You've probably heard of Steve Grand from his self-funded music video "All-American Boy" that shook the viral world. A country-inspired song about one dude lusting after another dude while they do cowboy things like drink whiskey at bonfires and stand up shirtless in moving vehicles? Yep, and it broke ground.
But Grand's more than just a one-hit sensation. His debut album, All-American Boy, is set to release March 24th and will show off a diverse taste in sound and story. I asked the performer 10 of my most burning questions, everything from what it's like being a publicly out (and hunky) singer, to keeping his private life...private.
1. First things first, let's talk about your debut album. How does All-American Boy, as a larger body of work, differ from your previously released singles?
I think making a record always allows you to do a lot of things beyond making a single. Singles often fall under a more narrow formality.
Like an album's a full story.
Yes. I definitely thought of this one as a full story. It’s not really chronological, but when I was thinking of the songs to put on this album, I was thinking of it in terms of an arc, a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Each song represents a plot point in that story. They’re all songs about relationships, but not necessarily romantic relationships. There are songs about friendships, vices, the relationship with yourself and your community.
2. Have you been working on these songs for a while, or did you start writing anew after the Kickstarter campaign?
Most of them were already written. I think maybe two or three were written after the Kickstarter. They’re from when I was a late teenager all the way up until last summer. It’s a good five year span.
That’s awesome. It contains a lot of your history and experiences.
Totally. When you think about how much you change, from say when you’re a 19 year old until you’re 24, it’s a lot! It’s cool to have an album that represents those changes.
3. Even though you told Michael Musto in a previous interview that you’re in fact not the first openly gay country star, a lot of people make that mistake. But first or not, how’s it feel being so open and making country-inspired music?
I’m not super hung-up on the genre thing. I’m certainly country-inspired, but there are things I’m doing that are totally not country at all. Whenever I talk about genre now I say I’m a singer-songwriter.
4. So how’s it feel being an out singer-songwriter?
It’s been a great experience, something I’ve always wanted to do. Of course, it’s not without challenges. Doing what I’m doing, I encounter a lot of people who have a hard time understanding and want to put me in some kind of box. One of my biggest frustrations through all of this is being overly simplified. Gay singer-songwriter. It can be so two-dimensional. It’s a flat idea. Me and my music and my fans represent a lot more. But I understand people always want to put things in digestible sound bytes.
I also think this nomenclature is a tribute to where we’re at culturally and socially. So many out peformers, writers, creatives, etc., share your sentiment. In one sense these digestible sound byte titles are a great thing because they reach an audience who need to know LGBT people are out there. But in the future, hopefully, we won’t need titles at all.
Yes. I think it’s a goal most in the LGBT community share. But then there’s the other side of coin. Those who are like, Why do you need to say gay singer-songwriter? Why do we care who comes out anymore? It’s this idea that we live in such a post-gay world that we shouldn’t acknowledge that someone is gay. But it does matter for that kid growing up in a small town in Iowa. It does matter for him or her that there are openly gay people doing things and being successful and making good in the world. LGBT role models are important, especially for young people who are still coming to terms with who they are in more conservative, sheltered places.
5. Speaking of exposure, let’s backtrack a little. What was it like having “All-American Boy” go viral so quickly?
It was really exciting and terrifying at the same time. It was a whirlwind. In some ways, ever since that moment, I feel like there’s been an energy that’s very constant. It’s kept me moving all of the time.
6. Then your Kickstarter surpassed its $81K goal in just 17 hours, and ended up raising over $325K. What was the strategy behind this insanely successful fundraiser?
I’m still blown away by it! It wasn’t a real strategic thing. Essentially my manager and I put it together. I made the video on Final Cut myself. That was all me, not a big strategic team.
You were the mastermind behind it all!
I’ll take credit for that! But I’m lucky. Obviously so many singers try to make music and money becomes a real issue. I’m grateful and humbled. There were people who believed in me and were willing to reach into their pockets and help me achieve my dreams.
7. Did knowing you had all of this support help shape your first album in any new and different way?
I kept thinking, People have short attention spans. This is really going to be a test to see who stays with me beyond some viral hit. The fact that people stuck with me for all this time was super affirming. This wasn’t some one hit thing.
8. So you opted to avoid signing with a major record label and instead created one of your own, called Grand Nation. What pushed you to this decision?
I wanted 100% artistic and creative control for every part of the process — I wanted to protect what I was doing. For all practical purposes we consider Grand Nation a label, but it’s just me and my manager.
Well you’ve went through with so much of the process independently, moving forward with Grand Nation makes sense.
9. I’m guessing you split your time between your hometown of Chicago and traveling. Would you want to live anywhere else?
My brother and I talk about moving all the time. The weather in Southern California...we’re into that. We have this romantic idea of being in the sun and ocean all of the time.
10. I know, dreamy. We’ll be seeing you soon in NYC singing on Valentine’s Day at SubCulture. Is there a special someone you’ll be thinking about?
One of my rules is to keep my love life out of all of this! It’s like the one thing I have.
It was a mandatory question — I had to ask! But here’s a bonus one you can answer: What’s your spirit animal?
Ha! I don’t have an interesting answer to that, but not too long ago I had someone write on my Instagram, Steve Grand, you are my spirit animal. I screen-shot it and look at it whenever I’m having a gloomy day. It’s so funny. People are really creative and the internet’s exposed that.
If you're in NYC for Valentine's Day, grab a ticket to see Steve perform at SubCulture.