Jeff Katz's picture

Steve Grand: The All-American Man

Behold the power of the Internet in 2013. In a matter of 48 hours over the past Fourth of July holiday, Steve Grand went from being an unknown Chicago twentysomething to a bona fide viral Web star. If you haven’t heard the song “All-American Boy” or seen the accompanying music video, you must have been completely disconnected from pop culture this summer. All the budding singer-songwriter did was become the talk of the gay community, music industry and country scene.

The quick recap: Grand uploads the video for his self-penned first single on July 2nd. The song and video tell the story of Grand’s pining for and boyishly chasing after his best buddy. A kiss happens, followed by rejection, as we see said friend is straight. No fight. No drama. Life goes on.

Before the Independence Day fireworks even lit up the sky, the video had racked up nearly a million views (and today boasts more than 2 million). Blogs both LGBT-oriented and otherwise shared the clip, and social media was abuzz with the 23-year-old’s name. Grand may not have been the first openly gay country singer (as some in the media incorrectly labeled him), but there’s no doubting the impact Steve Grand has made on our year.

“It’s been the most amazing, most hectic thing, a real whirlwind,” Grand says just two months after the song’s debut. “I was terrified leading up to it. I knew I had to do this, that I had this in me. This video and song have had a much greater impact, a much deeper impact than I could have ever hoped for. I really wasn’t expecting for it to resonate with people on such a deep level. It’s been a huge, huge gift.”

In today’s superconnected social-media age, discovering a promising singer online isn’t exactly breaking news, but it was obvious that Grand’s same-sex love story (and open sexuality) had people talking. As one veteran music publicist tells Instinct, for an artist to essentially make their introduction to the world with an openly gay message is, in terms of industry standards, nearly unheard of and certainly wouldn’t be recommended by a major label. (It should be noted that Grand’s music and video were self-produced, self-financed and self-released.) “Sure, it helped that he’s good-looking,” the exec continues. “But at the core, you need a good song, and he had that. He impressively got people’s attention.”

It’s attention that hasn’t been all smooth sailing and acclaim. With such buzz comes intense, at times invasive, interest, and suddenly Grand found himself thrust into the media spotlight. Within a week of becoming the talk of the Web, Grand was profiled on Good Morning America, where it was reported that as a teen his parents put him in “straight therapy,” which other outlets began reporting as “conversion therapy.” Questions and speculation followed, and Grand soon found himself having to defend statements he’s made in support of his parents. Now he wants to clear the air once and for all.

“This is such a touchy subject to talk about. I don’t want to misrepresent what happened, but I also don’t want to endorse anything or take away from others’ experiences,” Grand says. “I was not in conversion therapy. I was seeing a Christian therapist, who, among many beliefs, believed I would be happier if I didn’t live life as a gay man. He did not shame me. He did not make me feel bad for what I felt. But he did believe I would be happier in life if I lived as a heterosexual, and that part is indeed harmful. If you’re doing anything but affirming someone’s sexuality, you’re harming them. Especially a child.

For more on Steve Grand, pick up the new issue of Instinct, out now!