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A Grand Piano Man

July 12, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 27
Photo: William Dick

Photo: William Dick

by Steve Desroches

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago Steve Grand felt an instinctual draw to the piano. From the earliest age he can remember he was attracted to the very look of the instrument: the keys, the colors, the shapes. Over and over he’d create 3-D models of pianos using cardboard, glue, and crayons. When he’d watch Charlie Brown cartoons and see Schroeder, the young boy intensely playing Beethoven on a red toy piano, Grand was completely mesmerized.  So when his parents bought a piano for the house and required him and his brother and sister to take lessons, he was thrilled.

Music became his whole world, especially since he grew up in a rather strict home with no television or video games. And as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality as well as feelings of not fitting in and loneliness, he turned to songwriting as a way to explore those emotions and overcome some pretty tough years. Even once he came out, he realized he had his eccentricities that made him stand out at a time in life when many teenagers want to do anything but. It was his music that made him realize that those qualities are what give you your strength, and once you embrace yourself for who you really are, a whole new world opens up for you.

“It’s been my dream to be a singer-songwriter since then,” says Grand. “My dream was to make someone else feel the way my favorite artists made me feel.”

He’s well on his way. Four years ago, at the age of 23, his video for his single “All-American Boy” went viral on YouTube, garnering over one million views in just its first week. He had maxed out his credit cards, spending $7,000 to take a gamble that paid off.  He was quickly labeled the “first openly gay country singer,” something he quickly corrects, as he is neither the first nor is he even a country singer as his music incorporates various genres. As an independent artist he released his debut album, named after his hit single, after one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns for a musician, through which he raised well over $300,000 from fans worldwide. Grand landed on Out magazine’s “Out 100” list of LGBT people to watch as his music and videos continued to fly around the Internet on various social media platforms.

The very thing that was giving Grand his big break was also producing some big headaches. He’d dreamed of writing a song that would get the world’s attention, but when it came, he was a bit overwhelmed. And then there is the viciousness that has become a hallmark of social media. Grand is clear that he takes constructive criticism seriously, and while he may not always agree, it is the right of anyone to critique someone’s work. But it just takes a quick glance through the minefield of hateful trolls in a comment section to see many of the posts were just nasty for the sake of being nasty. It’s an experience most everyone has had online, says Grand. But few have to deal with it on the size and scale he has.

“You could only let it hurt you if you allow it to,” says Grand. “I’m learning you have that power. And taking that power back is something a lot of us could benefit from.”

Photo: Allan Spiers

Photo: Allan Spiers

It’s a disappointment that many of these kinds of comments have come from within the LGBT community, which is also a bit of a surprise as it’s been a bigger problem than any homophobic responses. But Grand says the experience has helped him develop a stronger sense of self and to be more firmly grounded. He’s also achieved 18 months of sobriety. He seeks out and celebrates the larger part of the LGBT community that works to lift each other up rather than tear each other down, focusing on supporting LGBT causes, most recently donating the first week of sales from his single “Walking” to Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian organization that assists LGBT people around the world escape imminent violence, imprisonment, and death, most notably gay men in Chechnya.  He’s also played Pride events around the world from Austria to Latvia to Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Australia.

Grand is also hard at work on a new album, which he is finishing up this summer here in Provincetown, incorporating some of his newest unreleased songs, like the track “Pink Champagne,” into his show at the Art House.  Having made his debut last summer, this year marks his first summer-long run in Provincetown, a place that’s proven to be a source of inspiration, both personally and artistically.

“I had such a wonderful time here in Provincetown last summer,” says Grand. “I’m the biggest supporter of this place and I tell everyone about it wherever I go, and I go a lot of places. This place is magical and wonderful and a place for all LGBT people, and everyone else for that matter. There is something here for everyone in our community.”

Steve Grand performs Tuesday through Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Art House, 214 Commercial St. through August 31. Tickets ($40 general / $65 for VIP) are available at the box office and online at ptownarthouse.com. For more information call 508.487.9222.