In these days of instant Internet celebrity, overnight sensations are a dime a dozen. But Chicago-based gay singer/songwriter Steve Grand seems to be an exception with his song "All-American Boy" and its accompanying video.
Sure, he’s breathtaking to look at, and that doesn’t hurt. He’s even put in time as a model. More than just a pretty face and amazing body, Grand is a musician with a message. Striking a chord across boundaries, Grand’s song and video of unrequited love, set to an unlikely country-music beat, have found a devoted audience, and earned more than a million views on YouTube. On the boot-heels of this viral video, Grand has received media coverage from The Huffington Post, Good Morning, America and the Los Angeles Times, not to mention LGBT websites and publications. A proudly gay voice for his generation, Grand is still getting used to being in the spotlight. I spoke with him about his music and his future in mid-July.
Steve, how does it feel to be a YouTube sensation?
More than anything, I’m just grateful my song has reached so many people so quickly, and that it resonates with people emotionally. That’s all I hoped for. As far as being a YouTube sensation goes, I am more than one song and one video. I certainly hope that this is just the very beginning of a career. Because that’s what I got into this to do, not to be a flash in the pan.
Is there anything in your background or training as an artist that prepared you for this moment?
I started taking piano when I was six years old. I was so fascinated even with just the aesthetic of a piano. I was obsessed with Schroeder from Peanuts, and his piano. My parents picked up on it, and they got us this old, shitty upright piano, and we all started taking lessons. I was the one that was really into it. I took music classes in high school. I didn’t really understand music theory until I was a teenager, then everything started to click. There was a guitar teacher who really helped develop my ear and help me listen to things. I have classical training, balanced with playing by ear. I can read charts and sight-read.
Because "All-American Boy" has a touch of twang, the song is being pigeonholed as country, and even led to a favorable mention on a Nashville website. But being an openly gay musician in Music City can still be risky, as we saw when Chely Wright came out as a lesbian.
I never set out to write a country song. I would never dismiss that if it sounds like country to some people. That’s fine. At the heart of it, country music is good storytelling, and "All-American Boy" is a story. Even if I am labeled as a country singer, which isn’t a label I gave myself, I certainly wouldn’t want to take away anything from the brave men and women who came before me.
"All-American Boy" could just as easily have been arranged as a power pop tune, an acoustic folk number, or an electronic dance track. Are there plans for the song to be remixed for club play?
I would be open to hearing what that would sound like.
Have you recorded any other songs?