NEW: Best country album winner Zac Brown hints his band may try new music
NEW: Carrie Underwood reveals backstage she would never make a pop album
2011 best new artist Esperanza Spalding accepts two Grammys in Sunday's pre-show
The pre-telecast honors categories such as best album notes and best album package
If you are parked in front of your TV to watch the Grammys, you only saw a fraction of what happened at the annual music awards show Sunday.
In fact, 70 of the 81 trophies were handed out in a pre-telecast ceremony in the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE, next to the Staples Center where the last 11 Grammys were presented between a record 20 star-studded performances.
Plenty of action takes place backstage where the winners go to talk after they leave the stage, as well.
There were hints backstage that the Zac Brown Band, which claimed the best country album Grammy, may be veering into other music genres.
“I love great music of all different kinds,” Zac Brown said. “We’re just getting started.
One project ahead is an acoustic album, Brown said.
“We really control all of our destiny now and all of our rights to everything we do now, so we can really experiment,” he said.
He especially enjoyed the Grammy performances of Rihanna, Sting, Justin Timberlake and Kelly Clarkson, Brown said.
Brown used the Grammy weekend to develop relationships with other artists. “My rolodex got strong this weekend,” He said.
After Carrie Underwood won her sixth Grammy, the latest for best country solo performance, she made it clear backstage that she’s sticking to country music and would never cross over into pop music.
“I love that world,” Underwood said. “I love the people in it. I love making country music that anybody can get into. If it ever crosses over, then it does it on its on. I don’t think I can see myself making a pop album.”
We learned backstage why Jay-Z teased The Dream about the “Boyz in the Hood” he was wearing when they accepted their Grammy for best rap/sung collabotation.
“I would like to thank the swap meet for his hat,” Jay-Z said in his acceptance.
“He was just digging on me,” The Dream explained backstage. “Yeah, we do that.” The trigger for the kiddng was that Jay-Z’s wife, Beyonce, had just said she wanted the hat. And in fact, he bought the cap at a swap meet in Compton, Caifornia, he said.
The Dream also revealed he would fly to Paris soon to work on an album with Kanye West, who shared the collaboration Grammy with him. “Hopefully we can get another Grammy together,” he said.
The televised presentations target pop, country, urban, rock, and rap categories, leaving the jazz, gospel, classical, Latin and other categories to the pre-show.
The Nokia Theatre was far from full, because many of the 754 individual nominees and their teams were on the red carpet or still getting ready for the big show while the pre-show was under way.
But if you were there for the pre-show – or watched it streamed online – you would have heard Rihanna, Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Usher, Beyonce and Paul McCartney win Grammys. You still would not have seen them, however, because those stars were not present to accept.
You would have seen Taylor Swift making an effort to appear excited and surprised as she accepted a Grammy for best song written for visual media. She won it because she was a co-writer of “Safe & Sound,” a song made for “The Hunger Games” film. “This is unbelievable!” Swift exclaimed. It was her sixth Grammy in her young career.
The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson also took the pre-telecast stage to accept the Grammy for best historical album. He co-produced “The Smile Sessions,” a resurrection of an abandoned Beach Boys album project from 45 years ago. He hinted that the Beach Boys have “a lot of stuff in the can that hasn’t been heard” and that the group would “try to get an album together” this year. Wilson, 70, appeared frail, requiring two men to walk on each side backstage.
Janis Ian, another major star from the past, was there to accept a Grammy. Ian called it a “big upset” when she beat first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Rachel Maddow in the best spoken word category. “I keep thinking there must be a punchline here,” Ian joked. “An ex-president and the first lady and three lesbians walk into a bar.” Ian won for narrating “Society’s Child: My Autobiography.”
It was just her second Grammy after nine nominations in eight different categories. “I made a choice to be a songwriter and not be part of the circus all the time. I don’t do popular music because that’s not what I’m good at,” Ian said backstage.
Bonnie Raitt was there to get her 10th Grammy, the latest for best Americana album given for “Slipstream.” “I didn’t expect this,” Raitt said. “I have enough.”
Jazz legend Pat Metheny took home his 20th Grammy out of 36 nominated. The latest for best jazz instrumental album, given to him for “Unity Band.”
Esperanza Spalding, the bass-playing jazz singer whose best new artist win upset Justin Bieber fans two years ago, was present to win two more Grammys in the pre-telecast. Spalding, 28, won for best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalists and for best jazz vocal album for “Radio Music Society.”
Drake, whom Spalding also beat two years ago for best new artist, may now wish he had been there because the rapper was awarded his first Grammy after 13 nominations. Then again, he also lost twice Sunday when Jay-Z and Kanye West beat him in the best rap song and best rap performance categories.
Paul McCartney was a no-show to pick up his Grammy for best traditional pop vocal album. It was awarded for his “Kisses on the Bottom” album.
While there are plenty of household names announced in the pre-show, it is also the chance for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to honor people who perform important jobs for the music industry.
For example, Billy Vera won a Grammy for writing the best album notes. He composed the notes for an album of Ray Charles music, “Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles.”
Fritz Klaetke, the art director for “Woody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection,” won a Grammy for producing the best boxed or special limited edition package. While this may seem to be the most unglamorous of all Grammys, Klaetke said the category was important for “recognizing the role packaging design plays in these days of downloaded music.”