I first spoke with gay singer/songwriter Steve Grand in July 2013, when he burst on the scene with his YouTube video “All-American Boy.” The song, a sweet, catchy, country-influenced number, quickly logged more than 1.5 million views. Grand, who has the body and looks of a Men’s Fitness cover model, sang the heck out of it.
Less than a year later, with a couple of more songs and music videos under his belt, Grand launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for his debut album. His goal was to raise more than $80,000 in one month. But he quickly overshot the mark, raising almost $120,000 in one day alone. Grand’s impressive musical talents coupled with his unexpectedly humble charm have inspired a devoted fan base, known affectionately as the GrandFam.
An unknown before he posted his debut song, Grand ended the year 2013 on Out Magazine’s Out100 list. He took a break from recording in California to talk about the past year and his upcoming appearance at Milwaukee PrideFest.
Gregg Shapiro: When you look back at the past eight months, what is the one event that stands out for you as the most memorable?
Steve Grand: It’s so hard to say just one. There’ve been so many incredible things that have happened. For one, the continued support of my fans, who I love so much. When I was on my little tour they came out in droves. It was so incredible to meet them at each and every show. I remember a specific show in San Diego at Urban Mo’s, and we packed the place. Everyone brought such great energy to the room and there was so much love in the room and this outpouring of support. It felt like a little family. I started my Facebook page when my video went up on July 2, and the day after my birthday (a couple of days ago), it passed over 100,000 “likes.” The “GrandFam,” as I love to call them and they love to call themselves, has grown so much. They’re so positive and supporting of each other. Not only are they there to support the music, but they’re there because they care about each other.
What makes you believe they care about each other?
It’s apparent if you go on my (Facebook) wall. They write to each other. People have made friends on my wall. It’s a really beautiful thing to watch.
You’d been working hard at your craft for a number of years before you became an overnight sensation. Were you prepared for all the attention?
It’s something you can’t prepare for. I didn’t expect this to the degree that it’s happened. I take it day by day. I stay focused on all I have to be grateful for, which is really a lot. I get to pursue my dream. I get to wake up every day and do something that I love. For that, I feel so blessed, so humbled. I also feel that honoring the relationship that I have formed with my fans is the most sacred thing to me.
Have you met people and gone places that you didn’t expect?
I have met some incredible people. Very early on I met Edie Windsor, not too long after the repeal of DOMA. It was amazing. She is a hero and an inspiration to me. I’ve also met Mariah Carey and Elton John. I did a show with Lance Bass. He’s an extremely sweet guy. Elton has been my musical hero since I was a little kid, and I got to meet him before a show and give him a hug. He knew who I was and he said he was keeping an eye on me. That was really exciting. After college I (was) struggling as a singer/songwriter and playing at churches. It’s been incredible to be able to go to all of these places all over the country and play and have people show up. In that year before “All-American Boy,” when I was playing in a jazz club in Chicago, every night I played it was a new challenge to win over that audience. Just me and the piano and the microphone. That’s all I had to work with. I never take it for granted when I get in front of an audience who is excited before I even play my first note.
Have you been offered any work outside of music, such as on TV in Glee or in a movie musical?
Yes, there have been some offers relating to film and people doing their own small or big-budget projects. People have asked me if I want to act, but right now I just want to focus on my music. I’m working hard every day. We really have to get this (album) out for the fans by late May.
Since we spoke last July, you have released two more singles, “Stay” and “Back to California.” Do you plan to include those songs, as well as “All-American Boy” on your album?
Yes. It’s part of the whole story. I have a whole library of music to choose from. I’ve been writing songs for a long time. The whole album will be 12 (original) songs, but those have to be on there. I want to show a full body of work, where each song stands alone, and together they all tell a story and a bigger picture.
Why did you decide to go the Kickstarter route?
I wanted my fans to be my label. I wanted to keep my music and message as pure as possible. I don’t want anything getting in the way of that. I’m staying independent for that reason. I don’t, for one second, forget that they made all this possible.
When you performed in Chicago in advance of your Northalsted Market Days appearance, your family, including your parents and grandmother, were present. What do they think of your career?
They’re having a great time with it. They’re so happy for me and so proud of me. It’s a beautiful thing. This life has been such a journey in so many ways. One of them is watching my parents do a 180. What they were taught to believe from their faith was that homosexuality was a sin. They can’t help that that was the environment in which they grew up, that that was their world. But it’s a testament to a parent’s love that because of their own son, they were able to reexamine these beliefs.
On June 7 you are performing at Milwaukee PrideFest. What are you most looking forward to about that?
First of all, it’s a really incredible line-up. The fact that I’m going to be on the same stage as Mary Lambert is incredible. I look up to her so much. She’s an amazing artist and songwriter. I have so much respect for her. It’s also going to be the first time ever, since I went out as a solo artist, that I’m going to have a band behind me. It’s a lot of work putting it together, finding the right people. I’m working on that in addition to the album. I’m really excited to have my fans hear a lot of the songs (that are) going to be on my record once it comes out. It’s going to have a lot more energy and a lot more power. I really think it’s going to be cool.
Is Milwaukee a place you’ve visited?
I think this will be my very first time in Milwaukee. I’m really excited. I have a special place in my heart for Wisconsin. That’s where I would go for my Boy Scout summer camp.