Last night was the 53rd Annual Grammy Music Awards and among all the surprises, for example Lady GaGa hatching on stage, literally, the biggest surprise came when Esperanza Spalding took home the coveted award for Best New Artist. Beating out fellow nominees Drake, Mumford & Sons, Florence + the Machine, and current teen sensation Justin Bieber, Spalding was practically a no name among the list when the nominees were announced back in December but not any more.
Just hours after snatching the award from some of the music industry’s known players, Spalding’s name has been circulating throughout media websites and became the topic of every Grammy recap discussion. But the main question circulating is, who is she? Well, the now famous Esperanza Spalding is a Jazz, Nu Soul, Blues, and the list goes on Bassist and Vocalist who has made some waves within the Jazz community and will surly be making waves in the entire music industry in the year to come.
Born of African, Welsh, and Mexican descendant in Portland, Oregon the 26-year-old Jazz singer and bassist gets her musical prowess from her mother who was almost a touring singer herself. At age 5 Spalding was introduced to and started playing the violin, but it wasn’t until she was in high school goofing off and playing around with a Bassist did Spalding find her musical instrument of choice. Raised by her singer mother in the King neighborhood of Portland, Spalding describes the environment she grew up in as being “ghetto and pretty scary.”
Living in the troubled neighborhood, Spalding describes it as being an influence which made her reluctant about going to school despite having an interest in learning. Music, along with her family and friends, was the force that enabled her to make it through. And with the encouragements of her family and friends who recognized her versatility as both a vocalist and bassist, Spalding enrolled into Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated in 2005.
Playing in blue clubs at 15, Spalding spent a majority of her life with the bass in hand belting out lyrics she has been writing since she was 14 years old. And even through financial troubles in college, Spalding stuck to her love of music and trekked daily to school with bass strapped to back with little to no money in pocket in order to continue on with the one thing she truly loves. So it comes as no surprise that her endeavors as a musician has payed off with numerous collaborations with some of Jazz and Blues finest and the production of her own work through three albums Junjo (2006), Esperanza (2008), and Chamber Music Society (2010).
The albums immortalize the nu soul rhythms that web through Spalding’s fingers into the bass and the sound of soft Jazz and soul which triumphs through her petite body and emits from her through powerful voice which sings lyrics either in English, Spanish, or Portuguese. So say with you will about the vocalist and bassist snagging the best new artist award, but be sure you say she earned it.