NEW YORK, Jan 28, (Agencies): For rock singer James Bay, receiving not one or two — but three — Grammy nominations for his debut album is “insane.” That’s because Bay, 25, remembers how scary it was to finally record music after performing around Europe for more than 10 years.
“It’s one of those situations … (where) there’s as much anxiety as there is excitement,” Bay said in a recent interview. “Recording it was a kind of a scary thing because it was very unknown. … I did my first show when I was 14 … (and) recording is not something I’m familiar with.”
Enter Jacquire King, the Grammy-winning producer-engineer-mixer who worked on Kings of Leon’s colossal hit “Use Somebody” as well as songs for Tom Waits, Norah Jones and others. Bay had put King at the top of his list of dream producers to help him not only craft good songs, but also develop his own style and sound.
“Literally I opened up a couple of his demos … about five minutes into them … I was totally onboard,” King said. “I loved his voice.”
At the Grammys, airing live Feb. 15 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Bay is being recognized for a wide range of his talents: There’s his songwriting (best rock song for “Hold Back the River”); his full body of work (rock album for “Chaos and the Calm”); and his overall artistry as a singer-to-watch on the music scene (best new artist).
“Awards are fun, but the Grammys are pretty damn special,” said Bay, who grew up in England and regularly rocks a fedora. “I didn’t think about awards too much growing up, I really, really didn’t, but I always recognized the Grammys and thought, ‘Wow, that would be fun one day to get nominated for one of those.’ It’s a bit of a dream come true.”
His debut album, released last March and recorded with King in Nashville, Tennessee, is a rock adventure that explores elements of indie rock, soft rock, Americana, folk, blues and pop rock — all with the guitar at the forefront. “Best Fake Smile” and “Hold Back the River” are thumping, passionate tunes; “If You Ever Want to Be in Love” is a sweet mid-tempo love song; “Let It Go,” which is rising on Billboard Hot 100 chart, is a winning slow burner.
And the album’s opening track, “Craving,” best describes Bay’s ambitious attitude for wanting more.
“I got trapped into too many bar jobs in the same small town. As you mature and you grow and you sort of develop new tastes for new things, I didn’t want any of that anymore, and I wanted something different. And it was all spurred on by wanting to play music,” Bay said.
“Chaos and the Calm” became one of the top-selling albums last year in the U.K., where it debuted at No. 1. Bay is nominated for four Brit Awards — including British album and single of the year — at the Feb. 24 awards show.
But Bay isn’t only being recognized with awards: The budding singer has been praised by rock vets Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, whom Bay has performed with.
“It’s really hard to put into words, but it makes me feel like things are on a whole other level,” he said of the love from The Rolling Stones members. “It’s an amazing, surreal experience.”
Bay’s raw vocals and skilled guitar playing translate at live shows, where he has won over audiences. He’ll be able to do it again when he performs at the Grammys.
“He understands how to channel that stuff and emote … and give the song and the performance energy and real emotion,” King said, “and people respond to that.”
Bay will hit the stage with fellow best new artist nominee Tori Kelly (pop hitmaker Meghan Trainor, country singer-songwriter Sam Hunt and Australian rock performer Courtney Barnett round out the nominees). His competition in the rock categories range from Muse to Alabama Shakes and Florence + the Machine.
R&B superstar Rihanna on Wednesday released a single featuring leading rapper Drake — the first song off her long-awaited and apparently delayed new album.
Entitled “Work,” the song is set to tropical house, the light-feeling electronic genre that has become increasingly popular in the past year.
The song returns to Rihanna’s familiar theme of feeling taken advantage of in a relationship, while Drake in his verse raps of his struggle finding intimacy.
Rihanna wrote on Twitter that the song was the first single off her upcoming album “Anti,” even though a year ago she released a collaboration with Paul McCartney and Kanye West that was widely seen as the initial track.
The Barbados-born singer quickly became one of the 21st century’s top-selling artists after releasing her debut album in 2005.
But her prolific output stopped after a seven-year stretch, with Rihanna not putting out an album since 2012.
Rihanna has been hinting for months that “Anti” is on the verge of hitting the market but has not confirmed a date. Music industry magazine Billboard said late Tuesday that “Anti” was expected to come out this week.
Def Leppard is pouring some video into “Guitar Hero.”
The rock band will be the first artist ever to debut a new music video through the long-running video game series.
The music video for “Dangerous” from the band’s recently released self-titled album will premiere Wednesday on “Guitar Hero Live,” the latest edition of the Activision rhythm game franchise.
“It seems like everything has been done, and MTV doesn’t really exist anymore, so it’s cool there’s another medium to represent the song now,” said Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen in an interview.
“Guitar Hero Live,” the first new entry in the series in 5 years, introduced live actors, a new guitar-shaped controller and the online music video network “GHTV,” which allows players to strum along to tunes as music videos or live performances are streamed in the background. “GHTV” currently includes more than 300 songs.
“I think music videos became painful for a while,” said Collen, who’s been with the veteran British rock band since 1982. “You had to do them. They cost so much money. It was very corporate. This is cool because it goes back to being artistic.”
“GHTV” will also add music videos for Def Leppard hits “Let’s Go” and “Rock of Ages.” Other videos being added to the service this week include The Strokes’ “You Only Live Once” and Miles Kane’s “Don’t Forget Who You Are.”
Def Leppard, also known for such songs as “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Photograph,” is currently on tour in the US The band recently postponed performances after singer Joe Elliott lost his voice.
“We have our fingers crossed,” said Collen of a quick recovery for Elliott. “Hopefully, he’ll be OK for our Friday show. This is the first time this has happened in about 30 years.”