With the 2013 Billboard Music Awards rapidly approaching, we caught up with BBMA finalist Neyla Pekarek from The Lumineers to help recount the incredible high points, new discoveries and memorable moments that caught her ears during the past 12 months.
The Lumineers' breakout 2012 single "Ho Hey" peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 and they're up for the Top New Artist award.
Watch the 2013 Billboard Music Awards Sunday, May 19th at 8|7c on ABC live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas as host Tracy Morgan welcomes the biggest names in music to the stage.
Looking back on the past year, what was the highlight for you?
Neyla Pekarek: This was kind of our year on the scene. Within about three weeks we did “Saturday Night Live,” the Grammys and then a huge tour in Europe. One of those things would’ve been the highlight for an entire year, but that’s kind of been the pace of the year since the record dropped.
What song really made an impact on you this year?
Pekarek: I love that whole Jack White album "Blunderbuss," and I thought “Love Interruption” was a really interesting single to pick. Using the bass clarinet in a mainstream song is a pretty cool move. That whole record was pretty spectacular.
What new talent emerged or came into his or her own this year that blew you away?
Pekarek: Alabama Shakes are a stellar group. It was really neat to see them, we caught them when they were at the Grammys when there was so much mainstream music. There’s something awesome and raw about them. That whole record was really great from start to finish, which is a hard thing to do. They’re great musicians, and Brittany Howard is a really, really great singer. It’s something that has that old throwback to it, but it also has this new vibe with a new twist.
What was your favorite music-related meme or viral video this year?
Pekarek: The whole band loves the goat scream. We actually found one of “Ho Hey” with the goat screaming as well. It’s sort of flattering when you’re amongst these silly things like that.
Was there a surprising sound or music trend that pricked up your ears?
Pekarek: I’d say the music of Alabama Shakes or any of the acoustic or throwback bands that are now a part of top 40 radio. I see it happening in a lot of aspects of life—people wanting to make that homegrown sound, in the same way that people are starting to grow their own vegetable gardens and have chickens to lay eggs for their fridge. I think it’s the same with music. Technology has kind of taken over in so many ways, so it’s refreshing for people to have something stripped down or a little bit rough. It’s the same thing that’s creeping into top 40 radio and pop albums. It’s a pretty cool juxtaposition that’s going on there.
What music trend hurts your ears?
Pekarek: I’m not really keen on a lot of the Auto-Tuned stuff. It definitely has its place in some styles of music, but I think what we do, we try to keep it as raw as possible. I like imperfections. Back in the old days, you had a lot of these incredible vocalists. Like, you hear an Aretha Franklin track and she has an incredible voice; there are all kinds of little errors that are gorgeous. I don’t like to lose a lot of that.