There was no shortage of activity taking place on the Grammy stage Sunday night – Motown tributes and Havana reproductions and Diana Ross in a billowing red dress wishing herself a happy 75th birthday a month in advance.
But backstage was a steady stream of winners who were happy to chat about the new hardware they were taking home from the 61st annual Grammy Awards.
Quadruple winner Kacey Musgraves, still wearing her short, red billowy dress, managed to cultivate tremendous critical success with her album of the year winner “Golden Hour” with barely any radio support. And she’s OK with that.
“To me, radio isn’t necessarily the mark of what makes good music. That’s not what I had in mind when I was making this album. It’s been incredible to see it do some really wild, gratifying, unbelievable things. Streaming has been a big part of it; my team working really hard; my publicist working his ass off; my band and road family working very hard. Ultimately, I feel like it lets me know it doesn’t matter where someone hears your music - it’s if they connect or not.”
Brandi Carlile, an Americana gem just recently getting the deserved attention, said her award-winning song, “The Joke” (also one of the most robust performances of the Grammy ceremony) was a last-minute addition to her “By the Way, I Forgive You” album.
“It was spurred on by the taunting of (producer and Georgia-native) Dave Cobb. He said I didn’t have a vocal moment as profound since (2007’s) ‘The Story.’ Once I got to thinking about it, it raised the bar for me…The song is about redemption and hope. It’s not about complacency - it’s a call to action.”
To many viewers, the Grammys served as their introduction to H.E.R. But even those casually familiar with her R&B stylings might have been surprised at the level of her guitar playing.
Her first guitar was a gift from her father – a Fender – who taught her the blues pentatonic scale.
“Prince was definitely an inspiration,” she said. “And Eric Clapton. I used to watch his concert DVDs in my house all the time. And Jimi Hendrix, too.”
Although she won her first career Grammys – best R&B performance (“Best Part”) and best R&B album (“H.E.R.”) for what is technically an EP, she will be “dropping my debut album sometime soon.”
With a win for the documentary “Quincy” (best music film), Quincy Jones now possesses the record for the most Grammy Awards – 28 – among living artists (he is now one ahead of previous record holder, Alison Krauss).
Jones’ daughter, actress Rashida, was one of the directors of the film and said she learned to relax about his workaholic tendencies.
“I knew a lot about him, but I got a sense of his patterns, how he works himself to the brink and doesn’t kill himself and then comes back in another decade. It was almost a relief to me. Watching him work himself really hard is a difficult thing to watch, but seeing him do it time and time again was a relief to me.”
The late Chris Cornell was honored with a win “When Bad Does Good” (best rock performance) and his sweet kids, Toni and Christopher, mustered the fortitude to accept the award on his behalf and then come talk to the press about him.
On stage at the Premiere Ceremony, Christopher, 13, eloquently read, “He was one of the greatest poets of his time, whose voice and soaring, unforgettable vocals made him the voice of a generation.”
Christopher was joined by sister Toni, 14, and backstage she acknowledged the difficulty of the circumstances.
“Obviously we miss him so much. We saw him work on this (box set, where the song resides) so hard. He was always working on his music. It’s really sad that he couldn’t be there himself to accept it for something he worked so hard on. It was bittersweet. We’re so proud of him.”
Cornell committed suicide in May 2017.
PJ Morton, an Atlanta resident and Morehouse College alum, tied with Leon Bridges in the best traditional R&B performance category (he won for “How Deep is Your Love” with Yebba) and talked about his exhaustion from playing the Super Bowl halftime show with Maroon 5 last weekend and preparing for the Grammys a few days later. He also discussed balancing his solo career with playing keyboards in the band.
“I’m about to fall over right now,” he said with a laugh, “It can be a challenge sometimes, but I always tell people it’s a good problem to have. I’ve been blessed to be part of many successful things. I just make it happen. It’s been almost nine years now (since he joined Maroon 5), so I’ve gotten into a rhythm of when (singer) Adam (Levine) is taping ‘The Voice’ and I can (go do my solo thing) and tour.”
Buddy Guy, 82, won his seventh career Grammy for “The Blues is Alive and Well” (best traditional blues album).
Backstage, in his black tux and beret, Guy lamented the current state of blues music.
“They’ve been treating blues like a stepchild the past 20-30 years. You don’t hear blues being played on your radio much anymore. I don’t know what it is that make them don’t play it anymore,” he said. “Blues music is about good times or bad times…nothing is going to stop me from playing the blues.”
Best new artist winner Dua Lipa explained the genesis of her playful Grammy performance with St. Vincent (Annie Clark).
“We just jelled really well. We got in a room together and hashed out our ideas,” she said. “The great thing about it, I already made a good friend. She’s extremely talented and so open to different ideas. It was really cool that we got to coordinate everything we did.
Dua Lipa also said she’s finishing a new album, but is “trying to keep it a secret for as long as” she can.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.