Q&A: Grammy Winner Fritz Klaetke

One day you're rubbing elbows with Sir Paul, then it's back to the grind.

Fritz Klaetke Grammy

Fritz Klaetke accepts a Grammy for his work on Woody at 100.

It was a surreal couple of days for Visual Dialogue’s Fritz Klaetke. Besides winning a Grammy on Sunday in the category of “Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package Design,” he got to experience life on the red carpet, meet Beach Boys icon Brian Wilson, and revel in the thunderous applause of music’s biggest names. We caught up with Klaetke after his whirlwind weekend and the inevitable comedown on a return trip to Nemo-ravaged Boston.

Tell us about your experience after you arrived to a star-laden Staples Center.

It was wild to see the red carpet from the other side. All the entertainment media outlets are lined up and the hosts are pulling the stars into their little individual areas. At the end of this gauntlet is the photographers’ area, where they’re all jammed into these bleachers. They’re all shooting and calling your name—even when you’re not ‘Bey’ (Beyonce) and ‘Ri’ (Rihanna). Finally, the strangest part, there’s a crowd of volunteer “cheerers,” who explode into applause and start shouting your name as you head toward the theater. I’m not sure any of them even knew who I was.

Did you get to meet Jack White?

No, I couldn’t find him. I’ve heard that he’s a perfectionist. Supposedly, he’s pretty regimented about practicing until his set is exactly the way he wants it. His performance was amazing, though. I think he was easily the best person to take the stage.

Were there any other celebrities you got to meet that evening?

Brian Wilson was right behind me on the red carpet. He was not looking well! He was walking really slow and just looked really rough. At one point I said a quick hello as we were both waiting to be interviewed on camera. He’s getting up there in age, and I don’t think the Beach Boys have ever won a Grammy, so I think that helped sway the vote in his favor. [Wilson’s Smile Sessions won for Best Historical Album over Klaetke’s fellow nominees on the Woody at 100 project, Jeff Place and Robert Santelli.]

Also, right after getting the Grammy, I got to meet Esperanza Spalding backstage, who won for Best Jazz Vocal Album. I told her about our Boston connection, since she went to Berklee College of Music. She was really nice and had the most awesome hair.

Can you tell us about your acceptance speech and the incredible reception it received? 

I got a huge round of applause when I thanked the Academy for recognizing the role of package design in this age of downloaded music. But it also gave me a chance to catch my breath because my head was spinning at that point. I also commented on how Woody’s words are even more powerful today. Those two statements really seemed to get quite a bit of buzz in the media room afterward. I received a flood of personal notes about the speech.

Watch Klaetke’s acceptance speech here:

So how are you feeling after a couple of days to digest it all?

I’m still flying pretty high with all the emails of congratulations and the postings online. We got back late Monday night, so first thing Tuesday morning, I was out there shoveling snow like everyone else. My neighbors here in the South End asked, “Since you’re a Grammy winner now, shouldn’t you have someone doing that for you?”

What can you say, on stage at the Grammys one day and then back to reality the next. But we will have a party when the official engraved award arrives. I was hoping to bring it back and go through the airport with it, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.