Annie Lennox - Hozier

Source: USA Today

LOS ANGELES — When Ken Ehrlich, who produces the Grammy Awards show, suggested to Annie Lennox that she sing with Hozier on Sunday’s telecast (CBS, 8-11 p.m. ET/tape-delayed PT), she wasn’t convinced it was such a good idea.

“I wasn’t quite seeing it, initially,” says the Scottish singer, a four-time Grammy winner whose Nostalgia is up for traditional pop vocal album this year. “I said, when we get into a room together, we’re going to know if it works.”

The singers rehearsed their two-song medley Thursday at the Staples Center.

When Lennox, 60, and 24-year-old Hozier, whose Take Me to Church has a song-of-the-year nomination, initially got together to work through their numbers, “I think he was a little nervous, to be honest with you,” Lennox says. “I’m always a little bemused by that, because I’m really not anybody to be afraid of.”

Lennox, though, did put a scare into Ehrlich back in 1984, when the Eurythmics, her duo with Dave Stewart, were up for best new artist and performing their hit Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) on the show. Lennox decided to dress in drag, made up in an Elvis Presley-style pompadour and sideburns and wearing a black shirt and slacks.

“I knew if I showed up like that, I could just skulk in the background and nobody would know who I was,” she says. Sure enough, Ehrlich didn’t recognize her, and, seconds before the Eurythmics were set to take to live, he was frantically searching for Lennox, even though she was standing a few feet from her microphone.

“He’s going, ‘Where Annie? Where’s Annie?’ And I go, ‘I’m right here, Ken.'” she says. “He melted. He went right down on his knees, in the middle of all this mayhem.”

The Grammys producers are hoping to keep the songs Lennox and Hozier will perform under wraps, but Lennox says, “Gospel and blues is the basis of both those songs. That’s the interface.”

Some details had to be ironed out before Lennox would agree to perform. The two ended up performing a song other than the one Ehrlich initially suggested for Lennox, and Hozier dropped his song’s key a step to fit with Lennox’s. “If you listen to the record, it’s in E minor,” Lennox says. “But he said, actually, for live, it works better in D minor, which happens to be the key my song is in.

“For a singer, if it’s not quite in the right key, you struggle. If I try to sing along with Beatles songs, I struggle, because they’re usually in G or A. I’m very comfortable around C and D, for some reason.”

Lennox calls Hozier “such a grounded guy — he’s quite wise for his years.” She also understands the demands placed on a young artist when a debut single blows up the way Take Me to Church has.

Sweet Dreams was something like that, so I do know something about that,” she says, “and I do know about how it can last your whole life.”

Lennox recently taped a concert special called Annie Lennox: Nostalgia Live in Concert for PBS. “It was absolutely wonderful, to be honest,” she says. “I’m very critical of myself, and I always have been. It’s never good enough for me. It went so well. I was so relieved and so happy.

“It was quite an ambitious thing to do, to have only one performance and have it with no backup. We had 11 cameras, and we could have stopped the show if things went really badly wrong, but I really didn’t want to do that.”