Becca Damante '17 Staff Writer
You might remember Andy Grammer from his catchy pop anthem “Keep Your Head Up,” but he is far from a one-hit wonder. This summer, he released his sophomore album “Magazines or Novels” to great acclaim. Hot off this release, I had a chance to sit down with Andy and ask him about his writing process and his upcoming tour with O.A.R., which hits Northampton’s Calvin Theatre this November.
I know you started out as a street performer in Santa Monica. How did you go from street performer to hit singer-songwriter?
My manager heard me singing. We started working together from the street, so he would help me with my set out on the street. He came back to my apartment one day to hear what else I had written, and I played him a song called “Keep Your Head Up,” and it kind of went from there…That was maybe 2010.
What was the hardest part about performing on the street?
Just making it through the low periods where no one is around, cause you literally are singing by yourself. It can feel a little bit awkward. Just kind of pushing through and believing that people are eventually going to come and it will eventually work out, ’cause usually it does. When I was out there, there would usually be at least a good crowd every once in a while.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations and why?
I’m going to hit you with Lauryn Hill. That first album was incredible….She sang and she rapped better than anyone I’ve ever heard. Then I got Chris Martin from Coldplay. I just love piano rock immensely. And then John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz — the acoustic guitar guys. That was for my first album. For the second album, it’s been Drake, Macklemore and The Lumineers.
Tell me a little bit about your songwriting process. Do you write music or lyrics first?
I do a lot of them at the same time. There’s an incubation period where I just write down ideas, titles or concepts. The hardest part for me is to find a song to write lyrics that are worth writing. ’Cause if you just write a song, it’s not hard to do. But songs that have a soul to them, those are the hardest ones to find. For this album, I just wrote 100 songs. If you write 100, you’re going to find 10 that have soul.
What was the inspiration behind the title of the album, “Magazines or Novels”?
I love pop music, but when you say pop, it comes with a shine and shimmer to it that doesn’t do justice to what I think it is that I’m doing...They listen to a second of a song, they don’t like it, and they move on to the next one. And so you have to find something as a songwriter that is catchy enough to grab someone, like the cover of a magazine. But the thing is, I really want to write songs that have sustaining power. I want to get in and have songs that have meaning and depth to them, so it was playing with those two elements while writing the album...The two dynamics of grabbing your attention, but having enough depth to hold when you get there.
What was the hardest song on the album to write?
I don’t know if there is a single song. I think getting the album out was probably the hardest accomplishment I’ve done so far. I think also because I was so scared that it wasn’t going to live up to the first one, and when that gets in the way of your art, it poisons everything that you’re doing. Probably the first 50 songs were infected with being afraid. Then there’s a little bit of trying to write a hit, and it all just starts to infect what you’re doing. So the hardest thing was just writing any of them. Getting into myself and writing a true honest song. I had trouble with that this time.
I’m seen you live a few times now, but I want to hear your perspective. What can fans expect to see at the live shows?
This time, I’m coming out with a looper pedal, which I’ve been experimenting with. It kind of opens everything up. I haven’t seen someone do it the way I’m doing it…I’m doing it with a keytar, a guitar, and looping my vocals….I can make a beat on the keytar and then play the lines on the keytar and add bass, and that gets to feel really big.
I had a music professor ask me this last year, and it really struck me. Why do you do music?
The name of my company is Ladder, Soul, Music, and I think that music is the ladder to the soul. So to be able to provide that to everybody else is a pretty cool way to make a living.
You can catch Andy open up for O.A.R. at the Calvin Theatre on Sunday, Nov. 23. Tickets available via his website or downtown at the box office.