Andy Grammer On New Music, New Daughter and Return to Performing: “I Cried During Soundcheck”

“Just to be completely honest: it was pretty brutal at first,” Andy Grammer tells American Songwriter. “I get so much of my joy out of playing and sharing music. So, to be locked up for this long was… it was pretty hard.”

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Known for a string of uber-catchy, platinum hits—including “Honey, I’m Good,” “Fresh Eyes,” “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah)” and more—Grammer is one of the most successful recording artists on the planet. Since he first debuted in 2011, he’s connected with audiences of millions for his crisp pop sound and earworm melodies. So, naturally, he was pretty accustomed to a busy, high-energy, high-reward lifestyle… which is why things got turned so upside down for him in the early days of the 2020 pandemic.

“From the beginning, I kinda had the sense that it was gonna be pretty intense,” he said. “Out here in California, it was really intense—people were washing their groceries, nobody knew what the hell was going on. Then, slowly, everything that we had booked started getting postponed. At first, it was ‘Until next month,’ then ‘Until next year,’ and so on until we ended up in the ‘new normal’ for a little while. I’m usually a guy who’s like, ‘What’s the silver lining?’ There have been a bunch of those too—but honestly, when you talk about this, it’s really hard to go straight to that ‘brightside’ place. It’s, like, ‘No, that was really hard.’ Any artist, musician, singer or songwriter who loves to go and perform knows—this has been a really hard season.”

Grammer has a point—it’s true that there’s a tremendous power to staying positive during a difficult time, but it’s also paramount to create space to acknowledge the depth of that difficulty. In this case, from working-class musicians to touring-pros to global superstars like Grammer, the sudden absence of live events was an economic and psychological blow. 

So, not quite sure what to do with himself, Grammer ended up slipping into a sort of depression, which ultimately led him to analyze his own life in a way he never had before. “I did a bunch of therapy, which was good—I hadn’t quite done that yet,” he said. “I’m the kind of person who’ll sit down at a table and just throw out a deep question to see what everyone thinks. Lately, my question has been: ‘Where do you get your self-worth?’ I think the pandemic made us all ask that question, in a way. I think a lot of us find self-worth in what we do—so, what are you supposed to do when that gets taken away? It’s really interesting. I don’t have a great answer for you, but I wrote a bunch of songs that are trying to get at it. I think collectively, as a group, a lot of us are going through that together.”

Now, on June 28, Grammer is beginning to release these new songs, starting with the brilliantly uplifting single, “Lease On Life”—which comes ahead of a whole new album, due later this year. Inspired by the birth of his second daughter, the single radiates with irresistible positivity.

“This one was inspired by how every artist has their ups and downs, but sometimes there are these moments where you can really see that everything’s going to be okay,” Grammer said. “That’s really special. When those moments come along, I hold onto them, because eventually, it passes and you and you have to go back to worry and stress and doubt and all those things. One of those moments, though, was the birth of my new daughter. I was with her and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna get to do this love thing again, really deeply.’ It’s one of these moments in my life where I genuinely feel like there’s more in front of me than behind me.”

Reconnected with the sheer joy of spending time with his family, Grammer quickly started to realize that he could find self-worth in places other than his celebrity… in fact, he started to realize that he didn’t even get his self-worth from his celebrity at all, he was actually getting it from the act of playing music itself. Recently, performing with his band again for the first time in months, he found that conclusion to be resoundingly true. 

“When I got to play a full set with my band, with backup singers and the big sound and all of that, I was like, ‘Woah!’” he said. “I think that for some of us artists, it threw us into a question of, ‘Well, is it just that my ego needs to be stroked? Is that why I’m so upset right now? Is that it? That I just, like, need to hear people cheering and screaming for me?’ I think there’s probably some of that, but I also think a lot of it is like, ‘No, no, this is one of my purposes.’ A lot of people who write music and make art feel this—it’s a deep purpose for them. So, to be back, just playing… I cried during soundcheck, for sure. Not even kidding.”

Now, coming into this new stage of the pandemic and feeling better than ever about his music, his future and his world, Grammer is just thankful for the opportunity to share his creations. “You know? It’s kinda like wizardry,” he said. “That’s silly, but that’s how I see songs. Like, if you have enough luck and skill, what you’re doing is creating a feeling and bottling it into this three-minute thing that you can share with someone. If something I’ve created can give someone a sense of hope in this moment, that is so sick. I take that so seriously. I’m hoping that this song has a good shot of doing that for a lot of people.”

With more releases and tour dates on the docket, Grammer is gearing up for a historically good year. “I’m really excited to be releasing music—especially with the sentiment of this song and the timing of its release, with a lot of things opening back up,” he concluded. “I’m especially excited for all the musicians getting back to playing shows and things. I don’t actually know if I can think of a better time in history to be releasing this song. At least for as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve never felt this much of a hold-up to a release of energy and excitement as now, with everyone getting back to the things we all love to do. It’s amazing.”

Andy Grammer’s new single “Lease On Life” is out now—watch the music video for it below:

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Adam Duritz

Behind the Song: “Mr. Jones,” Adam Duritz of Counting Crows