This year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was a roller coaster ride of emotions, surprise appearances, heartwarming speeches and, of course, good music. Plus, both the class of 2023 inductees and the night’s performers were more diverse than ever, thanks to the Hall’s ongoing efforts to recognize a broader range of genres as well as the women and people of color who have permanently changed the landscape of music for the better (in spite of what exiled co-founder Jann Wenner may have said earlier this year, something that made for a sizzling diss in Bernie Taupin’s acceptance speech).
And whether it was from the audience or behind the scenes, Billboard was there at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday night (Nov. 3) to capture it all. The evening’s inductees included Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, The Spinners, DJ Kool Herc, Link Wray, Chaka Khan, and Bernie Taupin, while the performers list spanned Adam Levine, Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Elton John, H.E.R., Ice-T, LL Cool J, Miguel, New Edition, Olivia Rodrigo, Queen Latifah, Sia, Stevie Nicks and St. Vincent — several of whom stopped backstage to answer one-on-one questions from Billboard, address the press room as a whole or simply take photos.
For the first time ever, the ceremony was live-streamed, meaning fans everywhere could tune in via Disney+ to watch in real time. But to find out what cameras didn’t catch, keep reading below to see what you missed backstage at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, including exclusive Billboard interviews with Sheryl Crow, Carrie Underwood and more:
Emotions were high as Carrie Underwood came out of her performance honoring late 2023 inductee and her personal hero George Michael, having beautifully belted out “One More Try” following Adam Levine’s rendition of “Faith.” “I don’t know how I feel,” she told Billboard shortly afterward. “I feel blessed to have been a part of a tribute, but it’s such a bittersweet thing because it’s like, he should’ve been here to sing himself.”
“For me, I just wanted to do a good job and I wanted to do something I hope he would’ve been proud of,” she continued. “I probably made myself way more nervous than I should have. I wanted to do a good job and give him the props that he deserves, because he certainly meant so much to me and my musical upbringing.”
The Carrie’s Country radio host went on to reflect on growing up with the Wham! singer’s influence, something she attributes to her older sisters. “They were in control of the radio, so I feel like I got the good stuff real early in life,” Underwood said. “We didn’t have MTV, I didn’t know what he looked like. I didn’t know anything about him, tight jeans, dancing, I didn’t know any of that. All I knew was his voice, which I was drawn to. I wore my sisters’ cassette tapes out.”
“Loved his voice always, that’s always what stuck out to me,” she added. “Obviously I learned a lot more about him as I grew up, but was just always a fan of that incredible voice. His tone was absolutely beautiful, he wasn’t afraid to hit high notes in his head voice. He had this kind of soulful cadence about how he would sing things that just made you feel every word. He wanted to make great music, and he did.”
Olivia Rodrigo, who joined her idol Sheryl Crow onstage to help kick off the ceremony with an assist on “If It Makes You Happy,” didn’t swing by the press room in person — but she did send Billboard a statement. “It was an honor to join Sheryl on stage and I am so excited for her to be inducted into the RRHOF!” the young pop star said. “I am a massive fan of hers and her incredible songwriting. She’s equally as kind as she is talented and I feel so lucky that I was able to be part of celebrating such a legend.”
After her induction, and before her performances honoring Willie Nelson and the late Robbie Robertson, Sheryl Crow told Billboard that she felt like she’d “just been given a shot of adrenaline.” “I won’t be able to process it until I get home and have a little bit of quiet time,” she added. “It’s amazing. Just hearing my name listed with all the other names that are already in the Rock Hall is just incredible to me. It’s not fathomable.”
“It’s not something that you work toward,” Crow continued. “It’s not like, ‘Okay, I’ve got an album, maybe I’ll get up for a Grammy or whatever.’ It’s based on the entirety of your career. Sitting down and writing a speech and reflecting on the last 36 years, it’s impossible to even digest all of it. The main thing for me is reflecting on how many people are in my life because of music.”
The nine-time Grammy winner also opened up about passing the torch to young songwriters like Rodrigo, who look up to her just as much as she looks up to legends like Stevie Nicks (who was also at Barclays Friday night and performed “Strong Enough” with Crow). “All I can say is I paid homage to the women that were before me, and I know how much they mean to me,” she said. “I don’t take it lightly at all. I still look to them — my friendship with Stevie Nicks is genuine, but I’m still in awe of her. Yeah, I don’t take it lightly.”
When she wasn’t onstage, Crow could be seen seated in the audience with her two sons, Wyatt and Levi. “If I had to walk away from all of it to raise my boys, I would do that without even second guessing,” reflected the 61-year-old musician, who also announced her 11th studio album, Evolution, on the day of the ceremony. “They’re proud, and they love that I’m doing something I love. They’re fantastic boys.”
Chris Stapleton, who performed alongside one of 2023’s inductees Willie Nelson, posed for photos and answered a couple questions from the press room, confessing he’d had a number of “starstruck moments” throughout the night. “Looking out in the audience, Jimmy Page is sitting there,” he said of the Led Zeppelin guitarist, who made a surprise appearance Friday (Nov. 3) to help induct the late Link Wray.
“You can’t help but be inspired by these things,” Stapleton added. “This is legendary stuff. It’s rare. Just walking up and down the hallways with the people you pass — Flava Flav is behind me in the hallways. It’s a very unique thing to come to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and do anything.”
Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello
Tom Morello was the only Rage Against the Machine band member to show face at the induction ceremony, explaining after accepting the Hall of Fame trophy from Ice-T that he’d come to “celebrate the fifth member [of the band], which is Rage Against the Machine’s incredible fans.”
Afterward, he breezed through the press room only to take a few photos, holding up a handwritten note reading “Cease Fire!” in front of the flashing cameras.
Brittany Howard was the first artist to stop by and chat with Billboard, although she was eager to leave for the stage and start her The Band tribute performance with Sheryl Crow and Elton John. “I can’t wait, like literally, I can’t wait,” she said. “I wish it was right now.”
“I’m really excited to be here,” Howard added. “Obviously the room is full of incredible artists. I’m gonna try and get around and meet most people, but who I’m really targeting is Missy Elliott. I grew up from a very young age watching her perform and just be the beauty queen she is, a strong, powerful, creative Black woman.”
“I’m super excited to see Sheryl Crow,” continued the Alabama Shakes guitarist. “Sheryl doesn’t know this, but I’m a massive fan. Every time she comes up and talks to me, I kind of get a lump in my throat.”
Howard also teased that new music — more specifically, a full album — is on its way. “I just want Billboard to know, I’m coming for your charts,” she hinted, her latest single “What Now” having already arrived mid-October. “You’ll see me soon. It’s an entire album, and it’s something I’ve produced and created to be an emotional, but also physically visceral experience. This album is closer to my skin than I’ve ever been. It comes out very soon, in fact you’ll find out so soon when it comes out.”
Peter Frampton told Billboard that he “couldn’t be happier” to be in attendance at the 2023 ceremony, shortly after shredding guitar alongside Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks for an electric performance of “Everyday Is a Winding Road.” “She said it was a favor, but I would’ve run here when Sheryl asked me to play,” the rock star said. ‘I’ve been a huge fan for so long, then I found out about 10 years ago that I was her first concert, so that’s why she wanted to have me here tonight.”
“I’m here because of Sheryl. It’s a wonderful gift she gave me,” Frampton added. “She deserves everything she gets, every award she gets. She’s a very talented and selfless person. She’s always helping other people. You know, you could never call her diva, she’s just a lovely person.”
Andrew Ridgeley was at the ceremony to induct his late Wham! bandmate George Michael into the Hall of Fame, marking one of the night’s most bittersweet moments. “It was an honor, and something I felt a personal obligation to do — an obligation to my great friend,” the guitarist told Billboard afterward. “I would’ve been slightly put out if it had been someone else, to be honest.”
“I think he would’ve been really flattered,” added Ridgeley, in response to what Michael would have thought about the night’s honors. “He took these things seriously. He took the accolades and the respect of his peers seriously. That meant a lot to him.”
Chaka Khan & Sia
After taking the stage together in celebration of Chaka Khan‘s long-awaited induction, the Rufus vocalist and Sia took on the press room side by side. The two women didn’t answer questions, although Sia did belt out a few bars of her hit “Chandelier” for the small gathering of photographers and journalists — and yes, her voice is just as powerful in real life as it seems in recordings.
New Edition looked dapper in matching velvet tuxes as they passed through the Rock Hall press room, shortly before taking the stage to perform in honor of The Spinners. “This was our dream, and this dream has come true tonight,” Michael Bivens said on behalf of his bandmates. “It’s gong to be one of the biggest performances of our career, and we’re just happy to be sharing it with you.”