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Remembering When We Were Young: Avril Lavigne, Jimmy Eat World & More Bands Reflect On The Peak Of Emo & Hardcore Ahead Of Vegas Fest
When We Were Young Festival performers Bright Eyes, the All-American Rejects, Meet Me @ the Altar and others celebrate the special sounds of the 2000s and 2010s — and the acts they're most excited to see in Las Vegas.
If the average fan travels to Las Vegas to find themselves squarely in the moment — whether that be at the slots, a show, or an artist residency — one festival is aiming to be a blast from the past. Held Oct. 22, 23 and 29, the When We Were Young Festival is a nostalgia event for the ages (particularly, those in their late 20s to early 40s). The event features 64 of the biggest names in pop-punk, emo and hardcore from the early 2000s through 2010s, as well as a handful of contemporary acts who are continuing those movements today.
While there was no doubt a divide between subcultures and subgenres back in the day — just ask any scene kid, these journalists included — When We Were Young breaks down those barriers in favor of a smorgasbord of sound. Across five stages at the Las Vegas Fairgrounds, there will be pop-punk from Avril Lavigne, post-hardcore from AFI, straight-ahead punk rock from the Linda Lindas, and the highly anticipated return of emo rockers My Chemical Romance.
Almost as soon as When We Were Young was announced, social media exploded about the implausibility of such a massive lineup. Even still, tickets sold out immediately. Organizers responded to the demand (and fans' thoughts about who was missing from this year’s roster) by announcing a jam-packed lineup for 2023 — which, of course, is already sold out.
Ahead of the inaugural When We Were Young festival, GRAMMY.com asked some of its acts to look back on this unique time in music and share some of their favorite memories. While you’re reading, press play on GRAMMY.com's official When We Were Young Fest playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Pandora. Playlist powered by GRAMMY U.
Photo courtesy of the artists
Nathaniel Motte: I think the emo scene really encouraged a sense of demystification across a lot of different facets of music. We started touring on a national scale on Warped Tour, and on that tour, pretty much every band does a daily meet and greet, where fans can meet the bands in person and have a substantive, personal interaction with them. That was really important for us, as we always considered ourselves pretty regular people, just trying to rock a party and make it as fun as possible for a bunch of our friends in the crowd.
Our first three years of full touring (2008, 2009, and 2010) was a delirious, crazy, exhausting and joyful blur. We were so ignorant to the pitfalls of the "industry" that we didn't know what we couldn't do, and therein, every opportunity to do something different was novel and exciting. Each one of those years I was deferring my acceptance to medical school at the University of Colorado, because the experiences we were getting and the fun we were having was way too much to turn away (shout out to CU Medical School for the patience and generosity!).
Sean Foreman: Playing Warped Tour in New York and reaching out to Lil Jon — who drove out and joined us on stage for two songs — that was truly the WTF moment, since a lot of our early sound was inspired by him.
I’m a fan of almost all these bands, but I will say I’m excited to see Pierce the Veil. Our first American tour, we shared a bus with them. They are extremely nice people and I love their new song "Pass the Nirvana" a lot. That’s inspiring to me to watch a band that has been around maybe longer than us continuing to grow. They also short circuited our bus with their hair straighteners, and to this day I like to give them crap about it.
A Day To Remember — Neil Westfall, guitarist
Photo: James Hartley
To me, this time was all about finding out who I was and what I liked. I would go to every show that came to my part of Florida. I made almost all my lifetime friends from going to shows and being a part of the scene in Florida. ADTR made music that allowed us to fully express every influence, whether that made sense to others or not. It allowed us to play every genre of show and fit in enough to play, but stand out enough to be remembered.
I remember being on tour with Parkway Drive, The Acacia Strain and Suicide Silence, and getting our mixes back from Adam Dutkiewicz for Homesick. We all listened to them on the PA at the venue in Melbourne. We were insanely happy with how everything was going, and DL from The Acacia Strain came up to us and said,"You guys are about to be the biggest band in the world." We all laughed and went on to play. While we may not be the biggest band in the world yet, we aren’t finished.
I am a huge fan of Paramore. I think we may have played, like, three festivals together in the past, and they have absolutely crushed every time I have seen them play. I probably could talk about multiple songs on multiple albums, but the first song I heard was"Pressure" from the album All We Know Is Falling. I doubt I will ever get to see them play it, but it will always hold a special place in my heart.
The All-American Rejects — Mike Kennerty, guitarist
Photo courtesy of the artist
[This era] was the last gasp of the old music industry... MTV, radio, magazines. We got to live out those rollercoaster experiences right before things changed, which was amazing as kids who grew up in Oklahoma seeing all those things from afar. We've probably forgotten as much as we remember! But getting a VMA (back when videos still felt like a big deal) was pretty cool!
We found out about the lineup along with everyone else. To say they were vague about who all else was playing is an understatement. Alkaline Trio is still a great band and I'm excited to see them again! The first time we got to play with them was in the early '00s at this small club in Amsterdam. It felt like I was getting into a killer show for free.
Anberlin — Deon Rexroat, bassist
Photo: Jordan Butcher
That first decade of the 2000s was very unique, because you still had this sort of monoculture coming out of the '90s that helped regional and local scenes to develop. Anberlin developed our sound by being a part of a local community of musicians in Central Florida. We started out playing shows with Copeland and Underoath. We weren't all the same genre, but it didn't matter. People nurtured our growth simply by going out to local shows and giving unknown bands like us a chance.
Florida, at that time, was a special place, with bands like Hot Water Music, Dashboard Confessional, New Found Glory, and others really standing out musically and doing things that would go on to influence people across the country and the world. It was a great scene to be a part of.
The time around our third album Cities, will always be a special time for me. We were coming off an incredible two years of growth after releasing Never Take Friendship Personal, and it felt like we were becoming a mature, respected band amongst our peers. We felt established and actually started headlining tours and selling out shows in larger venues. It was obvious something was really happening for us.
I was and am stoked and honored about the invite to play [the fest], as I'm sure the other bands are. But I have to be honest — when we were first presented with the offer, I thought,"How is this real?" immediately followed by"How will they pull this off?!"
Sure, Warped Tour did it for years and on a daily basis, but so many bands are of a certain size or bigger here. The scheduling gymnastics are going to take Olympic-level talent. Regardless of all of that, I do know our set will just be a bonus next to spending multiple days with longtime best friends like Bayside and Story Of The Year, among many others!
Jimmy Eat World [is my favorite band on the bill]. Hands down. Having Clarity and Bleed American come out in the few years leading up to Anberlin's formation, they were, and still are, so influential for me. I think it speaks volumes that they are playing this fest, but are also such a major influence on so many of the other bands on the same bill. It's really hard to express what they mean to me personally, but also what they mean to the scene they helped to build that is at the core of the festival.
Photo: Ryan McFadden
There have been songs I've loved by a lot of the bands playing. I love "Dirty Little Secret" by the All-American Rejects and "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World — I'm really excited to see Jimmy Eat World. I still go back to their album Bleed American a lot. And I love the first album by The Used, which was done by my producer John Feldmann.
This was a world I grew up not just a part of, but listening to. When I got asked to do [the festival] and found out who else was on it, I was like,"F— yeah, I'm in!" So many of my friends and favorite bands in one place — there's no way I couldn't be there.
Black Veil Brides — Andy Biersack, singer
Photo: Joshua Shultz
I'm a bit younger than a lot of my contemporaries from this era, so a lot of this period musically, for me, represents that "coming of age" sort of feeling. Being in 6th/7th grade and discovering bands like AFI, Alkaline Trio and Jimmy Eat World, and [then being] completely blown away that this thing called Warped Tour existed. I'd lay in bed some nights just thinking about how many days were left until next year's show in Cincinnati. It really means everything to me.
Alkaline Trio is and will always be my favorite band of all time. There is no single artist that has had the effect on me that they did and continue to do. I remember seeing them in Covington, Kentucky as a kid and waiting around back by the buses to see if I could get an autograph. [Guitarist] Matt [Skiba] signed my hoodie and I felt like I had won the lottery. I've been lucky enough to get to work with Matt a few times over the years. He's an amazing artist and person. I cannot wait to watch their set every day!
The basis for my songwriting and interest in pursuing that end of music really stems from this era more than any other. When we started touring and gaining popularity, I was still a teenager who had just dropped out of high school and was suddenly on this crazy ride, and sort of learning about life through the mechanism of the music industry and being on the road. I feel so lucky that we came up in the time and era that we did, and I think there's a reason why this type of music has continued on in popularity and adoration.
We have all been so excited for this [festival] for so long, and can't wait to play and enjoy the celebration of some of the best music that's ever been made.
Bright Eyes — Nate Walcott, keyboardist & trumpeter
Photo: Shawn Brackbill
My emo phase was a little earlier, in the '90s, when I was in high school. I'm old!
This was in Lincoln, Nebraska. Some friends of mine were really into bands like Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate, and I liked some of that stuff; it was an appropriate soundtrack to my angsty high school teen years. But so were things like "Central Park West" (John Coltrane) and "Flamenco Sketches" (Miles Davis) and Chopin's preludes in Em and Db major, as well as "I Could Have Lied," perhaps the most emo of all Red Hot Chili Peppers songs. All of these things somehow had a similar feeling to me.
One of my best friends in high school, Ben Armstrong, played drums in Commander Venus —a band featuring my future Bright Eyes bandmate Conor Oberst…. It was fun riding around with Ben going to Commander Venus shows in houses and weird performance spaces and s—y all ages clubs. To be a high school kid doing that stuff was exhilarating and…emotional!
I started playing in Bright Eyes in 2002, and became a full-time member in 2005. I can't speak entirely for all my bandmates — My Chem[ical Romance] most certainly came up from time to time — but I wasn't listening to a lot of emo, hardcore or pop-punk once the aughts hit. But we were touring and recording constantly during this period.
I was pleasantly surprised by the degree to which the festival tapped into this sense of nostalgia, and how much it seemed to resonate with people. Any occasion for people to congregate and enjoy music in the spirit of celebration is something to be happy about, and we're glad to be a part of it. I'm looking forward to expanding my horizons and hearing some new things. Maybe my biggest emo phase lies ahead!
Dance Gavin Dance — Matt Mingus, drummer
Photo: Lindsey Byrnes
This era of music was particularly very special to me. I started going to local pop punk/emo shows when I was 14. This progressed into me getting acquainted with the larger national acts in the scene. I always liked these shows because everyone there was very welcoming and I felt right at home.
I was lucky enough to grow up in Sacramento, California, which had awesome shows all of the time thanks to the legendary music venue called The Boardwalk. Thanks to seeing countless bands there over the years, myself and the other founding members were inspired to create Dance Gavin Dance.
One of my fondest memories of that era was when we got our first record deal and went to record our first full-length album, Downtown Battle Mountain, in Portland, Oregon in 2007. I had just turned 18 and was still a senior in high school. I was nervous but more so excited; little did I know this would jumpstart a life full of touring and writing music with some of my best friends in the world for the next 15 years and counting.
I was excited and honored [to be on the bill]. However, it made me feel a little old. To be put up on a pedestal with bands like My Chemical Romance and Paramore as a nostalgic artist, I must say, felt pretty good.
I'm super excited [to see] a lot of the bands on the festival [lineup] — one in particular is Dashboard Confessional. When I was in 8th grade, I did a music project on The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most; I used to be in love with that album when I was younger and still get all sorts of feelings when I listen to it to this day. I can't wait to finally see them perform!
Hawthorne Heights — J.T. Woodruff, singer
Photo: Courtesy of the artist
Standing on the main stage in Columbus, Ohio at Warped Tour 2005 — that was the moment that I realized our band and this genre was starting to get massive. It was an ocean of people from all walks of life, that were dressing like us, and wearing the same haircut as us. It felt great to belong to something. The roller coaster was in the free-fall stage, and we were hanging on for dear life, in the best way possible. I will remember that summer for the rest of my life.
For me, the most special moment was feeling a part of something different. We got to take part in a tidal wave, which changed the scene from almost exclusively pop-punk vs. hardcore to something that blended these worlds together. You could feel the sea change happening — similar to when the grunge movement happened when I was a kid. It wasn't something we were aware of at the moment, but as time grows, you start to realize the lasting impact the songs we created [have] had.
We found out [about] the lineup when the fans did. And while it felt chaotic at the time, it was interesting to see how the internet reacted in real time. It was a masterclass in social marketing. These events are what makes the scene relevant after all these years. The fans need it. The bands need it. We all want to live forever.
Universally, I think My Chemical Romance is a band that everyone believes in. We've been fortunate enough to hang out with them quite a few times, and they are genuine legends. A band that puts art first, and will sacrifice nothing to achieve the vision that is in their collective brain, is so rare and so pure. I took my daughter to watch them on their current arena tour. We loved every minute of it, and it was a great moment from a father to a daughter — elder emo to current emo.
I Prevail — Steve Menoian, guitarist
Photo: Fearless Records
I think it was a really creative time for rock and guitar-driven music. There were so many different subgenres that were coming together and building the foundation of the way we would look back on that era.
When you really think about it, it's weird to think that music as different as emo, hardcore, metal-core and pop-punk would eventually feel that they almost cohesively came from the same era. I think that's unique. When we look back on the '80s or '90s, it seems like one style really dominated, like hair metal or grunge. The 2000s [felt] unique in how eclectic it was.
We had an awesome alt rock station in Detroit called 89x. I remember driving to high school in the mornings and hearing The Used, 30 Seconds to Mars, Fall Out Boy, Panic! [at the Disco], Paramore, Rise Against, Simple Plan — so many bands like that. I didn't really realize it at the time, but it was great exposure to the emo and alt rock that was brewing in that era.
I went through a huge Dashboard [Confessional] phase in my early college years. I remember sitting in my dorm late at night and learning to play all those songs off of The Places You Come to Fear the Most —"Standard Lines," "Screaming Infidelities,""Saints and Sailors." All I had with me that first year was an acoustic, so I really immersed myself in that record.
I don't think we initially appreciated just how big [this festival] was going to be. We knew it would be big, but it just went to another level. Seeing the initial reaction and how viral the announcement went really put it into perspective. There are so many iconic bands on the bill, and as a younger band who didn't really come from that era, we're just stoked to be here — and to add our style into the crazy melting pot that will no doubt make this one of the best festival experiences of the year.
Jimmy Eat World — Jim Adkins, singer/guitarist
Photo: Jimi Giannatti
When someone brings up "emo," I think of the beginnings of our band. About the 1994 to 2002 time period. That was also my 18 to 25, growing-up period. Well, I guess you never really stop growing up, but that was when things were new. That was pre-internet as we know it today. So there is nostalgia for me on a personal level of experiencing things for the first time, and the special nostalgia of knowing how I experienced it, that way, was the last time anyone will.
I feel like the entire period is a core memory. To be involved at all in the scene meant to take on a work ethic of self-dependence. But you had to take on an equal amount of contribution. As motivated or self-contained as you may be, you weren't going anywhere without help. We were shown when we matched our appetite for adventure with the willingness to contribute, there were lifelong friends to be made.
There was also a ceiling on how personal you should take any of this. It felt like no one outside of our group of friends actually cared. If you weren't in it for the sake of personal reward in creating music, then you were in the wrong place. It turns out everything we simply just did back then was exactly what you need to make playing music a long-term endeavor.
There were a lot of thoughts I had when we were asked. Like I said, when I think about the beginnings of the band, there were not many people cheerleading. There was a dedicated, hardcore network of like-minded people around the country working together just to make it happen for the sake of it happening. To think what we were up to would be"seen" on the level it is today would have been insane.
None of us got into playing music because it was cool. Or because we thought it could be a career. We did it because there was something inside telling us we had to. We put a lot into what we've done so far. Everything we have, really. And the festival coming around when it did to ask us feels like recognition in a way. A warm fuzzy blanket.
Photo: Hunter Moreno
It felt almost funny that I was [on the same lineup] with all these legends. But f— that, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. So, I remember verbally saying, "I can't wait to show people that I'm not just supposed to be here, I am supposed to show people that this is just the beginning."
Silverstein and Taking Back Sunday are my meccas. I took so much inspiration from them, both vocally and energy-wise, for my first album, that I'm positive I will be bricked up watching them live for the first time.
[The early aughts] were the first nine years of my life, so honestly, I just lived. And it's really funny how now, more than 10 years later, I'm doing the same thing — just with music. Living, and trying to stay as true to myself as I can.
The Linda Lindas
Photo: Zen Sekiwaza
Lucia de la Garza, guitar & vocals: We were very, very young or maybe not even born when emo and hardcore and pop-punk were at their peaks. But it's so special how much fondness and joy you see when people talk about the music of their childhood. One of the reasons music is so cool is because it emulates emotions and conveys them so specifically. I know as I grow older, the music I'm listening to now will bring that same kind of feeling and nostalgia. And there are definitely some bands on the bill that I'll carry with me as I grow up.
I've been looking forward to seeing Wolf Alice, because I think their music is so cool and I love all their albums. It was playing a lot of the time when we had online school, and listening to it just makes me really happy.
Eloise Wong, bass & vocals: I read about Meet Me @ the Altar in Razorcake and look forward to checking them out live!
Mila de la Garza, drums & vocals: I had been wanting to play with Paramore, who are one of my favorite bands, for a long time, and this was just a real opportunity to do it. It's cool because we've known them for a while.
Bela Salazar, guitar & vocals: Zac [Farro, Paramore's drummer] took photos of us for press early this year. They've all come out to see us play, but this is the first time we get to play together! Paramore was my first real concert, and I can't believe we know them now and are playing the same fest!
Lucia de la Garza: [Playing When We Were Young] kind of felt like a challenge that we all wanted to accept….The energy is going to be so fun because it's about youth, and one of our vibes is youthful energy!
Mayday Parade — Jeremy Lenzo, bassist
Photo: Jordan Kelsey Knight
I feel like this time period wasn't just special for emo/pop punk/hardcore, but really every subgenre. With music streaming just starting to take off, it seemed people were starting to stumble on new genres of music they didn't know existed.
I used to sit in computer class in high school with another classmate, and we would search the internet to see what new bands we could find. That's how I found a lot of my favorite bands. When Avril Lavigne started having radio hits, I think that opened a lot of peoples eyes to the pop rock/pop-punk genre, and ultimately made it more accessible for new people to get into the genre.
There are so many memories I have where I can't remember the larger context of the memoir, but just have a small snapshot. Listening to Saves The Day in the car with my mom, and her saying she liked the melodies but couldn't stand the lyrics. Aimlessly driving at night with our guitarist, Alex, listening to Sparta just to listen to the whole record in one sitting. Being at my girlfriend's house when her roommate put on The Get Up Kids, which became one of my favorite bands of the time. I have tons of these little memories. It's funny how music can bring you back to a certain place in your life.
Most of these bands we have toured with before and became good friends with, so I'm a fan of most of the artists playing. Some in particular that stand out are Taking Back Sunday (Tell All Your Friends) because we took a lot of inspiration from them in the beginning. The Used (The Used) is another artist I was really into. I remember when I first heard them, I was blown away by the songwriting and how good Bert's voice was.
Also Jimmy Eat World (Clarity) always blew me away with their songwriting, and helped shape parts of our band as well. Oh, I almost forgot My Chemical Romance! I didn't really get into them until The Black Parade, but damn if that isn't a killer album. Honestly every time I finished writing a sentence, I remembered another album I like [from an] artist at the festival — this could go on for a while, so I'm just going to end it here.
Meet Me @ the Altar
Photo: Jonathan Weiner
Edith Victoria, singer: [This music] gave me a community of people that were like me that I couldn't find anywhere else. I found music, went to shows, and met my best friends.
Téa Campbell, guitarist/bassist: [When we were asked to play WWWY], we were shaking in our boots!
Ada Juarez, drummer: Literally all we were told was that My Chemical Romance was playing this festival and that's all we needed to know.
Campbell: But then we saw the full lineup when it was announced and we were like whaaaaaaaaaaaat!
Victoria: I'm excited to see Kittie because they're so iconic. And to be an all-girl band touring with Slipknot at that time?! Plus, they're fashion icons to me.
Juarez: I have more than one [band I'm excited to see], but mainly Bring Me the Horizon. I've been following them for so long. Every album they put out gets better and better, but Sempiternal is one of my favorites. It's so influential to me and the scene in general. I feel they're one of those bands that made such a name for themselves. They can do so many genres and still nail it. It's so hard to find a band like that.
Campbell: My favorite is Paramore. They're the reason I'm in this band. I think Brand New Eyes is my favorite album. My favorite memory is when I was 14 and I got to see them live in Florida. It made me realize that's what I wanted to do, too.
Photo: P Mastro
That generation of music means so much to me. Avril [Lavigne], Blink , Paramore — music I grew up listening to and all have shaped who I am today musically. I even got the opportunity to work with Travis Barker on my song "la di die," and being in the studio with him really helped me understand myself as an artist even more. He is an icon of the generation within himself. It all feels so surreal to be a part of.
There are so many cool artists that are involved [in the fest], but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Avril. She is just such an icon, and she paved the way for herself to have a long-lasting career. I think her first album came out the year I was born, so 20 years of Avril is insane.
Everyone was talking about [the festival when it was announced], so I knew what an amazing opportunity it was to be a part of it. I also love that this is the first time the festival is happening — honored to be [part of] the debut of it.
Pierce the Veil — Jaime Preciado, bassist
Photo: Fearless Records
It was a special period of time where certain artists and bands didn't have to confound themselves to the typical mainstream radio. It was a time when you could be an outcast and still be heard. It made the music we liked special, unique, and felt more like a smaller community we could connect to.
When Thrice put out the album The Illusion of Safety, that was the first album I heard that was everything I wanted to do in music. They paved the way for that. It was heavy, happy, sad — all the things you want in a record. It drew me into this style of music and helped me discover many other bands in the genre.
When I first listened to My Chemical Romance, it was the first time I ever felt the lyrics of another band and created a connection to the music as a whole. It is another band that paved the way for artists like us. I'm pretty sure I used their lyrics in my yearbook for my senior quote!
The amount of legends on this bill is unreal and I can't believe we get to share the stage with so many of them over the course of three shows.
Senses Fail — Buddy Nielsen, singer
Photo: Cameron Gile
When I really realized that what was happening was pretty significant was Warped Tour 2006. The shows were just massive — almost every venue was completely full; it was at times impossible to make your way through the crowds. A lot of the bands we were friends with had to start bringing security in order to keep signings and basic operations safe.
I once skipped school to see [Thursday] play. I went by myself and just sort of lost my mind in the show, and it was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. Their album Full Collapse changed my life.
[This period of time] was my youth. Instead of going to college, I ended up in a band touring the world. My twenties were the boom of emo music, and along with that, our band.
All my old friends came out of the woodwork to ask for tickets [to When We Were Young]. I would definitely be making the trip to Vegas even if we weren't on the bill.
Silverstein — Shane Told, singer
Photo: Wyatt Clough
It was amazing that we all came together, bands from all over, and really started an entire new music scene. I loved the punk rock scene — I still do — but this meant more. We weren't afraid to express ourselves and our emotions in the music. And that really resonated with the fans. It became about more than just the music and the energy. It dug deeper.
And at the same time the internet and social media was just starting out, so not only did we have our own exciting breed of music, we also had an entire movement on the internet talking about it, interacting with each other. That had never happened before on that scale.
When we released Discovering The Waterfront in 2005, it just exploded overnight. It wasn't the radio or MTV, it was real fans sharing it on AIM and MSN, putting"My Heroine" on their MySpace profiles, and of course coming out to shows like Warped Tour and Taste of Chaos. People were illegally downloading the music all over the world where they couldn't buy a CD.
We played in Mexico City — a place we had no distribution — and sold out the show, with the crowd singing every word. It was at that point I knew just how special what was happening with us — and the scene — was.
Armor For Sleep were one of our favorite new bands when we started touring. We would listen to their first album over and over and over in the van. Eventually we met them at Furnace Fest in 2003, and hit it off right away. We did tons of tours and they became close friends. I kept in touch with Ben [Jorgensen, Armor For Sleep's singer] over the years, and I'm so happy they're back at it! Can't wait to watch them.
Sleeping With Sirens — Kellin Quinn, singer
Photo: Nick Stafford
Warped Tour definitely stands out [as a core memory from this time]! Watching my favorite bands as a kid play the festival, and then come full circle and be invited back as many times as we did. I'll remember those summers forever.
When you're in it, it's difficult to see it with perspective… I think all I can say is that "the scene" is just accessible enough without being your parents' music, ya know? We're truly humbled to be a part of this festival and to have helped shape the scene in whatever capacity. [Jimmy Eat World's] Bleed American was a huge album for me! Very excited to watch them play! I'll be singing every word.
State Champs — Ryan Scott Graham, bassist
Photo: Alex McDonell
When I found emo music, it was obviously at a very pivotal time in my life. I was an insecure kid in middle school looking for myself in a number of ways. I didn't know the first thing about this style of music until a friend invited me to a local show. On a whim, I went, and it changed everything for me. The weird, rejected kids like me became the cool kids on stage with guitars, singing about their confusion and angst.
The nostalgia of this scene takes me back to those years that I began to look so fondly upon. It became the career trajectory I followed because I wanted to write songs to make other people feel less alone. Despite some of the corniness that came along with those years of early pop-punk and emo, it is deeply emotional to me in a sort of salvation-like way.
So many artists I love and respect are playing this festival, but one I'm most excited to see is Dashboard Confessional. I've never seen Chris [Carrabba] play live after all these years listening and being a fan.
DC was and is so important to me personally as a songwriter. I remember sitting in the backseat on long drives listening to burnt CDs of Dashboard songs, just dissecting the lyrics and falling in love with the acoustic guitar. It's one of the reasons I started my career as an acoustic artist — Dashboard really showed me the beauty in the simplicity of just a guitar and a voice. The fact that his song arrangements were so interesting without massive production was inspiring and pushed me to start making songs of my own following that recipe. As long as he plays something from Swiss Army Romance, I'll be good!
My initial reaction to getting the offer to play was bliss! It's funny, because we've been doing State Champs for a long time and have had the opportunity to do a lot of really cool things — travel the world, [play] main stages at big festivals, support arena bands, etc. But WWWY Fest, for whatever reason, encouraged a lot of people that I went to middle and high school with — and haven't talked to in ages — to reach out and say,"Holy s—! I can't believe you guys are playing with Paramore, that's so cool!"
I'm like,"Out of everything we've been doing for the last 8-10 years, this is the first time you've taken notice?" In a way it's encouraging, because it feels like we're still breaking new ground as a band. I couldn't be more stoked!
Story of the Year — Ryan Phillips, guitarist
Photo: Ryan Phillips
This was a very important time for us, because we played an undeniable role in bringing "screamo" to the mainstream. We were one of the first of a small number of bands in the genre that had a platinum record and legitimate success on mainstream radio. The scene was exploding, and we were right there, bringing it to the masses.
2002 is a year that completely changed the trajectory of my life. Everyone in the band grew up in St. Louis, all products of working-class families, all playing in bands together, and laying the foundations of what would become Story of the Year. That year, we left everything and everyone we knew, and moved to Southern California to be closer to the music industry and chase teenage dreams of record deals and touring the world. We had no money, and knew like three people in CA, but our band was our life.
That move (and year) is actually one of my fondest memories, because we were so hungry, but also incredibly unaware to the point of total naivety. But, there can be immense power in being young and not knowing s—. If we would have known that the odds of leaving your mom's basement, moving to CA with no money, and getting a major-label record deal and a platinum record were about 1 in 10 million, we would have never left. I would be a fireman or something.
You get older and stop taking shots, because you are too aware of the odds of failure. You have perspective, less willing to risk. In 2002, we were innocent, but total savages, and no force of nature could have stopped us. It didn't even occur to us that we could fail. We were that driven, and, yes, that naive. Somehow it worked out!
Glassjaw was and is one of my favorite bands of all time. I remember doing Warped Tour with them, and it was part of my daily routine to go watch their set. I feel like half of the bands playing Warped would go watch their set. They were that band. They set the bar for honest, hyper-credible music with understated musicianship — in my mind, anyway.
I completely understood why so many people initially thought [this festival] was fake. Seeing the promo for it was like looking at my entire CD book in 2006! Literally every band from the genre. Of course we were flattered, and supremely stoked to be on a bill with so many of our friends. Unreal!
The Used — Bert McCracken, singer
Photo: Anthony Tran
The bands around that time wrote in a different way than before, bands in the '90s. I think the reason why it's called emo is because it was so close to the heart and from personal experience. That's what made it so special.
It was just an exciting time. There were lots of bands coming up. Lots of really cool experiences, lots of opportunities for bands — the Warped Tour was still huge.
Our record had just come out, and we were playing on the small Volcom stage at Warped Tour. All the power went out during "The Taste of Ink," and the whole crowd sang it a cappella. We were all like, "Holy s—. Something's happening." They immediately moved us to the main stage, which was pretty crazy.
Clarity from Jimmy Eat World was really a big [album] for me growing up. It kind of introduced me to a different side of this post-hardcore that I was into. I loved the early-on emo bands, Texas Is The Reason, Casket Lottery — a lot of those bands that are kind of obscure and nobody's heard of them, but they really started this whole scene. And Jimmy Eat World was around during that time, just they were just a lot more melodic and melodically friendly. It was really, really cool to hear that.
Black Sails in the Sunset by AFI was also really special to me. I have a picture of me and Davey Havok from when I was like 14. They were playing with Good Riddance, and I waited after the show to meet him and got a picture. And then on Warped Tour, I went up to him, under his little umbrella, and I was like, "Hey, check this out, a picture of me and you like 15 years ago." He thought it was awesome. He's a nice guy.
This is all the big bands from that time. [On] Warped Tour, you'd maybe have one or two, but this is a serious ordeal. We're more than excited to be part of the early emo scene. We're so grateful, and we're so lucky to still be doing this 22 years later.
We're all older and a little more fragile. But it's still a thrashing emo show. I'm ready for it.
We The Kings — Travis Clark, singer/guitarist
Photo: Lee Cherry
I was a freshman in high school when this era was really starting to hit. I used to sneak into Warped Tour, because I couldn't afford a ticket, and watch as many bands as I could. There are probably only a handful of bands that I haven't seen play, and even less that we haven't done a show with.
I feel lucky just being a kid in that musical era, because it was really the one thing that made me feel like I was part of something. Ultimately, it led to me starting We The Kings.
Our first record was released on Oct. 2nd, 2007, and that week we were taking our song "Check Yes Juliet" to Top 40 radio. It ended up charting and playing on every radio station in the country. Hearing it on the radio for the first time is something that I will never forget.
I was at the beach in my hometown, Anna Maria Island, [Florida,] and as I started my Jeep, I heard, "Check yes Juliet, are you with me, rain is falling down on the sidewalk…" I remember thinking that it was weird, because I didn't have our CD in the CD player. After about 20 seconds, I realized that it was playing on the biggest radio station in Florida and I lost my mind. The song ended up taking off and selling around 2 million singles worldwide. That to me will always seem crazy, and for us, it really was the biggest thing that put us on the musical map.
I thought [this festival] was fake. As I was reading the artist lineup, I just kept thinking, No way. Nope. Absolutely no way this is real. There are just so many amazing bands playing on the same day. This is literally going to go down as the greatest musical festival ever — and in my opinion, I'm not exaggerating. We feel really grateful to have been invited.
There are too many bands on the lineup that I have seen before and have a memory of, but if I had to choose one, it would be Jimmy Eat World. They were one of the very first bands that I saw in concert. At the time they were opening for Blink-182 and Green Day (such a crazy lineup!). As soon as Jimmy Eat World played their first note, I was absolutely hooked. For 40 minutes I saw them absolutely shred their set. I went home after seeing that concert and started We The Kings.
Fast forward a few years, I met Jim Atkins at the Bamboozle Festival we were both playing and I was introduced to him by our mutual publicist. I got the chance to tell him that his band was the reason that I started WTK. The coolest thing was right after I said that, he goes, "Oh that's awesome, I really like that 'Juliet' song, it's super catchy." I basically died in that moment.
I was so inspired by the festival that I went into the studio a few weeks after we received our invite and I wrote a song called "When We Were Young" with the same nostalgic sound that We The Kings is known for. We've been asked to play just about every festival in the world and I have never done that before, so am I excited? The answer "YES" is an incredible understatement.
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.
Photo: Steven Sebring
Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage
"One foot in the past and one foot into the future," Billy Idol says, describing his decade-spanning career in rock. "We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol."
Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, GRAMMY.com spoke with Billy Idol about his latest EP, Cage, and continuing to rock through decades of changing tastes.
Billy Idol is a true rock 'n' roll survivor who has persevered through cultural shifts and personal struggles. While some may think of Idol solely for "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," the singer's musical influences span genres and many of his tunes are less turbo-charged than his '80s hits would belie.
Idol first made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the British punk band Generation X. In the '80s, he went on to a solo career combining rock, pop, and punk into a distinct sound that transformed him and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, into icons. They have racked up multiple GRAMMY nominations, in addition to one gold, one double platinum, and four platinum albums thanks to hits like "Cradle Of Love," "Flesh For Fantasy," and "Eyes Without A Face."
But, unlike many legacy artists, Idol is anything but a relic. Billy continues to produce vital Idol music by collaborating with producers and songwriters — including Miley Cyrus — who share his forward-thinking vision. He will play a five-show Vegas residency in November, and filmmaker Jonas Akerlund is working on a documentary about Idol’s life.
His latest release is Cage, the second in a trilogy of annual four-song EPs. The title track is a classic Billy Idol banger expressing the desire to free himself from personal constraints and live a better life. Other tracks on Cage incorporate metallic riffing and funky R&B grooves.
Idol continues to reckon with his demons — they both grappled with addiction during the '80s — and the singer is open about those struggles on the record and the page. (Idol's 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself, details a 1990 motorcycle accident that nearly claimed a leg, and how becoming a father steered him to reject hard drugs. "Bitter Taste," from his last EP, The Roadside, reflects on surviving the accident.)
Although Idol and Stevens split in the late '80s — the skilled guitarist fronted Steve Stevens & The Atomic Playboys, and collaborated with Michael Jackson, Rick Ocasek, Vince Neil, and Harold Faltermeyer (on the GRAMMY-winning "Top Gun Anthem") — their common history and shared musical bond has been undeniable. The duo reunited in 2001 for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers" and have been back in the saddle for two decades. Their union remains one of the strongest collaborations in rock 'n roll history.
While there is recognizable personnel and a distinguishable sound throughout a lot of his work, Billy Idol has always pushed himself to try different things. Idol discusses his musical journey, his desire to constantly move forward, and the strong connection that he shares with Stevens.
Steve has said that you like to mix up a variety of styles, yet everyone assumes you're the "Rebel Yell"/"White Wedding" guy. But if they really listen to your catalog, it's vastly different.
Yeah, that's right. With someone like Steve Stevens, and then back in the day Keith Forsey producing... [Before that] Generation X actually did move around inside punk rock. We didn't stay doing just the Ramones two-minute music. We actually did a seven-minute song. [Laughs]. We did always mix things up.
Then when I got into my solo career, that was the fun of it. With someone like Steve, I knew what he could do. I could see whatever we needed to do, we could nail it. The world was my oyster musically.
"Cage" is a classic-sounding Billy Idol rocker, then "Running From The Ghost" is almost metal, like what the Devil's Playground album was like back in the mid-2000s. "Miss Nobody" comes out of nowhere with this pop/R&B flavor. What inspired that?
We really hadn't done anything like that since something like "Flesh For Fantasy" [which] had a bit of an R&B thing about it. Back in the early days of Billy Idol, "Hot In The City" and "Mony Mony" had girls [singing] on the backgrounds.
We always had a bit of R&B really, so it was actually fun to revisit that. We just hadn't done anything really quite like that for a long time. That was one of the reasons to work with someone like Sam Hollander [for the song "Rita Hayworth"] on The Roadside. We knew we could go [with him] into an R&B world, and he's a great songwriter and producer. That's the fun of music really, trying out these things and seeing if you can make them stick.
I listen to new music by veteran artists and debate that with some people. I'm sure you have those fans that want their nostalgia, and then there are some people who will embrace the newer stuff. Do you find it’s a challenge to reach people with new songs?
Obviously, what we're looking for is, how do we somehow have one foot in the past and one foot into the future? We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol.
You want to do things that are true to you, and you don't just want to try and do things that you're seeing there in the charts today. I think that we're achieving it with things like "Running From The Ghost" and "Cage" on this new EP. I think we’re managing to do both in a way.
Obviously, "Running From The Ghost" is about addiction, all the stuff that you went through, and in "Cage" you’re talking about freeing yourself from a lot of personal shackles. Was there any one moment in your life that made you really thought I have to not let this weigh me down anymore?
I mean, things like the motorcycle accident I had, that was a bit of a wake up call way back. It was 32 years ago. But there were things like that, years ago, that gradually made me think about what I was doing with my life. I didn't want to ruin it, really. I didn't want to throw it away, and it made [me] be less cavalier.
I had to say to myself, about the drugs and stuff, that I've been there and I've done it. There’s no point in carrying on doing it. You couldn't get any higher. You didn't want to throw your life away casually, and I was close to doing that. It took me a bit of time, but then gradually I was able to get control of myself to a certain extent [with] drugs and everything. And I think Steve's done the same thing. We're on a similar path really, which has been great because we're in the same boat in terms of lyrics and stuff.
So a lot of things like that were wake up calls. Even having grandchildren and just watching my daughter enlarging her family and everything; it just makes you really positive about things and want to show a positive side to how you're feeling, about where you're going. We've lived with the demons so long, we've found a way to live with them. We found a way to be at peace with our demons, in a way. Maybe not completely, but certainly to where we’re enjoying what we do and excited about it.
[When writing] "Running From The Ghost" it was easy to go, what was the ghost for us? At one point, we were very drug addicted in the '80s. And Steve in particular is super sober [now]. I mean, I still vape pot and stuff. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but it’s incredible. All I want to be able to do is have a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or something. I can do that now.
I think working with people that are super talented, you just feel confident. That is a big reason why you open up and express yourself more because you feel comfortable with what's around you.
Did you watch Danny Boyle's recent Sex Pistols mini-series?
I did, yes.
You had a couple of cameos; well, an actor who portrayed you did. How did you react to it? How accurate do you think it was in portraying that particular time period?
I love Jonesy’s book, I thought his book was incredible. It's probably one of the best bio books really. It was incredible and so open. I was looking forward to that a lot.
It was as if [the show] kind of stayed with Steve [Jones’ memoir] about halfway through, and then departed from it. [John] Lydon, for instance, was never someone I ever saw acting out; he's more like that today. I never saw him do something like jump up in the room and run around going crazy. The only time I saw him ever do that was when they signed the recording deal with Virgin in front of Buckingham Palace. Whereas Sid Vicious was always acting out; he was always doing something in a horrible way or shouting at someone. I don't remember John being like that. I remember him being much more introverted.
But then I watched interviews with some of the actors about coming to grips with the parts they were playing. And they were saying, we knew punk rock happened but just didn't know any of the details. So I thought well, there you go. If ["Pistol" is] informing a lot of people who wouldn't know anything about punk rock, maybe that's what's good about it.
Maybe down the road John Lydon will get the chance to do John's version of the Pistols story. Maybe someone will go a lot deeper into it and it won't be so surface. But maybe you needed this just to get people back in the flow.
We had punk and metal over here in the States, but it feels like England it was legitimately more dangerous. British society was much more rigid.
It never went [as] mega in America. It went big in England. It exploded when the Pistols did that interview with [TV host Bill] Grundy, that lorry truck driver put his boot through his own TV, and all the national papers had "the filth and the fury" [headlines].
We went from being unknown to being known overnight. We waited a year, Generation X. We even told them [record labels] no for nine months to a year. Every record company wanted their own punk rock group. So it went really mega in England, and it affected the whole country – the style, the fashions, everything. I mean, the Ramones were massive in England. Devo had a No. 1 song [in England] with "Satisfaction" in '77. Actually, Devo was as big as or bigger than the Pistols.
You were ahead of the pop-punk thing that happened in the late '90s, and a lot of it became tongue-in-cheek by then. It didn't have the same sense of rebelliousness as the original movement. It was more pop.
It had become a style. There was a famous book in England called Revolt Into Style — and that's what had happened, a revolt that turned into style which then they were able to duplicate in their own way. Even recently, Billie Joe [Armstrong] did his own version of "Gimme Some Truth," the Lennon song we covered way back in 1977.
When we initially were making [punk] music, it hadn't become accepted yet. It was still dangerous and turned into a style that people were used to. We were still breaking barriers.
You have a band called Generation Sex with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. I assume you all have an easier time playing Pistols and Gen X songs together now and not worrying about getting spit on like back in the '70s?
Yeah, definitely. When I got to America I told the group I was putting it together, "No one spits at the audience."
We had five years of being spat on [in the UK], and it was revolting. And they spat at you if they liked you. If they didn't like it they smashed your gear up. One night, I remember I saw blood on my T-shirt, and I think Joe Strummer got meningitis when spit went in his mouth.
You had to go through a lot to become successful, it wasn't like you just kind of got up there and did a couple of gigs. I don't think some young rock bands really get that today.
With punk going so mega in England, we definitely got a leg up. We still had a lot of work to get where we got to, and rightly so because you find out that you need to do that. A lot of groups in the old days would be together three to five years before they ever made a record, and that time is really important. In a way, what was great about punk rock for me was it was very much a learning period. I really learned a lot [about] recording music and being in a group and even writing songs.
Then when I came to America, it was a flow, really. I also really started to know what I wanted Billy Idol to be. It took me a little bit, but I kind of knew what I wanted Billy Idol to be. And even that took a while to let it marinate.
You and Miley Cyrus have developed a good working relationship in the last several years. How do you think her fans have responded to you, and your fans have responded to her?
I think they're into it. It's more the record company that she had didn't really get "Night Crawling"— it was one of the best songs on Plastic Hearts, and I don't think they understood that. They wanted to go with Dua Lipa, they wanted to go with the modern, young acts, and I don't think they realized that that song was resonating with her fans. Which is a shame really because, with Andrew Watt producing, it's a hit song.
But at the same time, I enjoyed doing it. It came out really good and it's very Billy Idol. In fact, I think it’s more Billy Idol than Miley Cyrus. I think it shows you where Andrew Watt was. He was excited about doing a Billy Idol track. She's fun to work with. She’s a really great person and she works at her singing — I watched her rehearsing for the Super Bowl performance she gave. She rehearsed all Saturday morning, all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning and it was that afternoon. I have to admire her fortitude. She really cares.
I remember when you went on "Viva La Bam" back in 2005 and decided to give Bam Margera’s Lamborghini a new sunroof by taking a power saw to it. Did he own that car? Was that a rental?
I think it was his car.
Did he get over it later on?
He loved it. [Laughs] He’s got a wacky sense of humor. He’s fantastic, actually. I’m really sorry to see what he's been going through just lately. He's going through a lot, and I wish him the best. He's a fantastic person, and it's a shame that he's struggling so much with his addictions. I know what it's like. It's not easy.
Musically, what is the synergy like with you guys during the past 10 years, doing Kings and Queens of the Underground and this new stuff? What is your working relationship like now in this more sober, older, mature version of you two as opposed to what it was like back in the '80s?
In lots of ways it’s not so different because we always wrote the songs together, we always talked about what we're going to do together. It was just that we were getting high at the same time.We're just not getting [that way now] but we're doing all the same things.
We're still talking about things, still [planning] things:What are we going to do next? How are we going to find new people to work with? We want to find new producers. Let's be a little bit more timely about putting stuff out.That part of our relationship is the same, you know what I mean? That never got affected. We just happened to be overloading in the '80s.
The relationship’s… matured and it's carrying on being fruitful, and I think that's pretty amazing. Really, most people don't get to this place. Usually, they hate each other by now. [Laughs] We also give each other space. We're not stopping each other doing things outside of what we’re working on together. All of that enables us to carry on working together. I love and admire him. I respect him. He's been fantastic. I mean, just standing there on stage with him is always a treat. And he’s got an immensely great sense of humor. I think that's another reason why we can hang together after all this time because we've got the sense of humor to enable us to go forward.
There's a lot of fan reaction videos online, and I noticed a lot of younger women like "Rebel Yell" because, unlike a lot of other '80s alpha male rock tunes, you're talking about satisfying your lover.
It was about my girlfriend at the time, Perri Lister. It was about how great I thought she was, how much I was in love with her, and how great women are, how powerful they are.
It was a bit of a feminist anthem in a weird way. It was all about how relationships can free you and add a lot to your life. It was a cry of love, nothing to do with the Civil War or anything like that. Perri was a big part of my life, a big part of being Billy Idol. I wanted to write about it. I'm glad that's the effect.
Is there something you hope people get out of the songs you've been doing over the last 10 years? Do you find yourself putting out a message that keeps repeating?
Well, I suppose, if anything, is that you can come to terms with your life, you can keep a hold of it. You can work your dreams into reality in a way and, look, a million years later, still be enjoying it.
The only reason I'm singing about getting out of the cage is because I kicked out of the cage years ago. I joined Generation X when I said to my parents, "I'm leaving university, and I'm joining a punk rock group." And they didn't even know what a punk rock group was. Years ago, I’d write things for myself that put me on this path, so that maybe in 2022 I could sing something like "Cage" and be owning this territory and really having a good time. This is the life I wanted.
The original UK punk movement challenged societal norms. Despite all the craziness going on throughout the world, it seems like a lot of modern rock bands are afraid to do what you guys were doing. Do you think we'll see a shift in that?
Yeah. Art usually reacts to things, so I would think eventually there will be a massive reaction to the pop music that’s taken over — the middle of the road music, and then this kind of right wing politics. There will be a massive reaction if there's not already one. I don’t know where it will come from exactly. You never know who's gonna do [it].
Graphic: The Recording Academy
Hear All Of The Best Country Solo Performance Nominees For The 2023 GRAMMY Awards
The 2023 GRAMMY Award nominees for Best Country Solo Performance highlight country music's newcomers and veterans, featuring hits from Kelsea Ballerini, Zach Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Willie Nelson.
Country music's evolution is well represented in the 2023 GRAMMY nominees for Best Country Solo Performance. From crossover pop hooks to red-dirt outlaw roots, the genre's most celebrated elements are on full display — thanks to rising stars, leading ladies and country icons.
Longtime hitmaker Miranda Lambert delivered a soulful performance on the rootsy ballad "In His Arms," an arrangement as sparing as the windswept west Texas highlands where she co-wrote the song. Viral newcomer Zach Bryan dug into similar organic territory on the Oklahoma side of the Red River for "Something in the Orange," his voice accompanied with little more than an acoustic guitar.
Two of country's 2010s breakout stars are clearly still shining, too, as Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini both received Best Country Solo Performance GRAMMY nods. Morris channeled the determination that drove her leap-of-faith move from Texas to Nashville for the playful clap-along "Circles Around This Town," while Ballerini brought poppy hooks with a country edge on the infectiously upbeat "HEARTFIRST."
Rounding out the category is the one and only Willie Nelson, who paid tribute to his late friend Billy Joe Shaver with a cover of "Live Forever" — a fitting sentiment for the 89-year-old legend, who is approaching his eighth decade in the business.
As the excitement builds for the 2023 GRAMMYs on Feb. 5, 2023, let's take a closer look at this year's nominees for Best Country Solo Performance.
Kelsea Ballerini — "HEARTFIRST"
In the tradition of Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini represents Nashville's sunnier side — and her single "HEARTFIRST" is a slice of bright, uptempo, confectionary country-pop for the ages.
Ballerini sings about leaning into a carefree crush with her heart on her sleeve, pushing aside her reservations and taking a risk on love at first sight. The scene plays out in a bar room and a back seat, as she sweeps nimbly through the verses and into a shimmering chorus, when the narrator decides she's ready to "wake up in your T-shirt."
There are enough steel guitar licks to let you know you're listening to a country song, but the story and melody are universal. "HEARTFIRST" is Ballerini's third GRAMMY nod, but first in the Best Country Solo Performance category.
Zach Bryan — "Something In The Orange"
Zach Bryan blew into Music City seemingly from nowhere in 2017, when his original song "Heading South" — recorded on an iPhone — went viral. Then an active officer in the U.S. Navy, the Oklahoma native chased his muse through music during his downtime, striking a chord with country music fans on stark songs led by his acoustic guitar and affecting vocals.
After his honorable discharge in 2021, Bryan began his music career in earnest, and in 2022 released "Something in the Orange," a haunting ballad that stakes a convincing claim to the territory between Tyler Childers and Jason Isbell in both sonics and songwriting. Slashing slide guitar drives home the song's heartbreak, as Bryan pines for a lover whose tail lights have long since vanished over the horizon.
"Something In The Orange" marks Bryan's first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
Miranda Lambert — "In His Arms"
Miranda Lambert is the rare, chart-topping contemporary country artist who does more than pay lip service to the genre's rural American roots. "In His Arms" originally surfaced on 2021's The Marfa Tapes, a casual recording Lambert made with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall in Marfa, Texas — a tiny arts enclave in the middle of the west Texas high desert.
In this proper studio version — recorded for her 2022 album, Palomino — Lambert retains the structure and organic feel of the mostly acoustic song; light percussion and soothing atmospherics keep her emotive vocals front and center. A native Texan herself, Lambert sounds fully at home on "In His Arms."
Lambert is the only Best Country Solo Performance nominee who is nominated in all four Country Field categories in 2023. To date, Miranda Lambert has won 3 GRAMMYs and received 27 nominations overall.
Maren Morris — "Circles Around This Town"
When Maren Morris found herself uninspired and dealing with writer's block, she went back to what inspired her to move to Nashville nearly a decade ago — and out came "Circles Around This Town," the lead single from her 2022 album Humble Quest.
Written in one of her first in-person songwriting sessions since the pandemic, Morris has called "Circles Around This Town" her "most autobiographical song" to date; she even recreated her own teenage bedroom for the song's video. As she looks back to her Texas beginnings and the life she left for Nashville, Morris' voice soars over anthemic, yet easygoing production.
Morris last won a GRAMMY for Best Country Solo Performance in 2017, when her song "My Church" earned the singer her first GRAMMY. To date, Maren Morris has won one GRAMMY and received 17 nominations overall.
Willie Nelson — "Live Forever"
Country music icon Willie Nelson is no stranger to the GRAMMYs, and this year he aims to add to his collection of 10 gramophones. He earned another three nominations for 2023 — bringing his career total to 56 — including a Best Country Solo Performance nod for "Live Forever."
Nelson's performance of "Live Forever," the lead track of the 2022 tribute album Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver, is a faithful rendition of Shaver's signature song. Still, Nelson puts his own twist on the tune, recruiting Lucinda Williams for backing vocals and echoing the melody with the inimitable tone of his nylon-string Martin guitar.
Shaver, an outlaw country pioneer who passed in 2020 at 81 years old, never had any hits of his own during his lifetime. But plenty of his songs were still heard, thanks to stars like Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings. Nelson was a longtime friend and frequent collaborator of Shaver's — and now has a GRAMMY nom to show for it.
Graphic: The Recording Academy
Listen: All Of The Latin Music 2023 GRAMMY Nominees In One Playlist
Ahead of Music's Biggest Night on Feb. 5, 2023, celebrate with this immersive playlist of every Latin Field nominee at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
The Latin GRAMMYs may have just honored the genre's trailblazers in Las Vegas on Nov. 17, but the celebration will continue at the upcoming 65th GRAMMY Awards ceremony in February. There are five categories in the Latin Field of the 2023 GRAMMY nominations — and you can hear all of the nominees in one playlist.
In the Best Latin Pop Album category, are Christina Aguilera's Latin GRAMMY-winning AGUILERA will compete with Rubén Blades & Boca Livre's Pasieros, Camilo's De Adendro Pa Afuera, Fonseca's VIAJANTE, and Sebastián Yatra's Dharma+. Channeling their lively Latin roots while traversing pop landscapes, these albums all magnetically merge tradition and modernity.
Reggaeton, dancehall, hip hop, and funk coalesce in the nominated works for Best Música Urbana Album: Rauw Alejandro's Trap Cake, Vol. 2, Bad Bunny's Un Verano Sin Ti, Daddy Yankee's LEGENDADDY, Farruko's La 167, and Maluma's The Love & Sex Tape.
The genre-blending jubilation continues with the Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album category. This year's nominees are Cimafunk's El Alimento, Jorge Drexler's Tinta y Tiempo, Mon Laferte's 1940 Carmen, Gaby Moreno's Alegoría, Fito Paez's Los Años Salvajes, and Rosalía's MOTOMAMI.
For Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano), 2021 winner Natalia Lafourcade's Un Canto por México - El Musical is up against Chiquis' Abeja Reina, Los Tigres Del Norte's La Reunión (Deluxe), Christian Nodal's EP #1 Forajido, and Marco Antonio Solís' Qué Ganas de Verte (Deluxe).
As for Best Tropical Latin Album, Marc Anthony — a two-time winner in the category — returns as a nominee with Pa'lla Voy, alongside pioneers Tito Nieves (nominated for Legendario), La Santa Cecilia (Quiero Verte Feliz), Víctor Manuelle (Lado A Lado B), Spanish Harlem Orchestra (Imágenes Latinas), and Carlos Vives (Cumbiana II).
Listen to all of the above albums in this comprehensive, 338-song playlist of the Latin music GRAMMY nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.