If anyone can write a song about ambition under less-than-stellar circumstances it’s resident troubadour Andy Grammer who belted out songs on the streets of Santa Monica for three years before his lead hit single, “Keep Your Head Up”, started making the radio rounds. In fact, he wrote that very song after a day of collecting little money for his music efforts.
What makes Grammer stand out from a sea of talented performers is his genuine engagement with his fans and his lyrics, which are often cheerful and optimistic.
Before taking the stage at the 2012 Taste of Newport festival on September 14, the recording artist and singer-songwriter hung out with us to talk about music, his sources of inspiration and the best advice he ever received.
Let’s talk a little bit about your roots. I know that you spent three years out on the Santa Monica Promenade, the Third Street Promenade. Can you tell us a little bit about that era of your life?
Yea, so three years of basically just going out there, opening my guitar case and kind of winging it every day. Really working on my songwriting, really working on what’s going to get someone to stop. If you’re walking by on the street, and I’m just performing, the song has to be good enough, or I got to be beatboxing, or I have to be jumping around – something needs to make you stop. So that got me an understanding of what it is that’s entertaining.
Did it ever get difficult for you as an up-and-coming musician?
It was always a little difficult because you’re fighting with different people for spots, and you don’t want to leave until you have enough money to pay rent, so that aspect’s difficult. But the bottom line, as an artist or musician, you just want to play and be heard – that’s the elemental reason that you do this. That was really fulfilling. I would go out there and play, and people would buy my original CD. So I was usually pretty psyched when I was leaving.
What was the best advice you received while in high school?
My dad told me in high school that all the cool people change year by year, so just be nice to everybody.
What advice would you give your fifteen-year-old self in regards to wanting to be a musician?
I would say just learn how to write hooks, choruses. Choruses are really hard to write. Start trying to write great choruses at fifteen, see where that gets you. I didn’t start really focusing on what makes a great chorus that everybody could sing along to for a little while.
Now, you’re music is very positive and uplifting. What keeps you motivated when you are out on the road, and the stresses of that get to you?
Just the fact that there’s fans every night that want to come sing along and get down to the music that I’ve been creating, that’s very motivating. There’s nothing more motivating that – to walk on stage and have people freak out and sing every word. That will keep me going for the rest of my life.
The ‘Fine by Me’ singer, who describes himself as a jock in high school and favored gym class over other subjects, is currently on tour with Train and Mat Kearney and will be playing at the NOKIA Theatre at LA LIVE in Los Angeles on September 29. Grammer’s latest track ‘Miss Me’ is available on iTunes, along with his debut album.
(Main Photo/Adam Falk)