Graphic: The Recording Academy
The 2023 Special Merit Awards honorees include Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Ma Rainey, Bobby McFerrin and many others. The Special Merit Awards Ceremony returns to Los Angeles as an in-person event in February during GRAMMY Week 2023.
With the 2023 GRAMMYs season in full swing, the Recording Academy has announced the 2023 Special Merit Awards honorees.
Bobby McFerrin, Nirvana, Ma Rainey, Nile Rodgers, Slick Rick "The Ruler," The Supremes, and Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson of Heart are the 2023 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipients; Henry Diltz, Ellis Marsalis and Jim Stewart are the Trustees Award recipients; and the Audio Engineering Society (AES) and Dr. Andy Hildebrand are the Technical GRAMMY Award honorees. The Best Song For Social Change honoree will be announced at a later date.
The Recording Academy's corresponding Special Merit Awards Ceremony celebrating the 2023 Special Merit Awards recipients will return as an in-person event for the first time since 2020 on Feb. 4, 2023, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles during GRAMMY Week 2023.
"The Academy is proud to celebrate this diverse slate of influential music people spanning numerous genres and crafts as our 2023 Special Merit Awards honorees," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. said. "Each creator on this list has made an impact on our industry — from technical to creative achievements — representing the breadth of music's diverse community. We're excited to celebrate this group of legends next month that continues to inspire and shape the music world."
Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees: This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy's National Trustees to performers^ who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording; ^through 1972, recipients included non-performers.
Bobby McFerrin is a 10-time GRAMMY Award winner who has blurred the distinction between pop music and fine art. His exploration of uncharted vocal territory inspired a whole new generation of a cappella singers and the beatbox movement. From his trailblazing, solo a cappella performances to his inspired collaborations with Chick Corea and Yo-Yo Ma, his iconic global No. 1 hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and his work conducting top-tier orchestras, McFerrin's calling has always been to connect people through the unlimited possibilities of music. McFerrin redefined the role of the human voice with his experiments in multi-tracking, his collaborations, his improvising choir Voicestra, and his legendary solo performances.
Nirvana was formed in 1987 by Kurt Cobain^ and Krist Novoselic and emerged from the Pacific Northwest onto the world stage with the 1989 release of its debut album Bleach. Two years later Nirvana's sophomore album Nevermind would spark a seismic shift in global youth culture. Rising to No. 1 worldwide and featuring GRAMMY Hall of Fame® single "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nevermind‘s impact would transform Cobain, Novoselic and Dave Grohl into one of the most successful and influential musical entities of all time. Nirvana's third and ultimately final studio album, In Utero, was released in 1993, completing an indelible run that returned rock 'n' roll integrity and passion to the top of the charts. With a 2014 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and more than 75 million records sold, Nirvana continues to be a singular inspiration for generations of fans and musicians the world over.
Ma Rainey^ (Gertrude Pridgett Rainey), often called the "Mother of the Blues," was known for her deep voice and mesmerizing stage presence that drew packed audiences in the early twentieth century. A songwriter as well as a performer, her lyrics and melodies reflected her experiences as an independent, openly bisexual African-American woman. Rainey signed a recording contract with Paramount Records in 1923, making her one of the earliest recorded blues musicians. Between 1923 and 1928, she recorded almost 100 records, many of them national hits that are now part of the American musical canon. Her 1924 recording of "See See Rider Blues" (for which she was accompanied by a young Louis Armstrong) was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry in 2004.
Nile Rodgers is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and a multiple GRAMMY Award-winning songwriter, composer, producer, arranger, and guitarist. As the co-founder of CHIC, Rodgers pioneered a musical language that generated chart-topping hits like "Le Freak," the biggest-selling single in the history of Atlantic Records, and sparked the advent of hip-hop with "Good Times." His work in the CHIC Organization including "We Are Family" with Sister Sledge and "I'm Coming Out" with Diana Ross and his productions for artists like David Bowie ("Let's Dance"), Madonna ("Like A Virgin") and Duran Duran ("The Reflex") have sold over 500 million albums and 100 million singles worldwide while his innovative, trendsetting collaborations with Daft Punk, Daddy Yankee and Beyoncé reflect the vanguard of contemporary hits.
Slick Rick "The Ruler,” renowned as "THE most sampled hip-hop artist in history" and "Hip-hop's greatest storyteller" has set the pace for rap's past, present, and future. The Ruler's catalog, which includes the anthems "La-Di-Da-Di" and "The Show," boasts over 850 samples, ranging from Snoop Dogg's "Lodi Dodi" through Beyoncé and J. Cole's "Party." Noted as "the third artist signed to Def Jam Recordings" and "the most successful British-American rapper," his multi-platinum discography encompasses The Great Adventures of Slick Rick , The Ruler's Back , Behind Bars , and The Art of Storytelling . VH1 Hip Hop Honors celebrated him in 2008, and The Source ranked him among the Top 3 of its "Top 50 Lyricists of All Time."
Two-time GRAMMY Award nominees The Supremes were the leading act of Motown Records during the 1960s. Founded by Diana Ross, Mary Wilson^ and Florence Ballard^, The Supremes were trailblazers in the history of music, transcending all genres as the first female group that defined a generation. They were leaders at a pivotal time during the American Civil Rights movement by bringing together audiences that had racial cultural differences through their style and music. Named the No. 1 female recording group of all time by Billboard in 2017, the group achieved an unprecedented 12 No. 1 hits and five consecutive No. 1s from 1964-1965 with "Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love," "Come See About Me," "Stop! In the Name of Love," and "Back in My Arms Again." The Supremes were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 with The Beatles, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994, and were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.
Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson are being recognized as Lifetime Achievement Award honorees for their creative work with the rock band Heart. Heart was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, sold over 35 million records, garnered four GRAMMY Award nominations, landed 10 Top 10 albums, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, had several No. 1 hits, and achieved "the longest span of top 10 albums on the Billboard charts by a female-led band." Heart's influence can be palpably felt everywhere from rock and heavy metal to hip-hop and pop. As a result, their music resonates in nearly every corner of pop culture.
Read More: GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Awards | The Complete List
Trustees Award Honorees: This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy's National Trustees to individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance^, to the field of recording; ^through 1983, recipients included performers.
Henry Diltz photographed more than 250 album covers and thousands of publicity shots in the 1960s and 1970s as a music photographer, including the iconic Morrison Hotel cover for the Doors. Other artists, whose fly-on-the-wall style portraits he's known for, include musical legends such as the Eagles, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, America, Steppenwolf, James Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, The Monkees, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, and David Cassidy. He was the official photographer at the Woodstock festival in August 1969. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, LIFE, People, Rolling Stone, High Times, and Billboard.
Ellis Marsalis^ was a jazz pianist and music educator regarded by many as the premier modern jazz pianist in New Orleans. He began formal music studies at the Xavier University Junior School of Music at age 11 and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in music education from Dillard University in 1955. In 1986, Marsalis accepted the position of commonwealth professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., where he spent two of the three years as coordinator of jazz studies before returning to New Orleans to become the University of New Orleans' first occupant of the Coca-Cola-endowed chair of jazz studies. In 2008 he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and in 2011, he was honored with the NEA Jazz Masters Award, along with his sons Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason, given to the Marsalis family.
Jim Stewart^ founded Stax Records and produced some of the greatest rhythm and blues (R&B) records of the 1960s. He was instrumental in launching the careers of Otis Redding, the Bar-Kays, Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd, Booker T. & the M.G.s, the Staple Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Rufus and Carla Thomas, and hundreds of others. With Stewart at the helm, Stax moved some 800 singles and 300 albums, placing more than 167 hit songs in the Top 100 on the pop charts, and a staggering 243 hits in the Top 100 R&B charts. Stewart was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 by Steve Cropper of Booker T. & the M.G.'s, and Sam Moore of Sam & Dave. In 2012, he was also among the first class of inductees to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.
Read More: GRAMMY Trustees Awards | The Complete List
Technical GRAMMY Award Honorees: This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Producers & Engineers Wing® Advisory Council and Chapter Committees and ratification by the Recording Academy's National Trustees to individuals and/or companies/organizations/institutions who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.
The Audio Engineering Society (AES) is the only professional society devoted exclusively to advancing audio technology. Founded in 1948 with the key goals of collecting, collating and disseminating knowledge of audio science and its application, AES facilitates communication and collaboration that unites audio engineers, creative artists, scientists, and students, with hundreds of local sections worldwide. 75 years on, AES's members continue to set precedents and standards wherever sound and technology meet, from recording and entertainment to scientific research in emerging fields such as Spatial and Game Audio, Networking and Streaming, and Audio for Virtual and Augmented Reality.
Dr. Andy Hildebrand graduated with a Ph.D. EE from the University of Illinois in 1976, specializing in stochastic processes and estimation theory. After studying music composition at Rice's Shepard School of Music, Hildebrand developed an interest in audio data processing and founded Antares Audio Technology in 1990. At Antares, Hildebrand created the groundbreaking Auto-Tune software program, which was first released in 1997. In 2011, Hildebrand was inducted into the TEC Foundation's "Technology Hall of Fame" for the invention of Auto-Tune.
^Denotes posthumous honoree.
Read More: GRAMMY Technical Awards | The Complete List
2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List
Graphic: The Recording Academy
The Recording Academy is hosting a ticket giveaway contest where five lucky winners will receive two (2) tickets to attend the 2023 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 5, at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Have you always dreamed of attending Music’s Biggest Night? Here's your chance to finally make it happen!
Music fans can now enter our official 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards Ticket Giveaway Contest for a chance to attend the 2023 GRAMMYs.
Five lucky winners, randomly selected, will receive two tickets to the 2023 GRAMMYs, which take place Sunday, Feb. 5, at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA.
To enter, submit your information on the official contest submission page, subscribe to the GRAMMY.com newsletter, and follow the Recording Academy on Instagram and TikTok to be eligible. All entries must be submitted by 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Winners will be named and notified on Thursday, Jan. 26. Any variation from the required submission format will not be considered for entry. All submissions are final
This contest is open only to legal residents of the United States who are 18 years of age or older at time of entry. Read the official contest rules below before entering.
*Please note: Travel to and accommodation at the event is not included.
The official contest rules and information can be found below and on the official contest submission page.
Official Rules / 65th GRAMMY Awards Ticket Giveaway
THIS CONTEST IS OPEN ONLY TO LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES WHO ARE 18 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER AT TIME OF ENTRY.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR CLAIM PRIZE. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING.
1. ELIGIBILITY: The “65th Annual GRAMMY® Awards Ticket Giveaway” Contest (the “Contest”) is open to legal residents of the United States, 18 years of age or older at time of entry. Officers, directors, regular, full-time, part-time and temporary employees, contractors, interns, GRAMMY U representatives, and anyone previously employed within six months of the date of entry, and agents of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. (“THE RECORDING ACADEMY” or “Sponsor”), the GRAMMY Museum Foundation, Inc., MusiCares Foundation, Inc., The Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc., and their respective affiliated companies, agencies, and immediate families (collectively, the “THE RECORDING ACADEMY Affiliates”) are not eligible to participate. The Contest is governed by U.S. law, is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, and is void where prohibited. All individual entrants must read and acknowledge these Official Rules.
2. OVERVIEW: The Recording Academy is hosting the Contest to provide music fans an opportunity to enter for a chance to attend the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards Show on Sunday, February 5, 2023 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. The Contest Winners (the “Winners”) will be randomly selected after the entry period has concluded. By entering the Contest, entrants fully and unconditionally agree to be bound by these Official Rules.
3. HOW TO ENTER: Subscribe to the GRAMMY.com newsletter and follow the Recording Academy on TikTok and Instagram to enter. All entries must be received by 9 p.m. ET | 6 p.m. PT on January 25, 2023. Any variation from the required submission format will not be considered for entry. All submissions are final.
4. SELECTION OF WINNERS: Entrants agree to accept these Official Rules and the decisions of the committee as final. Five (5) Winners will be named and notified by email or Instagram direct messages by January 26, 2023. Neither The Recording Academy nor its affiliates or agencies are responsible for lost, late, stolen, misdirected, or delayed notifications. The Winners will have two (2) business days to claim their prizes. If no response is received in two (2) business days, alternative Winners will be chosen. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation and accommodation costs related to attending the 65th GRAMMY Awards Show. Limit one (1) Winner per household throughout the entire Contest. Any questions regarding the determination of the Winner will be decided in the sole discretion of Sponsor, whose decisions are final and binding in all matters relating to this Contest.
5. PRIZES: There are a total of five (5) Winners. The Winners will receive two (2) bronze level tickets to attend the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards, with a retail value of seven hundred and fifty dollars ($750). Prizes are non-transferable and cannot be substituted by the Winners or redeemed for cash value. The Recording Academy may substitute a prize of equal or greater value in its sole discretion. An individual may only participate one time over the course of the Contest. The Winners agree and are solely responsible for payment of any and all applicable income or other taxes or fees due for or on account of any prize(s) or consideration received as a result of this Contest. The Winners understand that if applicable, they will be issued an IRS 1099 MISC Form in the amount equal to the retail value of their prize for the year in which the prize was awarded. Unclaimed or rejected prizes will not be awarded.
6. REDEEMING PRIZES: All potential participants are subject to verification at the sole discretion of The Recording Academy. Anti-fraud detection devices may be used to verify winning entries. As part of the verification process, The Recording Academy may require Winners to sign and return a Confirmation of Eligibility & Liability/Publicity Release within a specified time period, or the prize may be forfeited.
7. REPRESENTATIONS AND WARRANTIES: Entrant represents and warrants that: (a) he/she is the sole and exclusive owner of all rights to the Materials submitted as part of the entry process, including without limitation any and all copyrights therein, and the Materials are free of any adverse claim by any person or entity; (b) the Materials do not infringe the copyright, literary, privacy, publicity, trademark, service mark, trade name, trade secret, intellectual property right, or any other personal or property right of any person or entity; (c) the Materials will not constitute a libel or defamation of any third party; (d) the Materials do not contain any material that otherwise violates any criminal prohibition or the personal or proprietary rights of any person or entity; and (e) the Materials do not violate any federal, state or local laws or ordinances.
8. RELEASE OF LIABILITY: By participating, entrant releases The Recording Academy Affiliates and their present and future parents, affiliates, successors, subsidiaries, licensees, assigns and related companies, and the past and present officers, directors, trustees, governors, volunteers, employees, representatives, agents, and advertising and promotion agencies of each of the foregoing, and all others associated with the development and execution of this Contest, from and against any and all injury, loss or damage caused or claimed to be caused by his/her participation in the Contest and/or the acceptance, awarding, receipt, use and/or misuse of any prize, and entrant agrees that these entities are in no manner responsible for any warranty, representation, or guarantee, expressed or implied, in fact or in law, relating to the Contest and/or the awarding of any prize.
9. GENERAL: All federal, state and local laws apply. By participating, entrants agree (i) to be bound by these Official Rules, including all eligibility requirements, and (ii) to be bound by the decisions of The Recording Academy, which are final and binding in all matters relating to the Contest. The Recording Academy is not responsible for lost, late, misdirected, damaged, garbled or illegible entries; The Recording Academy reserves the right to permanently disqualify from this Contest any person it believes has violated these Official Rules. By accepting or participating in a prize, each Winner irrevocably consents to the use of such Winners’ name, likeness, image, voice, performance (in connection with interviews and other recordings), biographical information, and statements relating to the Contest or The Recording Academy Affiliates, without further compensation, in all world-wide marketing, promotion, and publicity carried out in perpetuity by any of The Recording Academy Affiliates in connection with this Contest. The Recording Academy reserves the right to terminate, cancel, suspend and/or modify the Contest if any fraud, virus or other problem corrupts the administration, security, or proper play of the Contest, as determined by The Recording Academy in its sole discretion. If Contest is terminated before the end date/time, The Recording Academy will determine the Winners from all eligible entries received as of the termination date/time. If any such malfunction, error, disruption or similar damage occurs and impairs the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper play of the Contest, The Recording Academy may, in its sole discretion, suspend or terminate the Contest by posting a notice at https://www.instagram.com/recordingacademy/.
10. DISCLAIMERS: Under no circumstances, including negligence, shall any of The Recording Academy Affiliates, or any of their respective present and future parents, affiliates, successors, subsidiaries, licensees, assigns and related companies, or the past and present officers, directors, trustees, governors, volunteers, employees, representatives, agents, and advertising and promotion agencies of each of the foregoing, be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special or consequential damages, including without limitation, property damage, personal injury and/or death, resulting from participation in the Contest or acceptance, use or misuse of any prize. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the event that the preceding release is determined by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or void for any reason, the entrant agrees that, by entering the Contest, (a) any and all disputes, claims, and causes of action arising out of or in connection with the Contest, or any prizes awarded, shall be resolved individually without resort to any form of class action; (b) any claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, including costs associated with entering the Contest, but in no event attorney’s fees; and (c) under no circumstances will any entrant be permitted to obtain any award for, and entrant hereby waives all rights to claim, punitive, incidental or consequential damages and any and all rights to have damages multiplied or otherwise increased and any other damages, other than damages for actual out-of-pocket expenses. Entrants hereby acknowledge that The Recording Academy Affiliates have neither made nor are in any manner responsible or liable for any warranty, representation or guarantee, express or implied (including, but not limited to warranties of any kind concerning the appearance, safety or performance of any prize), in fact or in law, relative to any prize. Each Winner shall bear all risk of loss or damage to his/her prize after it has been delivered to such Winner via U.S. Mail, FedEx, United Parcel Service, or any other shipping agent.
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2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List
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Celebrate ahead of Music's Biggest Night on Feb. 5, 2023, with this playlist of every Alternative nominee at the 2023 GRAMMYs including Arctic Monkeys, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Björk & more.
Alternative music triumphed in 2022, glistening with ambition, sincerity and yearning.
The Recording Academy introduced several new categories for the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, including an addition to the alternative genre's honors: Best Alternative Music Performance. Together with Best Alternative Music Album, these two categories celebrate the alternative genre's greatest music makers.
In the recently added Best Alternative Music Performance category, Arctic Monkeys are nominated for their down-to-earth track about a doomed relationship "There'd Better Be A Mirrorball," alongside Big Thief's folksy "Certainty" and Florence + The Machine's acute "King," which both examine a precarious future with sharpness and heart.
Best New Artist nominee Wet Leg's tongue-in-cheek wit shines through on "Chaise Longue." In the same category, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Perfume Genius unite with a beautifully ominous quality on "Spitting Off The Edge Of The World."
Embracing visionary eclecticism, the following albums are nominated for Best Alternative Music Album: Arcade Fire's WE, Big Thief's Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, Björk's Fossora, Wet Leg's Wet Leg, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Cool It Down.
Listen to all of the above songs and albums in this comprehensive playlist of the Alternative Music GRAMMY nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
Check it out on Amazon Music. Find out who wins on Music's Biggest Night on Sunday, Feb. 5!
Playlist powered by GRAMMY U.
2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List
Photo: Alysse Gafkjen
On her new album 'Strays' and memoir 'Maybe We Can Make It,' singer/songwriter Margo Price dug deep, but offered herself a bit of grace. The releases meditate on forgiveness, self-image and substance abuse —all with a heaping helping of rock and humor.
Margo Price is beaming with excitement. In the early weeks of 2023, the outspoken songwriter finally has the chance to tour the world again with her band, and is embracing the opportunity to continue to better herself.
"I have never felt this happy, this energetic, this full of life," Price tells GRAMMY.com about the joy she’s felt since she quit drinking two years ago. "It's almost just like waking up all over again and getting to try everything for the first time. I thought it was going to be really scary, but it's just been exciting."
The past few years have played a major role in Price's newfound understanding and growth. In her memoir Maybe We Can Make It, which was released last fall, Price chronicles the highs and lows of her musical journey, focusing on themes of loyalty, loss, grief, and forgiveness. "I really was peering inside," Price recalls. "I was able to give myself compassion, grace, and not be so full of shame really with a lot of the mistakes I've made."
A psychedelic, six-day writing session in the summer of 2020 provided Price with the opportunity for further reflection, and informed her decision to stop drinking. The result is Strays, a Jonathan Wilson-produced album out Jan. 13. The rock-leaning record features many of the same themes as her memoir, and explores topics such as substance abuse, self-image, abortion rights, and orgasms. In her examination of loss, lies and failure, Price learned how to let go of trauma — and Strays captures that newfound freedom.
She’s grown other projects, including the podcast "Runaway Horses," which features interviews with Price's music heroes such as Emmylou Harris and Bob Weir. "I truly enjoyed it just as a music fan myself, to be able to talk about some of the different choices that can be made in music and to be able to talk with people who think outside of the box," she says.
GRAMMY.com caught up with the singer/songwriter to discuss how her new album, memoir and other projects have allowed her to grow and deepen her understanding of self.
With each project, it seems like you've gotten much more confident in expressing yourself and talking about personal issues more openly. Why did you feel it was the time to write a memoir?
I have always dreamed of being an author. I'm an avid reader. I think that I owe a lot to literature and its influence on my music and my work in general, so it just felt like a really natural progression for me. I've always enjoyed writing autobiographical songs. As they say, "you write what you know."
When I found myself pregnant with my daughter Ramona and I had come off the road after everything kind of exploded after signing with Third Man and doing the late-night TV circuit and being nominated for a GRAMMY and all those things, I needed somewhere to put all that energy. It felt really natural, and I really got into the flow of writing. I would wake up and take my son to school, and then I would go to a coffee shop, and I would write for about five to six hours a day. After I had my daughter, I got back to touring and being on the road for a while, and so it kind of sat there. And then when the pandemic hit, well, that seemed like as good a time as any to finish the memoir.
It must have been interesting not having a limit of a song’s length.
Oh, for sure. I feel like it always takes me a lot of words to get around to the point. So yeah, it felt like just a big release. As cliche as it sounds, I have figured out so much about myself, about my personality through going back and reading the first draft of the book. Once I started the editing process, I was going pretty deep into my psyche and really evaluating my life choices, reframing a lot of things in my mind.
I keep joking that writing the book was kind of some sick form of therapy. We're all just humans, and we're all just trying to figure this experience out. I think that vulnerability is really a strength that not a lot of people know how to cultivate. For years, I was scared to go into a lot of those vulnerable places. I was afraid of being judged. It was really eye-opening.
How did the experience writing the memoir most impact the writing of the new album?
It brought up so many things from my past. I was definitely in a very reflective mind state. I think there was a lot of what I was writing in the memoir that did end up coming through in some of the songs. I think a lot of people will be connecting the dots between the two, because I was working on both of them [at the same time]. I was working on the book for about four and a half years, and I've been working on this album for about two and a half, three years. They definitely did influence each other.
Thematically, the album's songs are largely about fighting for something, whether that's survival, being heard, fighting your demons, or being loved. What about that truthful yet hopeful theme appealed to you?
This life is about survival and about trying to find your way. While writing the album, I had several psychedelic experiences that were really spiritual. I think that definitely also influenced my writing over this time period, and I wanted to just continue to unapologetically be myself. I think that we are in just such troubled times in the world.
Always with my art, but especially on this last album, it is about finding your peace and finding your place in the world. One of the ways that I've kind of moved through my trauma and through difficult times in my life is being able to reflect upon it in my art and hopefully also connect with people. That's one of the biggest things that keeps me doing it, is being able to connect with others and share the pain and misery and beauty of life.
You've said that you felt an urgency to be creative and that you had a moral obligation to pursue it, even if it wasn't the easy popular path. Why was that an important realization?
I think when you break through and you are in a genre and labeled as one thing, many times fans come to expect that from you. There's been people that I have greatly admired who have the ability to reinvent themselves and to evolve and to grow. I didn't want to fall into the trap of making the same albums and just staying in one small lane to be popular.
I wanted to be able to explore. Before I made Midwest Farmer's Daughter, I had tried on many different genres. I had been in many different bands and projects. I had studied folk music and even classical mezzo Italian soprano style singing. There were a lot of things that I've been influenced by, so I just wanted to be able to touch on any of those things and not feel like I had to get stuck.
On album opener "Been to the Mountain," you examine this idea of reaching a free and stray-like state. What about strays and that free state do you find appealing?
Many times, our lives feel like they're written out and we're just on autopilot. During the pandemic and just during the whole time of lockdown, I was just reevaluating a lot of the things that I had been doing day to day, and things that I thought were rebellion or things that I thought were making me happy. And I realized that a lot of them weren't.
A lot of it was due to my experiences that I've had with psychedelics and psilocybin mushrooms. I wanted the whole album to feel like a psychedelic trip, or it could just be an entire life that happens before your eyes. There's going to be happiness, and there's going to be joy, and there's going to be pain and difficult things.
You’ve mentioned wanting the album to feel more like an epic listening experience rather than a typical album listening experience.
Yeah. Jonathan Wilson, the producer, really helped steer the ship and guide us into this new sonic territory. My band and I have been together for a really, really long time. Some of us for over a decade. I think when people come to our live show, they're always really blown away by the experience. That's difficult to capture in the studio. I think in the past I've been rushed on projects either because I did not have the budget, or I didn't have the time. I just had a burning in me to get the next thing out. With this project, it seemed like I had nothing but time, and I just wanted to get it right.
We went out to South Carolina. We took a writing retreat, and then we did pre-production demos, just the band and I in the studio. I sent those along to a bunch of different producers, and then ended up talking to so many different producers, but I knew Jonathan was the one. So, we went out, and the band and I got an Airbnb together. We took a lot of psychedelics and hung out there and worked on the record for a long time. And then we did more sessions in Nashville at a place called Creative Workshop Studios and another place in Berry Hill. I just kept writing and writing and writing more songs.
Honestly, I had enough for a double album. I have about three unreleased albums that I'm working on right now. I have a psychedelic gospel record that I recorded right after All American Made. I have Strays Part Two, and then I have this other project that I was working on during the pandemic at the Cash Cabin with John Carter Cash. We have so much material right now, so many things that we've been working on.
The new songs tackle subjects that people often have a hard time talking about. For example, you reflect on giving up alcohol a couple years ago and how that's freed you to discover yourself, your self-worth, and better yourself.
There is such a misconception about drinking, at least this is how I used to feel. It was framed in my mind that drinking alcohol and living hard, that was rebellion. But honestly, once you strip all of that away, all of that numbing, I've been feeling my feelings. I know that sounds a little woo-woo. I have truly been able to look at my life, to look at my experiences, my flaws in a clearer light. When I was numbing all the time with booze, there's just a kind of facade that you're living in. I'm not saying that everybody is using alcohol that way, but I definitely was.
At times, my alcohol use was fine. It was healthy, and it was under control, and it was normal. But there is that gray area in drinking that I think so many people deal with. So many people don't want to talk about it because of the way that this country and this society has framed it where it's like, "Okay, there's people who are alcoholics and they are flawed, and then there's other people that are just normal drinkers." That is not true. If you actually go and do the studies and do the research, alcoholism, there's no genetic thing there that says that you have a gene that makes you an alcoholic.
There's just so much stigma around quitting. Truthfully, I had a psychedelic journey that led me to the decision that I could quit drinking, and it didn't have to be the way that it's been in our society. This January will be two years for me. I have never felt this happy, this energetic, this full of life. It's almost just like waking up all over again and getting to try everything for the first time. I thought it was going to be really scary, but it's just been exciting. I can't wait to see where the next few years take me.
The album features several collaborations, including "Light Me Up" with Mike Campbell. Why did you feel he would fit this song?
He’s one of the best guitar players that are out there and still playing today. We had an incredible time doing some writing sessions with Mike. I grew up on the Heartbreakers. I think it's some of the best American songwriting that there is with the writing that Tom Petty and Mike Campbell achieved.
He did pretty much one take on that solo for "Light Me Up," and it was exactly what it needed to be. Mike has just really taught us so much about writing and recording and performing and just what it means to be in a band and to play music for a living.
The song "Lydia" has powerful, stream of conscious lyrics. Why did that format seem important to capture the sentiment in the song?
That was one of those songs that really felt like it came to me from somewhere else. It was just one of those spiritual moments that keeps me coming back to songwriting.
The lyrics for "Lydia" came to me when I was in a little bit of a dark place that day. I was really kind of just feeling for people who live below the poverty line and who find themselves in bad situations. It was a reflection of a lot of places I'd seen touring, a lot of the faces that I'd seen outside of this Methadone Clinic in Vancouver.
I wrote that song, and I kind of sat on it for a really long time because I didn't feel that it was fitting to record for, say, Rumors. I just didn't feel like it fit on the album. I'm glad that I finally got it down. I just really loved the strings that Jonathan and Drew [Erickson] added. It just made the whole thing come together.
Last year you became the first female artist on the board of the Farm Aid organization. What does it mean to add your voice to that organization?
Becoming the first female musician to be on the board of Farm Aid is my most precious achievement so far. It means a lot to my family. It's really something to be named next to Willie Nelson and Neil Young. I've admired their songwriting my whole life, and it just gets me choked up just thinking about it. My entire life, I had this vendetta that I wanted to help make things right for not only my family and the farm that they lost, but just for farmers all over America.
I'm still trying to figure out how I can do more, because I think that the climate crisis and the climate change that we are facing, Farm Aid has been thinking about all of these things for a long time. They are really set up to help make food justice for everyone. It affects us all. If we can figure out how to create more farms and how to preserve the family farms that we have and all this regenerative farming, there's so many things out there. It’s definitely my crowning achievement.
Your husband Jeremy has been an important part of your recent songwriting, and your psychedelic trip to South Carolina really helped you. What did it mean to be able to share that experience with him?
Well, Jeremy, he's been in my life for 19 years. We truly have a way of writing together that is just on a deeper level than co-writes that I could have with other people, because he knows everything that I've been through. He's able to really write from my perspective. I also think that he's just one of the best writers of our time. He's going to be one of those people who is discovered later. He put out a great record [last] year, and it just really flew under the radar. I see him as an Elliot Smith, Bob Dylan-like writer. He's my secret weapon. I really am grateful that I get to work with him.
As I mentioned in my memoir, we've definitely had our share of troubles after losing a child and just being in the music business for a couple decades. I'm happy that we get to be together and raise kids and make music. It's a bit of a fairytale.
You capture that sentiment in "Anytime You Call" quite well.
We were having a really challenging time. We were in Santa Fe when he wrote that song. We were a hold up there writing some songs, and I was working on my memoir. When I came into the room, he played that song for me. I just started bawling.. I had to add it to the album, because it had such a Kinks’ "Strangers" kind of feel to it. I've always loved Lucius and their harmonies, and especially their rendition of that song. I asked them to put their magic touch on it, and it just made the whole thing come alive.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
I am looking forward to so much this year. I’m going on my first headlining tour since 2018. I didn't know when I did my last headlining tour that I was going to get pregnant and then that the pandemic was going to hit, so I feel like I have been waiting for this for five years. The band and I are sounding better than ever and getting out and doing these headlining shows has just been such a release.
I've also been working on a film with a friend of mine. His name is Joshua Weinstein. I've got a lot of songs that I've been writing. I'm ready to get back into the studio again here and start recording the next album.
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Photo: Grant Spanier
In celebration of his 2023 GRAMMY nominations and many contributions to electronic music, producer, DJ and musician Bonobo reflects on his favorite productions.
Los Angeles-based producer, DJ and musician Bonobo is a beat master and sampling champ known for his chilled electronic soundscapes and globally inspired, jazzy rhythms. Listening to a Bonobo album is like going on a guided tour of a lively market; it’s an expansive, vibrant sampling of sounds and flavors that remains entirely tasty and cohesive.
"I'm always trying to find something to be excited about," Bonobo tells GRAMMY.com. "If that's a new way of doing stuff; like working on samplers to working on Ableton, to now working with modular synths. There's always got to be an element of exploration, that intrigue is what keeps it exciting."
The Brighton-born artist dropped his seventh studio album, Fragments, at the beginning of 2022, its ocean of emotions born during the early days of the pandemic. Fragments is currently nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album and its lead single "Rosewood" is up for Best Dance/Electronic Recording at the upcoming 2023 GRAMMYs.
Now with a total of seven GRAMMY nominations, Bonobo has reached another career pinnacle. Yet his roots remain ever-relevant and ripe for a revisit, with each release unfurling new movement and exploration.
After a few singles and EPs, Bonobo dropped his trip-hop-leaning debut full-length, 2000's Animal Magic, and signed to legendary U.K. dance label Ninja Tune the following year. He began to introduce collaborators on his third release, linking with German poet and vocalist Bajka on 2006's Days To Come. 2010's Black Sands further expanded Bonobo's sonic world through the introduction of live instrumentation in studio and onstage.
Bonobo's global travels inspired 2013's The North Borders — which opens with the enchantingly moody "First Fires" and features the standout "Heaven for the Sinner" with Erykah Badu — and and he brought a nomadic energy to the aptly named 2017 project Migration.
He has since settled in Los Angeles and, as with many touring artists, spent his longest period at home in 2020. The result was Fragments, which was recorded during lockdown with virtual collaborators Jordan Rakei, Jamila Woods, Joji and Kadhja Bonet. We’ll have to wait to discover what’s next in Bonobo’s sonic world, but the energetic non-Fragments singles he released in late 2022 may be a taste.
In celebration of his 2023 GRAMMY nominations and his many contributions to electronic music, Bonobo reflected on some of his favorite productions. Calling in from Lithuania at the tail end of his massive Fragmentstour, Bonobo broke down some of his most beloved tracks from his discography — including his all-time favorite production.
"Rosewood" was the last one, it was kind of the missing piece of the record [Fragments]. It was from this iPhone recording that I had of me just messing around on the piano in my house, from ages ago….which is the main loop. And then I started adding kick drums and other elements on it. The basis of it had this almost Nina Simone "Sinnerman" kind of feel.
For "Rosewood," I was going for classic Detroit-y house. I was listening to Theo Parrish and Kerri Chandler and that percussive, loop-based kind of house music. That was the mood, at least.
I was working with a sample that I'd found from archives of a Bulgarian choir that was recorded in the '20s. That was the main part of the song. I was messing around with that and harmonizing it and trying some chords. This was at the time when you couldn't get in the room with people and I was stuck on how to structure the song.
I like the way O’Flynn switches between very melodic stuff and big percussive stuff, so I was thinking that maybe he was the person to get this one to the finish line, which he did.
"Otomo" is named after Katsuhiro Otomo, who is the creator of [the manga and 1988 animated film] Akira. I liked the mix of the choral and percussion sounds from Akira and that was an influence for “Otomo.”
The Class Action sample [1983's "Weekend"] was a Paradise Garage classic. "Heartbreak" is a homage to a few different eras of dance music, having that throwback to '80s disco, that '90s breakbeat and something more contemporary as well. It's a real patchwork of different dance floor eras.
I collabed with Orlando [Higginbottom a.k.a.], Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. He had the palette of the tune already and I came in and arranged it and added the vocal, which fit quite nicely.
There are a lot of classic drum breaks in there, little nods to the era of '90s rave and breakbeat and drum and bass. For the synths and other sounds, it's actually a lot of chopped up — micro-chopped — samples. A lot of it is sample-based.
That one I started as a kind of loop. I was messing around on a Rhodes piano. The drums were a big part too. I added a sample of a Moroccan Gnawa recording from the '70s, I think, but I realized it would be more interesting to record [something new instead]. I knew of these Gnawa players that are based in Brooklyn [Innov Gnawa], so we went to a studio in Greenpoint [Brooklyn] and recorded.
That group is great and ended up coming out on tour with us for a bit. It was this big, impactful dance floor moment, and then having that extra element — Moroccan Gnawa music is ceremonial music, so it was a version of traditional songs but they changed the lyrical narrative to something a bit more secular.
I discovered Gnawa music from spending time in Morocco. I really like that style of North African music. Besides being in Morocco, it's something I listen to a lot anyway. I recorded a lot of music with Innov Gnawa, there are a few other tracks we did. There were also different, longer versions of the single. A good amount of that session was expanded and extended and is out there.
I had that tune for a while, it was just an instrumental. I met Erykah through a project she was doing with Mark Ronson. "Heaven For The Sinner" was the last piece on North Borders. She was in Dallas and I was in New York, and she recorded little bits; she'd do about one line a day over a long course of time, so it was taking the idea she had for the tune and piecing it together. It was an assembly of various recordings.
[I didn't change the instrumental] too much because I'd already left a lot of space for her voice. Mostly when I'm working with vocalists, the track is fairly complete.
She joined us for a few tour dates. At the San Francisco show, we did a version of that song and of "Bag Lady" — it was a beautiful, magical moment.
I was living in London at the time [and] I was very immersed in what was happening in London around 2008, 2009, which was sort of the post-dubstep scene with [the club] Plastic People and [one of its club nights] FWD>>.
That tune was just a beat, really. My friend came over and listened to some stuff I was working on. I played him the instrumental for "Eyesdown" and he was like, "Wait, what was that one?" I was surprised that was the one that he liked, it was something I could've thrown in the trash at any point. But he was like, "Yes, that’s the one!" I was all, "Oh s—, okay. I'll work on it."
The cherry on top is Andreya's vocal, which is actually just one line repeated a few times throughout the track. I produced her first album; we were spending a lot of time working on her record in my studio. Once we were working on her record, it was a case of me asking "Do you have any ideas for this song?" So we were doing vocal takes for Black Sands at the same time we were making her record. We had a year long of working together a lot.
I think that actually started out as a remix for someone else, and I was like, "Nah, you're not having that" and ended up keeping the beat. I was really happy with that one. I'd been working with Tom Chant who's a woodwind player. He did the intro, that really strange sound, which is made with a technique he has of playing the alto saxophone with the end on his leg; it has insane harmonics. We were recording together a lot at the time. He also recorded the saxophone parts on Black Sands.
It was that very simple, heavy beat and some of those weird saxophone harmonics and Bajka's vocal.
Oh yeah! That was a sample from one of those big band records from the '60s, these sort of party records. The production on them is insane. It's the build, the tunka tunk tunka tunk, and it just looped up really well. I was like "This is fun" and that was kind of it, it was quite simple. It came together quite quickly, as I remember. It was a fun process making that one. I was in [his hometown] Brighton at the time. But honestly, I don't remember that much because it was such a long time ago.
Ooh, [my favorite production from another artist has] probably got to be Madlib's beats for Erykah Badu's "The Healer" from [2008's] New Ameryka. I think that's my favorite beat that's been made.
Sonically, it's crazy, like nothing I've ever heard. There's a sample from a Japanese prog rock band, and it's all these very quiet sounds against delicate sounds that are very prominent and there's all this incredible stuff going on. Madlib on that beat is one of the most incredible productions I've heard.
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