You released your self-titled debut album back in June 2011 to immediate success. The reviews for Magazines or Novels have been great. How was the writing/recording process different the second time around?
Writing this second album was crazy because I had never really written under pressure before. I think it took the first 50 songs to get through nerves and expectation. So the second 50 were just writing from a more genuine place. I'm so proud of this both because of how good I think it is and how hard I fought for it.
You started writing music at age 15. What were your best and worst songs like back then?
It was more like the worst and worst songs. I always looked at the guitar purely as a songwriting tool. So before I could even play chords I was writing one note songs. Needless to say, those were not very good. I honestly don't remember the lyrics, it takes a lot of writing to get to anything good in my opinion. That was my early stages of just getting a ton of reps in.
Do you have any old lyrics you can share with us?
"This is the time of night when all the street lights rub their waking eyes, the day and night find compromise in dark blue" - from a super old song I wrote called "The World is Yours."
You began your career as a street performer in Santa Monica. What was that experience like?
Street performing was huge for my development. It got me singing for up to 8 hours a day which helped hone my voice, I really found my sound out there. It was also a crazy hustle which the music business always is and will be. It was a great training ground.
Your first single, "Keep Your Head Up," peaked at #5 on the Adult Music Charts. What did it feel like to have such a big success so soon?
It was awesome. Going from street performing and trying to get people to stop as they walked by to playing sold out venues in cities all across the country was/still is incredible. I am very grateful for my fans.
The music video to "Keep Your Head Up" also won MTV's "O Music Awards" for "Most Innovative Video." What were you going for when filming it?
The head of S-Curve found this new technology out of Israel that allowed us to make the first choose your own adventure music video. We were really just going for something that would allow the technology to be displayed. You can watch it a bazillion times and see different shots and scenes, it's pretty cool. To be a part of something like that on the front end was really cool.
Did you write "Keep Your Head Up" as a reminder for yourself? How does it and the rest of your music help you keep going in life?
I did. Street performing can be exhilarating when a crowd of a hundred gathers around and the energy is electric, it can also be an 8 hour day of people just passing you by. It takes a lot of resilience to stay up. I wrote 'Keep Your Head Up' after one of those long days where I felt like I wasn't even seen. All good though, got me that song.
"Keep Your Head Up" is a very positive song, which is somewhat of a rarity in the music business: it just seems easier and more common to write about conflict--the loss of a relationship, the challenges of becoming successful or being successful, etc. Does positivity just come naturally to you?
I think that for whatever reason right now it's cooler to be cynical. There is something about apathy that is kind of in, maybe it always has been. It's hard to get the happy or positive feelings into song without it sounding obnoxiously cheesy. When it's successfully done though (ex. 'Happy' - Pharrell) we all freak out cause we need those songs. As the writer you just have to be willing while writing to look stupid and not be afraid of it. Cause every once in a while you get 'Keep Your Head Up' and it's all worth it.
Are there other artists who have influenced you with their positive attitude in their music--Howard Jones and Katy Perry come to mind as possibilities.
Lauryn Hill has always been a North Star for me. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was SO GOOD and still so damn cool. I don't even know if you would call it happy so much as grounded and looking up. That's what I'm going for.
How has your sound changed since your first album Andy Grammer?
I think the first album was like a nice conversation with someone you just met. Charming and showing the best parts of yourself. Magazines or Novels is how you would talk with a close friend. It's more vulnerable and honest. Specifically sound-wise I think the first album was Lauryn Hill meets Coldplay meets John Mayer and the new album is Macklemore meets Lumineers meets Drake.
Your tour ends at the end of July, before Magazines or Novel comes out. Where will you be the day of its release?
I'm gonna be in New York City, we'll be playing the Today Show the next day.
Why did you title your second album "Magazines or Novels?" How are those two forms of writing related to your music?
I feel like we are an ADD listening generation. We flip through songs like shiny pages on a magazine. Sometimes on occasion a group of songs will slip through and we'll really dig in. I tried to create music to me that was catchy enough to grab the ear but hopefully meaningful enough to have staying power.
You released Magazines or Novels' lead single "Back Home" back in April. Where, or what, is home for you?
Home to me is Los Angeles. I know LA can get a bad rap for being plastic or fake but to me it's where my best friends are. I have got an incredible down to earth group of friends that remind me of who I am every time I come home.
We know about your secret talent: beatboxing. Can we expect some beatboxing in Magazines or Novels?
I don't think there was any on the album. Always live though. Many other interesting sounds on this one though. The track with the vocoder is awesome.
A lot of listeners describe your music as "catchy." Why do you think your lyrics resonate with them even after the song is over?
Well from a strictly sonic perspective I like simple. Meriting a good simple song that is different enough is really hard to do. I find those are the catchiest ones. Also I try to write things that have an element of truth in them about life. When you get that right those resonate a lot too.
What has been your favorite city on your summer tour?
That can change each tour. This one in particular New York City, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Portland and Seattle were insane.
You stay after your performances to sign hundreds of autographs and take tons of pictures with your fans. Why is it so important to you to take the time to do that, when so many other artists don't?
It's something that reminds me why I even do this. Music at its essence is a service for others. I love hearing the stories of how people use it in their day to day.
Your dad is Red Grammer, a multi-award winning singer and songwriter best known for his children's music. Is it true that he wrote those songs for you and your brother?
I think I remember him saying the first album was him and my mom writing songs for my older brother. When it took off they realized they were writing them for all kids.
What was it like to have your dad as a mentor when you first got started in the industry?
I think that growing up with someone in a creative field who is making a living from it is huge. It fostered a feeling in me that was like, 'Yeah this is what you do, you work really hard, write a ton of songs and it works out.' Some people have to overcome a large fear to even begin working in the arts, I didn't really have that.