Grammy Awards 2011: Backstage with Justin Bieber, Usher, Esperanza Spalding, Matthew Morrison, and many more

esparanza-spaldingImage 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
Surprise! Arcade Fire’s ‘The Suburbs’ wins Album of the Year Grammy: What the hell?
2011 Grammy Awards: We’re live-blogging it!
Bieber and Usher relive their history for Grammy performance
Lady Gaga’s Grammys arrival is predictably weird: See it here
Lady Gaga Performs “Born This Way” at the Grammys
Grammys 2011: The winners list

Comments (69 total) Add your comment
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  • Matt

    I still dunno who the hell Esperanza Spalding is..

    • Christina

      I also didn’t know who Esperanza was until tonight. You should look her up on WiKi. She plays 4 instruments, writes, sings in 3 languages, and she was a professor at Berkley at the age of 20!! She’s also very educated and came from a single mother. She’s a jazz/neo soul singer.

    • zken

      Esperanza is another in a long line of original and brilliant bass players that have defined jazz for one hundred years. If you took your head out of the media toilet bowl and tried to learn a little about music you would know exactly who she is.

      • Biebero God

        I love Justin, he has amazing hair and JustinBieberSites is awesome!

  • maggie from portland

    “he has great hair, and I have great hair” best comment of the night. esperanza spalding FTW! proud to say she’s from portland, oregon!!

  • harry

    you made a mistake:
    ** first SINGLE will be out in 3 :)

    • jbm

      you should listen to her music.

  • Dave

    Usher is an idiot. Does this guy truly believe in his mind that Justin Bieber deserved to win Best New Artist? Yeah, I get that you’re his mentor and want him to do well, but to say it that way, and to not acknowledge that Esperanza Spalding is a great artist and deserving of accolades is just juvenile and egotistical.

    • Christina

      I agree with you. He wasn’t diplomatic at all and he probably doesn’t know much about her and what she’s capable of. I loved her response. She seems very humble and educated.

    • Zakry

      You read a snippet of a quote. You don’t know if that is all he said.

    • Debbie

      no matter… Justin did deserve to win and that is really all that matters! everyone knows it … the grammys robbed him as they have others before!

      • Adam

        No he did not deserve to win. He did not deserve to even be nominated. Are you one of the insane Bieber fans who attacked Esperanza’s wikipedia profile?

      • Nick

        Esperanza Spalding has more talent in her pinky finger than Justin Bieber could ever dream of. She deserved it. Anyone who thinks Justin Bieber deserved the award more than her clearly knows absolutely nothing about music.

      • Leah

        Justin Bieber soooo deserved to win. He got riped off. No one has even heard of Esperanza

  • Christina

    I didn’t know who Esperanza was until tonight. I looked her up on Wiki and she truly is an artist. She plays 4 instruments, sings, writes, sings in 3 languages, and she was a professor at Berkley at age 20!! She dropped out of high school and got a scholarship. She is a musical genius and I also just purchased her recent album off of iTunes since I liked it after previewing it. She deserved to win!

    • A

      Good for you, Christina! It’s good to see someone willing to broaden their musical horizons instead of continuing to complain “I’ve never heard of him/her” or “so-and-so should have won because I’ve never even heard of that person who won.”

      • Christina

        Well I’m an independent singer myself, so I’m pretty open minded when it cones to music. She isn’t even on a major record label. It really shows how far independent artists have come. I hope she gets more exposure now that she won this Grammy.

      • Rich

        Arcade Fire winning Album Of The Year for a disc released on Merge Records. Completely independent label… No tie-in with Sony or WB or Seagrams Universal. Go indies!

    • Christina

      Correction Berkley Music School on Boston. I didn’t mean Berkley in CA…

      • Cha’Maine

        It is “Berklee College of Music”. One of the best contemporary music colleges.

    • Cathy in San Diego

      I hadn’t heard of her either, but thanks for the info, I’ll definitely check her out.

  • Ether

    No doubt Esperanza is a fine vocalist and musician, and she is certainly lovely to look at too, like most fashionable and famous singers are supposed to be, but I still don’t see how she won this Grammy. She can’t be the best new artist, since she’s had an album out since 2006 (and 3 total), plus what she is doing musically has been done already 1,000 times. Yes, it’s all very nice sounding, but not really Grammy-worthy. However, looking at her so-called competition, I don’t know who would have deserved it more. Corporate music is mostly drivel.

    • Marcus

      I don’t think you understand the criteria for the category.

    • Shiny

      You also don’t understand what “corporate” music is. Bieber is prepacked sugary pop. Esperanza is a singer songwriter. In two years Bieber will be waiting tables with your last crush, the Jonas Bros.

    • FromChicago

      I believe the requirements were changed because of Lady Gaga & last year.

      • Anna

        “The official guidelines are as follows: For a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist. Note that this is not necessarily the first album released by an artist.” She would have been nominated under the old rules. She was never a Grammy nominee in the past which was the change

    • Nedsky

      Justin seems okay enough, but he’s puffed pastry. Esperanza Spaulding is talented, unique and very special. This was a good choice for the Grammys.

    • zken

      what are you talking about? Esperanza’s music is very original and she well deserved this award. All of the insipid Grammy bands show dance stuff is all stolen from Tina Turner and a million other bands and is completely unoriginal showbiz fluff. The fact that a real musical artist snuck in is amazing.

  • Nerk

    I think Justin and Usher should have won something. They both worked hard all year and are truly a great success! Esperanza is great, but, hasn’t achieved what the Bieb has so far.

    • Zakry

      That’s not what its about.

  • ifeanyi

    it is bad dat usher and biber did not collect any award because de two worked so hard but didnt archive anything

    • Zakry

      English… please.

    • Martha

      Usher won 2 grammys btw. So happy Justin is so humble and sweet! TRUE ROLEMODEL!!

  • Brittany

    Oh are kidding me? Justin and Usher winning something? That’s funny! They both sucked last night! And The whole thing was staged! The Grammy’s have been horrible for the past years. Nothing they do is breathe taking. And let’s be honest, Usher and Justin Bieber were the #1 WORST performance of the night. Then you have Jaden Smith coming on stage looking like something on the Animal Channel! I mean really? And you know what else was shady about the performance, when Jaden came out, The camara just couldn’t stop showing his parents. How stupid is that? Justin Bieber sounded so off, Usher sounded like a broke down Robot, and Jaden was just a hot mess! End of story. Oh and let’s not forget Willow! They just had to flash some camara for that little talent-less witch. Why didn’t she perform? Her brother doesnt have A song! At least she does, I mean it still sucks, but she has a song! I’m sick of Bieber, The Smiths, Usher, and Slena Gomez. Did you guys see her? She was so sad that her little justin didn’t win. Well let’s be honest, HE SUCKED AND HIS SOOOO CALLES MENTOR WAS A HOTTT MESS!

    • downtoearth

      if JB,Usher.Jmith sucked why you came here?

      • Nerk

        I still cried when the Bieb didn’t win…

    • Martha

      Usher won 2 awards…if not 3! get ur facts right!

    • janicej7

      Wow…are you mean or what? Justin soooooo deserved to win last night – much more so than other New Artists of the Year from the past. Even most of the veteran performers did not achieve a fraction of what Justin accomplished in the past year. Who else sold out 86 major venues in 6 months and released 3 top 10 cd’s within 12 months? Hate him or love him – you can’t deny the facts. He was totally discriminated against because of his young age. You need to take a pill and chill. JUSTIN WE STILL LOVE YOU! Ignore the haters and keep singing!

      • Dave

        The facts that you provide have nothing to do with the quality of his music, but rather his popularity.

  • Shelly

    Hey EW, Can you please list all the doggone Grammy winners. Everyone was not on tv who won a Grammy.

  • ace

    i was surprised when they called her name. Never even heard her before or any of her music. She should have been a performer or something so at least people could see who she is. oh well. good for her.

    • Christina

      If you look on the Official Grammy Website, you will see that she hosted the pre telecast Grammys and I believe she performed for it too. She made a cameo on stage during the show with her bass. I wish ahe would have performed as well. I just know that when I heard her music play when they mentioned her nomination, I really liked her song, so I looked it up. I became an instant fan. I love her song “Little Fly”.

  • keith

    Hey, there is TONS of great music not on the radio peeps! If you don’t know who Esperanza Spalding it, look her up! She’s very talented and I’m impressed the voters didn’t go with the popular, commercial choice.

  • cici217

    I’m just glad the Glee crapfest train did not win anything.

  • Marcelo Cruz

    The only one with a real talent was Esperanza, she is been on that jazz scene for a long time. I hope the big record label will finally realize that the general population need real music and not fake and stupid with no meaning music like beaver, Drake and all of them. and yeah Usher do works hard because is hard to be in the studio and make some one sound good lol, trust me I work in studios and the amount of effect processing that we put to make some one sound good is crazy but with some one like Esperanza you almost dont need any she can be record an put on the record dry and she will still sound good but put beaver or Usher on a record Dry and see what happens lol.
    there is many other artist like Esperanza for example Raul Midon, this guy is a musical genius.

  • Kasey Fleming

    In my opinion Justin or Drake should have won, i mean really? I have been asking around all day trying to find out if anyone even knew that girl and no one does, but everone know drake and justin! I think they made a HUGE mistake!

    • Marcelo Cruz

      @ Kasey – the Grammy’s is a music award contest not a popularity contest.

    • VikingJuice

      Kasey: I have heard of Spalding before. But funny, I have heard of Beiber & Drake but couldn’t tell you one song they sing! Nice to see the Acadamy going against the popular vote this year.

    • Lulu

      That’s what Google is for. Or did beiberfever destroy all of your braincells?

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