Andy Grammer | Incredible Things

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be on stage and make people happy.”

 

 

I first interviewed Andy Grammer in April 2011, before the show he played here with Plain White T’s and Parachute at The Pageant. He was two months out from his album being released and on his first major tour, and seemed incredibly excited and yet exuded a feeling of self-confidence that he knew he had every right to be there. What I found over the course of the interview was that he was one of the most focused, intelligent, and sociable people I had ever met, musician or not. He talked at length about his love for creating and performing music, and how he had always known if he worked hard enough, he’d eventually get good enough to be able to ensure he could continue to create and perform music. He talked about other things as well: his family, which includes his dad, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Red Grammer, his Baha’i faith, and whether going to college really had been worth all that money, but music is obviously the focus for him. 

Just as music is important to Grammer, it’s become obvious over the last year that he is important to music.  The most important thing about Grammer is that he seems to remind people of why they love music. He’s a great songwriter and an even better performer, but it’s more than that.  When you’re at a show and excited to see him play, he somehow manages to convey to everyone in the audience that he’s just as excited to see you there. There’s no wall between himself and the audience; he’s just as affable on stage as he is in person. The last year of success has not turned him arrogant or neurotic. He just seems to see this as a continuation of what he always knew he was supposed to be doing. 

During my first interview with him, I couldn’t help but come to the same conclusion that music was his core.  There was no doubt in my mind walking away from him that he was exactly where he needed to be, and that it was only a temporary stop for him. He made a comment during that first interview about a future headlining tour, but it was in the voice of someone who sees that as something very far off. His headlining tour—which has sold out quite a few dates—was announced six months later, almost to the day. When I spoke to him earlier this month, about four days into the tour, he sounded just as awed as he had then.  

Despite the change in circumstances—the last year has brought not only a headlining tour for Grammer, but also his first single, “Keep Your Head Up,” going gold and his album being released and hitting number one on the Billboard Heatseekers chart—Grammer himself seems mostly unchanged by everything. He’s still maintains the same ethos he had a year ago: that he has the talent to be able to create and perform music for a living, and if he works hard enough, he should be able to keep doing it. He does believe that some people have more luck than others, but he also firmly believes that with a mixture of talent and working his butt off, he can do well enough to support himself and keep making music.  

It’s an idealistic point of view, perhaps, but he’s been right so far. He works tirelessly at what he does, but it helps that he says he loves songwriting, recording, and performing equally. He gets to the point where he’s antsy with each of them about the time he’s ready to move on to the next stage, so it works well. As he puts it, “What’s really fun about being a musician is there’s so many different places to throw your whole being into it.” He adds, “That’s kind of how I am as a person anyway.” That’s undeniably true. His degree is in music business, focusing on non-performance related subjects like copyrights, music theory, and things of that nature. I asked him if it was a “just in case”—in case the music career never got off the ground—and he grinned and said, “It was never an ‘in case’; if you have an ‘in case,’ you need to get the fuck out,” with the curse word said in a bit of a conspiratorial whisper. 

We benefit from Grammer’s willingness to push forward for what he wants. “I always known that I wanted to be on stage and make people happy,” he tells me, in response to a question if the last year has provided any validation that he’s where he should be. Given how self-assured he was when we first met, I was interested to know how much of an impact getting the positive feedback he’s gotten would have. He continued, though, and said, “I’ve known that I was eventually going to be good at it and I might not at the moment be good at it but that’s my purpose here. So as long as I knew that, even if I wasn’t delivering on it, I was just kind of sure of myself that that’s what would happen.” He assures me that how the crowds are reacting does matter; it validates that what he’s doing is working. Not only does he know he’s doing what he’s supposed to, but everyone in the audience seems to have realized it as well. 

With regard to touring, during the first interview where he was opening for Plain White T’s, I asked him if it felt more stable somehow, touring with a more well-known act, than it had when he was busking on the Third Street Promenade in Los Angeles. He informed me with a laugh that, of course, “You don’t sign up for this for stability.” He understood what I meant, though, and continued, “The stability you have is in yourself and that this is what you’re supposed to do and that everything is going to work out, because what else am I going to do? This is what I’m supposed to do. I will continue to write music, and if I do it to the best of my ability and work as hard as I can, there will hopefully always be an audience for it.” 

There is an audience. The first half of his tour has sold out over half the dates. Despite Grammer’s earlier incredulity, people really are coming to shows, and they know the lyrics to all the songs, something Grammer calls “unbelievable.”  He obviously does relish the live experience. He describes it as, “I share, you like it, I love that you like it, so I’m psyched, you’re psyched, and it’s this awesome circle of greatness.” That sums up his live shows well. He told me he puts effort into making sure everyone has a good time, and I’ve yet to hear of anyone walking away from his shows unimpressed. When he was here in December, as part of the Y98 Mistletoe Show, it happened to fall on his 28th birthday. He had the audience singing “Happy Birthday” to him, and the faces on those around me were amused—and singing. No small feat for a man who only played four songs to people who may or may not have known his music beyond “Keep Your Head Up.” 

Given the last year and the success it has brought, it’s interesting to consider where Grammer might be a year from now—or 5 or 10 years from now. His newest single, “Fine By Me,” has charted, and if this tour is any indication, people are interested in seeing him live. That said, Grammer may be focused on his future in music, but don’t expect him to give a list of markers of success that he has to reach by a certain point.  When I asked him in April of last year, after finding a video of him covering “Hey There Delilah” from 2007 on YouTube, if he’d imagined that four years later, he’d be opening for them.  He laughed and said, “No, you can’t think like that. You have no idea. You’re just trying to push forward; you can’t possibly have any idea of how it’ll happen.” He knows how to get where he’s going, though.  As he puts it, “You just have to continue to do incredible things.”  | Teresa Montgomery

Andy Grammer plays St. Louis February 1 at The Old Rock House with Ryan Star and Rachel Platten. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 DOS. The doors are at 6:30 with the music starting at 7:30. 

 

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