Bonnie Raitt, Chick Corea retain kudos strength

What is it with CBS and electrical outages? Fun frontman Nate Ruess was midway through a heartfelt description of his band’s journey toward best new artist and song of the year honors backstage, when the power abruptly went out across the room – an echo of the outage in New Orleans last Sunday that forced a 34-minute delay of the Super Bowl, also broadcast on CBS. Ruess was quick to claim credit: “That was us, we’ve got that Beyonce power” – referring to speculation that the singer’s high-wattage halftime show had taxed the power grid in the Big Easy.

Despite the technical malfunction, Ruess went on to explain the complicated feelings that came about with “We Are Young” breaking as big as it did: “To be honest, (when it broke) all we thought was great, we’re gonna sell more concert tickets. The live show is what this band was based on, after all, since we had that core fanbase. But then radio and the mainstream kinda just picked up on it, which is great after 12 years of people ignoring you and feeling like the bridesmaids.”

Grammy winners including Adele, Skrillex, Brian Wilson and Bonnie Raitt appeared backstage to talk about their influences, muse about fame and apologize for being overplayed. Here’s what winners had to say.

Last year’s Grammy darling, and winner for pop solo performance tonight, new mother Adele discussed the progress on her new album, or lack thereof: “We’re not very far along at all, I’ve just been going to a lot of meetings in L.A. since the Golden Globes. But I’ve been out of the loop for a while just singing the baby nursery rhymes, so I’m not sure what’s cool anymore.” Hurrying away, she was asked if she was ready to perform “Skyfall” at the Oscars, to which she yelled: “I’m shitting myself!”

Appearing alongside collaborator Kimbra, Aussie songwriter Gotye found a moment to apologize for the ubiquity of his song “Somebody That I Used to Know,” and discussed its reception. “People talk about a ‘tall poppy syndrome’ in Australia, where if you have too much success they cut you down, but I haven’t really felt that in truth. Everything that’s happened with the song after I recorded and mixed it feels very disconnected from the actual experience of putting the track together… There are a number of really interesting parodies and covers.”

Returning to the press room after winning record of the year, Gotye professed to being “flabbergasted” by accepting the award from Prince. “We’re both huge fans. And (when we accepted the award), he kinda said under his breath, ‘I like this song,’ so that was incredibly cool.”

Performer Carrie Underwood revealed the very simple explanation for the elaborate light-up gown she donned for her time onstage: “There are so many big performances at the Grammys, and I just like to stand still and sing sometimes, and this seemed like the best way I could do this.”

Unexpected Grammy darling Skrillex followed last year’s three-Grammy haul with an identical tally this year, yet still hasn’t grown jaded. “You know what, I thought I would get used to it, but I swear I tripped over every word giving my acceptance speech. It was like I’d just jumped in a pool of ice water as soon as I got up there.” He also discussed maintaining creative autonomy despite his successes. “It’s all about maintaining that creative space and keeping the right people around you. It can just take one A&R exec to say something about your song to (discourage you), so I keep my team very close.”

Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson, whose “Smile” won for best historical album, was still in recovery from recent back surgery, but fielded questions from a chair. In short, direct sentences, he addressed topic ranging from his favorite of his songs (“California Girls”), his greatest inspiration (“California girls”), and the recently-deceased Paul Tanner, who played theremin on “Good Vibrations” (“We called him down to the studio and asked him if he could play ‘ahh-ahh,’ and he played it perfectly.”) He did dump some predictable cold water on the prospect of a renewed Beach Boys reunion tour, saying: “I doubt it no, I don’t think so.”

Surprise Americana album winner Bonnie Raitt was magnanimous in victory, lauding the quality of her competition: “I think great music just rises to the top. Great soul music with great melodies and people who mean it, I love that it’s ‘in’ now. It’s very encouraging.” She also compared the feeling of today’s victory to that of her all-conquering “Nick of Time” winning streak in 1989: “It felt exactly the same, it was like hyperspace.”

Jazz pianist Chick Corea added two more Grammys to his existing 18, and described a similarly maximalist approach to musicmaking, having released six records last year, with 10 scheduled to drop this year: “Early on I used to hear ‘don’t flood the market,’ and that never felt good, because that’s not the way the music comes. So I decided a few years ago to just go in the face of that and make as much music as I can.”

Josh Kear, who won best country song for his Carrie Underwood tune “Blown Away,” noted that Grammy winners in a range of genres are coming from Nashville. “People talk about Nashville as being Music City, but they often just think of that in terms of strictly country music,” he said. “I think people are starting to really grasp the extent of that moniker.”

DJ Kaskade, who presented during the afternoon, discussed Grammy’s growing acceptance of electronic dance music, which took a bit of a hit after the nomination of the unknown Al Walser this year: “It’s cool we’ve got three categories this year. They’ve been making huge efforts to include us; the dance category used to go to people like Rihanna, and they’ve done a lot of work to isolate it. I feel like the right people are in there this year…there’s maybe a few slip-ups, but they’re getting it right.”

Singer-songwriter The-Dream, who was zinged by fellow winner Jay-Z onstage for allegedly buying his “Boyz ‘n the Hood” hat at a swap meet, sought to clear his name: “I actually got this at Spenser’s, which you can find at most malls in America. Shout out to Spenser’s!”

Five-time Grammy-winning songwriter Malik Yusef, nominated for best rap song tonight for his work with frequent collaborator Kanye West on “Mercy,” gave a succinct summary of the Yeezy studio experience: “It’s brutal, it’s torturous. We record a lot in Hawaii, but it’s not like being in Hawaii. We record sometimes in Paris, but it’s not like being in Paris. It’s a work camp.”

Presenter Kelly Rowland was coy about a Destiny’s Child tour following their brief reunion at the Superbowl: “If something like that comes up in conversation, and it hasn’t, then we’ll see.” And she was similarly nonchalant toward CBS’s widely-circulated memo regarding artist attire. “I respect it. See? I wore clothes.”

Halestorm won for hard rock performance for “Love Bites (So Do I)” over a murderer’s row of veterans such as Megadeth, Anthrax and Iron Maiden, much to frontwoman Lzzy Hale’s surprise. “I heard them announce ‘Love Bites’ (on the PA) and thought, ‘Wait, that sounds familiar…’ It’s incredible — we weren’t expecting to win because these people are legends. We wouldn’t be into hard rock music if it weren’t for their influence.” And brother Arejay Hale added: “We literally wrote the music to that song after listening to (fellow nominees) Lamb of God.”

Arturo Sandoval won for best large jazz ensemble album for “Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)” and recalled meeting the titular trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie in the 1970s in Havana: “(Dizzy’s music) is going to be around forever, because all jazz musicians are still trying to figure it out.”

Bryan Ling, who directed best longform music video winner “Big Easy Express” with Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show, was asked if his approach would work with a different group of bands: “I’ve worked with a lot of bands, and you can hardly even count on four members showing up and getting along throughout the day, so to have all three of these bands get along so well and play together both onstage and off…they just set it up as ‘we’re all equal,’ with equal billing and set times. As a newcomer to this group, I was impressed with how they played it out… That was a real long-winded way to say ‘no.’ ”

Bluegrass winners the Steep Canyon Rangers (who had long served as Steve Martin’s backing band) serenaded the press room with an impromptu a cappella tune, then discussed the increasing folk influences upon pop music. As violinist Nicky Sanders said, “Not that there’s anything wrong with electronic music, but there’s something really special about seeing a musician onstage playing something the’ve been playing since they were five years old. It’s amazing that there’s a banjo now so forefronted in popular music with Mumford and the Avett Brothers and others.” The band’s banjoist Graham Sharpe then added: “Of all the ways the world is going crazy, that’s one sign that you know things are OK.”

One half of duo Mary Mary, which won a statuette for best gospel song on “Go Get It,” Erica Campbell discussed the dynamic of working with her husband, fellow winner Warren Campbell, as a producer: “Sometimes when I go home and he tries to talk to me after a day in the studio, I say, ‘I’m still mad at my producer, hold on a second.’ ”

Matt Redman, who won best contemporary Christian song honors alongside Jonas Myrin, compared the process of writing “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” to sushi-making: “I just saw a documentary called ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ and in it he talks about how everyone tries to pile stuff on sushi, but the best is simplicity. That’s exactly how we approached this. The song doesn’t even have a bridge.”

Zac Brown: “Everything we do runs on love, and it’s hard not to be thankful for everyone. It doesn’t take me a whole lot to get close to tears when I talk about my folks. (On whether he was intimidated to play in front of Bruce Springsteen) No, it was amazing, and getting to sing with Mavis Staples this weekend, this whole weekend has been a dream. It’s like I’ve been hanging out with my CD collection.”

Juanes: “It means a lot to perform here for the very first time. Just the fact that they asked me to sing in both Spanish and English, it’s an honor.”

Related:
Bizzers rock around the clock Grammy weekend
Fun, Mumford and Sons, Gotye among top winners at Grammy Awards

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more