Steve Grand talks new music, touchy-feely fans and moving beyond ‘All-American Boy’
By Chris Azzopardi
Steve Grand can barely stand himself – that is, the superficial, Internet-packaged version of the singer/songwriter/dreamboat presented to the public since even before his 2013 viral hit “All-American Boy” rocked our gay world.
“I don’t like the me that most people probably see,” admits Grand, 26.
Now, the self-proclaimed “weird guy trapped in a douchey gym guy’s body” is tackling YouTube with a fun and frank smattering of endearing, no-holds-barred confessionals. He takes on his constantly-criticized image… and also a half gallon of Breyers, which he (in)appropriately slurps as he dishes practical advice on clean bottoms. In another video, called “Steve and Trev PUMP it up at the GYM,” Grand delivers on the dream of him wearing compression pants over his jockstrap.
As he preps new music, the “All-American Boy” is certainly less all American-y these days. In our new freewheeling interview, Grand opened up about everything and anything: people’s “low expectations” of him, his more carefree career attitude, his junk, boner kills, handsy fans, haters and his fear that someone will start singing “All-American Boy” while having sex with him.
I have a confession to make: I like you better now than I did at the beginning of your career.
Fu*k you! (Laughs) … I’m kidding.
Yeah, fu*k me. I blame the Internet. I got bits and pieces of you. The abs. The music. But now, through your YouTube videos, we’re finally seeing the real you.
I’m not so bad. People have (such) incredibly low expectations of me, that I just need to show up. For my performances, I need to not be terrible and people will be impressed. I just know people have really, really low expectations of me and that’s what the Internet does. I’m such an easy person to target. Young, good-looking, white, gay men – we love to hate those people. But there’s been a real person there the whole time.
It’s weird. For a long time there’s been a big disconnect between how much I could expect to be understood by people and how much I actually was understood by people. I had this unreasonable expectation that I was going to be understood by people and it took me a long time to get over that. I don’t make sense in any kind of headline, so I’ve kinda given up on that and I’m fine with it. The more you kind of give up and don’t care, the more people feel that and like that.
When did you stop caring as much?
Of course I do care. I revel in not caring, but I still am human. I’m not very good at crafting the public image version of me. I’m just not. I’m too messy of a person, and I care too much about being able to be a real dimensional human being.
Why do you say you’re “messy”?
(Hesitates) There’s a good answer to this. Some people just make more sense in a headline. Taylor Swift – she’s an example of someone who’s not really messy. She’s a well-oiled machine. Everything about her is very comfortable and that’s one of the reasons she’s so massively successful. That’s not a criticism; it’s an objective observation. With me, I still am just a regular person operating in the same world as everyone else. I’m not rich and famous. And I think there’s a weird disconnect that, when someone has any degree of fame on social media or whatever, we discount them as being a real, complicated human being. I feel like I have always fought for myself to be seen as a complex, nuanced human being, to the point where I would rather not have lots of success and notoriety if it means that I can’t let all the messy edges of me show.
“All-American Boy” categorized you as “country music’s first out gay male,” but then you didn’t make any “country” music after that and even resisted the label. Was that time in your career as confusing for you as it was for other people?
What I’m mostly confused about is how important labels are to people. Music is music and maybe “All-American Boy” is a country song to some people and maybe it’s not to other people. I just never put much energy into thinking about what it was classified as. I probably would’ve been smarter to, but I just genuinely don’t care about labels that much. I never called myself a country singer, so yeah, it was kind of confusing and another reason why you have to separate yourself from the way that you’re seen publicly. Even going down to the most basic details of who I am publicly, it’s not even correct. I never said I’m country and I never said I’m the first anything; those are all things that people associated with me and it had absolutely zero to do with anything that I said or did myself.
Do you regret having that song be country-tinged at all because it put you in a box that you didn’t want to be in?
No – I have to learn everything through life experience. I didn’t have anyone taking me through this. It’d be so easy to get caught up in, “I regret this, I regret that.” We’re not all on the same playing field, and I’ve had certain advantages and I’ve also had certain disadvantages. One is that I really got into this on my own and I didn’t necessarily have the guidance that maybe would’ve made everything turn out a little differently.
With that said, is the facial hair intended to shift you from the “All-American Boy” image?
(Laughs) I’m really trying! I’m really, really trying. It’s not growing right! But it’s natural and nice. I just feel like it fits my personality to be more cuddly and look like a bear a little bit. Even having shitty facial hair fits my personality. (Laughs)
Can you talk about the struggle to be taken seriously as a music artist when there are half-naked photos of you circulating all over the Internet?
It used to be really frustrating, but I’ve readjusted my expectations. I don’t have that high of expectations for the general public – I mean, we don’t even understand things that really actually fu*king matter, like, with this election. So why should I expect people to take the time to understand me? I don’t matter. And people don’t even care about things that do matter.
I take my music seriously. I’m a good musician and I’m a good performer, and I also like to work out my body and show it off sometimes. It’s a fleeting thing; when I’m 50, I’m not gonna look like this.
Everybody has to feel like they have to be a special snowflake. People can’t just look at a picture of a hot guy and let it be beautiful. It has to be some statement about them. Let people just fucking appreciate what is beautiful and let things be beautiful if they’re beautiful.
So, you never look at a photo of another guy and think, “I wish I could look that good”?
Oh my god – of course I do. But I try to take personal responsibility and not lash out at that person because they maybe make me feel less. I just fucking look at the picture and enjoy it. I’ve had a lot of moments where I’ve seen someone who is maybe more beautiful or someone who sounds better than me or has written a song that I think is gorgeous – yeah, sometimes I have that envy and that jealousy rises up. I could either leave a really bitter comment about it on the Internet or I could go work on my own shit and be the best I can be.
Do you think your more risqué photos have helped or hurt your career?
Oh, I don’t know. It is what it is. I’m just trying to be myself.
Would you ever go back into modeling full time?
I never was a model. I never got paid for any of it. I’m just another guy who has photos online of me in my underwear and that’s really all it is. It’s really true. I don’t know what qualifies as being a model anymore because we all have Instagram accounts. Max Emerson is a model. I’m not. I just wanted to take pictures of myself with my clothes off.
You recently got naked for a promo advertising bassackwards tees. Tell me about that.
I got with them and worked with them and we’re still figuring out which organization it’s gonna benefit. It’s definitely gonna be an LGBT organization. If people are gonna click on this shit then yeah, I’ll be a part of this cool T-shirt (campaign) and we’ll give some of the proceeds to our cause and everyone wins.
How do they decide how much butt to show in a video like that?
Everyone’s seen my butt, but some days I’ll feel more like an instigator than other days; other days I want no part of that. With this, I don’t think I’d done anything that I hadn’t done before. I just wanted to make a video that was beautiful and sexy.
Under what circumstances would you go completely au natural?
And show my dick? You can pretty much see it in some of the shots from the past, but I probably wouldn’t. I’d rather not. But if someone was like, “Here’s a million dollars,” I would be like, “Sure.” But, like, I don’t think my dick is that exciting. It’s just like, whatever. It’s pretty unremarkable. I think it’s good to be proud of what you have but I think there are more interesting things about me than my relatively… what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s very appropriately sized and shaped, that’s what I would say.
That’s gonna be the headline somewhere: “Steve Grand calls his dick ‘unremarkable’ and ‘appropriately sized.’”
That’s fine. If it makes people happy…
How has notoriety changed your life?
That’s a big question. I don’t know. I have a Wikipedia page! Googling myself is a really scary thing that could have really adverse effects on my psyche!
You’re not supposed to do that, Steve.
I definitely don’t anymore. It took a long time. It’s been months since I’ve done it. I’m terrified of what’s out there.
How has it changed dating for you?
When “All-American Boy” came out I couldn’t be on dating apps without getting shit for it, but now it’s fine. It doesn’t really have any effect.
Have you ever been faced with a flirty fan that made you uncomfortable?
Someone was tickling me as we were taking a picture and I’d kind of had it, and I think they thought they were being sneaky about it. But I really reacted and made a scene. “That tickles!” And I jumped. There’s a picture of me reacting. It’s hilarious. I was gonna repost it but I didn’t wanna embarrass the guy. Like, it’s fine. He was tickling my side; I don’t know what he got out of that. Sometimes people, if they’re more drunk, their hand will lower to my ass and I’ll be like, OOOK.
You have to slap their wrist?
Yeah. (Tickling) is one of those things. I felt like tickling me was really presumptuous and I didn’t like it. It was uncomfortable. One time there was someone who was a fan and I was like, “You’re really hot,” and, you know, that whole thing happened, but that doesn’t really happen. I just feel like I’m automatically put in a position when someone is a fan. I’m already something to them. There’s an expectation there. It freaks me out to think about if I’m having sex with someone they might be thinking about my music video, like that’s really weird to me. I wouldn’t like that.
Or if they wanted to play your music during sex.
My fear is that someone will start singing “All-American Boy” during it. People joke like, “Oh, I feel like we’re in your music video,” and that’s a boner kill. I like to keep those things separate. It’s so pure. What I put out there is so pure and I don’t want to think about purity when I’m actually having an intimate moment.
What’s next for you?
I really do wanna have something out in the next couple of months and I wanna move more quickly with getting content out there. I really want to put out a full album, so I’m working on that right now. I’m in a better frame of mind and what I’m putting out is gonna be about a lot of things that happened in the last two years. I’m more grown up and things are gonna be more stripped down. I just feel like I’m better and more comfortable with myself, so I’m letting the edges of me be present on the album and in the recordings more than before. I was always trying to round off my edges because I wasn’t comfortable with them. It’s gonna be a little more gritty. It’s gonna fuck up people’s brains.
So the “Anti All-American Boy”?
Yeah, I have a rebellious spirit and that’s what made me want to do “All-American Boy” as my first thing, but now I’m rebelling against something different. I don’t feel like making a music video about two guys is an act of rebellion. So, what am I saying now? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself while making this music. It’s gonna be interesting. I’m grateful I’ve relieved myself of the burden of trying to be whatever expectations people had of me because I think I fucked all that up good enough to where I’m able to freely be myself now.
Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. He once made Jane Fonda cry.