Archives For #WWOBackstage

For day three of our broadcast with Westwood One Backstage at The 59th GRAMMYs we chatted with a bunch of current and former nominees while also speaking with a few friends-of-the-show. It was great to see Train’s Pat Monahan and Gavin DeGraw. I also interviewed Lukas Graham for the second time; the first time was at The GRAMMYs last year and now they’re up for three awards including Record and Song Of The Year, plus they’ll perform with Kelsea Ballerini. Noah Cyrus stopped by and compared me to her dad, LeAnn Rimes remembered her big GRAMMY wins from 20 years ago and Charli XCX explained how she chooses to collaborate with people before I brought up Selena Gomez to her.








So great to see a couple of current and possibly future GRAMMY nominees on my second day here in Los Angeles and our first day inside Staples Center for Westwood One’s Backstage at The GRAMMYs. I asked Mike Posner and Daya about the big day plus met Dua Lipa. Also, we chatted about a couple neighborhoods in Manhattan when “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Paige Mobley and singer/songwriter Max stopped by.




On my first day of coverage in Los Angeles for The 59th GRAMMYs, I attended The Recording Academy Producers And Engineers Wing 10th Annual event which honored 12-time GRAMMY winner Jack White. The artist’s friend Conan O’Brien was on hand and stopped to chat about his Patriots winning Super Bowl 51. I also spoke with Regina Spektor and Academy President Neil Portnow.



It is impossible to look back on pop music in 2016 and not talk about The Chainsmokers. Alex Pall and Drew Taggart created two of the year’s biggest hits: the infectious “Don’t Let Me Down” that features 18 year-old Daya and “Closer,” an inescapable duet that Halsey assists on. “Don’t Let Me Down” was the most spun track on pop radio this year and using that particular metric, also the song of the summer. “Closer” spent 12 weeks atop both the Billboard Hot 100 and pop radio airplay charts. Combined with “Roses,” a song that they enlisted an artist named Rozes to sing, the duo sold 10 million singles in the U.S. alone.

Those songs helped The Chainsmokers score an American Music Award in 2016 and three GRAMMY nominations for the award show this February, including Best New Artist.

But as improbable as the DJs success may be (even Pall and Taggart admit they wouldn’t have settled on “The Chainsmokers” had they realized their staying power), what is crazier is that the group’s first two singles are all-but-forgotten about: the novelty track’s “#SELFIE” and “Kanye.”

“’Closer’ wasn’t their first hit,” is the response I received from Jake Miller, a friend of Pall and Taggart’s, recently when I brought up how impressed I was that they were able to shift from tongue-in-cheek records to the highly-coveted lane of radio-friendly pop music. I reminded him that “#SELFIE” was guys’ first single.

“It’s funny you say that because I don’t even think of them for that song,” Miller continued – a sentiment that many probably share and that certainly speaks to how massive the subsequent singles have been. “I honestly completely forgot they did that song.”

For The Chainsmokers, that might be a good thing. Nonetheless, the guys still don’t seem to be taking themselves too seriously.

“We go in with like, low expectations… very low expectations,” Taggart told me before the artists performed “Closer” and won “Favorite Electronic/Dance Music Artist” at the AMAs. “But regardless to be a part of the pop community now and have our work recognized is awesome.”

And the DJs aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Pall and Taggart just dropped a music video for “Setting Fires” off of their EP “Collage.” The duo is also back in the studio creating new music.

“I think the stuff we’re working on now we’re most excited about,” Pall said. “I don’t know if that’s because it’s newest, but it just feels different and exciting. We’re pumped about it.”

The Chainsmokers recently posted on Snapchat a clip of them in the studio with Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, an experience that Taggart characterized as “crazy” because the guys grew up listening to his band.

“I think a lot of the music that’s already been out from us is heavily-inspired by Coldplay, especially the emotion that Coldplay has; that melancholy, bitter-sweet emotion that they get in all their songs,” he explained.

Taggart explained that his first goal was to “be cool” and attempt to catch a vibe with the lead singer. Neither man would reveal if they were working on a Chainsmokers project or something for Coldplay’s future (the band recently revealed that an EP was on the way after 2017), but Pall promised that whatever they’re working on, it’s “dope.”

Given the duo’s track record, I’ll take their word for it.

It is no secret that “Hamilton” is still Broadway’s hottest, most-impossible ticket even without its original cast. And Travis Clark, lead singer of We The Kings, makes no secret of his successful ploy that ended up landing him far beyond the original intent of simply watching the show live.

“I was like, ‘Hey if we cover this song, maybe like somebody would hear it and then we could get tickets,’” Clark explained to me recently. The song he took aim at was “The Story Of Tonight,” a reoccurring theme in the production. “So I cover the song. I literally play it for about two days in my studio. Our version is much different than Manuel-Miranda’s.”

After all, “Hamilton” fuses Broadway musicals with hip-hop and a history lesson. We The Kings is a pop-rock band. But Clark’s version found an audience online.

“Somebody sent it to (Manuel-Miranda’s) publicist team,” the front man continued. “And he responded to us and said, ‘Hey, that track is dope. If you’re ever in the city, let me know.’”

That interaction motivated Clark to release the cover as a single. He and his bandmates then traveled to Manhattan, caught the show and linked up afterwards with the cast. But the singer’s relationship to the Tony Award-winning musical didn’t end there. Manuel-Miranda went as far as to tweet a link to the iTunes release of We The Kings’ re-work.
travisclark
“That was unexpected a little bit,” Clark revealed. “We just wanted his good graces for us to put the song out.”

The singer, noting that We The Kings doesn’t make any money from the sales because it’s not the band’s song, didn’t want to proceed if the Broadway star wasn’t cool with it. Manuel-Miranda went a step further, not only offering the green light but then voluntarily promoting the work as well.

Like many others, Clark gushed about the performance, calling “the absolute best one, by so far” that he’s witnessed. The artist could also relate to the cast members on a professional level.

“I love touring, I love being on the road,” he said. “They play multiple shows a day. That’s tough, man. It’s tough on your voice. There’s so much that I looked up to them and admired them for.”

We The Kings certainly know a thing or two about touring; the band has become a stalwart and the de-facto elder-statesmen on the Vans Warped Tour. Clark and company played the annual festival for their 6th year this past summer.

“We know, like (when younger bands) are like, ‘Hey should we go to catering now?’ We’re like, ‘No, you want to wait an hour.’

“We’re giving people advice, because it’s like their first Warped Tours.”

It’s almost as if Clark is paying back a debt of gratitude he owes to the festival. You might even say it’s quite Hamiltonian of him.

A few weeks ago John Legend held an album listening party for his forthcoming LP “Darkness and Light” at the Samsung 837 event space in New York City’s Meatpacking District. After playing a handful of unreleased cuts, the singer talked about the influence his gospel music background had on this new album.

And of course, if you’re familiar with Legend’s story, you know that Northeastern Pennsylvania played a role in that background. The “All Of Me” artist was the choir director at Bethel AME Church in Scranton while attending the University of Pennsylvania. When I brought this up to Legend recently in Los Angeles, he smiled and reminisced about his time in NEPA.

“A lot of it was just driving back-and-forth (between Philadelphia and Scranton) and then being tired and having to study and I was in an a capella group at school too so I was doing a lot of stuff at school,” he recalled. “And then every weekend I would come up to Scranton and I have a lot of fond memories. I have a lot of great friends that I made during that time that I stay in touch with.
legend12
“It was a great time in my life; and even when I moved to New York, I would still drive over to Scranton every once in a while and play at the church. I love the folks in Scranton and Bethel AME Church.”

Legend didn’t say if anyone in Scranton has already heard his fifth studio album, but he did reveal that he’s played it for a few people.

“Well the reception has been amazing so far,” he replied when I inquired about how the new music has been received. “A lot of my friends that have listened to it think it’s my best album yet. I think it is too, but I always think that after every album so I won’t even let myself be the judge. I’ll just let the fans be the judge, but I’m really proud of it and I can’t wait for everybody to hear it.”

“Love Me Now” is the album’s first single; Legend performed it for the first time on a major award show at the American Music Awards. The song is inspired by his relationship with wife Chrissy Teigen. The couple’s very public marriage, along with his newborn daughter Luna, both serve as subject matters on the LP.

“Darkness and Light” features cameos from Chance The Rapper, Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard and R&B crooner Miguel. Legend enlisted Blake Mills, who worked on Alabama Shakes’ last LP, to produce “Darkness.” The album is in stores now.

Some news and notes from the American Music Awards red carpet…
redcarpet1
– Yes the rain was a major, major factor on the carpet and its impact on arrivals almost cannot be overstated. More on that here.

– It’s so nice to attend these and see familiar faces, whether it be publicists, fellow members of the media or artists. On the press front, great seeing The Insider’s Keltie Knight, Sweetyhigh’s Cassie DiLaura, the whole Sirius XM Hits 1 squad and Hollywire’s Chelsea Briggs.

– As far as artists and other invited guests: loved saying hello to Mark Cuban, Rachel Platten, Daya and Bebe Rexha, the latter who performed for Westwood One the night prior at our “Rooftop Live” event inside downtown Los Angeles’ Perch. Rexha’s catalog of hits she either penned and/or is featured on is impressive, and I’m rooting for her latest release “I Got You.”

– What I loved the most about the weather: the temperature. I’m used to melting every year on the AMAs red carpet; far from the case this year. I usually end up drinking 3 or 4 bottles of water in the process. I maybe drank one for the two-and-a-half hours I was out there.

– Another interesting note about my role: it changes from year-to-year on the carpet. This year, I served two purposes: grab content for my radio stations’ platforms as well as nationally and assist our red carpet reporter, Kerri Kasem, when necessary.

– After the red carpet, it was off to the one-on-one room. When the show wrapped, I dropped equipment at my room, called my mom, poured a drink and waited for my producer, Jay Buff, to arrive. After a quick download of the night’s events we put it all in the past and walked over to the after party. That was followed by an after-after party in where else, but the hotel lobby. We then ordered food from my favorite spot downtown, L.A. Café and devoured the grub before joining two different morning radio shows for American Music Awards recaps.

Eventually, I slept.

Just 11 months ago, Daya’s parents were pushing her to apply to college, just in-case this whole singing career didn’t pan out.

Fast forward to October 2016, just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday, and suffice to say the artist will be deferring.

“I did apply last year,” Daya, nee Grace Tandon, told me last weekend after opening for Fergie inside Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena. “It was just kind of a back-up and my parents wanted me to, blah-blah-blah.”

Daya’s older sister attends Brown University in Rhode Island. And the “Hide Away” songstress doesn’t rule out an eventual return to the classroom, but at the moment that certainly isn’t necessary. In less than a year, the Pittsburgh-born singer has scored two top 10 hits at pop radio as a title artist.
daya
But without question her biggest song to-date is the contribution she made to The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” a song that grabbed Daya her first ever American Music Award nomination for “Best Collaboration.” “Don’t Let Me Down” also ended up accumulating the most spins of any single this past summer at pop radio.

“That’s crazy! That’s just so wild!” a clearly excited Daya replied when I informed her of that fact. “I didn’t know that it would be that big. I mean, I knew that it was a great song and I was so happy to collaborate with them on it because they’re awesome but you never know with radio.”

Daya is certainly becoming more familiar with the airwaves though. Her latest hit is the title track from her debut album, “Sit Still, Look Pretty.”

“(The song) was always special to me,” she said. “It just kind of felt natural for me to name the album ‘Sit Still, Look Pretty,’ and I think that’s kind of what I want my brand to be as young female artist in this industry; don’t let people limit you in what you can do.”

After all, it’s not like Daya was born in Los Angeles or New York. She grew up in Pittsburgh and the man who executive produced her album, Gino Barletta, is from Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

“This is our baby together that we just created over this past year and a weight feels lifted off of all of our shoulders,” she noted. “We’ve all just helped each other out. We all work hard and are passionate and good things are happening.”

And if they keep that up, who knows what the next 11 months could have in store.

Rachel Platten’s 2016 has brought her many different places; one of the latest being Times Square where she, along with Joe Jonas, helped reveal some of the nominees for the 2016 American Music Awards.

When it comes to the show’s biggest prize, “Artist Of The Year,” the “Fight Song” artist knows a thing or two about some of the potential winners. Platten met Selena Gomez (“She’s a wonderful person”), is nominated with Adele in the category of “Favorite Female Artist – Adult Contemporary” and even drew inspiration for her set list from one of the category’s nominees.

“I cover his song on my tour,” she replied when I brought up Justin Bieber. She tackles the hit “Love Yourself” during her show. I then mentioned another artist in the category, Bieber’s fellow Canadian, Drake.
rachel_web
“I also tried to cover his song on my tour, and realized that it wasn’t very good when I did it,” Platten deadpanned regarding the hit “One Dance.” “I wish I had figured it out.”

Platten’s “The Wildfire Tour” kicked off in February, a month after she dropped her major-label debut album. The LP also spawned the hit “Stand By You.”

“I feel like all of my wildest dreams came true the past two years,” she told me. “It’s been so amazing. I worked for a long, long time to get here so I think 2016 will always hold a special place in my heart.”

And the year is far from over; Platten wraps up her tour in Florida on Saturday and will attend the AMAs, which air live November 20 at 8 pm EST in Los Angeles.

By Ralphie Aversa


Charlie Puth confirmed to me that the “Nine Track Mind” album cycle is finished but he stopped short of saying that he wouldn’t be a part of any other new music before year’s end.

“We filmed a video for ‘Dangerously’ just as like a fan thank you,” he revealed. “Yunno, thanks for this amazing life-changing year; here’s a really cool video for a very popular song on the album.”

“Life-changing” is an apt way to describe Puth’s world since the release of “See You Again.” The Wiz Khalifa-fronted song, which served as the main single from the “Furious 7” soundtrack, went on to accumulate GRAMMY and Golden Globe nods while also racking up a billion plays on YouTube.
puth
Then you factor in Puth as a solo artist: three hit singles off a Gold-certified debut album with two U.S. tours in support of it.

“Kind of like a whirlwind,” is how Puth characterized the past year-and-a-half. “I went from literally having nobody know me to, yunno having five security guards around me when I walk around Times Square.”

The Rumson, New Jersey-native seems to enjoy the ride. Just a few nights prior to our chat, he played to a sold-out Beacon Theatre on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“We shut down two streets!” he exclaimed, before chastising me over a tweet I sent about thankfully not grocery shopping that night. The venue is across from my neighborhood store, a Fairway.

“Saw your tweet; you were like, ‘I’m glad I didn’t go shopping!’” Puth repeated, while clearly amused before adding, “Don’t get it twisted. I read your tweets!”

The one consistent since I started interviewing Puth a year-ago is his demeanor: he takes his art seriously but certainly enjoys lightening up a bit too. Apparently, that doesn’t just occur during interviews either.

“I joke around with my boys The Chainsmokers all the time like, ‘When are we going to make a song where we can like, turn up to in Vegas with everybody and make a big party out of it?’” he told me. “I’ve written records with a lot of amazing, legendary artists, new and old, even in these past couple of months.

“So… that’s all I’m going to say.”