'Happy Pop' star Andy Grammer plays McMenamins Grand Lodge
Pushing positivity and empowerment works for Andy Grammer, the music star who knows something about the need to live an uplifting life.
For years, Grammer performed in front of discriminating music fans — the non-paying public, as a busker on the streets of Los Angeles and Santa Monica. He did it with a smile on his face, because of who he is, but also to mask any despair.
It was after a night of not receiving any tips for eight hours, and shortly after his mother died, that he wrote his first single and one of his biggest hits, "Keep Your Head Up." Listen to the words, and you can hear disappointment merging with optimism.
Grammer, who performs Tuesday, Aug. 23 at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, co-headlining with Fitz & The Tantrums, said he doesn't mind the reputation of being positive, empowering, energetic and engaging.
"But, I was really depressed during the pandemic, and it's good for people to hear that the happy guy was depressed. I went to therapy," he said. "Positive music is grounded in pain. Like with 'Keep Your Head Up,' it was 'I'm going through it right now, pick me up.'
"If it's grounded in optimism, people can feel the difference. 'Don't Give Up On Me' is another one; I know some people hear it and say the lyrics have been used before. I don't care. People use it to get through cancer treatments and they tell me about it."
As long as it's not "pigeonholing" him in a career, Grammer, who's also famous for "Honey I'm Good," said he won't be changing any time soon.
The Los Angeles native resumed touring this year, and he and the band and crew have been busy. He spent the pandemic downtime at home with family, and Grammer, 38, and his wife welcomed their second child.
"Intense and fantastic time," he said. "For two years, I was there almost every day. But, as someone who does a lot of traveling, that was really hard.
"I'm elated to be back out at shows. There's something about large groups of people singing together. We all need it."
He's on the "Wrong Party Tour" co-headlining with Fitz & The Tantrums. Earlier in 2022, he played on his "The Art of Joy Tour."
His latest songs are "Saved My Life," featuring Dutch/Morrocan DJ R3HAB, and "Good Man (First Love)," as well as "Joy" and "Love Myself."
They follow the tracks "Damn It Feels Good To Be Me" and "Lease On Life." You get the picture. No wonder Grammer has been known as the No. 1 "Happy Pop" streaming artist.
Grammer's music making approach stems from his early days busking on the streets of Santa Monica and elsewhere.
It's not a news flash: Music is competitive in L.A., and he had to find a way to stick out. He had to fight for attention.
"It is very competitive. I'm a pretty competitive dude, though," he said. "Before music grabbed my soul I was fully on track to try to be a collegiate athlete. I played varsity basketball and that's all I cared about. Being competitive is a personality trait, and a flaw. I appreciate it."
Playing for strangers "is so much better than family and friends. Somebody who's not invested can say, 'This guy's no good, I'm out.' No one cares. But, if I'm playing for eight hours and no one cares, it's possibly me. It's great training for writing songs during the day and going out and playing music at night."
He continued, about busking: "There's a lack of entitlement bred into you. It's wonderful for artists to deal with, to train on. 'I know what I'm doing has value, but you don't get it.'" Hopefully it would earn him tips and CD sales, he added.
"Dude, it's like with the Israeli army — no matter what, you have to serve in the Israeli army (as a citizen of Israel). As a musician, you should do a year on the street performing. It grounds you in a way."
Grammer said that he had been told that a radio station in Portland, of all places, first played his song "Keep Your Head Up."
Now Grammer is working on his next album, firmly entrenched as a "Happy Pop" star.
"It's so sweet, man. It sounds pretentious, but I feel like I'm getting closer and closer" to being the kind of artist he has dreamed about being, he said.
"As long as you're grounded in 'uplifting,' then it can be rebellious and important. It gets more and more palatable," he said. "In general, as I've gotten further along, I'm understanding who I am and acknowledging my flaws as well."
Tickets remain for the Andy Grammer/Fitz & The Tantrums show, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23 at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove. See www.grandlodgeconcerts.com. McMinnville's We Three, which once took part in "America's Got Talent," will be special guest.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.