|ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS ANDY GRAMMER
NOT JUST ANY WHITE GUY WITH A GUITARWhen singer songwriter ANDY GRAMMER is asked who he is most often compared to musically, he brings up the obvious comparison to JOHN MAYER, JACK JOHNSON, and - probably not as obvious - the lead singer of SWITCHFOOT. He is also quick to mention that such comparisons extend to just about "...any white guy with a guitar." GRAMMER released his E.P. 'THE WORLD IS YOURS' to wide acclaim and enthusiastic live audiences who are just as taken with smoldering good looks as they are his warm delivery. This intimate, earnest, acoustic recording has been hailed by EARBUZZ.COM as "...uncompromisingly beautiful", however GRAMMER is eager to forge a broader, band-based sound with his next release. "I see my sound really going in a band direction." says GRAMMER "I don't want to be limited to an acoustic guitar. I feel like my sound is a little bit bigger."
ANDY GRAMMER TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT LIFE ON THE LIBERTY LIVE 2008 TOUR
WORKING ON A NEW ALBUM
AND BREAKING FREE OF THE SOLO ACOUSTIC MOLD
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
This forthcoming, as-yet-untitled release will come closer to seeing the light of day once GRAMMER finishes his stint with the LIBERTY LIVE 2008 TOUR; a 22 date tour of college campuses across the country aimed at raisng awareness of human rights abuses in North Korea. ROCKWIRED spoke with ANDY GRAMMER at the halfway point of the this tour. Here is how it went.
Where are you at the moment?
Right now I'm in Arkansas.
How deep are you into this tour at the moment?
We're about half way through.
Where are you off to tomorrow?
Tomorrow, we're off to the University of Texas in Austin.
How has the tour been going so far?
Ah man! It's been fantastic. It's probably one of the best tours that I've ever been on. It's a mix of two bands: myself and a band called MISS VINTAGE. We're touring with a group called LiNK, which stands for Liberty in North Korea. The tour is kind of a package of music and awareness of the injustices that are going on in North Korea.
What compelled you to want to participate in this tour.
In all honesty, I had no idea what the tour was about when I had signed on to do it. All I knew was that it was going to be college tour, so I said 'count me in'. But once I got out there and was a part of it, I was really surprised. It's such a wonderful cause.
Talk about what drew you to music in the beginning?
I always knew that I wanted to do something artistic, but I didn't quite know what form that would take. I started off in acting but I didn't get to say what I wanted to say in acting. I always had to read somebody elses script so I thought that music was the best way to express myself the way that I wanted to.
Isn't your father a songwriter?
Yeah. He's a GRAMMY-nominated children's singer.
So do you think that the music thing is sort of genetic?
I grew up around a lot of music. My Dad's work is very simple and child-oriented, but I still grew up with a guy singing and writing lyrics in the next room over.
What artists spoke to you if not your father?
The first artist that really got to me was JOHN MAYER and his first album 'ROOM FOR SQUARES'. I loved that album, and after that I searched for everything else that sounded similar to that such as JASON MRAZ and JACK JOHNSON. After that, I really got into bands that rocked a little bit harder like SWITCHFOOT and COLDPLAY and a little more recently I've gotten into some hip-hop groups that are able to get across a really positive message like LAURYN HILL or COMMON and that's kind of what I want to do. In my music, I would like to meld all of those sounds together as much as possible. I'd love to play acoustic guitar, be able to rock sometimes like SWITCHFOOT and come across positive like COMMON or LAURYN HILL in a way that's not cheesy.
How old are you if you don't mind me asking? Your influences are very recent.
Your press release mentions that you're working on your first album.
We're getting in there.
Explain the songwriting process to me.
Coming up with an idea for a song is always the hardest. I want to sing about something that's worthwhile and when I find out what that issue is, it all becomes easier. For instance, I have a song called FIREFLY which is about how I used to chase after these fireflies in my backyard back in New York. Once I would catch them I would realize that they were so beautiful , and I wouldn't want them anymore and I would release them. All I ever wanted to do was catch them. In the song, I relate that to chasing after girls. Once I get the idea or metaphor in my head, then I try to search for that chorus that will help me tell that story. It's like a puzzle game where you're hammering out all the pieces of a song's structure that will help you to tell the story right, and in the end, you've got make sure that it all works.
Other than FIREFLIES, are there any other tracks on this CD that stand out for you personally.
We just shot a video for this song called ELEPHANTS. My mom got breast cancer and I wrote that song basically talking about how the tests we get in life help us grow. That one I'm really excited about.
Whose working with you on this debut album?
I'm working with a guy named BENNY CASSETTE, who has been signed to UNIVERSAL for a while now. He has started his own label in L.A. and I'm one of the first acts on it. We've just auditioned a band and we've been arranging the songs together. The album that I have out now is just me on an acoustic guitar, but this next album will have a full band.
For the tour that you're on now, is it just you on an acoustic guitar as well?
It's mostly just me on an acoustic guitar. When I get back to L.A. there are going to be a couple of dates where I bring the band out. The musicians are really great. They are a band based out of Philly and they have a sound that is sort of ambient rock and it's really really cool stuff. It's kind of like RADIOHEAD. It's been a lot of fun to travel with a bunch of people. Two of the members of the band are Korean. A large percentage of the crowds that are coming to the shows are Korean. It's been a truly wonderful process. When you go out on tour for a month with a bunch of people you become brothers because you're sleeping in terrible conditions and you're eating horrible food. It all brings you closer together.
Is there a title for this forthcoming CD yet?
No. Not quite yet. We're still deciding what the title is going to be.
When are you expecting to release this album?
I'm hoping within the next two or three months. Once I get back to LA. in October, then we are really going to start recording.
Going back to the tour that you are on right now, what has been the biggest surprise? What has happened that you didn't expect?
I did not expect for us to sell out THE LION'S DEN in New York. That was really great. It's actually called the SULLIVAN HALL now. There were about two hundred people that came out to that show. I'm originally from New York and I was still kind of pleased with that.
So you're based in Hollywood now.
What's the big difference between doing music in L.A. as opposed to New York?
I don't really know. When I lived in New York, I was about an hour outside of New York City. I know that L.A. is a very interesting scene because its spread out. There is no real center to it. There are so many different places that you could go to play, which is kind of tough actually. I'd like it to be more centralized and I don't know New York well enough to know if it's the same situation over there. Everytime that I've played New York, I've always played in the Village.
You've said earlier that you're happy with this new band?
I am. I see my sound really going in a band direction. I don't want to be limited to an acoustic guitar. I feel like my sound is a little bit bigger.
I'm going to ask you to project on this one a little but, but once this CD is out, what would you like a person to come away with after they've heard it?
I would like them to come away knowing that there are people out there that are making music that is completely sincere and that they've found an artist who is completely straight with them.