Her soulful songs and masterful bass playing have made Esperanza Spalding a rising star in the jazz world. But when her name was announced as the best new artist winner – beating out Justin Bieber and rapper Drake – at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, some scratched their heads.
Nevertheless, Spalding, 26, has played at the White House, performed with Stevie Wonder and Prince personally requested that she perform for his 2010 BET Awards Tribute.
Here are five more things to know about the Best New Artist nominee:
1. She doesn’t own a TV, but loves 30 Rock
“I don’t have a television because I’m never home,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m usually traveling overseas but whenever I have an Internet connection I do my catch up on 30 Rock and have a good laugh. It’s one of my favorite shows.”
2. Her hair is all natural – and all hers
“When I was little my hair was my worst enemy because I have so much of it and it’s really unruly,” Spalding says. “I don’t know what happened but at some point I didn’t try to tame it and just let it go wild and it became my look.” And the bassist credits her mother with encouraging her personal style. “As much as I wanted to do something [with my hair as a teenager], she wouldn’t let me. I just had to learn to accept it. Now I really love it.”
3. She gets star struck too
She may be an up-and-coming star herself, but Spalding still gets the chills when she meets living legends. “I was a little star struck by Patti LaBelle,” she says. “Her presence is so powerful. When you meet her she’s really intense; she looks you in the eyes and she’s so comfortable in her skin. The strength of her presence took me totally off guard.”
4. She loves collaborating with Stevie Wonder
“When I was in Stevie Wonder’s dressing room to rehearse the song that we were going to play – it’s a song called “Fall In,” which was my composition – he completely weaved my song into the most incredibly rich, lush, exciting, different musical arrangement I’ve ever heard,” she raves. “I could never think of something so incredible. He was one of my heroes playing my song – singing it to death.”
5. She’s not a Twitter fan
With nearly every celebrity on Twitter, Spalding is holding out for a more old fashioned form of communication. “I prefer manual correspondence,” she says. “I like to hear somebody’s voice if they have random, exciting news. When you get a letter in the mail from somebody, that’s the best feeling! Maybe I’ll Tweet one day but as of now, that’s how I like to correspond.”