Photo: Alison Sheehy
The Recording Academy Appoints Ruby Marchand To Chief Awards & Industry Officer; Joanna Chu Elevated To Vice President Of Awards
The redefined roles and restructuring of the Awards Department comes during a transformational period at the Recording Academy as the organization evolves to better serve its membership and the music industry at-large
The Recording Academy announced today that Ruby Marchand has been appointed to the position of Chief Awards & Industry Officer and Joanna Chu has been elevated to Vice President of Awards, effective immediately. The redefined roles and restructuring of the Awards Department comes during a transformational period at the Recording Academy as the organization evolves to better serve its membership and the music industry at large.
As Chief Awards & Industry Officer, Marchand will continue to oversee both Awards and Membership & Industry Relations, reporting to the Academy's Co-President, Valeisha Butterfield Jones. In her expanded role, Marchand will work closely with Genre Managers on the Awards team to effect outreach to musical communities across the nation and beyond, bringing innovative new possibilities into the Awards process while ensuring their utmost integrity. Marchand focuses on creative strategies that enhance the natural alignment between Awards and Membership, overseeing the Membership team as well as the leaders of the Producers & Engineers Wing, Songwriters & Composers Wing and GRAMMY U.
In the newly created role of Vice President of Awards, Chu will further her expertise in Awards systems and operations by leading the team through all aspects of the Awards season. Chu will report to Marchand and join her in reinforcing key Academy initiatives throughout the Awards process, with a special emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
"I am proud to welcome Ruby and Joanna into their new positions as we work to enhance our awards processes from the inside out," Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, said. "Their expertise in this space is highly valuable as we continue to refine the Recording Academy's role in the music industry and work to provide the highest quality of service to our members."
Prior to joining the Recording Academy's executive team, Marchand held several elected leadership roles at the Academy. In 2004, she was elected Governor and Vice President of the New York Chapter, where she chaired GRAMMY In The Schools for more than 12 years. In 2011, Marchand was elected a National Trustee from the New York Chapter and served for two terms. She was elected Vice Chair of the Academy by the National Board of Trustees in 2015 and served until 2019. Additionally, she was Co-Chair of the Awards & Nominations Committee for seven years and helped drive new eligibility rules related to streaming as well as the process of refreshing Fields and Categories for the GRAMMY Awards. Marchand was a member of the National Advocacy Committee in 2015–16 and represented the Academy on a historic trade mission in 2014 with A2IM and several independent labels to Shanghai, Seoul and Hong Kong.
Marchand previously held leadership roles at Warner Music Group, including vice president of international A&R for 25 years, head of A&R for Cordless Recordings and Rykodisc, and senior vice president of revenue and repertoire assurance. Marchand has served as a consultant to the Music and Performing Arts Professions' School at NYU and at other companies and organizations. She is a former executive-in-residence and adjunct professor at NYU Steinhardt's Music Business Program.
Chu previously held Director and Managing Director roles in the Recording Academy's Awards Department, where she was responsible for overseeing the departmental staff and upholding the integrity of the awards process. Using her technical background and professional management experience, Chu's efforts resulted in a number of musical talent recognitions and music career achievements. Prior to joining the Recording Academy, Chu worked in Silicon Valley as one of the few women software engineers in the aerospace industry for 15 years prior to a career shift to the music industry.
KT Tunstall: Songwriting Joy With 'KIN,' Working With James Bay
The singer details her new album and shares her journey of self-discovery and creative experimentation
GRAMMY.com caught up with KT Tunstall to discuss pushing past her musical comfort zone on KIN, teaming up with James Bay on a track called “Two Way,” and what she loves most about writing music for film.
You recently released your fifth studio album, KIN. There was an interesting personal journey that you went on prior to this album coming out. What is the story behind that?
The last record […] was written half before and half after two massive shifts: my dad passed away, and I got divorced. Life turned upside down. I toured for 18 months, mostly solo and in beautiful seated-theaters, which I had never done before. I was completely drained after that experience. I didn’t feel attracted to making another record. It was the right time to try something different and flex some creative muscles.
I didn’t understand how I’d checked all the boxes to be happy and it hadn’t worked, so I sold everything I owned and moved to Venice Beach, California, and it was one of the best things I ever did. I felt like I had found a place where I could involve myself in just being, not doing. The huge upside of LA, too, was suddenly I was in the direct view of some fantastically interesting and creative people in Hollywood. I delved into writing music for film for about a year, which was great and I absolutely intend to continue doing it.
What did you learn from dabbling in the film-scoring world?
It can be very rewarding to deliver a director the song he needs to augment what he’s shot to the point where it hits home and connects with an audience. […] So to be involved in that process, I find really stimulating and challenging. I can work completely outside of my usual boundaries. I feel like, if it has KT Tunstall on the cover and it’s an album, there’s a certain edge that I don’t want to go across because I’m going to alienate people. I can explore the electronic solo bass project with film. I can really go to town and use more orchestral arrangement chops […] that I very rarely use with my own material.
So how did you go from detouring into the film-scoring world to releasing another full-length album?
Because I was in LA, inevitably I’m driving. I was driving the canyon roads listening to Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young – listening to these songs where they were born – and I started writing these pretty, emotional, muscular, big, pop-rock choruses. My mind and body were screaming at me, “Don’t do it! You need a break,” but my spirit won. I would have been a total fool to not respect the inspiration that was coming. My body decided, “OK. We’re making a record now.” The record company didn’t know I was doing it, and I didn’t have a manager at the time, so I began the record in secret just by circumstance. By the time I went back to London and played the demo to my A&R man, his eyebrows just went through the roof. It was the last thing they were expecting from me: a big pop-rock record. It feels like a complete rebirth.
Selling 4 million copies of your first record is good and bad. […] I think I had become less vulnerable in my writing. It was a life-changing process to leave the music behind for a minute and find out who I was as a person, away from making records.
Tell us about the creative process behind the album. What did you do differently on this one versus previous releases?
I started tracking the record with Brian Bender at Motherboard Studios in East LA. I also got my friend Dave Maclean from Django Django – a British band that I absolutely adore, and who were a big reference point for this record. [Dave] came over to help the vibe, and he nudged me in more experimental directions. I got a great new manager in Jeff Castelaz at Cast Management in LA. […] Jeff also manages Tony [Hoffer] and he said, “Why don’t you meet?” I was over the moon because Tony had always been very high up on my list of producers I want to work with. [Beck] is my favorite artist, and Tony had been in Beck’s band, and went on to produce Midnite Vultures and Guero. He has that fantastic dual sensibility of managing to keep something sounding like it can get on the radio, but at the same time really pushing the boundaries of production and instrumentation. He was the perfect partner. It was important to me that there was real joy present in making the record, because that’s what this record is all about.
How did you tackle the songwriting process this time around?
I work well under pressure, so I put that pressure on myself. I booked the studio sessions starting the 11th of January, which was actually the day that David Bowie died. Our first day in the studio was very meaningful, and very sad obviously. We listened to “Life on Mars?” in silence, and vowed to be better at what we did after listening to it.
Over the New Year [holiday], I would get up in the morning, chop wood, sit in front of the fire, and write for 7 to 8 hours a day. I’ve never done that before. It […] really galvanized my belief that going to places specifically to write and retreating to write, for me anyway, is an incredibly valuable thing to do.
You have a duet with James Bay on this album. How did that opportunity come about?
We were both guests on the Jools’ Annual Hootenanny Show, […] and I had read in one of his interviews that he is a fan of mine, which is such a compliment. We got chatting at the rehearsal and he was telling me the gigs of mine that he had been to before he got famous, then he proceeded to completely blow the roof off the place with his performance. It was incredible. We swapped numbers and said bye. A few days later, I was listening to the song “Two Way” – I had a verse and chorus, but I really wanted it to be a duet. I dropped him a line and said, “I know you are busy running the planet right now but do you want to do a song together for a record?” He replied straight back saying, “Yes! I’d love to.” We bounced ideas over email from various hotel rooms, and then he was passing through LA during the recording sessions. It was very low key, just a fabulous day working with a fabulous musician.
You just released a music video for “Maybe it’s a Good Thing.” What’s the goal of making a video in this day and age? Is it still as important as it once was?
It’s very difficult because record companies don’t have the same money that they once did, but they want the same standard of videos. You have to get very creative. For “Evil Eye,” the first release from the EP, I just directed it myself, […] and it got like 350,000 views for next to no money. So for “Maybe it’s a Good Thing,” we did have more of a budget.
In a video now, you either want to be doing something you’ve never done, or something that no one’s thought of yet. There is too much Internet traffic to make something that isn’t going to make people look twice. [‘Maybe it’s a Good Thing”] was about color and performance and energy – something visually stimulating to help you engage with the lyrics.
How do you see yourself as an artist today? Are you finally embracing the fact that you are a pop star?
It was something that I felt very at odds with, to the point where I probably sabotaged how far things got. I look back and I think, “What an idiot that you didn’t trust yourself.” I felt very opposed to that more commercial level of music and touring. I felt like it was going to be hard for me to provide an authentic experience in a place that big. I wasn’t ready for it. I would jump on it now – I’d be like, “OK. We need confetti canons and we need fire and we need lasers!”
I was very resistant to being a boss back then. It felt lonely to be in charge of everything and on my own. Now I’m older and wiser, and I take enormous joy and very deep gratitude, especially as a woman, for being in a position of calling the shots. I feel ready to finally see what the potential is for me as an artist, whether that be pop, alternative, rock… I’m glad to have my feet in different places at different times.
My GRAMMY Moment 2009 Launches
Fans will vie for opportunity to virtually share the stage with GRAMMY nominee Katy Perry on Music's Biggest Night
(For a complete list of 51st GRAMMY Awards winners, please click here.)
The Recording Academy and CBS.com today announced the third installment of My GRAMMY Moment for the 51st GRAMMY Awards with current GRAMMY-nominated pop artist Katy Perry.
From today through Feb. 6, music fans can upload a 30- to 60-second video of themselves singing along to a portion of Perry's current GRAMMY-nominated song "I Kissed A Girl" to www.cbs.com/grammys. Videos will be voted on by fans and the public-at-large, and the most popular videos will be shown as part of Perry's 51st Annual GRAMMY Awards performance on Music's Biggest Night, allowing them to virtually share music's biggest stage with one of music's newest stars. Previous My GRAMMY Moment musicians include Justin Timberlake and Foo Fighters. Additional GRAMMY performances will be announced shortly.
"Every music fan wants to live the rock and roll fantasy by being on stage and having people cheer for you," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "We are very excited that this year's installment of My GRAMMY Moment allows numerous online fans to be an integral part of a performance. We're delighted to have Katy Perry join us for this latest experience given her vast Internet presence, which truly reflects the way in which many music fans consume and engage in music today, online and otherwise."
"We're excited to bring this truly interactive experience from online to on-air," said Joe Ferreira, sr. vice president/GM of CBS Audience Network. "It's tremendous to have an artist like Katy onboard. She has an immense online fan base and we look forward to seeing what music fans bring to the table in this venture."
"I am very excited to be a first-time GRAMMY nominee and new Recording Academy member this year, and even more thrilled to perform on music's biggest stage in February," said Perry. "I'd love to share my first GRAMMY experience with all my fans, so I encourage you to submit your videos now!"
For complete information about the submission and voting processes, please click here.
The 51st Annual GRAMMY Awards will be held Feb. 8 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, and will be broadcast live in high-definition TV and 5.1 Surround Sound on the CBS Television Network at 8 p.m. (ET/PT). The show also will be supported on radio via Westwood One worldwide.
Academy Honors Greats At Salute To Gospel
Event at L.A.'s West Angeles Church marks first for Academy.
During a fiery performance Thursday night at the Academy ' s first GRAMMY Salute To Gospel Music, Christian music legend Shirley Caesar entreated the crowd to join her in prayer.
"God touched [The Recording Academy's] heart," Caesar said, strutting the stage of the cavernous West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, "-¦[and] brought gospel right here tonight."
Indeed, God had moved the heart of The Recording Academy, not to mention the hearts of everyone attending this historic event. Demonstrating its commitment to gospel music, the Academy honored four of the genre's greatest living artists: Andraé Crouch, Bill and Gloria Gaither and Albertina Walker . All four singers and songwriters received the Academy's President's Merit Award.
Co-hosted by actress Angela Bassett, singer/songwriter Kirk Franklin and Pauletta Pearson Washington, The gala at times seemed more like a backwater hallelujah service than a simple awards presentation. The event highlighted the rich diversity of contemporary gospel music, from the pop-injected sounds of Kirk Franklin and Nicole C. Mullen, to the energetic country gospel of the Crabb Family, and the R&B-tinged stylings of Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans, Kurt Carr, Smokie Norful, Byron Cage and Donald Lawrence.
During his presentation speech, Academy President Neil Portnow invoked the names of gospel innovators, including Thomas Dorsey, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, the Edwin Hawkins Singers and others. He then noted gospel music's tremendous influence on secular entertainment legends such as Ray Charles, James Brown, the Isley Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Ike and Tina Turner, and Elvis Presley.
"The voices that created R&B and soul in the '40s and '50s all got their start in church," Portnow said. "Gospel music soared out of the churches and spread its wings all over the world."
Known as the founding member of the Caravans â€” the group that launched the careers of Shirley Caesar, Inez Andrews, Cassietta George, James Cleveland and others â€” Albertina Walker was the driving creative force behind many of the group's biggest gospel hits, including "Mary Don't You Weep," "Soldiers In The Army," "The Solid Rock" and "Blessed Assurance." She later established the Albertina Walker Foundation for the Creative Arts, which provides scholarships to gospel musicians and singers.
Walker proudly recollected becoming an Academy member in the '80s, and how she conducted a membership drive in her native Chicago. "I am just so thankful that my work hasn't been in vain," Walker said. "I am so glad I have lived long enough-¦to see the GRAMMY Awards honor gospel music."
Hailing from Indiana , five-time GRAMMY winners Bill and Gloria Gaither have published more than 700 songs, including the hymnal standards "Because He Lives," "He Touched Me" and "The King Is Coming." The d uo have recorded more than 40 albums, are eight-time winners of the Gospel Music Association's Songwriter of the Year honor, and were named Christian Writers of the Century by ASCAP. Their TV shows, "The Gaither Gospel Hour" and "Gaither Family Music Hour," have been perennial favorites of Christian networks, drawing 75 million faithful viewers each week.
"Songs for us have come out of the fabric of real life," Gloria Gaither said during her acceptance speech. "I am always amazed that something so personal could mean something to somebody else. But I'm glad it has."
Patriarch Bill Gaither explained how, growing up in Indiana, all he wanted to do was write a song. "To think here tonight that it started in the cornfields and hayfields of Indiana, and came all the way to West Angeles Church of God In Christ," Gaither said. "I really have a tall cup here tonight."
Credited with contemporizing the sound of the black gospel church, Andraé Crouch is the composer and performer of such modern Christian hits as "My Tribute (To God Be The Glory)" and "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." The recipient of seven GRAMMYs and an Academy Award nomination, Crouch has collaborated with such acclaimed pop artists as Elvis Presley, Quincy Jones and Madonna. He also composed film scores to such movies as The Lion King and Free Willy.
Crouch recalled an attempted childhood abduction that left him so traumatized he developed a potentially stifling speech impediment. The singer went on to praise his parents, his twin sister Sandra and Jesus Christ for rehabilitating him. "When the Lord gave me the gift of music, I didn't even know how to say one sentence," Crouch said. "The Lord healed me."
Proceeds from the event will benefit Save Africa's Children, a Pan-African children's fund designed to provide medicine and build shelters for orphans affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Portnow took the opportunity Thursday to announce the introduction of a new gospel GRAMMY category, Best Gospel Performance, marking seven total awards for gospel and Christian music.
The GRAMMY Salute To Gospel Music is one of numerous events held in the Los Angeles area during GRAMMY Week. For a complete list of events, click here .
Photo: Darren Pellegrino
Producer & Engineer Susan Rogers Worked With Prince And Barenaked Ladies. Now, She Wants To Know Why We Love The Music We Do.
Why do some listeners dig hip-hop but not rock, or pop but not classical? For these weighty questions, we need to turn to neuroscience — and producer, engineer and professor Susan Rogers has made this subject her life's work.
Susan Rogers has some serious bragging rights in the music world — she was part of some of Prince's most GRAMMY-recognized albums, from Purple Rain to Sign o' the Times. But the producer and engineer remains absorbed in listening and learning which sounds touch her soul — far more than her own musical acumen.
"All of us have a unique listener profile that is shaped over a lifetime of listening to music," Rogers, who teaches record production, psychoacoustics and music cognition at Berklee College of Music, tells GRAMMY.com. "By listening to the records you love the most, it actually shapes your auditory cortex to make you highly attuned to the sounds, performances and grooves you like."
With all that said, what's in Rogers' "listener profile," as she calls it? Soul music that springs from the heart, like one of her first musical loves, James Brown. Lyrically, she's into innovation — deep wordplay and love of language. Plus, it's got to groove, and groove heavy.
Still, Rogers is aware that the music that makes her heart leap may leave another listener cold — which is the whole point of her upcoming book, This Is What It Sounds Like. (She's still administering the finishing touches; a release date remains TBA.)
By dissecting one's preferences into seven components — three of them aesthetic, four of them musical — Rogers is able to examine why one person might love the Beatles, another may dig the Stones, a third may be into both, and a fourth might go for neither. That's to say nothing of the innumerable other permutations one's musical tastes might take.
How does Rogers apply this methodology to her own work as an engineer? "It's a lot like being a chef, in a way," she says. "You're trying to create food that satisfies your taste, but with a good awareness that there are people whose tastes are for more salt, or more spice — or for less."
Read on for an in-depth interview with Rogers about her early life, her creative relationship with Prince, living and working in a male-dominated sphere, and loving heavy metal as a 65-year-old.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Tell me about your history and legacy in the realms of production and engineering.
I'm from Southern California. [I grew up as] one of those kids who was just crazy about records — just crazy about records.
Those people will sometimes go on to be DJs or A&R executives or business managers, and some of them will become record producers. But I did not believe myself to be possessed of any of those talents, so I chose a route that seemed easy to me but harder to others. That was being an audio tech, and I worked as an audio technician repairing consoles and tape machines in the greater Los Angeles area starting in the late '70s.
Then, I got a big break with Prince. Prince was looking for a technician when he came off the 1999 tour, and he was about to dive into the Purple Rain movie and album. He asked his management to find him a tech, and they found me!
That was a big break, so I went to work. I left California, moved to Minnesota and worked as Prince's engineer on Purple Rain through Sign o' the Times and The Black Album. I came back to LA and continued my work as an independent engineer. And, eventually, as a record producer, I had [Faux-pompous voice] grrreat success with Barenaked Ladies in 1998!
With that big money, I was able to leave the music business in 2000, do eight straight years of college, go from freshman to Ph.D., get my doctoral degree in music perception and cognition, and now I teach at Berklee College of Music. I teach record production, but I also teach psychoacoustics and music cognition.
How did you react when you realized Prince chose you as a tech?
I heard through the professional grapevine in LA. Among technicians, there's a pretty strong grapevine. I heard he was looking for a tech and I said, "Tell him his search is over, because that's my job! I'm getting that job!"
I was a huge Prince fan. He was my favorite artist in the world because I loved R&B and soul music — always have. I had seen him play live a number of times. If you asked me to write on a piece of paper "What would be your biggest dream come true?" I would have said, "To work for Prince."
And it happened! As soon as I heard he was looking for a tech, I knew. He liked working with women. In addition to that, I listened to a lot of R&B and soul records that he listened to as well, so we could listen to music from a common frame of reference. That helped us both.
In the larger audio world at the time, was it a boy's club? Was there weird gender inequality?
There was certainly gender inequality; "weird" is the word you can debate. Everything is the way it is because it got that way. Men are biologically a little bit more competitive, or they tend to compete differently than women do. In a highly cognitive field like record-making — or even being on tour and doing live music — men are going to compete for those jobs.
Back in those days — in the '60s, '70s and early '80s — it was pretty easy to use intimidation to keep women from wanting to be part of it. They could employ intimidation, and whether or not women were intimidated depended on the woman, and it depended on how strong the implied threat was.
Fortunately, for me — and for other women of my generation who were successful — we had the good fortune to work with men who welcomed us, who were not competitive with us, who empowered us, who wanted to give us a chance.
So, yeah, it was certainly male-dominated, but it became rapidly less weird as we found our comfort zone in this field.
How did you develop your individual approach, or voice, in this field?
As the mathematicians say, "If it is true, the equation will suffice." If the tape machine is broken, it does not care if the person repairing it is wearing high heels or not. It's an objective standard.
Then, as far as developing a sonic signature goes — and neuroscience bears this out — all of us have a unique listener profile that is shaped over a lifetime of listening to music. That is built up by the dopaminergic reward system. We get rewards from certain records and not so much from others.
So, the more you're rewarded by listening to the records you love the most, it actually shapes your auditory cortex to make you highly attuned to the sounds, performances and grooves you like.
A sonic signature for producers and engineers works the exact same way: you're trying to shape sound to be what you like, to match your profile. And keeping in mind, of course, that others — the client and label you're working with, and the listeners out there in the world — have their own listener profiles.
It's a lot like being a chef, in a way. You're trying to create food that satisfies your taste, but with a good awareness that there are people whose tastes are for more salt, or more spice — or for less.
What do you want to impart with your upcoming book, This Is What It Sounds Like?
A couple of years ago, I was approached by a fellow Ph.D. in computational neuroscience whose name is Ogi Ogas. He said, "My job is finding scientists with cool ideas, and I help them turn those ideas into popular books. Would you like to write a book on music?"
I said, "Well, no, because I'm not a musician. I'm not an expert on music." But I did say, "What I'm an expert in as a recordmaker is music listening. That's what I've done my whole life. I'm a music listener, and I could write about that." He said, "Yeah, let's do it."
As we were compiling material for chapters in the book, we realized there was a model for music perception and cognition in there that is gleaned from scientific findings, but includes the uniqueness of each listener.
In this book, that's what we talk about: how your listener profile forms over a lifetime of listening, specific to seven dimensions of music. Three of them are aesthetic; four of them are musical.
The musical dimensions are the things we know — melody, lyrics, rhythm, and timbres. The aesthetic dimensions are our appetites for novelty versus familiarity, above-the-net and below-the-net gestures — does that performance come from the gut, or is it from a cerebral place?
Also, a capacity for liking music recordings that conform to realistic scenarios — realistic recordings, like the kind my generation made — or the new, more popular, abstract recordings that people make today with digital audio workstations and modern sound design tools.
Susan Rogers. Photo: Jandro Cisneros
So, that's what the book is about: how your listener profile forms and what those musical loves say about you and what you need music to do for you. Why you want the music. Why you love it so much and why it's so personal. Why the music you love the most is likely to be something someone else listens to and just says "Eh, no big deal."
Why does that happen? Why are there those big differences? We explain that in the book.
Through that lens, tell me about your own listener profile and how it's developed over the years.
When I first heard James Brown as a little kid — about nine years old — I just knew right away, "Ah, that's the street that I live on." That's what Prince used to call it. It just felt so much better to me than the Motown music I heard in those days. As soon as I heard James Brown, it just felt right.
That suggests that that rhythm — and that emphasis on rhythm — matched something in my body that said, "Now that's what I'm talking about! That's the kind of groove that I like!" Whereas someone else responding might be more receptive to and rewarded by the harmonies, melodies or lyrical statements of Motown. Whereas someone else might be more rewarded by music that was rock in those days and ultimately became alternative/indie.
We all respond uniquely to music. My profile includes the rhythm of R&B and soul music. Lyrically, I like innovation. I'm an avid reader, so I like prose and poetry. I love clever wordplay. Melodically, I love those swooping, sweeping melodies.
Therefore, rap music, with its lyrical inventiveness, is less appealing because it doesn't have the melodic component that I crave so badly — the harmonic component that I really love. I would say that all of those are part of my listener profile. And when I listen to music, I'm going to be seeking at least a reward from one of them.
They don't all have to be there, but at some point, the sounds, rhythms, melodies, harmonies, and lyrics — something needs to be powerfully rewarding enough that you want to listen to that record again.
How would you describe the arc of your career after working on those Prince albums?
It kept advancing through different stages, and they didn't feel like advancements.
Going from a tech to an engineer allowed me to be more creatively involved. After engineering, I did a lot of mixing, which [involves] more creative input than if you're engineering. Slightly more, but still. This allowed me to then produce records with artists, which gave me an even greater voice in the record-making process.
Then, changing careers, I had to go through that period of not knowing anything — being a rank beginner again in the psychology department at the University of Minnesota, and then at McGill. Once I reached a new level of expertise, that allowed me to have conversations about music from a different, more biologically informed perspective, which has been really fun.
I'm sure Prince's passing was a pivotal moment for you.
It was really tough. It was really tough for all of us. Those of us who knew him or worked with him — for the most part; I'm sure there were exceptions — but myself and my friends among the Prince alumni, we loved him. We loved him.
He was good to us. In the case of Wendy and Lisa and myself — those of us who started with him when we were young; Sheila E. is another one — he gave us careers. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jesse Johnson, the list goes on.
We worked really, really hard. But he had a warm heart deep, down inside. I never turn down requests to be interviewed about Prince, because of the love I still have for him and the unshakeable belief I have that the new generation of music lovers should know him and his work. They should know about him, so I talk about him.
Here's a two-pronged question: what are you working on this week, and what are you listening to this week?
What I'm working on this week is the final edition of the book. The book has to be delivered very soon — by Dec. 1. We've got some final tweaks to make, so I'm working on that and I'm teaching.
Right now, at the top of the list [of what I'm listening to] is a local Boston band called Atomic Guava. They're a metal band with xylophone, and the lead singer, Ellie [Hull] — she's just so charismatic and dynamic. They just put out a new album and they've got a show in Boston on the 21st, so I'm excited about that.
I was in a meeting yesterday with my colleagues in the music production and engineering department and I mentioned, "Hey guys, metal lovers here around the table — Atomic Guava has a show on the 21st!" My colleagues to my right just looked at me and stared and I said, "Yeah! I'm 65 and I really like metal!"