MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Lizzo, Taylor Swift, "Sesame Street" - these are just some of the superstars who have performed their music behind a desk in the last year as part of NPR Music's stripped-down concert series. We call them Tiny Desk concerts. And now, for the sixth year in a row, NPR Music is looking for the next great undiscovered artist to play at that desk. Could it be you? Bob Boilen, the creator of the Tiny Desk concert series and host of the podcast All Songs Considered, is here to share all.
BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: I should start by just noting some of the people have gone on from winning Tiny Desk to really big things. The 2017 winner, Tank and the Bangas, people may know they were nominated for a Grammy this year.
BOILEN: They were. And so Fantastic Negrito, our first Tiny Desk contest winner, has won two Grammy Awards.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLASTIC HAMBURGERS")
FANTASTIC NEGRITO: (Singing) Let's break out these chains. Let's burn it down.
BOILEN: So it's a great platform.
KELLY: Do all the previous winners have something in common? What are you looking for?
BOILEN: Singularity - I want to hear music that only you can make, that is unique to you. And you listen to any of the Tiny Desk contest winners from Fantastic Negrito, Gaelynn Lea, Naia Izumi, Tank and the Bangas...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "QUICK")
TANK AND THE BANGAS: (Singing) I see him looking a mile away. He like my body, don't see my face.
BOILEN: ...And Quinn Christopherson. There's no one I can think of like any of these artists. And that's beautiful.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ERASE ME")
QUINN CHRISTOPHERSON: (Singing) I got a voice now, and I got power. But I can't stand it.
KELLY: To enter, you have to be 18. You have to live in the U.S. You can't be signed to any record label. You have to be unsigned.
BOILEN: That's right.
KELLY: OK. What do you do to enter? And then what happens? What do you win?
BOILEN: Send us a video of you playing an original song behind a desk of your choosing - and imaginations run wild with that, and that's fun. But the main thing we want is the great art, the great music. That's the important thing. The quality of the video, the quality of the recording - not so important. The expression is the most important part.
KELLY: Craziest desk that someone has entered - there has to be a desk?
BOILEN: Think mountaintops. Think underwater. Yes is the answer.
KELLY: Which would impact the music, I'm imagining this.
KELLY: OK. And then to the - what do they win? They get to go on tour with NPR Music.
BOILEN: They get to play a Tiny Desk concert here in Washington, D.C., and then go to nine other cities on tour with us.
KELLY: Thank you, Bob.
BOILEN: Thanks, Mary Louise.
KELLY: That is Bob Boilen announcing this year's Tiny Desk Contest. It is his desk, by the way, where you will perform if you are the winner. You can send your entries starting February 11. Good luck, everybody.
(SOUNDBITE OF NAIA IZUMI SONG, "SOFT SPOKEN")
NAIA IZUMI: (Vocalizing).
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