The musician, the movement: grandson
Have you heard of the artist grandson? No? Well, inevitably, it seems, the world is destined to hear from him, one way or another. grandson (with an intentional lowercase “g”), having grown up in Toronto and now based in Los Angeles, is a musician, activist, and prospective philanthropist all wrapped into one. While in Toronto this past June, as part of the lineup for Canada's North by Northeast music festival (NXNE), grandson and I had a conversation with an eclectic range of topics: performing, his past, politics, vulnerability, and how he releases his anger, just to name a few.
The 23-year-old Canadian graced NXNE's stage for the first time this summer and is currently on tour across Canada and the United States. However, he really appreciates what Canada in particular offers for people such as himself.
“The Canadian entertainment industry is so nurturing for Canadian talent. There's rules in terms of the grants that they give and there's a certain amount that's played on the radio that has to be Canadian. They reward and foster Canadian talent, and encourage us to come back. That's how I found myself in spaces like NXNE. That's all been really helpful for a project that's in its infancy like this.”
Self-described as a “fusion” of many different genres, including rock, trap, and alternative, grandson, while still new to the music scene, has been working towards his current act for quite some time.
“I've been doing this for years and it's only really been taking off in the last eight months or so. I was going to school in Montreal (back in 2011). I started making music and producing there, really just as a hobby, and then I caught the attention of some people down there. I relocated to Los Angeles in March of 2014. I spent a long time asking myself questions there and writing for other artists. (Then) I made the conscious decision that I wanted to do this.”
Within a multitude of realizations was an especially important one for the singer: knowing when he needs help.
“In moments where I was working in music and didn't find this sort of success both internally and externally, I was trying to do too much. And part of letting go has been what's led to me enlisting the help of so many more talented people than I, such incredible collaborators. It takes a village.”
A couple of the biggest contributors to grandson’s growing success? Knowing himself and trusting his instincts.
“Ironically, as I let go and stopped giving a f***, then people started taking notice. And I think that's just true in general. I really try hard to know myself, recognize my limitations, my strengths, my weaknesses, and try to take ego out of the performance as best I can. We're all in the constant pursuit of knowing ourselves better, and being informed only leads to playing to your strengths.”
While the ongoing path has included steady progression for grandson, it’s involved vulnerable moments as well.
“I probably had around 200 songs (of my own) of a completely different genre. When it became time to start taking this more seriously, one of the scariest things was to throw all those years of work away, and start from absolute scratch. But I felt an obligation to myself, to all that I had sacrificed, to my family members that had invested time in me, all the people that let me sleep on their couches. If what you want to do is art, it's bigger than you. And I felt that I was either going to leave music behind, or dive in whole-heartedly and not look back. That was the decision I made.”
After making the commitment to embrace his music career head-on, one of the dilemmas that followed was a rather important one; what would people call him?
“(My stage name originated from) a couple different things. In 2016, my grandfather passed away. He was a huge influence. He was the one that introduced me to Ray Charles, who's a huge influence of mine. So part of it is paying homage to him. And I wanted a name that felt nostalgic and relatable. We had been experimenting with street names, school names, and nothing really stuck. Then my manager called me one day really excited because he had had a dream the night before. He was side stage and I was performing, and the crowd was chanting ‘grandson’. He called me and was like, 'I got the name.'”
I felt inclined to further prod him for the meaning behind a specific aspect of his name: why the lowercase “g”?
“It's a funny question...there definitely is (a reason). I just...so much of this is not about me. And that's part of keeping it all lowercase. I'm trying to make this as little about me as possible. It's subtler. I just want the music to do the talking.”
While the music is an integral part of his act, grandson hopes to go further than that in the future, creating a “community” where joy, liberation, and pain can all co-exist.
“(The) objective is to create a community and foster a safe space for that catharsis to occur. It's about people being aware that amidst everything that's going on, it's okay to be not okay. I feel like there's so much being put on everyone coming together right now, and I think that that's really important. But first, let's have a space to be angry, let's have a space to yell and to hold people accountable and to be f***ing mad.”
He plans to take it a step beyond that as well. Through his musical “movement”, grandson plans on raising awareness to what he feels are issues worthy of discussion, letting the thoughts that his listeners may have flow out into the world in a constructive way.
“The situation that we've found ourselves in, politically, socially...it's about finding safe, healthy mediums to raise that voice, instead of numbing it with so many vices that I've turned to and that other people have turned to. Drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever it is, everything is best in moderation and best explored with a community that they feel they can belong to, that they feel speaks to that frustration.”
With his first music video for the song “Bills” released earlier this year, his newest track “Best Friends” released in April, as well as a spot on both Spotify and Apple Music, grandson has hit the ground running. Wherever his music may take him, as long as he’s staying true to himself, he feels ready for whatever may come his way next.
“I've already won. I'm already doing what I love and feel successful and happy. I'm doing what I'm doing for the right reasons, and I know that inevitably I'm going to get whatever I want out of this and I'll leave whenever it's time for me to leave. I'm not chasing anyone else's definition (of success). At the end of the day, it's not up to me, how people receive (my music). All I can do is build a home and leave the door open.”
To check out grandson’s most recent tracks and to learn more about him, check out his website at: http://www.grandsonmusic.com/