Out musician on ‘Grand’ success

Almost three years ago, out singer-songwriter Steve Grand broke out when his song and video “All-American Boy” went viral. After the wild success of the song, Grand began a Kickstarter campaign to produce his 2015 CD “All-American Boy.”

On Feb. 26, Grand will perform at the Rrazz Room at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia, and the next day he’ll be in concert at the Rrazz Room in Bucks County. The Chicago-based musician spoke via Skype with PGN about his career and upcoming concerts.

PGN: How did you get into music?

SG: I started playing piano when I was 5. I was really fascinated with the piano, its aesthetic and the way it sounded. When my family moved to the suburbs, we got an old, beat-up upright. I took lessons. At 11, I started playing guitar. As an adolescent, I had all those feelings you do, so I started writing songs as a means of expression.

PGN: What can folks expect from your show?

SG: I do intimate shows. I like engaging with people in a casual way on stage, and people respond to it. It fits my personality. I’m going to do original songs and covers. It’s me and the piano. It’s more chill.

PGN: Who are your music influences?

SG: I have a lifetime of going through different phases and liking different things. The Beatles and British invasion — the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin — and angst-y pop punk — Blink 182 and Fall Out Boy. Then, as I got older, James Taylor and Elton John. In college, I was into Lady Gaga when she was blowing up. But I’m inspired by what I experience in life; it’s not necessarily an artist or song.

PGN: Can you discuss your approach to creating your own opportunities in music? Do you feel you have to prove yourself as a result of your instant success?

SG: I always believe that there’s a way. I don’t make excuses why I can’t do it. I don’t take no for an answer. This person did it; I can do it, too. I have to go and make things happen. I think I’ve proven that I’m more than one video. I have to prove it to myself. I have to support myself, and I care about doing well for my own self. It’s harder for me to be happy and satisfied with what I’m doing. You go through periods: Do I have what it takes? Did I just do one thing and it came at the right time and place? For a while I had to come to terms with the fact that that might be the case. Now I’m at the point where I’m excited. After feeling vulnerable and exposed in a public way, you’re forced to find a real solid sense of perspective, see what matters and what doesn’t. I lived a lot for someone who is not yet 26. I’m grateful not just for how it helps me in my career but as a human being. Every day is exciting — creating something, working for myself and following my dream.

PGN: You write most of your songs about friendship, lust and unrequited love. What inspires the stories you tell in your lyrics?

SG: As a songwriter, I owe it to my audience to tell honest stories about my life. As a gay man, my love stories are about two men, or it’s unclear or ambiguous. If I wanted to write a straight love story, I would do that, and people would have to get over it.

PGN: Do you write the music or the lyrics first? How do you approach creating a track and assembling an album?

SG: Every song comes about in a different way. I embrace the fact that, whenever I work, it feels like the first time. I start from scratch and feel my way around. Lyrics come at the same time as a melody. I’m very much a melody guy. When I have a really solid melody, it comes with a lyric and it’s finding the right lyric with the right sentiment and it has to fit the phonetics that are naturally implied in that melody. Before I wanted to do music, I wanted to be a writer. 

PGN: Do you feel being an openly gay musician is easy or difficult in today’s marketplace?

SG: I don’t have anything to compare it to. It’s been a challenge but it’s worked in my favor. I don’t spend any more time thinking about that because it is what it is. The best thing is to be out and live our true selves. I try to be myself in an unaffected way. 

Steve Grand will be at the Rrazz Room Blackbox Cabaret at the Prince Music Theater at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 and at Rrazz Room in New Hope at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27. For more information, visit www.princetheater.org/therrazzroom or www.therrazzroom.com/events



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