Grammy-Nominated Artists Take Us Behind the Scenes of Their Albums

It's bracket season, baby, and with the 64th annual Grammy Awards falling on April 3rd—just one day before the men's March Madness championship game—it's time to get your picks in order. 

Luckily (for the culture) and unluckily (for the odds), the field runs deep. The Best Dance/Electronic Album category is home to a host of legends all on its own: Black Coffee (Subconsciously), ILLENIUM (Fallen Embers), Major Lazer (Music Is The Weapon (Reloaded)), Marshmello (Shockwave), Sylvan Esso (Free Love) and Ten City (Judgement). 

From their most inspired moments to their favorite lyrics, to even the walk-up song they'd play if they win the award, we've got the inside scoop on all things albums from ILLENIUM, Sylvan Esso and Ten City. Read their responses to nine speed-round questions below, and check out the full list of nominees here Where were you when you first heard the news of your nomination? 

ILLENIUM: My girlfriend Lara woke me up all excited at like noon and told me. I was totally blown away. Woke up really excited that day.

Sylvan Esso: I (Amelia Meath) was in a meeting and I started getting a whole bunch of texts. Then Martin, our manager, called me and we yelled back and forth on the phone to each other. Sandy (Nick Sanborn) was with his parents when he found out—they were visiting—so I think that was a pretty lovely moment for him.

Ten City: Byron Stingily—I was in a meeting and I kept hearing my alerts going off on my phone. I glanced and saw many texts saying congratulations. I was wondering what I was being congratulated for and realized it was the day nominations were being announced. I thought, "Could it be?," just as Alex Harrow and Arma Andon texted to say, "Congratulations on your Grammy nomination!"

Ten City: 
Marshall Jefferson—I was in my studio and Vince Lawrence, who started my career, called me up and told me. Who was the first person you told? How did it feel? 

Sylvan Esso: I was running around Betty's, the studio house, and yelling when our head engineer, Alli, came in to get some lunch. She was pleasantly surprised.

Ten City: BS—I sent a mass text to my wife and children. I felt overjoyed to be able to share good news. Our family recently had several deaths. I hoped this news would make everyone feel a little better. My kids had recently lost their mom!

Ten City: MJ—I told CeCe Rogers because he called me up right after i found out. It felt great to share it with CeCe because he worked on the album.' If you could pick a “walk-up” song to collect the award, what would it be?

ILLENIUM: "Sideways" (with Valerie Broussard and Nurko) off Fallen Embers. One of my favorite vocals ever and just an anthem.

Sylvan Esso: “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy or “Believe” by Cher.

Ten City: BS—"Feel It Too" off Judgement, because it is upbeat and I wish all the people who contributed to this album could feel it too as we walk up on the stage.

Ten City: MJ—"Love Is Just A Game: off Judgement. What are some of your favorite lyrics on your nominated album?

ILLENIUM: “Feet on the ground, feet on the ground, even when we’re upside down.” Reminds me to try and stay grounded and hopeful. No matter the craziness, I’ll get through it. ("Sideways")

Sylvan Esso: “Know it easy, know it plain, know it’s simple, this loving thing, and in the darkness you hear it ring, and when it freezes it thaws again, just like a record spinning round, oh can’t you hear it? That loving sound, it’s playing now.” ("Make It Easy")

Ten City: BS—"Don’t Judge, just love." ("Judgement")

Ten City: MJ—"Lust, romance. It depends on the circumstance. In the end you ask yourself: is there really a difference?" ("Love Is Just A Game") Who are some people you couldn't have completed the project without?

ILLENIUM: The list is huge. All of my amazing collaborators and writers and family and girlfriend. Trevor aka Said The Sky is an amazing creative help to me. Same with my managers, Sean and Ha.

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Sylvan Esso: Martin Anderson, BJ Burton, Dave Ayers, Molly Sarlé, and of course Nicholas Sanborn.

Ten City: So many, including El Boogie, Emmaculate, Patrick Moxey, Alex Harrow, CeCe Rogers, David Waxman, Paul Arnold, Annie Birkeland and all the producers, musicians and background singers. 

Ten City When did you feel most inspired while writing the album?

ILLENIUM: With everything shut down last year I had more time than ever, so I buried myself in my studio and let creating be my escape. It was both amazing and a struggle since I really love touring and felt like it was halted with no say.

Sylvan Esso: January 2020.

Ten City: BS—Watching the news. This album is a subtle reaction to oppression. That’s why there are songs such as "Be Free," "Come Together," and "Judgement."

Ten City: MJ—I don't think there was any single "inspired moment" but rather a continuous inspired wave for the whole album.

illenium If you could add another nominee to your category, what artist/album would you select?

ILLENIUM: Porter Robinson's Nurture. Everyone who listens to electronic music knows how groundbreaking and Grammy-worthy that album is.

Sylvan Esso: Koreless, Barker or Overmono even though I don’t think they all have albums in the right time frame to be nominated.

Ten City: BS—Inner City's We All Move Together. We started together and it makes me feel good to see us both still hanging in there.

Ten City: MJ—Jana Rush's Painful Enlightenment. They're also from Chicago! Who’s a rising artist you’ve got your eye on right now, that you think has the potential to one day be nominated in this category? 

ILLENIUM: I would love to see more bass music in this category. Moore Kismet is crushing it. Everything they put out is so original and amazing. Kill The Noise is coming out with a new fire album. Blanke has been crushing it. Said the Sky's new album is brilliant. Dabin is on another level. William Black. List goes on. 

Sylvan Esso: Proc Fiskal! 

Ten City: Emmaculate. Favorite album(s) of all-time? 

ILLENIUM: Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park, Recovery by Eminem, Worlds by Porter Robinson, No Return by Odesza and Recess by Skrillex. 

Sylvan Esso: Nick of Time by Bonnie Raitt and Aquemini by Outkast. 

Ten City: BSSign of the Times by Prince, Inner City by Marvin Gaye, Club Lonely by Lil Louis.

Ten City: MJFragile by Yes, Claudine by Gladys Knight & the Pips, Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John.