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VINCINT, Brandon Stansell, Linda Perry & More LGBTQ+ Artists Share Their Journeys To Self-Acceptance

VINCINT

Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for GLAAD

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VINCINT, Brandon Stansell, Linda Perry & More LGBTQ+ Artists Share Their Journeys To Self-Acceptance

Participating in the GRAMMY Museum's Empowered: LGBTQ + Voices in Music panel, seven creators discussed how to promote tolerance in the music industry—and beyond

GRAMMY Museum/Feb 7, 2019 - 06:55 am

They came from many different backgrounds. But together, they formed an unshakable alliance on the Clive Davis Theater stage at the GRAMMY Museum. 

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, in the run-up to the 61st GRAMMY Awards, the Museum, in conjunction with Recording Academy, Ally Coalition, GLAAD and Out Magazine, hosted an hour-long panel titled Empowered: LGBTQ + Voices in Music. Moderated by the Recording Academy Editor In Chief, Digital Content & Strategy Justin Joseph and Out Magazine's Entertainment and Culture Editor Tre’vell Anderson, the hour featured seven panelists, most of whom identified as LGBTQ+ and ranged in age from 16 to 53, sharing their varied experiences breaking through in the music industry, and even striking out on their own.

One of those artists was up-and-coming pop performer VINCINT, whom many might recall from his breakthrough as a contestant on Fox's "The Four." While some might assume that such a level of visibility would bring almost certain success, VINCINT set the record straight: Yes, he was lucky to have been on TV. But, he alleged, because of the color of his skin, the show's producers were eager for him to put on a suit and "sing gospel songs." "I wanted to sing Bjork," he said. 

And the racial profiling didn't stop with the end of the show—once VINCINT got into the studio, some male producers would walk out, refuse to work with him, or push him back in the direction of R&B and gospel. But the singer held strong. “I’m unabashedly myself," he told the audience, firm in his stance. 

Steadfast self-acceptance was a constant theme in the hour, with trans soul singer Shea Diamond, fully clad in camo ("because we've always been in a war"), demanding that the goal of every single artist who falls outside of a record label's idea of "normal" should strive to make people "uncomfortable." If she can challenge the industry and proudly, consistently push back against the status quo, Diamond argued, then she'll help tomorrow's trans artists face fewer obstacles. 

"If you have great music and talent, people will respond." 

GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Linda Perry, too, was completely unapologetic about her status as a lesbian. "I’ve always been gay," she said. "It’s just who I was. I never ever let it be a problem. There are people like me who have never allowed people to look at me differently. I walked right through those barriers. ... when someone pushes you, they’re testing you. Just don’t let people push. You have to stay strong.” 

One performer likely reaping the benefits of the older panelists' hard work was 16-year-old Nhandi Craig, who performs under the name DJ Young 1. As a member of Gen Z, who are said to be the most inclusive age group, Craig talked about starting her middle school's first LGBTQ club, and asserted that it was "[her] job to bring the message of acceptance to people." 

"I have a lot of family members who are part of the LGBTQ community," she said. "It was the norm to be accepted. It was the norm to be different.” 

Meanwhile, songwriter and performer Asiahn, who has written songs for GRAMMY-nominated artists Jennifer Lopez ("Booty") and Miley Cyrus ("Hands In The Air"), spoke passionately about her ongoing mission to diversify the look of pop stars. When she was 15, Asiahn sang for a major label head, who praised her voice but said she was "too dark and too thick to do pop music." Undeterred, Asiahn dismissed them, saying, "I don’t need the exec’s opinion. If you have great music and talent, people will respond." 

Asiahn is one of the many LGBTQ+ artists who utilize social media to express themselves to the fullest extent, rather than let a label market and package you. That's certainly something country singer/songwriter Brandon Stansell could relate to as well, as his genre is one of the most conservative and homogenous in the business. He is making inroads, though: Back in August 2018, Stansell, who identifies as gay, released his music video for "Hometown" on CMT. The song, about his coming out, was the first LGBTQ-friendly music video to ever air on the cabel country network. 

"We need allies. Check your reservations at the door. Be educated, but do not be indifferent.”

Finally, in a brilliant display of allyship, Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds sat on the panel to speak about his LOVELOUD foundation, which seeks to "ignite the vital conversation about what it means to unconditionally love, understand, accept and support our LGBTQ+ friends and family." 

Reynolds, as the only straight, white male on the panel, spoke openly and honestly about leading a "privileged" life, and wanting to dedicate his time to both being an ally and teaching other men how to be allies. "Put the insecurities aside," he said, speaking to other straight, white men. "We need allies. Check your reservations at the door. Be educated, but do not be indifferent.”

As much progress as we've made, however, there still remains a long way to go, especially for members of the trans community. 

"The fight looks different for different people," said Diamond, who spoke valiantly about the many hardships she's faced in her life and career. "I would love to slide over to the lesbian or gay experience. But you can’t mask the [the trans experience]."

So, who can we count on to change the future? "I try to focus on the youth," continued Diamond. "Nothing can ever get done focusing on older generations. I try to focus my energies on the new minds. The youth spread (the message) faster than anyone else."

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Take Over The GRAMMY Museum
Ryan Lewis, Zach Quillen and Macklemore

Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage.com

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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Take Over The GRAMMY Museum

Hip-hop duo discuss their career beginnings and creating their GRAMMY-nominated album The Heist

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Current seven-time GRAMMY nominees Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, along with their manager Zach Quillen, recently participated in an installment of the GRAMMY Museum's A Conversation With series. Before an intimate audience at the Museum's Clive Davis Theater, the hip-hop duo and Quillen discussed the beginning of the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' career, having creative control over their work and recording their GRAMMY-nominated Album Of The Year, The Heist.

"I met somebody [who] had the same dedication as me, [who] put everything into the music, everything into the craft," said Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore) regarding meeting Lewis. "I wanted a career and Ryan was somebody [who] had the same discipline and sacrificed everything."

"I think it took a little while before it became clear to me who [Macklemore] was going to be," said Lewis. "I think the first indication of that was with the song 'Otherside' from the VS. Redux EP]. … That song … embodied so much. It was a story nobody was telling. … It was just somebody who was dying to be on the mike and to say something."

Seattle-based rapper Macklemore and DJ/producer Lewis have been making music fans take notice since they released their debut EP, 2009's The VS. EP. They followed with VS. Redux, which reached No. 7 on the iTunes Hip-Hop chart. The duo made waves in 2011 with the release of their hit single "Can't Hold Us" featuring Ray Dalton. The next year Macklemore was featured on the cover of XXL Magazine's coveted freshman class issue, and Rolling Stone dubbed the duo an "indie rags-to-riches" success story.

Released in 2012, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' debut studio album, The Heist, reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200, propelled by the No. 1 hits "Can't Hold Us" and "Thrift Shop," the latter of which reached multi-platinum status and remained on top of the charts for six weeks. The album garnered a nomination for Album Of The Year and Best Rap Album at the 56th GRAMMY Awards, while "Thrift Shop" earned a nod for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. The duo's Top 20 hit "Same Love" featuring Mary Lambert earned a nomination for Song Of The Year and has been adopted by some as a pro-equality anthem. The duo garnered additional nominations for Best New Artist and Best Music Video for "Can't Hold Us."

Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include Icons Of The Music Industry: Ken Ehrlich (Jan. 14) and A Conversation With Peter Guralnick (Jan. 15).

Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture

The Ventures

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Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture

The exhibit, opening Dec. 7, will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run" and more

GRAMMYs/Nov 22, 2019 - 01:44 am

Influential instrumental rock band The Ventures are getting their own exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles that will showcase the band's impact on pop culture since the release of their massive hit "Walk, Don't Run" 60 years ago. 

The Rock Hall of Fame inductees and Billboard chart-toppers have become especially iconic in the surf-rock world, known for its reverb-loaded guitar sound, for songs like "Wipeout," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Walk, Don't Run." The Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures exhibit opening Dec. 7 will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run," a Fender Limited Edition Ventures Signature guitars, rare photos and other items from their career spanning six decades and 250 albums. 

“It’s such an honor to have an exhibit dedicated to The Ventures at the GRAMMY Museum and be recognized for our impact on music history,” said Don Wilson, a founding member of the band, in a statement. "I like to think that, because we ‘Venturized’ the music we recorded and played, we made it instantly recognizable as being The Ventures. We continue to do that, even today."

Don Wilson, Gerry McGee, Bob Spalding, and Leon Taylor are current band members. On Jan. 9, Taylor's widow and former Fiona Taylor, Ventures associated musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and others will be in conversation with GRAMMY Museum Artistic Director Scott Goldman about the band's journey into becoming the most successful instrumental rock band in history at the Clive Davis Theater. 

"The Ventures have inspired generations of musicians during their storied six-decade career, motivating many artists to follow in their footsteps and start their own projects," said Michael Sticka, GRAMMY Museum President. "As a music museum, we aim to shine a light on music education, and we applaud the Ventures for earning their honorary title of 'the band that launched a thousand bands.' Many thanks to the Ventures and their families for letting us feature items from this important era in music history."

The exhibit will run Dec. 7–Aug. 3, 2020 at the GRAMMY Museum

2020 GRAMMY Awards: Complete Nominees List

Julia Michaels Deconstructs "Issues," Writing Songs | "Required Listening" Podcast

Scott Goldman and Julia Michaels

Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage.com

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Julia Michaels Deconstructs "Issues," Writing Songs | "Required Listening" Podcast

Go inside the bright mind of one of pop's most promising singer/songwriters and learn about her songwriting process, her transition to the spotlight and the three female artists she admires

GRAMMYs/Feb 8, 2018 - 11:57 pm

Julia Michaels' career has soared within the past year. Already a talented songwriter with writing credits such as Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Ed Sheeran, and Fifth Harmony to her name, Michaels took a leap of faith with the release of her third solo EP, 2017's Nervous System.

Listen Now: "Required Listening," Episode 3 With Julia Michaels

Though Michaels has admitted to being nervous about moving to the forefront as an artist in her own right, the gamble paid off. The single "Issues" went gangbusters all the way to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and her EP cracked the Top 50. Plus, the Davenport, Iowa, native scored two nominations for the 60th GRAMMY Awards: Song Of The Year for "Issues" and Best New Artist.

What makes Michaels tick musically, how did she overcome her trepidation and why does she rely on feelings to guide her songwriting?

You'll learn the answers and so much more on the latest episode of "Required Listening," the new music podcast by HowStuffWorks and the GRAMMY Museum in partnership with the Recording Academy.

"It depends on the person. A lot of the times I'll just talk to them [first]," said Michaels regarding collaborating with other artists. "I mean we're all human. We all cry the same. We all bleed the same. So I try to make people feel as comfortable as possible to be able to tell me things, even if the artist that I'm with doesn't write, just having them talk is lyrics in itself. You know, them explaining their day or expressing how they feel. It's like, "That's amazing ... if that's how you're feeling we should write that.'"

As a matter of fact, Michaels told the host of "Required Listening," GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Scott Goldman, that she lets her feelings pilot her songwriting instead of traditional conventions — a process that has yielded gems such as "Issues."

"I'm not that calculated when I write," said Michaels. "I'm all heart when I write so I don't think about the algorithm of a song or the mathematics of a song. I just think, 'This feels good to me,' and just kind of go with that."

When peppered by Goldman with a question about coming into the limelight as a recording artist, Michaels was quick to point out that she has benefitted from plenty of help and encouragement.

"I think a lot of people have helped me get there," said Michaels. "My manager, Beka Tischker, she's been with me for six years. She's always believed in me. … And this year a lot of people have come into my life. I mean even my band — Dan Kanter, who's my guitar player … he's been with me since the beginning of the artist transition. I can't even do it without him at this point. ... There's a lot of people in my life, especially this year, that have made me feel comfortable and confident."

Speaking of confidence, Michaels has taken cues from plenty of her self-assured peers. She cited three artists, in particular, who have inspired her career path.

"I'm not that calculated when I write. I'm all heart." — Julia Michaels

"[Pink is] a bad***," said Michaels. "I love Fiona Apple. I love a lot of artists that are not afraid to say what they want to say. I love artists that write their own music. Laura Marling — she's very much from her point of view, very much whatever she wants to do. And plus her voice is so haunting and beautiful."

"Required Listening" launched on GRAMMY Sunday, Jan. 28, with the first episode featuring an in-depth conversation with GRAMMY winners Imagine Dragons and the second detailing "The Defiant Ones" with Allen Hughes and Jimmy Iovine.

Future guests will include Sean "Diddy" Combs, Dan Auerbach, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and Lindsey Buckingham and Christie McVie of Fleetwood Mac, among others.

Attention Music Fans: Take The GRAMMY Challenge Now On Kik And Facebook Messenger

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GRAMMY Museum To Launch Cheap Trick: I Want You To Want Me! Sept. 12

Exhibit to feature artifacts from the private collection of the iconic power-pop band

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Sept. 12 the GRAMMY Museum will launch Cheap Trick: I Want You To Want Me! — a one-of-a-kind exhibit offering visitors an in-depth look at the more than 35-year career of power-pop progenitors Cheap Trick.

Located in the Museum's Mike Curb Gallery on the fourth floor, artifacts on display will include guitars played by Rick Nielsen, including his 1952 Fender Telecaster used during a performance at Budokan in Tokyo; costumes worn on the album cover of 1979's Dream Police; and original lyrics, photographs, and tour ephemera, among other items.

In conjunction with the launch of the exhibit, on Sept. 12 Cheap Trick will visit the GRAMMY Museum's Clive Davis Theater to participate in a question-and-answer session and perform a brief set as part of the Museum's An Evening With series.

Cheap Trick: I Want You To Want Me! will be on display through June 2014.