meta-scriptWatch Red Carpet Interviews With Nile Rodgers, Jacob Collier, First-Time Nominee Bonobo & More at the 2023 GRAMMYs | GRAMMY.com
Maneskin

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Contributor

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Watch Red Carpet Interviews With Nile Rodgers, Jacob Collier, First-Time Nominee Bonobo & More at the 2023 GRAMMYs

See and hear what the GRAMMY-winning and nominated stars were up to when they stopped by to talk with the Recording Academy ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs telecast.

GRAMMYs/Feb 8, 2023 - 02:38 am

On Music’s Biggest Night, stars stopped to talk with the Recording Academy ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs telecast. Watch interviews with Lifetime Achievement Awards recipient Nile Rodgers, first time nominees Bonobo and The Marias, industry legends like LL Cool J and so many more.

Head to live.GRAMMY.com all year long to watch all the GRAMMY performances, acceptance speeches, the GRAMMY Live From The Red Carpet livestream special, the full Premiere Ceremony livestream, and even more exclusive, never-before-seen content from the 2023 GRAMMYs.

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Winners & Nominees List

Carly Pearce & Bill Anderson

Carly Pearce, GRAMMY-winner with Ashley McBryde for Best Country Duo/Group Performance of “Never Wanted To Be That Girl”.

Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers, recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, GRAMMY-winner for Best R&B Song on Beyonce’s “Cuff It” and GRAMMY-nominated for Album Of The Year on Beyonce’s Renaissance. 

Maneskin

Maneskin, GRAMMY-nominees for Best New Artist.

Bonobo

Bonobo, GRAMMY-nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Recording for his song “Rosewood” , and Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for his album, Fragments.

The Marias

The Marias, GRAMMY-nominated for Album of the Year for Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti”.

Nelly

Nelly is a three-time GRAMMY-winner and 12-time nominee.

Aoife O'Donovan

Aoife O'Donovan, GRAMMY-nominated with Allison Russell for Best American Roots Performance for “Prodigal Daughter”.

Fridayy

Fridayy, GRAMMY-nominated for Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song , and Song Of The Year for “God Did”.

Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier, GRAMMY-nominated for Album of the Year for work on Coldplay’s ‘Music of The Spheres’.

LL Cool J

GRAMMY-winner LL Cool J

Machine Gun Kelly

Machine Gun Kelly, GRAMMY-nominated for Best Rock AlbumMainstream Sellout.

Tiara Thomas

Tiara Thomas, GRAMMY-nominated for Album of the Year for Mary J. Blige’s album, Good Morning Gorgeous.

Omar Apollo Embraces Heartbreak On 'God Said No'
Omar Apollo

Photo: Aitor Laspiur

interview

Omar Apollo Embraces Heartbreak And Enters His "Zaddy" Era On 'God Said No'

Alongside producer Teo Halm, Omar Apollo discusses creating 'God Said No' in London, the role of poetry in the writing process, and eventually finding comfort in the record's "proof of pain."

GRAMMYs/Jun 27, 2024 - 01:21 pm

"Honestly, I feel like a zaddy," Omar Apollo says with a roguish grin, "because I'm 6'5" so, like, you can run up in my arms and stay there, you know what I mean?"

As a bonafide R&B sensation and one of the internet’s favorite boyfriends, Apollo is likely used to the labels, attention and online swooning that come with modern fame. But in this instance, there’s a valid reason for asking about his particular brand of "zaddyhood": he’s been turned into a Bratz doll.

In the middle of June, the popular toy company blasted  a video to its nearly 5 million social media followers showing off the singer as a real-life Bratz Boy — the plastic version draped in a long fur coat (shirtless, naturally), with a blinged-out cross necklace and matching silver earrings as he belts out his 2023 single "3 Boys" from a smoke-covered stage.

The video, which was captioned "Zaddy coded," promptly went viral, helped along by an amused Apollo reposting the clip to his own Instagram Story. "It was so funny," he adds. "And it's so accurate; that's literally how my shows go. It made me look so glamorous, I loved it."

The unexpected viral moment came with rather auspicious timing, considering Apollo is prepping for the release of his hotly anticipated sophomore album. God Said No arrives June 28 via Warner Records.

In fact, the star is so busy with the roll-out that, on the afternoon of our interview, he’s FaceTiming from the back of a car. The day prior, he’d filmed the music video for "Done With You," the album’s next single. Now he’s headed to the airport to jet off to Paris, where he’ll be photographed front row at the LOEWE SS25 men’s runway show in between Sabrina Carpenter and Mustafa — the latter of whom is one of the few collaborators featured on God Said No

Apollo’s trusted co-writer and producer, Teo Halm, is also joining the conversation from his home studio in L.A. In between amassing credits for Beyoncé (The Lion King: The Gift), Rosalía and J Balvin (the Latin GRAMMY-winning "Con Altura"), SZA ("Notice Me" and "Open Arms" featuring Travis Scott) and others, the 25-year-old virtuoso behind the boards had teamed up with Apollo on multiple occasions. Notably, the two collabed on "Evergreen (You Didn’t Deserve Me At All)," which helped Apollo score his nomination for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs

In the wake of that triumph, Apollo doubled down on their creative chemistry by asking Halm to executive produce God Said No. (The producer is also quick to second his pal’s magnetic mystique: "Don't get it twisted, he's zaddy, for sure.") 

Apollo bares his soul like never before across the album’s 14 tracks,  as he processes the bitter end of a two-year relationship with an unnamed paramour. The resulting portrait of heartbreak is a new level of emotional exposure for a singer already known for his unguarded vulnerability and naked candor. (He commissioned artist Doron Langberg to paint a revealing portrait of him for the cover of his 2023 EP Live For Me, and unapologetically included a painting of his erect penis as the back cover of the vinyl release.) 

On lead single "Spite," he’s pulled between longing and resentment in the wake of the break-up over a bouncing guitar riff. Second single "Dispose of Me" finds Apollo heartsick and feeling abandoned as he laments, "It don’t matter if it’s 25 years, 25 months/ It don’t matter if it’s 25 days, it was real love/ We got too much history/ So don’t just dispose of me." 

Elsewhere, the singer offers the stunning admission that "I would’ve married you" on album cut "Life’s Unfair." Then, on the very next song — the bumping, braggadocious "Against Me" — Apollo grapples with the reality that he’s been permanently altered by the love affair while on the prowl for a rebound. "I cannot act like I’m average/ You know that I am the baddest bitch," he proclaims on the opening verse, only to later admit, "I’ve changed so much, but have you heard?/ I can’t move how I used to."

More Omar Apollo News & Videos

Given the personal subject matter filling God Said No — not to mention the amount of acclaim he earned with Ivory — it would be understandable if Apollo felt a degree of pressure or anxiety when it came to crafting his sophomore studio set. But according to the singer, that was entirely not the case.

"I feel like I wouldn’t be able to make art if I felt pressure," he says. "Why would I be nervous about going back and making more music? If anything, I'm more excited and my mind is opened up in a whole other way and I've learned so much."

In order to throw his entire focus into the album’s creation, Apollo invited Halm to join him in London. The duo set up shop in the famous Abbey Road Studios, where the singer often spent 12- to 13-hour days attempting to exorcize his heartbreak fueled by a steady stream of Aperol spritzes and cigarettes.

The change of scenery infused the music with new sonic possibilities, like the kinetic synths and pulsating bass line that set flight to "Less of You." Apollo and Halm agree that the single was directly inspired by London’s unique energy.

"It's so funny because we were out there in London, but we weren't poppin' out at all," the Halm says. "Our London scene was really just, like, studio, food. Omar was a frickin' beast. He was hitting the gym every day…. But it was more like feeding off the culture on a day-to-day basis. Like, literally just on the walk to the studio or something as simple as getting a little coffee. I don't think that song would've happened in L.A."

Poetry played a surprisingly vital role in the album’s creation as well, with Apollo littering the studio with collections by "all of the greats," including the likes of Ocean Vuong, Victoria Chang, Philip Larkin, Alan Ginsberg, Mary Oliver and more.

"Could you imagine making films, but never watching a film?" the singer posits, turning his appreciation for the written art form into a metaphor about cinema. "Imagine if I never saw [films by] the greats, the beauty of words and language, and how it's manipulated and how it flows. So I was so inspired." 

Perhaps a natural result of consuming so much poetic prose, Apollo was also led to experiment with his own writing style. While on a day trip with his parents to the Palace of Versailles, he wrote a poem that ultimately became the soaring album highlight "Plane Trees," which sends the singer’s voice to new, shiver-inducing heights. 

"I'd been telling Teo that I wanted to challenge myself vocally and do a power ballad," he says. "But it wasn't coming and we had attempted those songs before. And I was exhausted with writing about love; I was so sick of it. I was like, Argh, I don't want to write anymore songs with this person in my mind." 

Instead, the GRAMMY nominee sat on the palace grounds with his parents, listening to his mom tell stories about her childhood spent in Mexico. He challenged himself to write about the majestic plane tree they were sitting under in order to capture the special moment. 

Back at the studio, Apollo’s dad asked Halm to simply "make a beat" and, soon enough, the singer was setting his poem to music. (Later, Mustafa’s hushed coda perfected the song’s denouement as the final piece of the puzzle.) And if Apollo’s dad is at least partially responsible for how "Plane Trees" turned out, his mom can take some credit for a different song on the album — that’s her voice, recorded beneath the same plane tree, on the outro of delicate closer "Glow." 

Both the artist and the producer ward off any lingering expectations that a happy ending will arrive by the time "Glow" fades to black, however. "The music that we make walks a tightrope of balancing beauty and tragedy," Halm says. "It's always got this optimism in it, but it's never just, like, one-stop shop happy. It's always got this inevitable pain that just life has. 

"You know, even if maybe there wasn't peace in the end for Omar, or if that wasn't his full journey with getting through that pain, I think a lot of people are dealing with broken hearts who it really is going to help," the producer continues. "I can only just hope that the music imparts leaving people with hope."

 Apollo agrees that God Said No contains a "hopeful thread," even if his perspective on the project remains achingly visceral. Did making the album help heal his broken heart? "No," he says with a sad smile on his face. "But it is proof of pain. And it’s a beautiful thing that is immortalized now, forever. 

"One day, I can look back at it and be like, Wow, what a beautiful thing I experienced. But yeah, no, it didn't help me," he says with a laugh. 

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Press photo of The Marias taken by Bethany Vargas
The Marías

Photo: Bethany Vargas

interview

The Marías Plunge Into The Depths On 'Submarine': How The Band Found Courage In Collective Pain

Following a major breakup, group therapy and finding solace in film, the Marías are back with a new album of ethereal pop. "It is my perspective on heartbreak, which can be interpreted in so many different ways," says singer/songwriter María Zardoya.

GRAMMYs/Jun 3, 2024 - 02:24 pm

The Marías had undergone a seismic change by the time they started working on Submarine, their second full-length album. Lead singer and songwriter María Zardoya and drummer and producer Josh Conway had ended their eight-year relationship, uprooting their lives and creative partnership in the process.  

Instead of being subsumed by the breakup's emotional waters, the L.A.-based pop band took a six month hiatus. They traveled, tended to their loved ones, and considered the next steps for their careers.  
 
Luckily for their large, devoted audience, Zardoya and Conway decided that their breakup wasn’t an obstacle for the Marías to keep going. "Even though you lose yourself in every heartbreak, I think that is an opportunity to gain even more," Zardoya tells GRAMMY.com.

What followed was a fruitful period at their Los Angeles studio, where Zardoya, Conway,  keyboardist Edward James, and guitarist Jesse Perlman reassessed their dynamics. They spent long days working on new songs, pushing through with the help of band and individual therapy. The end result is Submarine, a record that tells a story of loneliness, grief, and transformation.  

Submarine is a vibrant listening experience, and reflective of the Marías' love of film and well-curated aesthetics. The album is full of expansive arrangements, ranging from dream pop to rock and jazz. Water-like sounds, R&B harmonies, and soft electronic textures add to Zardoya’s ethereal vocals which, complimented by shimmery guitars and subtle percussion, create a contrasting narrative of desolation and romance. 
 
The group’s musical union, and their distinctive sound, is palpable through Submarine. Tight-knit danceable songs, cheeky vocals, and Zardoya’s immaculate style — which seeps through lyrics about drama, paranoia, and even the claustrophobic feeling behind modern technology — make for a strong release, where love and hope are still within reach. 
 
Ahead of their world tour, which kicks off in Mexico on June 11, and in celebration of Submarine, the Marías spoke with GRAMMY.com about overcoming the band’s potential dissolution, taking inspiration from arthouse cinema, and the emotional process of creating their third album.


Looking at your docuseries for 'Submarine,' something María said caught my attention. "There were a few moments after ‘Cinema’ that I thought the band was over." Can you elaborate on that? 
 
María Zardoya: There was a point where I did think that the band was over. I think we were all in a tumultuous place. I didn't know if I still wanted to make music, and I didn't know if The Marías would continue. But thankfully, it did.  

We went to therapy as a band; Josh and I went to therapy together; and we all started doing our [own] therapy. Through all of that work that we did, we realized that the music is so important. We have so much to say, and what we have to say is important. Let's continue.  

In the end, that period only made us stronger. Today our relationship with each other, and my relationship with Josh and the guys individually are stronger than ever. So I'm glad that we went through what we did. 
 
Can each of you, individually, tell me why the band is important to you? 
 
Josh Conway: Music has been important to me my entire life. That's something that I kind of realized over the last couple of years; music is more important to me than anything else. I'll do whatever it takes to continue making music and making music with people that I love, especially. It's special to be doing this with all my best friends. 
 
Edward James: I've always wanted to be in a band. I love the concept of a group of people who are one for all and all for one, and who get to experience everything together. It's a unique interpersonal relationship dynamic that you don't get really with anyone else in your life. So apart from the existential pursuit of music that we're all drawn to, the camaraderie is so important, because of how difficult the dynamic is to maintain and to continue. I think doing it with the band sort of translates to every other sort of relationship you can have in your life.  
 
Jesse Perlman: Whether if we took one year off, or five years off, we would still, at some point, get back together and be like, "Okay, we're ready." I think we're so close, and we miss touring so much. This whole rollout and recording process that we did in the last year has just been so open — and I think we're just so ready to take this on the road.  
 
Zardoya: It's important to express myself, and to get out the feelings that are inside. That's why music is so important to me, and this band is so important to me. I've gotten a lot of DMs and letters in the mail from fans saying that our music has helped them through different periods in their lives. That they feel seen, and represented — with them being Latin and me being Latin — and how inspired they are. So music is important for me individually, but it's also important for me to keep doing this for the people who get something out of our music.

Jesse, you mentioned missing touring. What is everyone's favorite part of touring? A lot of musicians have detailed how touring can be grueling and financially unviable.  
 
Perlman: We're coming up on almost eight years of being in this band, and I feel like we've done it all. We've gone around the country so many times now, and that was special. But now we're at a level where we finally have a whole crew and we can play these bigger, beautiful theaters.  

We can make a cool, eclectic setlist with a mix of all the songs [from Submarine, Cinema and EPs Superclean Vol. I and II] — and that's my favorite part, putting together a fun set. Surprising the fans with interludes and jams and a big production with cool lights and stuff. That’s so fun for me. 
 
James: My favorite part of touring is just that feeling of nervousness before a show. Then sort of going over the hilltop as soon as we play the first notes of the first song. Then riding that feeling during and after the show. 
 
Conway: All of the trouble of getting to and from the venue, carrying gear, and the off days in a random city — all of that can be pretty grueling and taxing. But when you can play these songs, in front of fans that love you, and love your music and sing along. You can see people experiencing joy. It makes it all worth it, 99 percent of the time. 
 
Going back to the process of making 'Submarine,' María, you mentioned a transition between thinking the band was over to making music again. Can you tell us more about that moment? 
 
Zardoya: I think we took the intensity of Josh [Conway] and me transitioning from a romantic relationship to a platonic relationship and put it into the music. [We] also used it to work on ourselves and grow individually. I'm grateful for everything that we've been through, the intense moments and the hard moments because we just put it into music. 
 
How did you start and arrive at the theme of the album? From having an "aha moment" to completing the project? 
 
Zardoya: The aha moment came when the album title came into my head. I shared it with the guys and they were super into it. That's when the album’s world started to be built. When we started hearing how it could all come together, that’s when Submarine— the title and the concept — was born. I saw so much symbolism in using water to represent this going inward, this introspective journey that we were all on. And then using these underwater sounds in the tracks.  
 
Conway: There was also a moment when we had been working on the album for a couple of months. We had gotten to a good place after writing, and then María and I listened to the first six songs that are on the album now. That was the first time where María and I were able to conceptualize what it's gonna sound like when you listen to the whole album. We were dancing in the studio and that was just a really exciting moment. We both knew we just heard the beginning of the album and we loved it. 
 
You did a great track-by-track breakdown of your 2021 album, 'Cinema.' Can you talk about the tracks in 'Submarine?' 
 
Zardoya: The opening track, "Ride," is almost like an introduction to Submarine. Where Cinema started with these beautiful string arrangements, we kind of wanted the first track of Submarine to be a little bit more hard-hitting and in your face. Almost like it's slapping you into this world.  
 
Perlman: The intro to Cinema was dramatic. Then when you listen to "Ride" opening Submarine, it's more fun and light-hearted.  
 
Conway: Then "Hamptons." María and I were cycling through old beats, and that one caught our attention. We just started writing to it. We pretty much had the whole thing written on the first day. It was a lot of fun.  
 
Zardoya: I think thematically I wrote these lyrics after visiting the Hamptons. I wanted to hate the Hamptons because it's like this bougie place in New York, but I honestly loved it. It was beautiful. The nature was so pretty. 

What about "Echo" and "Real Life"? 
 
Zardoya: "Echo" is about being pulled into two different directions and living in that ambivalence, which makes you feel paralyzed. This was probably one of the hardest songs to write on Submarine — both thematically and then also piecing it together. We had a part written and it wasn't quite doing it. Then finally, one afternoon the chorus came out of nowhere. And then I think we were like "Okay, here we go. We've got the song." 
 
"Real Life," lyrically, is about the culture that we have with our phones, and everything being virtual. It’s about wanting to have that one-on-one human connection in real life. Songwriting-wise, it came out of a jam that we were all doing together in the Dominican Republic. We were there for a show. We started jamming and it all — the melody, lyrics, and everything — came out of nowhere. 
 
James: It was pretty much written in 30 minutes. It was crazy fast. 
 
Perlman: Whenever we play it, it's perfect every time. It's always the first one we soundcheck with. It's one of my favorites on the album. 
 
In a YouTube video, you said that 'Submarine' is not necessarily about your heartbreak. Can you expand on that? 
 
Zardoya: Words in songs live subconsciously, within me. These songs could be about us, they could be about something that happened 10 years ago, they don't have to be about anything in particular. They are subconscious thoughts that come up to create a song. It is my perspective on heartbreak, which can be interpreted in so many different ways. 
 
Have any films or music helped inspire or complement the aesthetic of 'Submarine?' 
 
Zardoya: I've always been inspired by visuals when it comes to what we do and how it merges with the music. Film was like my first love. One of the movies that inspired this album, 'Three Colors: Blue' by Krzysztof Kieślowskii, from the 'Three Colours' trilogy. Aside from the color blue, and how we've moved from red to blue in this album, in that movie, the main character loses her family at the beginning and she has to figure herself out and go on this introspective journey to find herself.  

That's kind of how I felt with this album. In the beginning, I found myself in this place of solitude and loneliness. Then throughout the album, just like Julie in the movie, I started to find myself and started to find courage in the pain that I had been feeling.  
 
Other movies that I rewatched during the making of this album were 'Lost In Translation' and 'Her.' 'Lost In Translation' is also about solitude, and I found that perspective inspiring the visuals and the record as well. Then on 'Her', technology and loneliness kind of go hand in hand. All of these relationships that we have with technology and with our phones were kind of interspersed throughout the album.  
 
Later I discovered that these two films were created in response to the end of a relationship [between film director Sofia Coppola and filmmaker Spike Jonze]. So I loved that as well because you create this art in response to something real and something tangible.  

In making 'Submarine,' did you learn something or find a silver lining? 
 
Conway: You don't have to be in a romantic relationship to love someone.  
 
Zardoya: Even though you lose yourself in every heartbreak and every loss, I think that you have an opportunity to gain even more. 

Conway: When the album ends, there is a glimmer of hope. In my mind, it feels like that you'll be getting out of the submarine pretty soon. 
 
Wallows Talk New Album 'Model,' "Entering Uncharted Territory" With World Tour & That Unexpected Sabrina Carpenter Cover 

Danny L Harle attends Last Days Opera After Party at Chateau Marmont on February 06, 2024 in Los Angeles
Danny L Harle

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Photonia

interview

Danny L Harle's Quest For Pop Euphoria: How Working With Dua Lipa Led To A New Level Of Creative Joy

The songwriter and producer talks about crafting Dua Lipa’s ‘Radical Optimism’ and the UK’s Eurovision entry for 2024. "It was all about making space for the great emotion of the song," Harle says.

GRAMMYs/May 6, 2024 - 01:51 pm

**"I’ve got an obsessive mind," admits producer Danny L Harle. "I often can't sleep at night because I've got melodies circling in my head. I get haunted by melodies, and I think that's why some people trust me, because they know that I will not let it go unless I think it's absolutely perfect."

That dedication to crafting powerful pop melodies has resulted in a treasure trove of earworms on Dua Lipa’s new album Radical Optimism. Harle was recruited by Lipa as one of the album’s co-producers, alongside Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and songwriters Tobias Jesso Jr and Caroline Ailin.

It's no surprise that Harle was recruited to craft a record that seeks to find light and happiness where darkness prevails. Since his 2015 debut EP Broken Flowers, Harle has created dance-pop that examined the relationship between melancholia and euphoria, as well as the grandeur and escapism of a rave. 

After releasing a string of singles via PC Music, Harle dropped his first album, Harlecore, in 2021 with Mad Decent. The ecstatic spirit of Harlecore, which is centered around a virtual rave headed by four imaginary DJs, echoes in Harle’s latest collaboration as co-writer and producer of the UK’s Eurovision song, "Dizzy" by Olly Alexander. 

"There is good pop music and more algorithmic pop music, pop music which is more guaranteed to work and is less interesting," Harle says. "I just really like good pop music, and that, for me, always seems to start from my research with people."

It was Harle’s naturally synergistic approach to collaboration that led to his work with Lipa. He has also worked with yeule on their album Glitch Princess, and the likes of Charli XCX. But it was his production and writing on  singer Caroline Polachek's  debut solo album that caught Dua Lipa's ear. "She appreciated the spirit of collaboration with that album and wanted me to make her album."

Read below to get a taste of how Danny Harle made Radical Optimism and other earwormy, dancefloor hits.  

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Hey Danny! What’s that cool instrument behind you?

It’s an electric double bass, which is my main instrument: bass guitar and double bass. I use that on some of the Caroline Polachek stuff. There's certain artists who come into the room and see that and they're like, "We have to use that." And some people try to pretend it doesn't exist.

It’s fascinating; I used to play that instrument when I was younger, and then gave it up. There was a 10 year gap, and then I found a place much later in my life where it could fit in. I stopped playing bass guitar at one point as well. 

Then I found myself in a session with NAO, and she was like, "Can you play bass guitar?" There was one literally on display outside, the Squire bass, so I picked it up and we made a track together. She was in a session with Nile Rodgers the next day playing it to him, and he loved it, and then it was on the Chic album [It’s About Time]! At that point I lost any preconceptions I had about needing good gear to make a great sounding music.

Did you do a lot of the bass work on Dua’s album?

I did a fair amount of it, but a lot of it is a collaboration with me and Kevin Parker. All that time he's spent touring and playing the bass live is time that I've spent in front of a computer. So it's hard to compare bass skills, as much as it's my instrument. 

Alongside being a great live player, Kevin has a particular skill for making an instrument sound great when it is recorded, which is a completely different thing. There were some times where I was like, "I prefer the way that it sounds when you do it." And then sometimes he would ask me to do it as well. It was a really nice, trusting partnership. 

The process of the album was very trusting; a sense of being able to say when you think something could be better, but also understanding that trusting someone else is good at what they're doing. It was a very rare environment, but the atmosphere of respect and trust was quite an incredible thing to experience. If you hear what anybody says involved in that process, they'll say those are some of the best sessions they’ve ever had in that respect. 

We were talking about this key Motown idea, which is that happy songs go best over a sad melody. It doesn’t have to be the melody, it can be the music sounding sad; "Tears Of A Clown" by Smokey Robinson is a good example. There's something very resonant in that combination. 

"Houdini," "Training Season" and "Illusion" are all in minor keys, aren’t they? It makes for such melodically rich stuff that’s different from your average four chord pop progression.

Yup. It’s not as simple as happy song, happy chords. It adds richness to the emotional landscape of the song, and that was a key element in that. 

It was a room full of people who are excited by hearing new melodies and approaches and structures. That’s why you don’t really hear the same melodic patterns that music’s fallen into these days on the album. I find that particularly inspiring. 

You’ve written with stars like Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama before, but this is your first extended project with a pop star. You first made pop music to engage people as a virtually unknown musician, but now that attention is guaranteed. Did that change the way you think about pop?

Not at all. My approach to this stuff, especially these days, is that I can just do my thing. I'm very honored to work with the people I've been working with. Very early on in my career when I was trying to make pop music in that way, it would always go horribly wrong. Whereas now I just try to make good music. 

Some people can just make a pop song and I can't do that. I'm like, "Let's make a good song." I personally believe that there is good pop music and more algorithmic pop music, pop music which is more guaranteed to work and is less interesting. I just really like good pop music, and that, for me, always seems to start from my research with people just trying to make the best music. 

How did you make this record more personal to Dua in terms of influences and not just lyrically?

It all stems from her at the center of it; so much stuff happens to her. It’s insane, the amount she’d have to say before every session — [like] "These tracks are actually making points." 

Then it would be a case of finding an instrumental with a certain emotion, and out of natural conversation, there’d be a sense of connection [from] a phrase someone would hit on. [But] it would always stem from her as the center of the whole thing. It was just a very organic way of writing and we were very privileged with the rich life Dua leads to draw from. 

This record was a tight songwriting team — where did you fit into it?

I was contributing to all of the tracks in all factors: lyric ideas most rarely, but also melodic ideas, songwriting ideas, mainly from a production standpoint.  

I would be in the corner on my computer, and I would constantly be in conversation with everybody. We might have Kevin on a guitar, and then I’d be making some electronic arpeggios to go with that. I’d be constantly AirDropping stuff to Cam Gower, the greatest vocal engineer in the world, and he would be stacking what we had in ProTools. Sometimes I would take Cam’s session and put it into my computer — like with ‘Illusion’, because there’s stuff that goes on that affects the whole track in a way that I needed to do to get that dancey feel. 

It's quite a global, almost old-fashioned producer role I was taking. I think that was a valuable thing for Dua in certain cases, because I would know about every song on the album. If we were writing with new writers, I'd be like, ‘we already said this idea in that song.’ I would have an eye on the whole thing and be a soundboard for the overall project. 

Let’s start with the opening track, "End Of An Era" is unexpectedly calming and gentle. What prompted you guys to make this the opener?

I just love the idea of starting an album with the track called "End Of An Era"; it is quite an alarming thing to see. I love the tone of the track, the joy of it, but also the fairy-godmother-style commentary going over it as well. 

It's about that heart-eyes emoji feeling of knowing you're irrationally in love in the moment where you rethink everything about your life. I just thought the emotion fit really well. The album has a story to it, and it's a great opener for that story.  

The track "These Walls" expands Dua’s voice in a way I haven’t heard her sing before. Could you walk me through the production of that song?

With that song, I didn't want to get in the way of the purity of the message. It’s very important to understand when a track does not need to be a production showcase, you are in service of the storytelling. 

It was all about making space for the great emotion of the song and having occasional moments of departure, and always being relevant to what is being said. When she says "Did you really mean it when you said forever?", the track disappears into a strange fantasy synth moment. That idea is [that] your mind might get taken away by the thought of forever, just for a moment, as a sort of impossible idea. That's what the music's doing — it takes you out and it lands you straight back into the track.

There’s also a moment of self-deprecating humor: "If these walls could talk / they’d say you’re f—ed.". Was that humor fostered by the close relationship all the songwriters had?

Absolutely. That kind of thing is often the most memorable bit of a song, if placed correctly in the most tasteful area. There’s a track on the yeule album Glitch Princess, where it’s these big Charles Ives chords I wrote. It sounds like it’s gonna be a nice piano ballad, but the first line is "feels like s—." [Laughs.] It takes you by surprise, but it fits with the mood of the track. 

With Dua, it’s tastefully placing it where it fits in the story, and that point in the chorus, it felt perfect. It also reminds me of this idea in the [software] engineering world: the rubber duck principle. They have a rubber duck there because engineers will want to ask a question, but often when you’re asking the question, you’ll realize the answer to it. The rubber duck is there so you can ask the question and it’ll tell you the answer because you already knew it. ‘These Walls’ reminds me of that; if these walls are saying I’m f—ed, you know you’re f—ed. 

The climax of the album is "Falling Forever." It’s super ballsy, and the drums are mixed so loudly. Tell me about how this track came to be.

It’s a beautiful one, that one. A great thinker said it sounds like a thousand galloping horses. That one came about in the sessions with [producer and songwriter] Ian Kirkpatrick. He came in with the chords you hear at the beginning, and I really enjoyed the idea of having a galloping rhythm. You don’t hear the gallop very often, I can’t think of one other song that’s done that in recent history. 

I also thought up the "how long" thing — I thought it would be fun to make the word ‘long’ really long. Those were my key contributions to the song. Ian Kirkpatrick, his drums are so fantastic. You’ve gotta let him get on with it. 

The vocals are also so close there’s subtler production going on earlier in the album, but this song punches you right in the face.

It’s so great. It’s very much an approach that I have with singers where I want them to do a thing that makes their voice sound f—ing amazing. The first time I thought I achieved that with Caroline was with "Parachute," using everything her voice can do: the runs, the high register, the emotional low register. This is a showcase. "Falling Forever" does that with Dua. "These Walls" is an interesting comparison as well, it shows a real range of emotion that Dua is capable of in a way I find really exciting. 

It’s indescribable to hear her sing in the room. I had the privilege of having her recording demo vocals on an SM-7 [microphone] like this sitting in front of her. It is unbelievable to hear that: just a human making that sound in front of you, it’s like nothing else. It’s like witnessing a wonder of the world. Also to use the specific, occasionally metallic sound she can make with her voice, to use it when necessary as part of an expression of something, the way she phrases things is incredible as well. 

Does the message of Radical Optimism — of finding grace in the chaos — match the euphoria you want to explore in music?

There is a sense of melancholic euphoria as well, the Elizabethan side of things. I would say there's a Venn diagram of euphoria that fits with Dua. 

On the track "Happy For You," there are certain ravey things going on where Dua was like, "What’s that sound?" It’s these chords Kevin wrote, and I start stuttering them. 

Also the flute mellotron in the song "Maria," she was immediately like, "Yep: I love it." I was so happy because it’s so my thing, that cyclical melody. Also, the bit in "Illusions" before the chorus where it goes to a major chord before the chorus, I love the sound of the unexpected major chord. Having repeated moments like that, I think, was the reason why I was asked to stay on the project; we clearly had chemistry, but it was interesting how macro it was. 

That unexpected major chord moment also appears in your Eurovision song with Olly Alexander, doesn’t it?

I've written some more tracks with him that do that. I've really been enjoying that with Olly because his voice is so agile and can really make sense of more complicated chord sequences. 

Another thing I've been enjoying with him is when there's sparseness and letting the vocal melody spell out the harmony and maybe occasionally go minor and major over one bass note, which is something I really, really enjoy. 

I've always been a big fan of Olly Alexander, I’ve wanted to work with him my whole career. I believe I tweeted at him in 2009 saying hi. But I think people who like my stuff could hear that he has the kind of voice that I really like: a very virtuosic, melodic voice. [We] just had immediate chemistry, musically. We've written a fair amount of music and he’s a very exciting artist to be involved with. 

The UK has a pretty shaky track record with Eurovision. Did you feel any of that pressure?

No, there wasn't that thing in my head. I just love Olly’s voice. And collaborating with him is just fantastic. I've had ideas for Olly for years now, and it was a dream to be able to actually enact some of them.

What’s next in store for you?

My own album. I've got another one that I'm finishing up at the minute that I'm very excited about. It was delayed by two and a half years because I got all of my dream projects offered to me at the same time and I wanted to make sure that I did them all properly. But now I can get back to doing my own stuff. 

It feels so good to be back at the grindstone, sitting in my studio writing beautiful things, making beautiful objects to present to the world. It’s the dream, really.

Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

Jacob Collier, Sara Gazarek, Johnaye Kendrick, Amanda Taylor, and Erin Bentlage, winners of the "Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals" for "In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning" pose in the press room during the 66th GRAMMY Awards.
Jacob Collier, Sara Gazarek, Johnaye Kendrick, Amanda Taylor, and Erin Bentlage, winners of the "Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals" for "In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning" pose in the press room during the 66th GRAMMY Awards.

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Overheard Backstage At The 2024 GRAMMYs: What Jack Antonoff, Laufey & Other GRAMMY Winners Said

Get an exclusive glimpse inside the 66th GRAMMY Awards press room, where Jacob Collier, ​​Natalia Lafourcade, Brandy Clark and others spoke with GRAMMY U about their big wins on Music's Biggest Night.

GRAMMYs/Feb 7, 2024 - 05:38 pm

From Miley Cyrus winning her first GRAMMY to Billy Joel’s comeback performance after 30 years, the 2024 GRAMMYs were filled with a range of special moments at Crypto.com Arena.

Backstage at the Recording Academy’s media center and press room, GRAMMY U spoke with several GRAMMY winners just as they stepped off the stage. Each spoke about the vital role of collaboration in the studio, and the role they played in their GRAMMY-winning Categories. 

Read on for insights from Jack Antonoff (Album Of The Year and Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical), Laufey (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album), Jacob Collier (Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals), Natalia Lafourcade (Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album ), and Brandy Clark (Best Americana Performance).

Jack Antonoff Can Truly Fly Free With A Collaborator

The 10-time GRAMMY winner took home several golden gramophones on Feb. 4, including the prestigious Album Of The Year for Taylor Swift’s Midnights as well as Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical for the third consecutive year. 

Antonoff told GRAMMY.com that, as a producer, collaboration is simply "everything."

"The visual I have is a balloon. When it's your words, lyrics, and your life, you have to be able to fly free without being scared of drifting away," Antonoff continues. "I see the producer holding that string, and I know both ends." 

When he’s not creating hits for other artists, Antonoff delves into his own artistry as the founder and lead singer of indie rock band Bleachers, known for their hit single "I Wanna Get Better."

"When I’m making the Bleachers records, I’ll have these crazy thoughts and then [producer] Patrik Berger will ground me in it. I think it’s really about trust," Antonoff reflects.

Laufey Won In The Same Category As Many Idols

Laufey first wowed audiences with a live performance of her hit song "From the Start" at the 66th GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony. Later in the day, the 24-year-old won her first GRAMMY on Sunday in the Category of Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Bewitched

"This category means so much to me, so many of my inspirations and idols have won in this category before," she tells GRAMMY.com. 

Read more: With 'Bewitched,' Icelandic Singer Laufey Is Leaving Jazz Neophytes Spellbound

Laufey transcends the boundaries of genre, blending jazz and pop into her original music. With 18 million likes on TikTok and 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, the Icelandic singer/songwriter effused awe an gratitude. 

"It feels so cool to make the kind of music I make today and still get recognized for it," she shares. 

Jacob Collier Shared His Imnprovisiation Techniques

Collier won his sixth GRAMMY Award this year, taking home the golden gramophone for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals for his feature on "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" by vocal supergroup Säje. The first-time GRAMMY-winning vocal group is composed of Sara Gazarek, Amanda Taylor, Johnaye Kendrick, and Erin Bentlage. 

The multi-instrumentalist provided insight into the making of "In the Wee Hours of the Morning," revealing that this collaboration began with an improvisation Collier created around the song, which was later decorated with Säje’s harmonies. 

"The best types of collaborations reveal parts of oneself that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and I think the amazing thing about [Säje] is that the four [of them] brought colors out of me that were new," Collier says. 

"I feel so lucky to have been clothed by these four voices, it feels really wonderful," he says. 

Natalia Lafourcade Realized Her Own Importance

Known for infusing a variety of Latin genres with elements of folk, jazz, and alternative music, Natalia Lafourcade picked up her fourth GRAMMY win for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album with De Todas Las Flores.

"It took seven years for me to realize I need to write my own music again," Lafourcade says. "This album has [helped me realize] the importance of my inner garden, my creative universe." 

Read more: Catching Up With Natalia Lafourcade: How Togetherness, Improvisation & The Element Of Surprise Led To Her Most Exquisite Album

The Mexican singer/songwriter also served as a presenter at the Premiere Ceremony, presenting in Categories such as Best Music Video and Best Song Written for Visual Media. Previously, Lafourcade won for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album at the 58th GRAMMY Awards for Hasta La Raíz, and discussed the importance of reclaiming her sound in this category. 

"Having the producers, musicians, and my beautiful team has been an incredible experience. It means a lot," she says. 

Brandy Clark Loved Working With Brandi Carlile

After 17 nominations, Brandy Clark landed her first GRAMMY win in the category of Americana Performance. At the Premiere Ceremony, Clark performed a solo acoustic rendition of "Dear Insecurity," which features 10-time GRAMMY winner Brandi Carlile

Previous nominations for the Washington native include Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance. 

"The work I did with Brandi Carlile was really important for me. Seventeen nominations, first GRAMMY win — I’m mind blown," Clark says.

Clark's collaboration with Carlile is a key part of her support system, and she continues to push the boundaries of artistic expression — especially when it comes to her love for country music.

10 Must-See Moments From The 2024 GRAMMYs