In the middle of the bustling Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California, before he rose to multiplatinum status courtesy of his hits “Fresh Eyes,” Keep Your Head Up,” and “Honey, I’m Good” among others, then 20-something Andy Grammer grew his musical roots—err, a trunk. A big, fat but strong trunk to take all the beating as he got himself through four long years as, yes, a street performer.
“There were a lot of street performers in that area, almost like we were in the circus. Like, a low level circus. I’d be in my guitar and someone else would be on a cajon drum,” Andy tells ABS-CBN Lifestyle a day before his Music Museum concert in Manila. He draws the picture of his busking days, “To your left, at any given time, would be a guy with a snake. To your right, a father and son gymnastic duo. And you'd all be, like, fighting for attention out on the street. And it would be noisy! You’d be singing a love song and someone would be spinning his head on to something next to you!”
“It was the life!” he laughs.
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Smiley in nature, the LA-born and raised singer-songwriter rather developed not just a thick skin, but a more admirable personality and perspective to manage through his busking journey. Andy, son of children’s music icon Red Grammer and a Business Industry Studies graduate of California State University, Northridge, was just so crazy about music. On performing it in the cold or heat, he basically relied so he could pay the bills.
Yet, Andy didn’t choose to blame anything on anybody back then. Sure, he was hoping to make it in La-La-Land at that time, but he was also just a dreamer who just wanted to get his name out there. He balanced busking with songwriting, playing in college shows, and performing in “just any area any place I could play.”
“It's tough, it's a freakin’ hustle at the time!” Andy, now 30 and celebrating his seventh year as a recording artist, muses. “It was great ‘cause I just wanted to be heard—any artist would just like to be heard! No matter what type of art you’re doing, you wanted to be felt. So, at the time in LA I couldn't get anybody to book me ‘cause I didn't have anything worth, you know, no big shows or any of that,” says Andy, who occasionally experienced some rewards. “There was a lot of hustle, but there would be moments when there would be 20 people on the street digging something that you've written. That was awesome.”
Andy later caught his would-be manager’s (Steve Greenberg) ears, and ultimately the latter’s time and attention. The musician eventually got signed with S-Curve Records. (The said recording firm, of course, boasts of Duran Duran, Betty Wright, Fountains of Wayne, and Baha Men in its roster.) Andy would see his albums take over charts and his singles dominate streams. Before his own tour, he would join Taylor Swift at her own, jamming to the pop star’s favorite song that Andy had written and sung—the Billboard Hot 100-inscribed “Keep Your Head Up.” The rest is history.
And while everything from his street performing days just seems so anecdotal now, Andy says he doesn’t forget all that he’s learned.
“You have to grow in (terms of) owning yourself, pulling attention, and kinda being scrappy about it,” the dad of one says candidly. “If you really want to grow bigger than, say, in the street, you have to write something that should be of service to the people. That when they hear it, it gives them more. We've all had that experience—in the car or out somewhere, and you go like, ‘What is that? I need that!’ If you're not doing that, then you're in trouble.”
Tickets to Andy Grammer – Live in Manila will be on-sale on Friday, April 13 via TicketWorld.com.ph or at the Music Museum box office. For more information, call 891-9999 or 374-9999. You may also follow presentor Wilbros Live on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, or click on the hashtags #AndyGrammerMNL and #WilbrosLive.
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Banner image taken from Grammer's Instagram account. The rest of the photographs by Vyn Radovan