Matt Stawski Takes Us Behind the Scenes at the Grammys

As a nominee for directing Cee Lo Green in the music video for “F*** You,” Matt Stawski attended the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. The 26-year-old Warren native and Cousino High School graduate offered a behind-the-scenes take on the experience, including what it’s like to lose to Lady Gaga

How was your Grammy weekend?

Saturday was the nominee reception and Sunday was the Grammys themselves. The nominee reception was pretty cool. They gave the lifetime achievement award to The Ramones. Julie Andrews got a lifetime achievement award as well. That was pretty wild, just seeing her up on stage. She was really elegant — Mary Poppins herself.

What time did things get rolling on Sunday?

We got there at 12:30, and we reported straight to the red carpet. It was kind of crazy, but I got to do two interviews. One was with Fuse TV and I did one with CNN.

 

Your category, Best Short Form Music Video, was awarded during the pre-telecast.

We were actually the first category of the night. It was nice to get it over with. I pretty much knew Lady Gaga was going to win, but I was still nervous. I just hate competition.

It was cool because right when the pre-telecast opened up, Esperanza Spalding — she won for Best New Artist — she performed with another guy. And at that point, we didn’t even know who she was.

Was it disappointing not to win?

It just fuels you for the next one. I know in my heart we did our best. It all comes down to having the right timing. Regardless of who won, I still would’ve made the same video.

How is the pre-telecast different from the telecast ceremony?

It just went by really fast. Kathy Griffin, the comedian, she came out and just started cussing up a storm. It was hilarious. She was one of the announcers, and she just did a little spiel before she started. She was like, ‘Now, the category for best Hawaiian song using two ukuleles’ — just making a joke about how no one cared about the pre-telecast.

How was the actual telecast?

It was cool, because you see what happens during commercial breaks. The producer and the director come out and you hear all the stage notes and the countdown. What you see on TV — it’s split in half — but the way they shoot it makes it look like each setup is a full stage. But they’re actually working on other sets while there’s someone performing. While the telecast is going on, they’re switching from Muse’s stage to Cee Lo’s performance stage.

Did you see Cee Lo before or after that performance?

He was walking out right after he didn’t win for Song or Record of the Year. It was kind of shocking. … I thought he was going to win for one of those for sure. He was actually pretty bummed out.

Matt Stawski (right) directing Cee Lo Green (left foreground) in the music video F*** You, which is set in a diner.

How much of the process is just politics?

It’s weird. There are the politics and then there’s a jazz singer that no one knows about winning Best New Artist and Arcade Fire winning Best Album. There’s some sort of justification with those artists winning that gives you faith in the Grammys — maybe the academy is an honest organization that votes for what is actually best.

Did you run into anyone else famous?

We were at the after-party and Stevie Wonder walked by. Cyndi Lauper had some family members that were sitting near us and she was standing by us for a while. When J. Lo and Marc Anthony showed up late, they were hustled through the crowd by security and pushed by us. It was pretty cool. We were right in the middle of things.

J. Lo’s hair was frizzed, and she and Marc Anthony kind of argued after they presented. And Cyndi Lauper was perfect. I’m obsessed with her. Her face is so beautiful even when her hair — on purpose — is a hurricane.

What was the after-party like?

It was like a Studio 54 scene. There was really good food and people walking around on stilts and circus acts. It was all funky and The Roots played.

You took your mom with you, right?

My mom and my dad came. Serge [Gay Jr.], who did the art in the video, came as well.

How did your parents enjoy themselves?

My mom got to see Barbra Streisand perform and my dad got to see Bob Dylan. They’re both huge fans, so they were excited for that. Mick Jagger, too. They were just blown away. They’d never seen anything like that before in their lives. Now, everyone back home in Michigan is excited to hear from them.

My aunt up in the U.P. called into the local radio station and got to talk on air because she talked to my mom that night. This small radio station was super stoked to hear that a relative of someone was [at the Grammys].

Overall impressions?

It was a really inspiring night. It was great to see all these artists that I really respect perform. It was great to see some upsets and some underdogs winning. It was cool to see everything behind the scenes, and so many talented people in one room. People can say what they want about the Grammys, but it really was an amazing show.

Next stop: The Oscars?

We’ll see. All the guys that win the Oscars have gray hair, so that’s a long road. I think my next big goal is just to make a film. All my focus is on that right now. Putting everything into finding the right script, meeting some screenwriters, developing my own material, finding the right production companies, and just making my impression on the film world and trying to get something made.

Stawski discusses his burgeoning film career and his experience directing music videos for pop music’s biggest stars in the March issue of Hour Detroit.

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