Esperanza Spalding has always been a favorite of President Barack Obama's, but she just got a whole new level of exposure with her Best New Artist Grammy win and performance at tonight's 53rd annual awards ceremony. It was a huge upset for the Grammys, with most of the buzz about the Best New Artist category surrounding 16-year-old pop phenom Justin Bieber.
Spalding is the first Jazz singer to be nominated in the breakthrough artist category in 35 years, and she found herself in the company of teen star Bieber, and up-and-coming rapper Drake. Born in Portland, Oregon to an African-American father and a Mexican-Welsh mother, Spalding learned Spanish from her Cuban nanny and it was this mish-mash of cultures that defined the trilingual singer’s style—a fusion of Latin and Brazilian rhythms. Growing up, she taught herself to play different instruments, learning classical violin at the age of five before discovering the bass as a teenager.
Esperanza's 2010 album, Chamber Music Society (her sophomore effort following Esperanza) hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart in January of 2011, and she just wrapped the “Welcome 2 America” tour with Prince and his band, The New Power Generation. Spalding won her Best New Artist Grammy right after hosting the Pre-Telecast Ceremony, which featured a performance by Cyndi Lauper.
Spalding was definitely not expecting to win the award tonight, telling us just days ago when we asked her if she had prepared an acceptance seech, "That would be wishful thinking. I think the fairytale has already hit the peak, which is being invited to co-host the telecast...If by the wild chance that happened, I would have to go up and thank everyone and their mother-in-law." Well, it looks like it happened Esperanza!
Check out Sway interviewing Spalding backstage right after her shocking win: