Before Conan Gray took the stage at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on Wednesday night (September 7), the singer took the time to stroll through the carpeted hallways. You could hear “oohs” and “ahhs” as he walked past the illustrious attire of Dolly Parton and music stars long before her time. Gray himself was dressed to impress, sporting a black lace Moschino suit.
And although you wouldn’t expect it from watching him, the 24-year-old spent the rest of the night bluntly spouting self-deprecating jokes that made the event seem more like an intimate date with a better friend than to an industry. Questions and answers.
During the chat with Billboard editor Lyndsey Havens, Gray was his usual self, but also revealed his vulnerability as he discussed physical abuse, emotional hurt and dreams of love, all themes present on his second “Superache” album.
“[With ‘Superache’] every word felt like I was dragging myself on a bed of nails,” Gray said. “But it gave space to talk about things that were too painful to talk about otherwise. I accepted parts of my life that are still hard to think about.
Gray added: “The beauty of pop music and the beauty of writing music is being able to help people understand, understand what I’m saying and what I want people to be able to understand about what I’m saying. just write – that’s why I started writing music in the first place.
Throughout the night, Gray regularly dissected his album’s eighth track, the soulful “Family Line” which is directly inspired by “childhood and generational trauma.” The track took Gray over two years to write and barely made it to the official track list without Gray’s best friend urging him to complete it. Before performing an acoustic version of the track for the audience at the Grammy Museum — some of whom had been waiting outside since the early hours of the morning — he summed up the track’s overall contribution to the album’s theme.
“I don’t need to run away from my past because my past doesn’t define me,” Gray said. “I really can be who I want to be and everything that’s happened to me has led to this point. … Some people think it’s too taboo to talk about trauma, but everyone has a baggage that they take with them. him wherever he goes My family line has made me who I am today, in all the wrong ways and all the right ways.
Longtime friend and producer Dan Nigro helped Gray make sense of his achingly honest lyrics, who he’s worked with regularly since his debut EP “Sunset Season” in 2018. Nigro has become something of a celebrity in the landscape. Gen-Z musical, having co-written and produced Olivia Rodrigo’s acclaimed debut album, “Sour” – and sharing a Grammy this year.
Reflecting on their collaboration, Gray shared, “You spend so many years creating this sound. [together] and learn from each other and understand what we like and what we don’t like and at this point we are able to read each other’s minds. It’s so important to make music with someone you’re comfortable with to be free from making mistakes.
On the topic of collaboration, Gray was asked if there was a BTS collaboration in the works — seeing as one of the band members specifically named Conan Gray as an inspiration in a recent Rolling Stone interview. He gushed with the audience who couldn’t help but let out a series of screams at the thought, but ultimately he said he was intimidated by the proposal.
Gray also revealed that he had just visited South Korea, where he realized that “the music industry there is so different. … I got to visit their offices and it was just crazy. They have sets inside office buildings that look like houses – it looks like a normal house but it’s in an office – anyway, you’ll get it later.
Ahead of the night’s live performance portion, Gray briefly interrupted the event to make sure every squirrely teen in the room had taken a “candidate” photo of him for their BeReal (the app that sends a notification by day to all its subscribers who then have two minutes to take and post a photo). Then, accompanied by Renny Go on piano, he started his set with “Memories” before launching into “Heather”, one of the standout tracks of his 2020 debut, “Kid Crow”. Gray then appeared solo onstage with a guitar in his lap for a stripped-down rendition of “Family Line,” and with each reverberating strum, the sniffles of teary-eyed fans filled the room.
Gray will be touring for the rest of the year, heading to New Zealand and Australia in the fall. No doubt he hopes to be back in LA for the Grammy Awards, which will be held next to the museum at the Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center) on February 5, 2023.