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Andy Grammer brings his positivity to the Knitting Factory

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 12, 2019

By Alan Sculley For The Spokesman-Review

Andy Grammer has earned a reputation since arriving on the music scene in 2011 for being Mr. Positive, an artist who consistently builds optimism and sometimes downright happiness into his songs. But Grammer cautions that being upbeat does not mean being shallow when it comes to his music and the topics and situations he examines.

He even has a podcast titled “The Good Parts” (which shares the title of his third album) where Grammer, with some irreverence delves into weightier waters with celebrity guests discussing big questions like what do you think happens when you die or what is good and bad about money?

“I like to try to take this thing deeper and remind people that there’s a lot going on here. For myself, with the art that I make, that, oh man, there are a bunch of levels to this,” Grammer said in an August phone interview. “And when you come to my show, hopefully you get hit with things – or when you listen to one of my albums – that culture doesn’t touch on too much.”

Grammer said he’s getting the sense that “Naïve,” his latest album released July 26, is striking a nerve with fans. “It’s crazy because I don’t think this is a sappy album,” he said. “But one of the biggest comments I’m getting is people are like, ‘Ah, man, you’re making me cry.’

“I’m like ‘Man, that’s so interesting why people are crying at these songs that are seemingly … I don’t think they’re sad songs, but there’s something about being overwhelmed with spirit that will make you tear up.”

On “Naïve,” Grammer often finds inspiration in people who work through difficulties and come out the other side stronger and wiser. One of the key songs on the album, “She’d Say,” was inspired by the loss Grammer experienced over the death of his mother. The song ponders what advice his mother would have for his 2-year-old daughter if she were here to provide it.

“My Own Hero” finds a sense of determination to persevere and even thrive in his fear of facing a future alone. “Wish You Pain” isn’t a song of revenge or vindication, as its title might suggest. It’s a reminder that bad things happen to make us stronger and better people, as Grammer sings, “I know that it might sound strange, but I wish you pain.”

Grammer has made no secret of his positive attitude from the outset of his career. “Keep Your Head Up,” the Top Five adult pop single from his 2011 self-titled debut that put him on the map, seemed like a fitting introduction to Grammer, who went on to bigger heights with his second album, 2014’s “Magazines or Novels.”

That album featured “Honey I’m Good,” which topped the adult pop chart and reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100. His 2017 album, “The Good Parts,” gave Grammer another Top 10 adult pop single with the song “Fresh Eyes.” If anything, Grammer believes that “Naïve” pushes even farther with the positive tone of his music.

“ ‘Naïve’ is even more recklessly optimistic. It feels almost rebellious. I like that a lot,” he said. Grammer said he’s learned to worry less about what audiences think of his songs, and that has helped him to feel freer artistically.

“I’ve left (behind) caring so much about what people think, and I think it’s taken me to cooler places (with the songs),” he said. That outlook extends to the musical approach on “Naïve.” Grammer sticks to the basic stylistic blueprint of the first three albums.

Once again, the album offers a mix of upbeat tunes that feature sunny, folk-tinged pop melodies, bouncy rhythms and big choruses (“I Found You,” “Don’t Give Up On Me” and “My Own Hero”) and melodic ballads that retain a strong rhythmic presence and soaring choruses (“Some Girl” and “I Am Yours”).

But the new album does shift his sound a bit away from the synthetic sounds that punctuated the earlier albums toward more of an organic sound. “I think that I had fun experimenting a little bit more on previous albums with production,” Grammer said.

“This one, it just felt so sincere that the way to get that sincerity across sonically was to be more grounded in acoustic guitar. A lot of guitar, more live drums than normal, a lot of voices, live choir singers’ voices, to get this authenticity across so the words can be surrounded by that type of a feeling.”

His concerts this fall will allow Grammer to capture the sound and heft of “Naïve. “We’re going bigger than I’ve ever gone before,” he said. “I’ve got a big band, extra backup singers. I like to go big. I listen to this record, this most recent record has a lot of voices on it, a lot of anthemic, big stuff.

“It was important to bring the big machine that’s going to help make that work. It’s really exciting. When we come to town, we try to hit everybody in the heart. Our main goal is to try to light people up.”

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