Andy Grammer Sees the Bigger Picture with Third Album, ‘The Good Parts’ (INTERVIEW)
Andy Grammer is no stranger to dressing up shimmering pop tunes with deeper, richer storytelling.
The singer's forthcoming third studio album, The Good Parts, aims to peel back the layers on his vulnerable, raw nerve, thereby exposing the most intimate and broken parts of himself. Three after the release of his last album, 2014's Magazines or Novels, the singer-songwriter examines infatuation with money ("85" is bubbly but powerful), life's fragility (the titular cut an especially poignant, dreamy cut) and fatherhood (his daughter inspires at least two moments, "Spaceship" and "Always").
Grammer, who turned 33 on December 3, found last year's birthday to be a turning point, ultimately establishing the album's theme.
"My last birthday, I had invited a lot of my close friends over," he tells PopCrush. "I really just missed my mother, who passed away about nine years ago. Instead of a big birthday party, I wrote an email, saying, 'It’s a little bit strange to ask you to emotionally help me unpack some things, but if you show up and help me get through it, I’d love to tell you about her.'"
Needless to say, it was a resounding breakthrough, leading him to delve further into his psyche and address those feelings, head-on: "They all came over, and I told them stories about my mom, and we all ugly cried through three hours. Even close-close friends, I had never been that intimate with about what it’s like to lose a mom.
While the title track isn't necessarily directly about his mother, it is "about sharing your true story with people and really wanting to get to the place where you could honestly share those unfiltered parts."
And across thirteen textured and thoughtful pop-rock songs, Grammer lays it all out on the line. Below, he discusses the part of himself that'll never really heal, redefining small talk, fatherhood and his 2018 tour.
You sing about the good parts “that never really heal" on the title song. Were you able to heal some of those parts of yourself through making this album?
From losing my mom, I’ll never be...okay...I’ll never be put together again. But that’s what makes it the most interesting part of the story, you know. Making this album was definitely a cathartic experience of trying to find all those vulnerable pieces and writing them into pop songs.
What other personal truths do you share?
There is a song called “85,” which I really love. It’s about money, and you have to reconcile how you handle it and whether it controls you or not. There’s another song called “Always” that I wrote for my brand new daughter, which is so sweet. It’s really fun to write music downwards. I’ve written a lot of music across to my wife. But to write a song like “Always” down to a little person is really cool. There’s a song called “Smoke Clears,” a personal song about having a little bit of a health scare while we were on vacation. A lot of times, the public wants to know about the good stuff, especially with what you put in an autobiography. Everybody knows, "oh, if you go to page 79, that’s where they really get into it." The album is a lot of that. Each song is a cliffsnotes version of my story as a 33-year-old guy.
On “Grown Ass Man Child,” you sing "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 32 / Saw a couple hairs greying in the mirror yesterday, but I'm still enjoying the view." What is the driver behind this anthem?
Oh, yeah, that one’s really fun. So, Taylor Swift came out with a song called “22.” This is my ridiculous version at 32. It was produced by this guy Oak [Felder], who has a big song right now, “Sorry Not Sorry,” with Demi Lovato. The bass is smashing. It’s a super fun song.
What is "Spaceship" about?
It’s one of my favorite songs. It’s about waiting for my daughter to arrive. It’s got one of the coolest bridges I think I’ve ever written. I make the analogy of when I was waiting for my daughter to come, I would be singing into my wife’s belly. It was like my daughter was in another world making her way to this world. Having lost my mother, as I was singing to my wife’s belly, I had this realization of “I wonder wherever my mom is, is she doing that to me?”
What have been some of the most interesting or memorable interactions you’ve had this year?
I’m a big fan of talking about God. Whether people believe in God or not, that’s so fascinating. Or where you go when you die is fascinating. Around my daughter, I wrote an email out to all of my close friends who are women that I respect. I said “Hey, can you send me back one thing your dad did that was amazing and one thing he did that could have been better?” The answers were unbelievable. I’ve become a fan of finding out what these questions are that can make everybody go in. You’re sitting at the dinner table, and you ask “what’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?” It takes it out of the normal small talk.
One of my favorite things is to have a three-hour conversation over coffee with someone. It’s very ambitious to do that with pop music. It’s about finding that intersection of pop, which is considered shiny and frivolous, and add this to it, without it feeling pretentious. It’s a really hard thing to do, and I don’t always do it. But it’s my love. You only have three to four minutes to do it.
In your 33 years, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
I was heading into ninth grade, which is high school where I grew up. My dad stopped as I was heading out the door. He goes “I promise you all the cool kids will change. It won’t feel like it. In the four years of high school, with all the ups and downs, be nice to everyone.” I remember being like “...okay…” I ended up taking it to heart. In the music industry, that’s one-hundred percent the case. You have years where everyone thinks you’re amazing. Then, you have a year where people think “oh, he’s done.” Then, you come back and people go “OH, he’s back!” The ride of it is completely hilarious. Be nice is the sweetest, simplest, most powerful advice I’ve ever received.
Coming off such a big hit with “Honey, I’m Good,” do you think critics’ use of “one-hit wonder” labels are misguided?
I haven’t heard it that much. It’s funny. The first song that I had that went platinum was “Keep Your Head Up,” which was a long time ago. Then, you get “one-hit wonder” with that. Then, the next song I had went gold, but I think went platinum by now. Then, they’re like “uh, maybe just that one.” [laughs] Then, you have another big one, and they’re like “maybe just that one.” At this point, I think I’ve had like six platinum or gold hits. If someone calls you a one-hit wonder, that’s fine. Do whatever you want. [laughs] Going back to what I said, I’m going to be whatever you call me until I do it again. Then, you’ll say something else, and it’ll be great.
Which songs on the new record are non-negotiable to make the live show?
All the singles. We’ll see how people react to some of the other songs. If the internet is telling you something and you don’t respond, that’s kind of stupid. So, we’ll put the album out, see what they’re listening to and freaking out about and make sure to play those. Then, there will be those that are really special to me that I’ll want to try to play. I know I’ll want to try to play “85,” “Freeze,” “Smoke Clears.” It’s a good problem to have. I don’t know. I want to play them all, just make the set three and a half hours. Let’s do it! [laughs]
Your first daughter, Louisiana K. Grammer, was born in August. How is fatherhood treating you?
It is so good. It’s my favorite version of myself so far. I feel like I have really hit my stride in the last three months. It’s my favorite piece of being alive. I’ll take my daughter for coffee. She’s so sweet. She’s three and a half months old right now. She’ll just sit there and smile at me while I have coffee. I keep saying it every day, “this is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.” It’s so cheesy. All the cliches are true.
What do you hope for in 2018?
It’s really sweet to be seen for who you are. I always make these jokes how hard it would be to be an accountant because it’s hard for people to see you in your light. We’d go to a party in college, and there would be a guitar. I’d always feel that was an unfair hack. Me and my light is with a guitar. So, “anybody using this?” I’d pick it up and start playing it. Everybody would be like “oh, I see who you are,” right? For 2018, this album is the most refined that I’ve been able to be as a person, a songwriter, a musician. My hope would be that as many people as possible would be touched by this.