He's definitely on a rollbut, fortunately, Steve Grand hasn't let his newfound fame get to him.
The 21-year-old openly gay country-pop singer garnered national headlines recently (and even appeared on Good Morning America) after the video for his song "All-American Boy" went viral. Grand put all of his remaining funds into the project, and he's now enjoying the fruits of his labor.
However, Grand is not resting on his laurels. He played at Northalsted Market Days this past Saturday, and the night before he gave a private concert at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. Before that latter event (which included a Q&A with OUT Magazine Editor-in-Chief Aaron Hicklin), a very affable Grand spoke with Windy City Times.
Windy City Times: Obviously, these past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Have you had a chance to catch your breath?
Steve Grand: I'm enjoying all of this, actually. I walked into the [Hilton's] ballroom, and just seeing all those lights and chandeliers as well as the people... It's been only four and a half weeks, but I'm really enjoying this moment as we speak. This is my first interview like this, one on one, [in a while].
And, no, I haven't had much of an opportunity to take it all in. I'm not that kind of person who can take it all in. I've put a lot of pressure on myself for a long time.
WCT: Constantly moving, constantly working...
Steve Grand: Yes. And for a long time I felt like a loser; I was going nowhere. I was playing cover songs at [Chicago nightspot] The Joynt, but I wanted to write my own songs. I wanted to travel all over the world. There are no guarantees in this business but I was working really, really hard and I had a dream. As all of my friends were growing up and going to college, and even getting married, I felt like I was stuck in the same place. Now that I'm here, I've just been working really hard. I've struck a chord with people, and I honor that more than anything else in the world. Even if there's a niche, I just want to honor those people.
WCT: Has your recognition factor increased?
Steve Grand: I was getting a haircut today and someone said, "You know, you look an awful lot like Steve Grand." I stopped and said, "I am Steve Grand." [Smiles] That's obviously new for me.
Also, I was in a Chase Bank and all the managers rushed over. (I was trying to get a new debit card.) They said, "Oh, it's the 'All-American Boy.' We're so excited you're hereanything you need." That was really cool. Also, my friends send me what their friends say"I just saw Steve Grand." It's so funny to me. I've been walking around the city for a long time now, and it's just in the last four weeks that anybody lifted their head up.
WCT: It's surreal, I'm sure.
Steve Grand: It's surreal, but now I feel I have a responsibility to now make something greater, something more meaningful.
WCT: Let's talk about the Hilton. Tell me about the concert tonight, how you and the Hilton connected, etc.
Steve Grand: Well, the Hilton has done a lot for the LGBT community, and they have special programs for people in that community. They were one of the first ones to reach out to me. I wasn't quite sure what it entailedand then they told me tonight's event was sold out. That's when the surreal part hit, and I'm so grateful. I don't travel very often so I can't say I was a Hilton regular, but they've done a lot of great things for the LGBT community and, specifically, for Market Days.
WCT: So what's it like knowing you'll be playing at Market Days? They're expecting at least 750,000 people.
Steve Grand: I have no idea what to expect. I'll be sitting in that booth all alone. That fear goes back to being that kid who couldn't find a place to sit in the lunchroom at school because I didn't have very many friends. But I believe in my "Grand fans," as I call them. I'm not sure what to call them.
WCT: Maybe we'll come up with a name, like "Grandstanders."
Steve Grand: [Laughs] They talk to me and I talk to them. I feel like I'm already close with them after one song, and they're so creative. It's like I don't even care about being mainstream; I'm so happy to have them. On my page, it's about people of all ages connecting. I've been waiting my whole life for something like this.
People have asked me what it's like to be a role model. Frankly, the idea of being a role model always makes me uncomfortable. We're all people and no one can really live up to what being a role model is. I'm human, I make mistakes, I say stupid shitI'm not perfect. I get angry, I get emotional, I'm irrational sometimes. All I can really promise my Grand family is that I'm going to be real with them, and that I'll make decisions with my heart and with them in mind.
WCT: I know you're uncomfortable with being a role model, but people have cited you as an inspiration. Who inspires you?
Steve Grand: Oh, so many people. This guy right here [points to manager Chris Ricchetti] has been in my life for quite some time. We've been incredibly great friends and he's been a mentor to me, so definitely him.
My brother is a big inspiration for me, too. My brother works so hard. He recently graduated from college and has a job. The guy's got so much soul; he really inspired me to stick with my music. He said, "Do what you have to do. Money doesn't matter. Follow your dream and follow your heart."
Also see Steve Grand plays private show at Hilton here: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Steve-Grand-plays-private-show-at-Hilton/44022.html .