Harry Styles Charms Grammy Museum Crowd, Is a Nomination Next?

Harry Styles; Cameron Crowe
WireImage for The Recording Academy

Ahead of a Sept. 20 show at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre, Harry Styles took the stage at downtown L.A.’s Grammy Museum on Friday night (Sept. 15) for a Q&A conducted by writer and filmmaker Cameron Crowe. Styles, who released his self-titled debut in May, was joined by producer Jeff Bhasker for a lively, often laugh-out-loud discussion of how the album came together, Styles’ experience filming “Dunkirk” (“I was in the water way more than the movie suggests,” Styles cracked), and his views on the music industry.

And while the Grammy Awards weren’t mentioned specifically, the venue — as well as the presence of longtime Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich in the crowd — certainly brought to mind the possibility of a future nomination for what is arguably one of the strongest albums of the year. An understated post-interview performance of Styles’ gorgeous second single, “Two Ghosts,” featuring Bhasker on keyboards, drove the point home.

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The story of how the music came together — written and recorded in a remote studio complex in Jamaica — has been told by this point, but Crowe dug deeper into the process, letting Styles and Bhasker expound on just how organic and, in the producer’s words, “authentic and viscerally honest” the project ended up being.

At the same time, said Styles, “it was the most fun I’ve ever had.” Partly because he started on the album without a label commitment (Styles would later sign to Columbia, home to One Direction), he felt unencumbered. “When we started the process, it didn’t feel like I was making any sort of commitment,” said Styles. “I didn’t feel any pressure.”

That freedom allowed songs like “Sign of the Times” to flow out of Styles, even as other tracks were still coming together. Bhasker described a moment in which Styles sat at the piano almost in a trance, coming up with the chord progression to what turned out to be his first single. “It was writing from this place of, ‘Let’s get an idea going, do something with it, and have fun,'” said Bhasker. “And in 5 or 6 days, they had, like, 10 songs. … It was that immediate.”

Styles’ favorite track on the album is “From the Dining Table,” which he said is, “The one that makes me feel the most,” adding that, “it’s the most different than what I expected myself to write and it’s probably the most honest that I’ve been in a song as well.”

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The album’s stylistic choices — what some deem as musical nods to classic rock acts like David Bowie and Pink Floyd — were also illuminated, with Styles explaining that his father listened to “a lot of Queen and Pink Floyd,” while his mother favored Norah Jones and Shania Twain. “I’m a huge Shania Twain fan,” said Styles (he later played a snippet of a Twain song on a kazoo, by request from an audience member).

Bhasker’s take is that if any “homage” is sensed, it was not intentional, though the record they ended up with was destined to sound the way it did. “We were not thinking about [influences] at all,” he said, noting that, in this era of ProTools and pop co-writes, “It couldn’t be more punk rock” to record an album the way those classic rock acts did.

Indeed, the sort of liberties Styles was afforded new artists rarely see, and for that, the singer credits the record company, run at the time of his signing by executive Rob Stringer, who has since ascended to CEO of Sony Music Entertainment. Said Styles: “We had signed with Columbia and I called Rob one day saying, ‘Hey, would you mind leaving me a alone for six months and I’ll call you when [the album is] finished?’ He said, ‘I want hear it when you’re excited to play it for me.’ … A lot of people get into this thing of, ‘It’s me versus the record label,’ and I feel so lucky to get to work with everyone at Columbia. The support from them allowed us to go do what we want, so I have to say thanks to them for letting it happen this way.”

Not to let the mood get too serious, though, Styles then encouraged all in attendance, which included journalists, television executives, and Grammy chapter members, to come to the Greek on Wednesday and experience these songs, the band, and the vibe, for themselves.

“You’re all on the list,” Bhasker joked.

Added Styles: “If anyone wants to come, Capitol Records said they would cover the cost.” Charge it to Niall Horan’s recoupable account?

(L-R) Cameron Crowe, Harry Styles and Jeff Bhasker attend Special Members-Only Event With Harry Styles at The GRAMMY Museum on September 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

From left: Cameron Crowe, Harry Styles and Jeff Bhasker

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  1. Bill B. says:

    Have never had any interest in him or the band he as with nor have really given him much thought or paid him much attention, though the Swift stuff was hard to avoid (man, she’s annoying in a lot of ways!), and could never figure out the heartthrob stuff, but after his latest album and Dunkirk, this guy might have a big future.

  2. Dani says:

    First of all harry was and is not buying his way into the Grammys these where fans who got tickets not people from the cammity and second of all he offered some fans who might not of been able to get tickets the chance to see him live and the gift bags was to say thank you all I am reading is a bunch of whining brats who are just scared that Harry will win Grammys maybe not next year but he will and not cause he is buying his way into it not that u could buy because of his talent and his amazing album maybe your all salty cause your fav has not been mentioned for Grammys and that is a very sad thought that u could be that bitter to someone u don’t know

  3. Sam says:

    For someone in a unique position, a great voice and basically unlimited resources to make an album, I was expecting a bit more from Harry Styles. The award hype seems premature, I don’t think he has quite figured out who he is as an artist yet. Hopefully by album 2 he’ll have a clearer idea.

  4. LRA says:

    “Harry Styles” is an album that is enjoyable from beginning to end, with such a variety of songs that it never gets boring. It may not win a Grammy but it’s worthy of recognition. Styles has proven his abilities and for a first solo effort his potential is limitless.

  5. Inauthentic authenticity says:

    Azoff /Sony are going to buy this mediocre hack a Grammy. Well I guess if he could buy Meghan Trainor a Grammy he can buy anyone a Grammy.

    • Oh, poor baby can’t stand the idea of someone being more relevant then you are? For one, playing at the Grammy museum doesn’t mean an artist will be nominated for anything that’s up to the voting committee (that would be his peers) and the voting process takes place over the internet, so therefor no one’s being paid off and if someone offered to pay a voting member they would be found out and disqualified from any Grammy consideration you bum. The bottom line is, he release a solid album that a lot of people just happen to like myself included so I wouldn’t need to be played off to vote for him. Check yourself Keeble then keep it moving.

      • Yeah, he just so happened to invite and give gift bags and invite to his shows the people who vote for the Grammys. That’s not trying to buy his way around an award. Neither is this blatantly shameless promo article written about it all. It’s embarrassing. White mediocrity a la Kendall Jenner becoming a supermodel on display here.

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