Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Chaka Khan performs at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game
Watch Chaka Khan Sing The National Anthem At The 2020 NBA All-Star Game
The 10-time GRAMMY winner nodded to her native Chicago, where this year's event is being hosted, and NBA legend Michael Jordan
R&B and soul icon Chaka Khan opened the 2020 NBA All-Star Game today (Feb. 16) with a fiery rendition of the U.S. national anthem.
The 10-time GRAMMY winner and celebrated Queen Of Funk was decked out in a custom basketball jersey that nodded to her native Chicago, where this year's NBA All-Star Game is being hosted, and NBA legend Michael Jordan.
Khan has kept busy on the music and live front over the past two years. In 2019, she toured with Michael McDonald, performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, dazzled fans at the Bulova Brunch during GRAMMY Week and released her 12th album, Hello Happiness.
She received her most recent GRAMMY wins at the 50th GRAMMY Awards, held in 2008, when she took home two golden gramophones for her 2007 album, Funk This: Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for album single "Disrespectful," featuring Mary J. Blige.
Khan's performance is part of a stacked musical lineup at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game and Weekend, which includes performances from: Jennifer Hudson, who's paying tribute to the late NBA icon Kobe Bryant; Queen Latifah, who covered Stevie Wonder; and Chance The Rapper, who's delivering a star-studded halftime show later tonight alongside DJ Khaled, Migos rapper Quavo and Lil Wayne.
Photo by Deanne Fitz Maurice
Huey Lewis On The 40th Anniversary Of 'Sports,' Never Seeing 'American Psycho' & The Importance Of Radio
Released in 1983, Huey Lewis and the News' 'Sports' spawned a handful of now-classic, pervasive hits. Lewis reflects on the album's creation and staying power, as well as the ways pop music has evolved since his '80s heyday.
Huey Lewis hit a grand slam with 1983's Sports. The third album from Huey Lewis and the News featured the ubiquitous hits "Heart and Soul," "I Want a New Drug," "The Heart of Rock and Roll," "If This is It" and "Walking on a Thin Line." The LP hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in June 1984, charted for 160 weeks and has sold more than seven million copies to date. "The Power of Love" single was featured in Back to the Future and was nominated for an Academy Award.
Lewis had been touring for a decade by the time Sports hit, beginning in the early '70s with his San Francisco Bay Area band Clover. Throughout, he gathered cool fans, friends and collaborators, including Dave Edmunds, Elvis Costello, and Nick Lowe, (Lewis produced Lowe's 1985 version of "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll):).
By the close of the ‘70s, Clover was over, and Lewis’ new band was the American Express. However, when their debut album launched on Chrysalis in 1980, the lineup would be named "The News," to dodge potential legal issues with the credit card company. The ensuing decade of hits and MTV dominance assured Lewis’ place in cultural history. Of the six Huey Lewis and the News albums released in the ‘80s, two hit Gold sales status and three platinum. And the frontman would still be playing those hits live on tour if it wasn’t for Meniere’s Disease, which robbed the performer of his hearing seven years ago. (He’s wearing Bluetooth hearing aids "connected to his devices" for our Zoom interview.)
Lewis and the News’ most recent (and potentially final) album, Weather, released in 2020, and was recorded before Lewis’ hearing loss. But don’t count Lewis out; he’s got some tricks up his sleeve that will come to fruition in 2024. For now, looking back on the occasion of Sports’ 40th anniversary, the singer evinces both gratitude and a sometimes slightly wry humor as he recalls the hits, misses and memories of his career to date.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
From what I read about your self-titled debut in 1980, you were always attuned to what was commercial and on the radio. What does Sports sound like to you now, 40 years later?
It sounds like a collection of singles to me, which means it's a record of its time. In the early '80s, there was no Internet, no jam bands, and album rock didn't mean anything, either. All that mattered was contemporary hit radio, which was playing 23 songs, basically a playlist. And it was an editing process that we all competed for.
If you wanted to write your own music and sing your own music, and make a living, you had to have a hit single. And if you wanted to hear one of our Huey Lewis and the News hit singles, you also would hear a Garth Brooks song, a Commodores song, or Whitney Houstonsong, or Michael Jackson. Very diverse. We all competed for that one format.
So Sports we produced ourselves because we knew we needed a hit record. We wanted to make those commercial choices ourselves because if we had a hit, we'd have to play it for the rest of our lives. And we didn't want "One Eyed-One-Horned-Flying Purple People Eater" [the 1958 novelty hit by Sheb Wooley] if you know what I mean.
We fought to produce our record ourselves. And fortunately, our small little label Chrysalis was 7,000 miles away and couldn't really control us. We aimed every song — or most of those songs — right at radio. We knew we needed a hit. We didn't know we were gonna have five of them.
Even though I know Sports well, I didn't realize "Heart and Soul" was by [songwriters] Chapman and Chinn. I was a huge fan of the Sweet and all the bands they worked with. How did that song come to you?
First of all, Chinnichap, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, they're brilliant. Mike Chapman, we actually met with him and flirted with having him produce us, but we really wanted to do our own thing. A publisher sent me the song. It was originally written, I think, for Suzi Quatro. Because, thinking about the [original] lyric, "two o'clock this morning, if he should come a calling / I couldn't dream of turning him away."
But they redid it with Exile, the country band. I didn't know any of this; all I know is my publisher sent me the song. I heard it and went, Wow, that sounds like a hit to me. My philosophy always was, we'll write the eight best songs we can write, and then cover the two best original songs we can find. We basically just copied what we thought was the demo — we now know it was Exile’s record.
It’s not much of a song, there are only three chords, and most of the song is two chords, but it's a brilliant production. We swiped all that, we just copied it. So we're mixing it in LA. I go to the bathroom out of the control room, and go by the other studio. And I hear "Heart and Soul" coming out of the next studio, the same song. And it’s [L.A. band] Bus Boys. The publisher had pitched it to all these people. Needless to say, I wasn't very happy with the publisher.
"Heart and Soul" was nominated for Best Rock Vocal, Group at the 1984 GRAMMYs. What did that mean to you?
No question; it meant everything to me. Those are our peers. We got nominated for a zillion GRAMMYs, and I think we only won one or two. I mean, Bruce Springsteen beat me out in about nine categories, including "Power of Love," which should have won something, I think.
The "Heart of Rock and Roll" video is so much fun. It was shot in New York City and at Gazzari’s on the Sunset Strip. Where would you guys be without MTV?
We certainly wouldn't be as popular. But we might be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [Laughs.] It kind of hurt our credibility. We were seen as a pop band in America. In Europe. we're a rock and roll band, or a soul band. But I remember it was a necessity for us.
We actually filmed two videos prior to being signed by Chrysalis Records as a way to market ourselves. There was a gal called Kim Dempster and Videowest in San Francisco — this was the advent of videotape and cable and cable TV — she said, "I'll do a video of you guys if you'll let us show it on our Videowest channel at midnight." I said "done!"
I schemed this idea for "Some of my Lies are True" where we’d go to the beach and set up on a sewage pier. Like,what's the strangest place you would have a band set up to play? I liked it on "Shindig" and "Hullabaloo" when James Brown would set up by the swimming pool. Chrysalis saw [the video] and loved it and they signed us.
Now the song "Do You Believe in Love" is on our second album.For that song, the label got an advertising guy and he designed the set. They're all these pastel colors and they matched our pastel shirts and we all had a lot of makeup on. This is the video where we're all in bed singing to the gal. A week later, we assembled at the record company to see the rough cut. There are 10 people from the record label, 10 people from the video company, 10 of us, and the director and he says, "Now this is not colorized yet, it's gonna look a lot better when it's colorized." He shuts the lights off, and plays the video.
My heart just sank. It was just so horrible. There's no direction. There was no story, there was no meaning. It wasn't funny, wasn't entertaining, it was just horrible. When it ended, everybody got up and gave us a standing ovation. I remember thinking to myself, clearly, there's no art here.
So we're writing our own songs, we're producing our own records, we're gonna do our own videos from now on. From then on, we wrote all those videos. The idea was to avoid a literal translation of the song and if at all possible, zig when the song zags and just goof off and have fun.
That's an amazing story. I just flashed back to the Billy Squier "Rock Me Tonite" video.
There is one other thing about "Heart of Rock and Roll"… When we were making [Sports] we were in the Record Plant. Next door was Peter Wolf, working with the producer Ron Nevison on the Jefferson Starship record [Lewis sings ‘We Built This City"] with the [electronic-sounding] machines going. I went, ‘Wow, what is that?’ I befriended Peter Wolf, and said, ‘can you show me how to do that?’ Because we learned about the Linn Drum machine about 1980; that Roger Linn had a machine that had Jeff Porcaro’s [drum samples] in it.
So he sets the machine up and he sequences the bass and gets it going. So we're going to cut ["I Want a New Drug."] We start playing to it, and it was just lying there. It was not working. So we cut the track normally, just organically. We finished the record. We went to New York to mix it. I couldn't get "I Want A New Drug" to groove. I mixed it three or four times with Bob Clearmountain, who's brilliant. We just couldn't get it to where it sounded good to me. I finally got it as best I could. The record was done.
Then Chrysalis sold out to CBS. So we couldn't hand our record in because we didn't know who was going to distribute it; it was all mystery meat at that point. So we just hung on to the record. We hit the road. We had the band and crew and everybody on one bus and we went out and did clubs, the West, Midwest.The last thing we'd ever do is listen to the record because we've been working on it for months and listen to it over and over again. So after about three weeks, one night, on an overnight trip, I say to the guys "Hey, let's put on the record. Let's see what it sounds like."
We throw the record up, and I go, "Damn, it's not happening." So I cried "problem!" to our manager. We went back into the studio and we recut "Heart of Rock & Roll," "I Want a New Drug," "Walking on a Thin Line," "Bad Is Bad," all to the drum machine. Gives it that little modern, techno thing.
I love that you’re such a producer. I know you worked with Mutt Lange with your band Clover. I feel Mutt has some kind of hitmaking brain. Do you have any takeaways from him either as a songwriter or as a producer?
We actually kind of have completely different philosophies about music. I think music matters like crazy. I think it's important to people, to their lives. Mutt just thinks it’s pop music. See, I have a jazz musician dad. All of his favorite bands — like Jimmie Lunceford and Chick Webb and all those early jazz bands — had one number where they would put funny hats and use the hat for a mute on the trumpet, and it was a kind of a show number, a novelty number.
My old man saw rock and roll as that — all novelty; to him it wasn't real music. So when we cut "Power of Love" I'll never forget. You find out a week ahead of time that a song is gonna be number one next week. I’m talking to my pops, and I say, "Guess what? My record goes number one next week.’ And he goes, "Ah, that’s no good. The best s— is never the most popular."
But that's where I'm coming from. And Mutt Lange is coming from a whole ‘nother place. All he cares about is popularity. But Mutt is a genius. He works so hard. I like dashing things off and just going with it. I don't mind if there's a mistake or two; didn't bother me.
Jumping ahead, I’m curious about Weird Al and his take on "I Want a New Drug"—"I Want a New Duck."
I don't know Al at all, but in fact, we did that little thing, the "Hip To Be Square" American Psycho lampoon.. I like his work. He's funny. And you know, he's kind of a serious guy. You know, comedy is serious. It's funny, because when we did that whole thing, the lampoon of American Psycho, we worked on it with the Funny or Die guys for six to eight hours. And they never laughed. No, nothing was funny. I was laughing my ass off.
Did you know the "Huey Lewis appreciation" scene in American Psycho was going to be in the movie?
Somebody showed me the book. And I read the passage about us. It was amazing. I mean [Bret Easton Ellis] actually clearly had listened to our music a lot. They told us that the movie was gonna come out and they wanted to use "Hip to be Square." I said, "and they're gonna pay us?" I mean, it's an artistic thing, Willem Dafoe’s in it, no problem. So, boom, they paid us.
A week before the release of the film they decide they want to do a soundtrack album. I said, ‘Really? What's that going to look like?’ They said, "Well, 'Hip to be Square,' I think there's a Phil Collins song, and then mostly source music." I said, it isn't good for our fans to have to buy a whole record for one song. So we politely declined.
Now, literally the night before the premiere of the movie, they issued a press release to USA Today, The New York Times, everybody, that said that Huey Lewis had seen the movie and it was so violent that he yanked his tune from the soundtrack.
It was bulls—, but they were ginning up publicity.’ That pissed me off. So I boycotted the movie and never saw it. To this day. I actually lent the tune to the musical of American Psycho on Broadway! Duncan Sheik wrote all the other music and it's really good. It didn't last that long, but I was really impressed.
Sports’ huge success must have been the "I can buy my first house" record?
Sports signaled that we're going to have a career where we're actually going to be able to play our own music and have people show up. Until Sports, our focus was to get a hit record, because to exist in the radio was all there was. Such a narrow scope.
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.
Photo: Aaron Marsh
Teddy Swims Is Letting Himself Be Brutally Honest On 'I've Tried Everything But Therapy'
As the world continues to discover the magnitude of Teddy Swims' soulful voice, he realized the power of opening up and letting go with his debut album, 'I've Tried Everything But Therapy.'
Four years into his career, Teddy Swims made a promise to himself to be more honest. With that in mind, he decided to be unflinchingly real with his debut album title: I've Tried Everything But Therapy.
While the title may be true for now, Swims is incredibly vulnerable. Across 10 tracks, he divulges the raw emotions of heartbreak, from reeling over what could've been in opener "Some Things I'll Never Know" to leaning into new love — while still in repair — on closer "Evergreen."
"It's the most honest I've ever let myself be," Swims, born Jaten Dimsdale, says of the album. "I'm proud of it, and I'm proud of myself. And it's a f—ing relief to just get it off my shoulders."
For someone who bares his soul in his music, both lyrically and vocally, it's rather surprising to think that he wouldn't be the type for therapy. But now that the album is out, his next step is seeking professional help — another promise he made to himself upon choosing the candid title.
In the meantime, Swims is already seeing the impact of being more and more open in his music. "Lose Control," the album's lead single, has earned Swims his first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 and first solo radio hit (in 2022, his Meghan Trainor collab "Bad For Me" reached No. 15 on Billboard's Adult Pop Airplay chart). But perhaps more notably, his powerful vocal runs on the song's dynamic chorus are stopping listeners in their tracks. As one YouTube commenter put it, "Man has a voice that speaks to the core of your soul."
Just before the album's arrival, Swims talked with GRAMMY.com about how I've Tried Everything But Therapy has helped him understand the impact of wearing his insecurities on his sleeve — and how his bewitchingly soulful voice ties it all together.
How does this album feel different from what you've put out before this, whether it's lyrically or sonically, or even how you feel mentally based around the process?
I feel like this is maturity. I can listen to these songs and I feel proud of them.
Everybody kinda doesn't like their own voice, you know? But I feel like I belong on those songs, and nobody could say what I needed to say the way I could say it. I feel like I'm saying something that I need to say and get off my chest in an entirely different way than I ever have.
I'm kind of an emotional toddler. I'm getting more of a grasp on what I want to say and how to say it, how to talk about my feelings more. I feel like the more I do it, the longer I do it, the more honest I become, the more I get out of the way of things. I'm learning to get out of the way and let the creative flow just be what it is now.
Going into writing this album, like, what were you going through? And did you have a goal in mind about what you wanted the album to be?
I really didn't know at the time. In the last four years, I've written maybe four or five hundred songs. I didn't write it knowing that it was an album, or write it knowing that this was going to be the album; but more so, when it started coming together, it just felt like things fell into place.
I realized that I've been circling around the same feelings and emotions for a very long time. It's always about — I was in a very toxic relationship, and I have been a lot in my life. This is me kind of learning that I can be loved, and that I am beautiful, and I deserve love. That's kind of what the struggle is and always has been.
The album title is interesting to me, because so many artists compare songwriting to therapy. But has songwriting always felt like therapy for you?
Songwriting can be therapeutic if you have a feeling that you need to get out, and you write that feeling down, and you get it out. But what I tend to do a lot in my life, I'll write it down into a song, and then I'll write it into another song from a different perspective. And I'll write it down 100 different ways, in 100 different perspectives, to the point that it ends up that that small problem has now turned into the biggest problem in my life, because I've thought about so many different ways.
Instead of being more therapeutic, [songwriting has] been more of a way of highlighting what I'm going through, sometimes way too much.
The title itself was kind of a promise to myself that I would go to therapy when the album comes out. I think it's something that everyone can benefit from, especially me. But there's still something about me — maybe it's a generational mindset, like, I'm not crazy, I don't need that, or maybe there's answers to questions I don't really want to ask that I'm gonna get.
I like my coping mechanisms. I like how I am and who I am when I do cope. So there's a part of me that's afraid that I'll have to change.
But I made a promise to myself, put a deadline on myself where I'll go and I'll seek help, and I'll try. It's also me being honest and open about that, to you and to everyone, that I'm like, "I need help, that's okay." I'm gonna ask for help, and that's a liberating and equally terrifying thing.
The nice thing is, there has been a lot more public acceptance of mental health in recent years. How have you felt that change since you started releasing music, and how has it impacted your songwriting?
I think what's so great about our industry these days is that I'm not held to the same standard as, like, Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson, where I have to be such a star, and you don't know anything about me. These days, as an artist, I get to be absolutely insecure and absolutely terrified, and it's what makes my artistry beautiful. And people that feel the way I feel can look at me and say, "That guy's so insecure, and he's so scared. But he's doing it, and we want him to win."
I don't want to swallow my insecurities. I don't have to wait until I feel like I'm worthy of love to put myself out there. Every bit of insecurity, and everything that's going on in my life, I'm allowed to just wear it and put it on for everybody to see. That has helped me in more ways than me trying to be anything I'm not.
You've said that for a long time, you worried about giving too much of yourself in your music, but seeing people connect to the music has made you realize it's actually making a difference. When did you start realizing that?
I am very lucky — every show we do, I have a meet and greet where I can talk to 100 people, and they tell me things that have changed their life, ways that I've affected them, and the ways that I've touched their lives.
I also want them to know that I'm just that fat kid from Rockdale County, Georgia, and still feels like that. And they make me be able to be honest and have an outlet to turn my trauma into something positive in me.
I feel like I learn it more and more every day that I am in a safe space, and I've created a safe space for people, and I become safer in that all the time. And I'm becoming more honest with myself, with them, in the safe space. It's just sacred, you know?
Was there a song of yours that kind of opened that up for you, because of the way that people connected to it?
I've had a few like that, but "Simple Things" that I released on one of my EPs is still a song I sing all the time. I thought the verses were only specific to my life and what I was going through — that was the first time I was honest, and I wrote from only what I was going through specifically to my life, and that connected and did more for people than anything I did [previously].
You've said that you're insecure, but would you consider yourself an introvert?
I think the more that I do this, the more I become one. I used to be the biggest extrovert in the world, but the more I do this job, the more I have to be social, I feel myself becoming more of an introvert.
Well, I brought that up because so many artists consider themselves introverts, when you are pouring your heart out in music that is then heard by thousands, if not millions, of people. Has that dichotomy ever crossed your mind?
Yeah, but that's kind of why I think I've become more introverted, because I gotta figure out what's still mine or if there should be anything that I should hold to myself. That is the question: What is still for me, or should there still be anything just for me?
That's so interesting to think about — I've never really thought about the battle that an artist can have when they share so much. Because it's like, at that point, you're so exposed, how are you even supposed to function as a private person in any regard?
Yeah. You figure it out, you let me know. [Laughs.]
It's cool that you're feeling so proud of this album, though, because I'd say that means that you haven't gone too far.
It's the most honest I've ever let myself be. And I don't feel exposed — I just feel like I said what I needed to say.
I've heard that I've Tried Everything But Therapy is coming in multiple parts and this is just part one. Is that true?
Yeah, we're planning on part two, but I don't know what that looks like yet. But I want to put out more music. And I think I want to come from a different place of what I've learned from how I've healed. I just don't feel like this story's done yet.
But you said you're going to start therapy after this album releases — so you're going to release a part two of I've Tried Everything But Therapy after you've been in therapy?
Yeah, I guess that doesn't make sense. But it will!
It would be kind of interesting to have part two be the response to therapy after you have done it.
Yeah, exactly. That's the vibe. Maybe we just go straight to part three and skip part two altogether.
Before you even released part one, people were going crazy over "Lose Control" because of how soulful you sound on it. When did you realize you had such a captivating voice?
It wasn't really a realization — I was bad for a long time. But I love this, and I wanted this, so I worked hard to become good at it. I wanted to be the best I could at it, because using my voice means everything to me, and I want to know how to do everything I can with it.
Well, you're doing something right, because people are exclaiming about it left and right. I saw a comment on one of your Instagram posts that said, "I just threw my shoe across my damn office, you better sing!" Do you feel the power of your own music?
I know, technically and dynamically, I am a good singer. When I listen to myself, I can't say I can't sing, because it's all there. Any singer or vocal coach could tell "That kid knows what he's doing. He can sing his ass off."
But also, there's part of me that still doesn't like my voice, too, just like anyone else. And I think that might be why I became so good at it. Because I want to hear it and be like, "Well, you can't tell yourself you ain't good, 'cause that was f—ing — that takes skill." I've learned enough to know that I can't tell myself I'm bad. [Laughs.]
And I have to say, I've been impressed with all of the people you've posted singing their own versions of "Lose Control."
People can sing! And people have been writing verses to it too. The love on it has been so rewarding.
I feel very justified [that the music] is connecting. I feel like it's already helping. I feel very humbled, appreciated and loved.