Billboard Goes Backstage At The Grammys
Billboard staffers check in with top winners U2, Kanye West, John Legend and more backstage at the 48th annual Grammy Awards, held last night (Feb. 8) at the Staples Center in Los angeles.Notes from backstage at last night's (Feb. 8) 48th annual Grammy Awards ceremony at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
U2, who were the night's big winners with five statues for "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," feel there is rock and roll resurgence afoot. "The Killers, the Arcade Fire, Interpol, Razorlight ... there's something about this bass-drums-guitar format that feels fresh," said Bono. "Rock and roll at its best is four kids who commit to forming a gang and go out west and want to win. Not just robbing the bank, which is nice, but stealing hearts, which is always better. You have this opportunity to make rage into a chorus or hurt into a verse. Sorrow is always so much sweeter when it rhymes."
Drummer Larry Mullen has his own wish: "When [Bono] is finishing dealing with the world's problems, maybe he can do something about the music industry because I think it needs a little bit of help."
One of the most intriguing appearances of the evening came from reclusive funk pioneer Sly Stone, who was last seen at his 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "Everything felt right," said Sly's brother Freddy Stone about the behind-the-scenes machinations in pulling off the highly anticipated coup. "As soon as I got the phone call, it was one of the few times when I immediately said yes," he added. "I talked to my sister, e-mailed [drummer] Gregg [Errico] and we were a go."
Joining guitarist Stone and Errico backstage, sans Sly, were original Family Stone members Cynthia Robinson (trumpet), Jerry Martini (sax) and Sly's sister Rose Banks (piano, vocals). Bassist Larry Graham was not on hand, having fallen ill the day of the show.
Stone stated that Sly is healthy -- and writing new music. "He hasn't stopped writing," said Stone. "He's jazzed and very much interested in letting fans hear the new material. There are some evolutionary things in the work that he and we are doing." There's even talk of a tour with Sly: "It is conceivable that we would [go without him]," said Stone. "But it would be better and more complete with him."
Talking about his collaborations with fellow Grammy winner Kanye West, Common and will.i.am, three-time winner John Legend laughingly noted, "It's bad to work with friends who are bad at what they do. I happen to have friends who are good at what they do." Asked if his award-winning work on his debut album, "Get Lifted," marked a return to musical value, the Springfield, Ohio, native emphasized the only thing he's attempting to do is make strong albums. "I wasn't trying to represent an era or trying to change the whole genre. I'm just trying to make good albums," he said. "I don't want everyone else to sound like me or else I can't be unique."
Calling U2 "my boys," Kanye West said he figured the group would win album of the year because of vote splitting between his and Mariah Carey's albums. "I understand the politics of it. I didn't win it by a technicality and not because I didn't deserve it," said West, who still managed to take home three trophies. "[Producer] Jon Brion really put it down with the strings and the cinematic sound. We broke a lot of boundaries; things not done in hip-hop before."
West was more concerned about his performance. "If I had won album of the year and didn't smash the performance, I would have been disappointed. The performance and outfits were a smash. That made my night." Asked if any other show highlights came to mind, the lavender-suited West replied, "I would say this outfit I have on right now."
Once the threat of a lawsuit, Danger Mouse's mash-up of Jay-Z's "The Black Album" and the Beatles' "White Album" is now inspiring performances at the Grammy Awards. Linkin Park's Chester Bennington said Danger Mouse was the only one missing from a performance with Jay-Z and Paul McCartney. "We thought we'd try tie all those things together, and Sir Paul McCartney was gracious enough to cooperate," he said. Playing with McCartney was "the most surreal, awesome experience of my life and probably of everyone on stage with me," he added.
In other Linkin Park news, the group confirmed it has enlisted the services of producer Rick Rubin for its new album, the follow-up to 2003's "Meteora." As first reported here in December, Linkin Park has resolved its differences with Warner Bros., with which it was at one point attempting to sever all ties.
Kelly Clarkson was grilled backstage on why she omitted "American Idol" from her acceptance speech. But the two-trophy winner said it was an honest mistake. "I forgot! I didn't thank my dad either," she said. "I didn't thank a lot of people. I have like 30 [messages] in my Blackberry yelling at me. I was shaking so badly I couldn't stop crying. Your 12 year-old self is kicking yourself going, 'What in the hell is going on?' I wanted to talk to my mom. I'm going to start crying again. I was against a Beatle, for crying out loud." And where will she put the Grammy statuettes? "I'm going to sleep with them for the next couple of weeks and then I'll put them in a special place."
It took 12 years for best country song winner "Bless the Broken Road" to find its path. Co-writer Jeff Hanna said the song was written and first recorded for his group the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1994. The song's co-writer, Marcus Hummon, also recorded it in 1995. "It never became a big hit," mused Hanna. "But we always felt the song would get great exposure eventually." And it has, thanks to Rascal Flatts. In fact, Hanna says the group had considered doing the song for its last three albums. "It's a perfect case of timing is everything," Hanna said. "They did a great version, sang their butts off and people responded."
Keith Urban, who won best male country vocal performance, also took home the good sport award: he was in the press room when Sly Stone came on stage and the world stopped. "Everything pales in comparison," Urban admitted.
The singer/songwriter is at work on the follow-up to his triple-platinum album, "Be Here." "I've been writing the last several months, just discovering the theme that comes about from writing," he said. He expects to be back in the studio with producer Dann Huff in April or May, and sheepishly answered, when asked, that no, there aren't any musical dedications to his girlfriend, Nicole Kidman.
Nickelback's Chad Kroeger sat in on a number of Canadian dates with Urban, and the singer didn't rule out a future collaboration. "I like the idea of harnessing talents from wherever they are and seeing what you can come up with," he said.
"Virtual band" Gorillaz, who won best pop collaboration by a duo or group with vocals for "Feel Good Inc.," kicked off the broadcast by sharing the stage with Madonna. During rehearsals, group member Murdoc said he was in no way star-struck by the Material Girl. "I can honestly say that since jamming with us at the Grammys, Madonna can really say to herself, 'I've arrived,'" he said. "She should be very proud of herself."
But once it came time for the real thing, Murdoc found himself severely distracted by his human collaborator. "I was right in the middle of a really tricky bass part when I saw her coming towards me," he said. "I immediately thought 'Uh oh! Stage invasion.' I almost swung my bass-axe at her. That frisky Ms. Madonna was all over me like a virulent case of thrush. I tell you though, close up, she's a real cracker. I mean, she even looks good when you squint."
Yolanda Adams declared she's now a legitimate songwriter and producer after winning her first Grammy as a songwriter for "Be Blessed." The best gospel song honoree was co-written with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and James Q. Wright. "I love songwriting," said the singer, who also doubled as a backup singer for the show-closing tribute to New Orleans. "It's about life experiences: what you and your friends have gone through, E-mails I get from fans. You glean from that and write from the heart."
Audio Adrenaline, which announced in late January that it was disbanding after 15 years due to vocal problems suffered by lead singer Mark Stuart, took home a Grammy for best rock gospel album. The band's Ben Cissell said the group "toyed with [replacing Mark by] getting some of our friends who we'd met to be singers, but Mark's the best front man in Christian music. For us to go on would be wrong." The members will devote much of their time to an orphanage they started in Haiti.
Louis Vega, who won for best remixed recording, non-classical, said taking on "Superfly," a track from "Mayfield: Remixed -- The Curtis Mayfield Collection," was intimidating given its iconic status. "I saw the movie when I was seven years old and doing the song was a real challenge," he said. "At first I thought maybe I shouldn't do it, but then thought, 'It's Curtis Mayfield!' I had to do it. I [spin] around the world, so I got a chance to test the waters around the world."
Burt Bacharach, who won for best pop instrumental album, speaks out strongly against the current administration on "At This Time." "I've never seen times like we have right now," he said. "This is the future that I'm leaving behind to my children and I'm concerned because I feel we're really made a mess of it. I never like to be lied to by a girlfriend or an agent and certainly not the president." Bacharach says he's received very little backlash for his outspokenness: "No one's throwing anything at me [at concerts], but I will never say anything on stage derogatory against the administration. Let me do it through my music."
Much to his surprise, John Prine snared the award for best contemporary folk album for his first album in 10 years, the Oh Boy release "Fair & Square." "It's a tough category," he admitted. "It wasn't so surprising beating Springsteen as it was beating [parent company of Springsteen's label] Sony. Oh Boy is just a small office with three people." The album is Prine's first since successfully undergoing treatment for throat cancer. He says that experience hasn't influenced his music ... yet. "Something really big [like that] takes a long time to come through in the music, you know," he offered. "Someday it will."