Grammy Awards 2011: Backstage with Justin Bieber, Usher, Esperanza Spalding, Matthew Morrison, and many more
Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesAs you might imagine, backstage at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards is a press feeding frenzy, with golden gramophone winners — and even some presenters — parading behind-the-scenes to various media outlets to take their questions and revel in the celebratory mood of the evening. The bold-faced names trek from the radio press to TV shows like Extra and — you guessed it — even us here in the print and online world. I resided backstage for the show and waited for folks like Esperanza Spalding, Usher, Justin Bieber, Train, and Matthew Morrison to come and bask with the reporters for a bit. Here’s what minute-by-minute account of what transpired:
6:15 P.M. PT: The band Train, winners for Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals for their smash single “Hey, Soul Sister,” are both the first winners of the evening and the first winners to come backstage for the evening. The first question for the group is about their surprising comeback last year with “Soul Sister.” “We’ve been through a lot, and to be here after so many years, it’s such an honor to be nominated,” says vocalist Patrick Monahan. “This was a beautiful comeback nomination. We feel we have many more albums to come that are going to be better. To have won this makes up for things that didn’t even exist.”
Added vocalist/guitarist Jimmy Stafford: “When you’re in a category up against Glee these days, we weren’t expecting it.” Clever. Before they stepped off the press stage, the group addressed the fact that “Soul Sister” became huge, in part, because it was featured in commercials for Reebok, Apple, and Samsung. “Our current single, ‘Marry Me,’ we’re looking for a diamond commercial. So if any of you have inside scoop…” Very funny. They came off as really great, relaxed guys and more than happy about their win.
6:43 P.M. PT: The Black Keys — who won a Grammy during the pre-telecast awards—come backstage, and amid a few boring questions and answers, they reveal they’ll start work on a new album in March.
7:34 P.M. PT: John Legend appears long after he won his three Grammy Awards during the pre-telecast awards. “I love it every time,” he says, about winning. “I never take it for granted. I appreciate it every time. It’s nice when we can do them on TV, but there were no R&B awards on TV this year unfortunately.” What next for Legend? “I’m in the studio again working on another new album. This time I’m doing it with Kanye. We already did a week of work, and it was already really good. We’re off to a great start. We’ll hopefully have the bulk of it done this spring.”
7:43 P.M. PT: The always-jovial Matthew Morrison from Glee shows up backstage, after he made his introduction of Academy president Neil Portnow. “You have been hounding me all weekend!” he says upon arrival, spotting a journalist who he’s seen at parties all weekend. “How you doin’?” Then he gets to the goods, revealing some details about his forthcoming album, which will be out in May. Morrison collaborated with producers J.C. Chasez (of ’NSYNC), Rob Mathis, and the funnily named Egg White, who’s out of London. He wrote half the album himself, and his first single will be out in three weeks.
What about a few little personal details, like, who his date was tonight and what the heartthrob is doing for Valentine’s Day tomorrow? “My manager was my date—very boring,” he says. “I don’t have a date tomorrow—I’ll be working all day. I’m so boring. I don’t have time to date anyone. My life sucks.” And what did he think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance with Cee Lo? “I was so excited for her!” he says. “She’s become such a good buddy of mine. She killed it! And she looked fantastic. My heart was so happy.” And lastly, what’s the latest with Glee? “There are some trannies coming on soon,” he says, clearly joking. “No, I’m kidding. Gwyneth came back on, and we did ‘Kiss’ by Prince as a tango. Next week: Justin Bieber songs!”
7:55 P.M. PT: A very sparkly Miranda Lambert materializes backstage after her win for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her song “The House That Built Me.” Naturally, she addresses the song first — and the odd way it ended up on her record. “’The House That Built Me’ was actually pitched to [fiancé and fellow country star] Blake [Shelton],” she says. “When I heard it, I just had this huge connection to it. Blake said, ‘If you have a connection like this with a song, you should probably put this on your record.’ Right before it went to No. 1, he asked if he could have it back, but it was a little late at that point.” Very good-natured. What’s her favorite thing about the Grammys? “I love that the Grammys does collaborations,” she says. “That is a lost art.” And, finally, why didn’t she thank fiancé Blake in her acceptance speech? “I forgot!” she yells before running off the press stage.
8:10 P.M. PT: A sunglasses-wearing Usher, after performing with his mentee Justin Bieber, comes backstage. Immediately, the members of the press immediately ask what he thinks about Esperanza Spalding winning the Best New Artist Grammy over Bieber. “I would have preferred that Justin Bieber would have won Best New Artist,” he admits, and then adds: “I’ve been here before and didn’t win.”
8:12 P.M. PT: Then, surprise! A white-tuxedo-clad Justin Bieber — who’d been waiting in line to come on stage after Usher — crashes the stage and jumps on Usher’s back. Of course, the first question is: What do you think about Esperanza winning over you for Best New Artist? “I think that I’m really happy for her, and uh, I had a great night,” Bieber says diplomatically. “I got to perform with my mentor, which is amazing. Yeah, that’s all I got to say.” Bieber answers a few other silly questions and disappears.
8:16 P.M. PT: But Bieber only disappears for a few moments before returning to the stage with Usher again. Thoughts about his songs being on Glee? “I’m really excited about it,” he says. “My songs are going to be on Glee. I really can’t believe it. This month and this year has been just amazing.” And, two years after stardom, what does he think of Bieber Fever? “I think that it’s just a term, like, that my fans have made and have continued to…,” he says, trailing off. “It’s an epidemic. I’m kidding. I don’t know. I’m not the one who made it up, so talk to my fans.” Lastly, where will he be in 10 years? “I see myself still doing music and still being musical and making songs and pleasing my fans.”
8:48 P.M. PT: The big-haired Esperanza Spalding, who won the Grammy for Best New Artist, waltzes backstage. “It’s just a blessing to be acknowledged in this stage,” she says. “I feel really lucky that I got to be acknowledged on this stage. I got there by doing what’s really dear to my heart.” Spalding tells the story of how she fell in love with the bass but says that she started on the violin, playing that from age 5 to 15. Is it “weird” to win Best New Artist for your third album? “Oh no,” Spalding says. “I mean, weird. I know you don’t mean ‘weird.’ It’s already just weird that I’m here in front of you. For the world that I come from, this is the beginning of the beginning.”
Finally, how does Esperanza feel about trumping Bieber for Best New Artist? “When this is all over, we’re all colleagues again, just like we were before,” she says. “He sold more records than me. We’re doing our thing in our respective fields. He’s unquestionably a talented man. What can I say? I didn’t beat him. I’m taking that thing home. He has great hair, and I have great hair.”
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky
More on the Grammys from EW.com: