did that. At that point, that's when we were like, "we need to get as good as our sunbaenims."
Releasing Their Debut EP, Youth In The Shade, & Continuing To Grow
Han Yujin: On our debut day, I remember looking at the members and feeling absolutely proud of each and every one of them. And I had this thought that if we work harder, we are going to succeed and improve to be even better. I could just feel it. I also thought that, personally, I wanted to work even harder to resemble my amazing hyungs [older members]. I've been enjoying every single day since our debut.
Sung Hanbin: We chose this path because we've been enjoying the process and we love what we do. While preparing for Youth In The Shade, I learned that there are so many more things to learn — and it's not just about improving ourselves as performers, but also building our experience, attitude, and stage [presence].
We also need to consider our relationship with other seniors and colleagues as well, which I think is essential in this industry. The most important thing that I learned and I'm still figuring out is to be open about new things and grow every day.
Performing At Seoul's Gocheok Sky Dome
Han Yujin: I remember stepping out [to the stage] for the opening song, which was "Back to ZEROBASE." As we started singing the very first part of the song, the door in front of us opened and we were able to see all the audience cheering for us. It was just a very grand moment and I felt overwhelmed and somewhat emotional as well.
It immediately motivated me to give my best throughout the whole concert. I think that specific memory of just being on that stage for the first time and seeing our fans through an opening door will stay in my mind forever.
Conquering Big Stages Around The World
Ricky: KCON L.A. was special for me because Los Angeles is my second hometown, and it was my first time going back since we debuted. As soon as we got there, it made me realize that all the hard work was worth it.
Zhang Hao: And we met Ricky's mom! [Laughs.]
Ricky: It was the first time my family came to see us perform [as ZEROBASEONE], so it was an unforgettable moment.
Seok Matthew: I'd say that one really good memory I have right now is [M Countdown] in France because I was a special MC. It was my first time being able to do something like that, so I did have a bit of pressure. Hanbin hyung was the main MC, and the fact that I was able to do it with him, it was a very cool experience.
After that, I wanted to also get better at all the three languages that I speak, which are French, Korean, and English. And then, maybe in the future, I can get another chance to be an MC. It felt so different because France is really far [from South Korea], right? It was everyone's first time [visiting the country], and it was beautiful.
Releasing Their New Album, Melting Point
Park Gunwook: I think our intention to tell our stories has never altered from our debut album, but we also wanted to show another side of us. In [Youth In The Shade], we wanted to talk more about our identity and who we are as ZEROBASEONE. But Melting Point serves as a chapter where we expand our sound and share our story with the audience and our fans.
We wanted to include some new sounds and powerful performances that we had never presented before. We wanted to show how much we had grown as a team, and how much chemistry we were able to build. Of course, we practiced very hard, but we also had a lot of discussions among ourselves, and we were very open [when] talking with each other.
Kim Taerae: Our debut track "In Bloom" and Melting Point are aligned in the message that we want to walk along with [our fans]. For "Crush," it’s more about, "with all your love and support so far, we are determined to protect you." I think our new album serves as our future direction and our determination for our fans and our music.
Photo: Choi Na Rang
Global Spin: POW Offers A "Dazzling" Performance Of A B-Side From Their Debut EP, 'Favorite'
Just after making their official debut on Oct. 11, K-pop quintet POW deliver their first performance of "Dazzling," an easygoing love song from their mini-album, 'Favorite.'
There's nothing quite like a summer fling; the feelings are high and the stakes are low. And as POW's love story "Dazzling" proves, sometimes a relationship — fling or not — can make every day feel like "a summer night," regardless of the season.
"Love and peace, young and free/ Here, good vibes only/ Hot and cold, fast and slow/ Life is sweet and salty," POW sings in "Dazzling," switching between English and Korean. "Let's seize the day/ For that someday when this becomes a gleaming memory."
In this episode of Global Spin, POW — the new K-pop group that just debuted on Oct. 11 — delivers a lighthearted premiere performance of "Dazzling." Each member takes a turn at the microphone as they sit in a clay room.
"Dazzling" is a B-side from their debut mini-album, Favorite. The K-pop quintet is the first group under GRID Entertainment. According to a press statement, POW hopes to "make a bold entrance to the music scene with a bang, promising an ambitious quest to deliver a refreshing and entertaining experience to global listeners."
Press play on the video above to watch POW's feel-good performance of "Dazzling," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Global Spin.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
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.
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."
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.
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."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Aysia Marotta
Noah Kahan's Big Year: How The "Stick Season" Singer Became A Folk-Pop Hero
On the heels of announcing an arena and stadium tour for 2024, Noah Kahan revisits some of the biggest moments that have led to it, from going viral with "Stick Season" to collaborating with Post Malone.
In July 2019, Noah Kahan made a promise to his fans via Twitter: "I prolly won't sell out Madison square garden, or even all the shows on my tour but I'll keep writing songs for you all for as long as you'll have me."
Four years later, he's made good on his word about continuing to write songs. But he's also proved himself wrong; not only has the Vermont-born star sold out his entire 2023 tour, but 2024 will see him play a sold-out Madison Square Garden — twice.
While Kahan himself asserts that he's always had a "very dedicated" fan base — whether from his days of posting to SoundCloud and YouTube or since he signed with Republic Records in 2017 – he admits he still finds it hard to process the level to which it's grown. "It's f—ing unbelievable," he says. "It feels so fake that it's almost like, the more time I spend thinking about it, the more abstract it becomes."
His humility is a large part of his appeal (as well as his sense of humor, both on Twitter and on stage), which carries into his folk-pop music. It's matched with extreme vulnerability, as Kahan has been open about his struggles with mental health. Even one of his biggest hits has revealing lyrics: "So I thought that if I piled something good on all my bad/ That I could cancel out the darkness I inherited from Dad," he sings the second verse of "Stick Season."
"Stick Season" became Kahan's breakout song in 2022, first making waves on social media — catching the attention of stars like Zach Bryan and Maisie Peters — and earning him his first radio hit. Its namesake album earned Kahan top 5 spots on Billboard's Top Alternative Albums, Top Rock Albums and Top Rock & Alternative Albums charts in October 2022, but it was the 2023 deluxe edition that really showed his trajectory: all 18 tracks debuted on Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Charts, making him one of only five artists to ever land 18 songs on the chart in one week.
Kahan's disbelief in his success is only going to continue into the new year, as his 2024 tour will also include L.A.'s Hollywood Bowl and two nights at Boston's Fenway Park. At this rate, he's seemingly on his way to Taylor Swift-level stardom — though, as he jokes, three-hour shows will never be in the cards: "From a physical health standpoint, this is as big as it can get."
In the midst of his Stick Season Tour, Kahan reminisced on the wild ride he's been on for the past 18 months. Below, he details seven of his most career-defining moments to date.
Watching "Stick Season" Blow Up
I wrote the song in 2020 and I posted the first verse and the chorus [on social media] the next morning. It was kind of an awkward time, because I had another album coming out right after that video was posted [2021's I Was / I Am] , and I had to promote that, and people were like, "What about that other song?" I'd be at shows and people would be like, "Play 'Stick Season'!"
I started to play it live, which is really what stoked the fire in terms of us realizing that it could be a big song. I played it in Syracuse, New York — and we hadn't posted any snippets besides what I would do on my Instagram Lives, or I'd perform it here and there on social media. Everyone in the room knew every single word to it. That was the song that got the biggest reaction all night, and it was a song that wasn't even out yet. That definitely opened my eyes to the desire for that song to be out in the world.
A lot of my set at the time was more pop-leaning, and this song is definitely more folk-leaning. I could really see the desire for sing-along folk anthems after that performance. [I remember] talking to my team and being like, "I think this song is gonna be around for a long time."
It gave confidence to something that I had been trying to do for a long time, even subconsciously. I think I was always making folk music, and I would always gravitate toward those songs, but a part of me would be like, This isn't who you are, you make pop. So I would stay away from it.
It took this one song — and playing it the way that I wanted to, and having people really respond — it opened my eyes to the audience that I didn't realize was there. It also opened my eyes to that confidence in myself that really comes through in this kind of songwriting. It let me look at folk music and storytelling as a bigger focus in my life instead of something that I did for fun or in the privacy of my home.
Seeing The Success Of Stick Season
When I was a kid, I would write my name on a blank CD, and I'd put it next to my Green Day CD, and I would pretend that we were the same. For a second it feels real, but it's really not.
Seeing my name on the charts and in conversations with all of these incredible famous artists, it kind of gave me the same feeling where I felt like, This just can't be real — I must be back in my childhood bedroom writing my band name on blank CDs. Because this doesn't happen to people making folk music, really. I was just kind of stunned into disbelief to the point where it took people reminding me that it was happening to actually process it.
I was in love with everything about the process of making this album, and honestly, that was enough for me. I felt so fulfilled. The organic nature of how it all came together felt so real to me, and it felt so important to me. And doing it in Vermont, and having the record be about Vermont and New England — it really felt like the album I've been waiting to make my whole life.
I think my fans could see how much it meant to me, and it meant the same to them. We kind of shared this real emotional attachment to this album together.
It just felt like a huge change in the way my life was gonna be. It meant that I could make music that fulfilled me that would fulfill others. I guess you could say it reinvigorated my faith in music in a lot of ways.
The chart success, and the radio play, and the co-signs from other really great artists and songwriters was incredible and overwhelming. I still haven't really processed it all.
It definitely changed my life and put me into a place where I'm selling out shows, and there's lots of people that want me to work with them. It feels so nice, because it all came from following my heart — in the least cliché way.
Playing Boston Calling
It started to feel monumental when I got there. It's, like, three minutes away from my house, which is crazy. So I took a van from my house and I started walking around the festival, and it felt like I was Justin Bieber — people were chasing me around the festival and screaming.
It was one of the first times I've played in Boston since the deluxe [version of Stick Season] came out, and it was the second festival of the tour, so we were not expecting this crazy reaction. We get on stage and the crowd is just a sea of people. It looked like the crowd for a headliner, and it was only, like, 6 p.m.
We had a really good performance — objectively, we kind of crushed it — and all the fans were losing their minds, and then later, I went on stage with the Lumineers, which was so insane. It just felt like this moment of this hometown crowd really coming out in full force, showing their support and showing the world that I had this kind of fan base. I felt like I was kind of stepping out into a new world in a lot of ways when I got on stage.
Singing "Homesick" was pretty incredible. It has a line about the Boston [Marathon] bombers, and we were literally right next to Watertown where the Boston bombers were caught. And hearing like 40,000 New Englanders sing "I'm mean because I grew up in New England" was incredible — it made me tear up watching videos the next day. Seeing all those people connect over this common understanding of who we are, and that region, all at once was really, really special. It was just such a Boston moment.
Ever since then, it was kind of just crazy show after crazy show. And every hometown show has been so unbelievable. It was kind of the start of the madness.
Headlining Red Rocks
A show that felt particularly special was Red Rocks. Having gone from being an opener there to a headliner in a little less than a year was really special for me. The growth was so evident.
The crowds at Red Rocks are in this trance of community and love — it felt like the crowd was connecting with each other, and watching that happen was really incredible. Every single person there had a smile on their face. I think that everybody there had an amazing time, and that made me so happy.
Another thing that I've loved about all the shows, but Red Rocks in particular, is that some of these songs are filled with painful feelings and thoughts, and things that, for me, required a lot of vulnerability. And when the crowd is singing every single word, it just means that a whole crowd of — in Red Rocks' case, 9,900 people — are just being vulnerable, and yelling it out loud.
That's the greatest gift a musician can ever get — watching people express themselves and free themselves from any kind of shame at a show. That's what I try to do with my music, and I feel like I saw thousands of people shedding their guilt, their fear and their shame, and singing the lyrics.
We were playing the song "Maine," and there's a line that's like, "If there were cameras in the traffic lights, they'd make me a star," and I remember looking up at the crowd — that line is really about knowing that you have something special, but not knowing if anyone can ever see it.
I remember singing that song and that line, and I looked up to the crowd — 9,,000 people, that's four times bigger than everyone in my hometown — screaming that line back to me, and I cried. I couldn't believe where I was in my life.
And I still can't, but there are moments that I get numb to all of it and there are moments when the absurdity of it all slaps me in the face. That was definitely a moment where I felt just shocked by where I had gotten to, and how things have grown.
Launching The Busyhead Project
The Busyhead Project is an endeavor to raise a million dollars for mental health awareness, and these organizations that are doing so much for fighting the stigma and supporting people who suffer around North America. We wanted to start this organization because I have spent a lot of my career thinking and about my own journey with mental health, but I always felt like I was not doing enough, or just kind of providing lip service.
I never wanted to feel like I was accessorizing it or commodifying it. So I wanted to do something that felt boots-on-the-ground, tangible, [and] would make a real difference. We set out with a goal to raise a million dollars [for these organizations], and we're getting really close. [Editor's note: As of press time, The Busyhead Project has raised $977,055.]
I think it just comes down to putting your money where your mouth is. Like, I'm playing bigger venues and I sell merch — I'm starting to make money, and part of my philosophy on wealth and making money is that you're supposed to use it to help other people.
I don't need a lot for myself. I live on a diet of sunflower seeds and bananas — I'm literally eating both of them right now — so I wanted to give back as much as I can. It's really that simple; trying to raise money for people that really need it, and organizations that are doing miraculous work. We're definitely not going to stop at a million — I hope not, because that would be kind of lame. [Laughs.] If we can raise more money, we should raise it.
When I was a kid, I would look up "Artists with depression" or "Artists on medication." I didn't find a lot of 'em, but when I did find somebody, it would feel like I was, like, saved by God or something. That became like religion to me, to see that someone who was in the music industry was also struggling with what I was really struggling with as a kid. I want to provide that for some kid making music out there.
Breaking Onto The Hot 100 (And Collaborating With Post Malone) With "Dial Drunk"
The chart is kind of, like, the one thing from movies about the music industry that signify when the band is doing well — like The Rocker, or Rockstar, where it's like, "Oh my god, the music's on the charts!" And they're doing a montage where the chart spins, and they're on a magazine cover, you know what I mean? And what's always followed by that is a horrible downward spiral, so I think when I saw the song charting well, I was like, Oh God, this is where my career starts to go bad.
But I was really excited, and it was super cool — and, again, one of those things that's hard to actually understand from a human level.
It was also really nice because I always feel like the last thing I did is the best thing I did, so after "Stick Season" was a big success, I was like, I have to have another song! And I was touring so much, and I was on Zoloft, so I was feeling emotionally kind of numbed-down. Writing this song was kind of a wake-me-up from what was going on.
It was kind of a personal victory in a lot of ways — I challenged myself to make something new, and I did, and then it had this massive success. It felt like I can get through anything and do this again if I have to. It reminded me that what was happening in my career wasn't lightning in a bottle, but a real reflection of an audience being hungry for my music.
So then when Post Malone started recording his verse in the song, I felt like I was in a fever dream. I felt like it was gonna elevate my career to a new place, and I think it did.
He's always been an inspiration to me in the way he approaches music. I literally just reached out to him on DMs randomly one day, I was like, "Bro, I think you might like this song, we should do it together." He responded two months later, like, "Yeah, I f—ing love it!" It felt really natural.
We sat cross-legged and drank beers at the show in Massachusetts that I went out with him [to perform "Dial Drunk"]. It was so Post Malone — we talked about adult diapers and The Dewey Cox Story. He was just so funny and fun to be around.
Announcing An Arena & Stadium Tour For 2024
They had been talked about for a while when we were starting the tour in the spring, but they never felt real — I always kind of think, That'll happen later. At the point that I'm doing those shows, I'll feel like I belong in those rooms.
Having these shows scheduled is truly surreal. I just don't know how we're gonna sell that many tickets. [Laughs.] I think I'll believe it when I'm in the room — like, Madison Square Garden, to me, has always felt like just where Paul McCartney goes, and I can't believe that I get to be having my name on the marquee.
I told my managers on the phone when they booked Fenway, "I'm actually going to retire after this." [Laughs.] There's really no way to describe what that means to someone from New England.
As someone who grew up loving the Red Sox, going to Fenway Park all the time with my friends — getting drunk and stealing somebody's seats, and screaming at the opposing players over the dugout — that place has meant so much to me and so many people in my life. And the fact that I'm going to be one of not many people that have headlined that venue is just the craziest f—ing thing in the entire world. It feels like there's no other higher peak than playing songs about New England in the mecca of New England.
There was, like, a limit to my dreams when I was a kid — what I could do for a living and how big it could be. I'm trying to have my 8-year-old self be proud of me. I don't think he could even imagine where I'd be now.
I'm so proud of the people I work with, I'm so proud of myself, because I have really worked hard for this, and I've sacrificed a lot of things in my life to make music happen. To get to this place, it just feels like all those hard decisions were worth it.
I'm grateful for all the people that have supported me, and the people that have taken time out of their day to believe in my music when I couldn't believe in it. I'm just happy to feel like I belong here.