Credit: Michael Tran/

About an hour after the Grammys were over, it was still unclear whether Adele was going to come backstage and talk to reporters, but suddenly the unmistakable a cappella strains of “Rolling in the Deep” came floating down the hall outside the press room and the woman of the hour appeared.

When asked how being silenced by throat surgery affected her this year, Adele was open and honest. “It’s been really, really peaceful. I’ve never been happier. I found great happiness when I was ill.” And as for that ex-boyfriend? “I think he’d be very happy for me.” Winning all six categories she was nominated in, Adele was humble but not modest. “I’m very, very proud of myself. It’s incredible.”

The Grammy’s backstage is a two-part gig — first many of the winners of the more than 60 awards given out during the pre-show answer questions, followed by the major winners and presenters of the evening — some nearly two hours after the telecast had wrapped.

The early winners gave a great sense of what was to come — Adele’s producer, Paul Epworth, won Producer of the Year, and some unlikely voices like classical singer Joyce DiDonato shared inspirational words about Whitney Houston’s death. As the telecast began, presenters including Bonnie Raitt and a few of the winners, like Lady Antebellum and Bon Iver, as well as Adele, reflected on their awards, the Grammys themselves, and a year that saw the loss of many greats in the music world. (Some of the night’s big winners, like Foo Fighters, did not visit the press room.)

Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow discussed how the show changed at the last minute on the news of Houston’s death. “My goal was pretty clear: it needs to be simple, it needs to be elegant, it needs to be uplifting, it needs to be inspirational, and it needs to be healing because we’re all hurting so badly.”

Portnow noted how close the loss was to him. “Whitney was a personal friend because I was at Arista when we signed her at 17 years old,” he said. “This is my eleventh show, and this is the most emotional Grammys I’ve ever personally been involved in,” he added that the show may be the most emotional Grammys ever, with the tributes not just to Houston, but also to Etta James as well as Glen Campbell’s performance.

Here are a few more gems from backstage:

Bonnie Raitt, on Whitney Houston and Etta James’ deaths:

“Whitney, we’re all — I’m sure you’re still — in shock, too. I didn’t forget but when you see it all [her videos and songs] in a row like that, it’s stunning her vocal range and power. [Etta] was vital and raunchy and tender and had a well of emotion that came across in her voice and her phrasing. I’d say she and Aretha have had more impact on me than most any singer.”

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, on their reunion:

“It’s a thrill for me. Just being on stage together gives us a chance to express ourselves vocally and instrumentally.”

Lady Antebellum (winners, Best Country Album):

“We were surprised, we thought it was Taylor’s [Swift’s] night. We’re growing as songwriters every time we get in a room together. We give ourselves time to find personal inspiration to write.”

Bon Iver (winner, Best New Artist), on indie artists not typically getting recognized:

“This is the biggest night in music but it’s also a very small Staples Center and there’s so much music out there in the world [that] it’s so hard to feel like it’s collecting the whole thing.”

On whether he regrets not performing:

“I don’t regret it because there were so many great people doing plenty of good music up there. Bonnie and Alicia stole the show for me, it was like everything I needed to hear.”

Joyce DiDonato (winner, Best Classical Vocal Solo), on Whitney Houston’s influence:

“Good singing is good singing. I am a child of the ’80’s; she [Whitney Houston] was the soundtrack of my adolescence.”

Trey Parker (winner, Best Musical Theater Album, The Book of Mormon), on whether Mormons have been receptive to the show:

“For a lot of Mormons, it (The Book of Mormon) is like their Fiddler on the Roof.”

The Civil Wars (winners, Best Folk Album):

“Several hinges on a very large door that have opened up this year. Everything along the way has been building this story. We just made music and decided to roll the dice and see what happened.”

Follow Laura on Twitter @laurahertzfeld

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