Overheard backstage at the Grammys

Musicians talk about the thrill of winning

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“I did not see it coming tonight,”Taylor Swift said of her album of the year win.

A transplanted Nashvillean, she expressed surprise and pride in the victories of fellow Music City residents Kings of Leon, who nabbed three awards of their own.

“Country music is my love, and country music is going to be my home,”said the singer, who grew up in Pennsylvania. “I could identify with those stories so well.”

But she also reflected on her crossover pop success, and stressed that it’s important to “remove titles or stereotypes from what you do.”

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Green Day followed their appearance with members of the Broadway-bound adaptation of their Grammy winning “American Idiot” by scoring the best rock album award for last year’s sequel, “21st Century Breakdown.”

“It is more special,” said guitarist-vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong. “The pressure coming off the last album, it was incredible.”

The San Francisco Bay Area trio beat out their idols, Australia’s AC/DC, in the category. But they didn’t feel too bad about it.

“If it wasn’t for [AC/DC guitarist] Angus [Young], I wouldn’t be playing guitar. But no, I don’t feel sorry.”

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Pink, who did an undraped aerial performance of “Glitter in the Air,” explained her ability to pull off her mid-air shot: “I was a gymnast for eight years…I did the trapeze on the MTV Awards, and I wanted to do something different.”

She did have an uncertain moment or two as she contorted herself above the stage. “I actually did get a little turned around,” she confessed. “I thought I was gonna fall on my nude butt.”

However, she added, “I do sound better when I’m doing that…I would say that no one has another excuse to lip-sync.”

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Stephen Colbert opened the show with a monolog, saying, “We are here to protect our most precious right – the right of celebrities to congratulate each other.” He then had to accept his own congratulations, as the Comedy Central host collected a Grammy for best comedy album for “Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All.”

Reflecting on his ongoing gags about his awards show losses, Colbert said, “This is better. I can make just as many jokes about being a winner as I can being a loser. I’m ready to shift.”

Colbert introduced the show, and its graphic motif, by pulling Apple’s just-introduced iPad out of his jacket (which was custom-tailored to hold the device). “I held it for about five minutes,” he said of the hitherto unseen gizmo.

He spoke as a music fan, gooning out somewhat when a reporter mentioned his fondness for the band Neutral Milk Hotel. He said he met bandleader Jeff Mangum recently: “I said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve played [the group’s] ‘Holland 1945’…every show for four years.” But he said he never approached Mangum about appearing on “The Colbert Report”: “He does puppets or something now.”

He added, “My family all thinks they’re musical. We sing for each other.”

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Long time coming: The Zac Brown Band took home their best new artist Grammy after rolling up 13 years of touring.

“We’ve been very blessed,” front man and guitarist Brown said. “We love to play, love that connection with the fans…We want to thank everybody for welcoming us.”

Despite their status as favorites coming into Sunday’s ceremony, the Atlanta group was stunned by their win.

We did not think we were going to win, at all,” Brown said. “Getting a Grammy, getting to perform the first time we did the show – that’s the top.”

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Maxwell said he plans to release two more albums in a trilogy that begins with his Grammy-winng “BLACKsummers’ Night.”He has completed 34 songs for the project.

“I’m just waiting to drop them,”he said backstage. “I don’t want to oversaturate, kill people with my presence.”

He credited Grammys co-executive producer Ken Ehrlich with putting him together with Roberta Flack, with whom he dueted on her “Where is the Love.”

“He’s a genius,”the vocalist said. “She’s a dream to me. Her voice is a national monument.”

Like Flack, Maxwell put in time in Washington, D.C., where he attended Howard University. “D.C.’s a very special place for me,”he said.

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Michael Giacchino, who picked up two Grammys for his work on “Up,” credited Steven Spielberg for kicking off his career by hiring him in 1996 to score the “Lost World” video game.

“J.J. Abrams played those video games,” Giacchino said, “and called me out of the blue – ‘Hey, do you want to do “Alias” with me?'” He has since collaborated with Abrams on “Lost” and the “Star Trek” re-boot, for which he was also nominated.

Giacchino, who has a long history with Pixar as the composer for “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille” (a previous Grammy winner), and “Up,” says he has no project for the studio pending at this point.

“I’m sure there’ll be something soon,” he said. “Right now I’m concentrating on the final season of ‘Lost.'”

He noted that the time constaints of writing for a feature are wildly different from those for TV: “I have two days to write an episode of ‘Lost”…and up to eight months for an animated film.”

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Banjoist Bela Fleck, who picked up his 10th and 11th Grammys in pop and world music categories on Sunday — said there was no language barrier involved in playing with African musicians on the winning set “Throw Down Your Heart.”

Fleck said, Once we started playing, there wasn’t really anything to talk about. We knew what everyone was thinking, what everyone was feeling.”

He graciously namechecked other banjo pickers who influenced his style, including bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs and latter-day maestro Tony Trischka.

Asked if he was surprised by his multiple wins in a rainbow of categories, Fleck said, “I wish I could say I was too cool to care, but I do care.”

Trumpeter-composer Terence Blanchard, who won the best improvised jazz solo Grammy for his work on a track by Jeff “Tain” Watts, is preparing to work with director Spike Lee on his sequel to “When the Levee Broke,” his telepicture about Hurricane Katrian.

For now, though, Blanchard plans to kick back in the Crescent City and watch the Super Bowl. He noted that many of New Orleans Saints fans plan to skip a trip to Miami for the game: “They want to stay home and party in New Orleans.”

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Vocalist Colbie Caillat followed in the family footsteps by picking up a best pop collaboration with vocals for “Lucky,” her duet with Jason Mraz.

Caillat’s father copped the honor in the ’70s as co-producer of “Rumours,” Fleetwood Mac’s 1978 album of the year winner.

“My dad has a Grammy,” she said. “I’ve seen up on our fireplace all my life.”

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Irvin Mayfield, artistic director of best large jazz ensemble album winner the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, sounded a more serious note about the city, which is approaching the fifth anniversary of Katrina: “We represent Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet…The sound of New Orleans and the sound of America’s music can never be drowned.”

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Afternoon host Kurt Elling has a long history with the Recording Academy: He served as a governor of the Chicago chapter, a member of the board of trustees, and as national vice chairman. Over the years, he has hosted innumerable events for the Academy. He said of his work on stage at the Convention Center, “They know I can read a teleprompter and be confident on stage.”

Elling had something to celebrate Sunday: his first Grammy, for best jazz vocal album (“Dedicated to You,” featuring songs of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”). It was his ninth nomination.

“Very relieved,” Elling said of his win. “It makes my wife very much happier.”

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Folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott won his second Grammy in an off-track category: best traditional blues album, for “A Stranger Here.”

He said he was skittish about taking on the project after listening to recordings by such primal bluesmen as Blind Willie Johnson. “Their voices were so very, very rough and their delivery was so frighteningly real that I wasn’ sure I could do it,” Elliott said.

He added, “Blues is part of folk music, and I’ve been singin’ blues all my life.”

The typically discursive singer-guitarist launched into a lengthy recollection of his time on the road with Woody Guthrie; his first meeting with the young Bob Dylan when they both visited Guthrie in the hospital in 1961; and his friendship with author Jack Kerouac, who read him “On the Road” four years before its publication. He also reminisced about the Village folk scene of the ’60s.

“Maybe I’m ramblin’ too much,” Elliott said.