The past few years have been kind to Andy Grammer: after riding sugary pop singles like “Keep Your Head Up”(2011), “Fine By Me”(2011) and this winter’s “Honey I’m Good”(2014) to the top of the Billboard charts, the singer-songwriter-producer is selling out headline tours around the country. Before playing at House of Blues in Boston on March 19 as part of his tour, alongside fellow headliner Alex & Sierra, Grammer caught up with the Daily to discuss honesty, the writing process and his roots as a street performer.
Tufts Daily: How’s the tour going so far?
Andy Grammer: It’s my favorite ever. So fun. It’s the luckiest gig to play music for a living; it’s crazy. In the band, we just have a lot of fun with the instruments, the stupid dance moves … it’s just so much more than me and my guitar.
TD: Any reason it’s been so much better than the last tour?
AG: The last tour we did was over the summer, and the new album hadn’t come out yet. So I was playing a lot of the new songs to everybody, and they were liking it, but when everyone comes and already knows [the songs] and has a connection to the songs, it starts to get really good. Basically, you start a song and everyone screams all the words … it’s heaven. It’s the best.
TD: Which of your songs end up getting the most intense responses? Are there any you just love to play?
AG: When we were recording the album, we had an inkling that “Honey I’m Good” would be, like, a cool song. I had no idea people would like it as much as they do, so that’s always kind of a surprise. Especially right now, everyone loses their minds.
TD: Part of the reason [“Honey I’m Good”] is getting so much buzz is because of the way it handles the topic of love and monogamy. Do you have any relationship wisdom or advice?
AG: Honesty. But, like, brutally, uncomfortably, terribly honest. If there’s one little thing over there you don’t like to talk about … that’s not really honesty in the full sense, and you can’t move forward and work on anything. And there’s a little bit of that in the song, like …”did you really just say you’re looking at that girl?” But you’re lying if you say there’s no temptation out there. [“Honey I’m Good”] is an anthem for the people who are still trying to do it all the right way.
TD: Does that [honesty] play into your songwriting process?
AG: I call it “breaking the back of a song.” Trying to figure out what the hell I’m talking about. I never want to be onstage singing about something that’s not really worth it. It’s so easy to just be like, “oh, that word fits!” and I’m so against that, but that means writing a lot of songs until you stumble upon something that you care about. It’s like I’m outside a house, and I have to check every single way to get in. Check every little avenue until you can get inspired. Once you’re inspired, it’s super fun. But you can go two, three weeks without getting inside.
TD: That must mean going through a lot of songs before hitting the jackpot…
AG: For my album, I wrote a little over 100. There’s a lot of songs just laying by the wayside that feel close, but not quite.
TD: All the songs that do make it [onto the album] are so sunny and positive. How do you keep up this energy all the time?
AG: The overall vibe of the tour is gratitude. We’re just super psyched about what we do. You catch us all backstage saying, “Really? There’s a big crowd out there that wants us to come out?” I was a street performer for a really long time. For four years I was begging people to stop as they walked by. In its very essence, it was asking if what I was doing with my voice and my guitar was enough for them to care. If it’s not, it’s on me to be better. There’s a level of brutal honesty in a stranger walking by and saying “I like you” or “I don’t like you.” It holds true when I’m performing today. Hopefully, the whole time, I’m serving people.
TD: It speaks to your validity as a performer…
AG: I remember, one time, I got a knock on my door in Santa Monica. Someone had posted a sticky note that just said, “give up the dream” [laughs]. But you just keep pushing. And now the show’s just a big party. A blast.
TD: Any advice to college musicians?
AG: College is a time to experiment. You should be doing everything. To get good, you have to fail so much … my own songwriting ratio is pretty bad! In college, nothing’s being counted against you. So never stop. Be the person who’s never in your dorm room.