“It’s like this giant puzzle that comes together with all these pieces and I get to manage my part of it.”
When Chantel Sausedo was eight years old, she had dreams of becoming a famous entertainer, when her mom hit her with a bit of a bomb. “‘Honey, everybody’s got a gift,'” she recalls. “‘Some people can sing, some people can paint… You’re organized.'”
Understandably, these are not the words of encouragement the bright-eyed youth had hoped to receive. But, Sausedo says now, her mother was right — and decades later she is able to exercise that gift on a massive level as the Grammy Awards’ talent producer with Ken Ehrlich Productions, a role she likens to being a “closet organizer, but on a much larger scale.”
Sausedo’s duties for the annual extravaganza include requesting (and sometimes convincing) talent take part in the show and then “taking care of their needs,” as she puts it, beginning the moment they say yes. That means assisting in the creative process and planning leading up to the show, and then, in the immediate days before — like now, ahead of Sunday’s event at New York City’s Madison Square Garden — managing cars, dressing rooms, call sheets, credentials and everything in between. Needless to say, Sausedo must be a skilled diplomat who can think on her feet when plans fall through.
“I have to be extremely flexible because it’s a different thing for every artist,” she explains about her role. “People make jokes about M&Ms and all that nonsense, but there is a brown M&M on every person’s list — like, they’ve all got something that they must have that is either either hard to source or difficult to accommodate… These are a lot of people who don’t generally have to compromise for anything. So that’s difficult to navigate, but we do a pretty good job and because of it we get some amazing performances.”
Sausedo joined the Grammys in 2003, shifting course after trying to break into the industry as a singer and an actress. She worked as a PA in the talent department before assisting one of the show’s producers and then rising up the ranks to become a talent executive and, eventually, a talent producer — a title she has held for the past six years. Coincidentally the last time the Grammys were held in New York, 15 years ago, was also the year Sausedo started working with the event. (Since then, it had been held at Los Angeles’ Staples Center.) Every day on the job presents a new challenge, she says, and no matter how many times she and her staff go through a show, each year the process changes with different artists, technology, lighting, stages and, now, the venue, among other things. What is constant is the reporter’s notebook she keeps on hand to make a running list of things to do, “and I just keep going through it until I’ve finished it and I don’t have anything left to cross off the list,” she says.
“I love to be organized, I love things to be placed nicely and I like helping people. And so this gig just really suits me,” she adds. “It’s like this giant puzzle that comes together with all these pieces and I get to manage my part of it.”
When you’re coming up say yes to every task, even if you don’t have a clue how to do it. It’s the best education.
I’ve learned being direct and nice are synonymous. Deliver the truth kindly and people will appreciate it and you’ll always be able to look them in the eye when you meet again.
The great thing about my work is the flexibility. Working moms need that. I never have to feel like I am choosing between my job and my kid.
Dealing with musicians is never boring. Creative people follow their muse, so when they do, I follow along with throat coat and my reality check.
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