Ever since he was a kid, Andy Grammer was always surrounded by the sweet sounds of music in his household. Grammer’s father was a singer while his mother wrote plenty of songs, which in the end inspired him to pursue music on his own. Grammer made the trek to Los Angeles and ended up at the popular Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica as a street performer. But now, Grammer has gone from singing in the streets to catapulting into the center of the music industry, launching an impressive career.
Grammer’s fourth studio album, Naïve, was released this past summer and he is now heading out on a two month long tour across the country.
“Every album is really fun, but for whatever reason, also hard to close,” Grammer said. “It’s hard to get the actual magic that’s necessary to spread it where you want it to spread. I mean, at heart I was trying to make an album that was for people who are optimistic. I’ve been saying it’s a lot like the light bringer situation. It’s people who see the good in everything. And when you are one of those people, sometimes the world looks at you like you’re stupid. So I love the title of Naïve, which basically sounds like a revolutionary statement of like ‘I don’t care if you think I’m stupid. I’m still going to see the good in this world.’”
Grammer’s latest single off Naïve “Don’t Give Up On Me,” is steadily climbing the charts and is featured in the film Five Feet Apart, which tells the story of a young couple who are battling cystic fibrosis.
“That was after a day of writing a lot of songs,” Grammer said about how “Don’t Give Up On Me” was written. “I was really starting to feel the pressure that I didn’t have a single yet to start with this album and I knew the record was so good, and that I needed one. So when I went in to write, I had a little bit of the extra pressure. We wrote a song and it was OK, but we scrapped it and we wrote another one and another one. After four songs, I was like ‘Man. We either go home or we keep trying,’ and I was like, ‘Let’s just write another song about not giving up.’ I’m glad that we kept pushing.”
Another song on the album, “She’d Say,” is about Grammer’s mother, and is definitely a personal one for him and his 2-year-old daughter Louie. Grammer lost his mother when he was only 25 years old.
“My wife got me a phone call with a medium and I was slightly skeptical, but I took it and on the call the medium said, ‘Your mom is telling me that she wants you to write a song to your daughter about everything she can’t be there to say to her.’ It was so crazy, but it was such an amazing idea,” Grammer explained. “So I went and wrote the song and then, we got LadySmith Black Mambazo, which is the group that was on the Paul Simon Graceland album and they lent their voice to it and it makes it feel otherworldly, which is cool.”
Once in the studio with South African-based male choir LadySmith Black Mambazo, Grammer blew up a photo of his mother who was actually a fan of Simon’s Graceland album, put it up in the studio and explained himself to the choir who then huddled together and started to sing “I miss my mom” in Zulu—one of the official languages of South Africa.
Out of the 13 songs that are featured on Naïve, the song “Wish You Pain,” a definite standout on the album, has Grammer singing about how people grow from life’s daily pain—a lesson these days most can learn from.
“You know, I think there’s a lot of conversation to be had about how we view pain in our lives,” said Grammer. “If you think that pain is just terrible and it’s not going to give you anything, then your life can be kind of miserable. It would kind of be like going to the gym without having any idea what it is doing for you. It can be a horrible time, but when you go to the gym and you know what it does for you, then people go willingly and they have a great workout. ‘Wish You Pain’ is kind of saying that, for the rest of your life, this is how we grow. It’s not just the gym. It’s the divorce you just had. It’s like losing your job or having an injury. They all give you something if you can see it in that way. It’s been really sweet to have that conversation with a lot of fans through the music.”
Fans of Grammer’s can definitely expect to hear these songs live, as well as some of his hits when they come and see him on the road. Grammer is headed to New York City on Saturday, Sept. 28, to The Rooftop at Pier 17.
“This tour is so incredible,” Grammer said. “We just played in Los Angeles at The Wiltern and I’m still reeling over it. They can expect just a lot of heart, an unusual amount of heart. I think that a concert is a special place to feel things that you don’t normally feel in your life. We like to take you somewhere else where you’re not normally at in your daily life. We will just try to blast you with reckless optimism and try to give you a break a little bit from life.”
A unique part of Grammer’s concert this time around is his new Random Acts Of Songness segment, which streams live on his Facebook page.
“Going back to the topic of pain, I usually share something in my life that was really painful and what I got from it,” explained Grammer. “I think the other night I shared about how losing my mother when I was 25 really gave me empathy that I didn’t have, for the pain that people were going through. My life was pretty easy up until that point, but when she passed away, I was like ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe people are feeling this amount of sadness.’ So basically after I share, then I ask someone from the audience to come on stage and share one of their biggest pains and what they took from it, and then we write a song right on the spot—both me and this spoken word artist that I’m bringing on tour named Sean Hill. Usually by the end of it, we get the whole crowd to sing the hook that we made up around their story and it’s been crazy. It’s super powerful.”
As can easily be predicted, Grammer’s favorite song to currently perform live is “Don’t Give Up On Me” since it’s the most timely.
“When you play a song live, it has specific time periods of how it’s going to hit you,” Grammer said. “So playing ‘Keep Your Head Up,’ when that song was really big, it was a special feeling. Now, it’s a totally different sweet feeling. It’s like when you hear ‘Keep Your Head Up’ in your head. It’s like sweet nostalgia. There’s like a limited time. ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’ right now is really special.”
Grammer is also the creator and host of The Good Parts, a podcast series that digs into the philosophies, failures and spiritual experiences that make up the lives of each of Grammer’s guests.
“I love to go deeper with questions, which is my favorite thing in life, to go to dinner with friends and have a really crazy topic and pass it around for everyone to take and answer,” Grammer said. “So I like to ask all my friends that I meet out on tour and award shows and stuff, ‘What do you think happens when you die?’ or ‘What’s the most spiritual experience you’ve ever had?’ I like to take it to the edge of ourselves. I’ve talked to Mike Posner and Leslie Odom Jr. from Hamilton, who are people that I respect. I like to ask those deeper questions.”
So what does the rest of the year look for Grammer?
“Right now, we just started the tour so my head is all wrapped up in that and it’s a two month tour,” Grammer said. “So a big chunk of this year right now is having just the most incredible interactions that I get to have on stage every night with all these people that are coming. I wrote this album for the optimists, so to be surrounded by thousands of them on a daily basis is pretty incredible.”
Catch Andy Grammer on his Don’t Give Up On Me Tour on Saturday, Sept. 28, at The Rooftop at Pier 17 at 7 p.m. For more information and to get tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.com.