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VIDEO INTERVIEW - Gabbing with grandson

Celebrity Interview by Jason Clevett (From July 2022 Online)
Image by: Jonathan Weiner
Image by: Ashley Osborn
grandson and Kesha
grandson and Kesha
Image by: Drop-Dead

It’s been a whirlwind year for Canadian-American singer-songwriter grandson. He toured with Imagine Dragons, crossed Canada with Avril Lavigne, and just wrapped up a European tour. He’s wrapping up the concerts at the Big 4 Roadhouse on the Stampede Grounds on July 17th. We caught up with the man born Jordan Benjamin on a break from his home in LA to talk about his career, activism, and connection to fans.

"I spent the whole year on tour across north America and across the beautiful continent of Europe. I was just in Canada with Avril and, and shortly after that, I made my way across Europe and got to connect with people all over the world, singing songs together. It was really fun."

Touring with high profile artists raises his profile. Often at concerts people trickle in during or after the openers for the headliner. At Lavigne’s recent 2-night stint in Calgary, fans packed the Jubilee Auditorium for both grandson and first opener Mod Sun, and knew the songs, singing along and cheering.

"You never know from city to city or artists to artists, how much fans will embrace the opening band. It felt really relieving to know we had some fans in the stands, but also one thing that really strikes a core with me about this year is that many of the songs that people know best of mine from songs like, like Dirty and Rain, which were singles mine that were released during the pandemic. For a lot of artists of different mediums, the pandemic really challenged things. The question of is this being received; is this being heard? Not being able to have that physical connection or reaction to your work for so long was quite disorienting. And while phone engagement is nice and people liking your pictures and following and clicking your articles is nice. There's just no substitute for real human beings. Connecting with your work and reminding you that they too have felt what you feel and are here with you. To be able to come out as an opener no less, and be reminded that this work that we did during the pandemic did ultimately impact people in such a way that they're buying tickets and singing along was very, very rewarding."

Right before the tour, Lavigne announced her engagement to Mod Sun. grandson had the opportunity to get an inside look at their connection.

"I was kind of sandwiched in between their very spicy love. I got a unique access into this like very cool celebrity relationship, I guess. Avril is a very generous rock star. She made a point to give us a shout out during her set. I think she knows the what it's like to be on tour and to be busting your butt and on a bus every night. Her and her crew were very welcoming, and Mod is an extremely positive person to be around. What a way to come back to Canada."  

He's excited to play a full set at the Stampede. He has previously performed opening for Our Lady Peace on the Coke Stage in 2018.

"I think that there are some misconceptions about the Stampede. I thought that they might have gotten it wrong. I was like, I can't believe they're bringing me to what I thought it was a much more country festival, so I was a little confused. It's very rare that you have Kraft dinner flavored ice cream, and a grandson show in the same place. Usually, those two things are like mutually exclusive from one another. I do think that some of the people there have no idea what they're getting themselves into and that that will remain true this weekend. I think that there's gonna be a strong amount of fans there who are not there to talk about progressive values or getting a mosh pit or anything like that. I also do remember there was a lot of people that did enjoy it and that were fans of my music. I think I signed a baby at the last Calgary Stampede! I signed someone’s babies’ onesie. I, I played my show, and I went to a merch signing afterwards, and somebody was so excited to meet me. I ate a deep-fried funnel cake thing I wanted to throw up. They don't really have very good cowboy hats that fit on curly hair though. They gotta figure that out. But if you see a very, very drunk guy walking around with a cowboy hat in an Afro, that might be me after my set."

Lyrically grandson is a very political songwriter, bringing awareness to topics like climate change, mass shootings, and human rights. Some of these can be very hot button topics, especially in "red states" in America or parts of Europe. The audience reaction can vary.

"Absolutely you can feel the different political dynamics of one city versus another. One thing that I'm very proud of is that I think that the grandson show can serve as a progressive hub, an opportunity to connect like-minded people. I think by wearing my politics and my identity on my sleeve, I'm able to bring people together, not just for a love of music, but also for what those messages embedded in those songs are about. When I would go to conservative towns or states where people's right to exist is under fire, where people don't feel as accepted in their skin for whatever reason and there are certainly many these days, it felt really cool to be able to know that while you're in this sweaty venue for the next two hours, you can be yourself, meet other people in your town who, who stand for those kinds of things."

"So it does vary from city to city, but maybe not in the ways that people would expect. I don't feel like, oh, if I show up in a, in a conservative town, there's gonna be a backlash. On the contrary sometimes when I go to places that are not as progressive necessarily in their political leadership, I actually find that they are even more appreciative maybe of some of the things that we talk about in between songs. I feel a greater sense of consequence or of necessity talking about some of the things that I talk about during my show in places where it might not be taken for granted that we have to fight to maintain and demand acceptance of these progressive values."

It’s a dilemma to perform in places like Arizona and Texas, states where things like women’s rights are under attack.

"It's a really complicated ethical dilemma because I feel first and foremost for the people in these cities and, and states who are not represented by these sorts of decisions. While there is some sort of impulse to maybe back out or to punish in such a way that you go look, I'm not gonna come to your state until you call your representatives and reverse this thing. The reality is as long as there is a lot of money in being a bigot, then a lot of these politicians in conservative states will continue to reinforce discriminatory laws regardless of what the young people in that town think or make noise about. I don't wanna not show up because what does that do for the young women and the people in that town who do need that sort of moral, that boost, that motivation to keep fighting?"

It did come up on his European tour when he cancelled planned shows in Russia. It was politically unsafe as an American to travel through the country.

"I felt for the, the fans of mine in Moscow and St Petersburg who do not support the occupation of Ukraine, who believe in the rights and liberties of the LGBTQ plus community in spite of very harsh laws in that very country against that sort of existence. So I think the best thing we can do is try and raise awareness and, and funds for the progressive organizers within these communities and show up and where those messages on our sleeve that's that people in the Arizonas and Texases are not alone in the fight for progressive values"

The same applies to Canada.

"In some microcosm, that's a thing that comes up traveling to Alberta coming to some of the more conservative parts of Canada as well. I think that the Canadian identity is a little more accepting of our differences than it is in America, but in Calgary too, I know that people need a reminder that there's room for them. And I think it's really cool to see the Stampede, being willing to bring an artist like me out and host events that seek to engage the community. That's what the conservative cities and states in America are, are really missing."

In 2018 grandson released the song thoughts and prayers in response to the Parkland school shooting. 4 years later, mass shootings are still a daily occurrence and politicians continue to offer thoughts and prayers. Can youth that listen to grandson and participate in his XX resistance movement help change the future?

"My hope for anybody is that they can play their part, however big or small it is, in making the world a little bit more accessible for the people around and after them. I think that fans of my music recognize that it is the soundtrack for their own personal revolution or their own uprising. And while I can't necessarily be there every step of the way to tell them what that is or what that looks like, in order to have a life with dignity and opportunity and acceptance, where you are entitled to love how you love and dress, how you dress. I think that sometimes that requires not just you fighting for it, but the person next to you fighting. And it sometimes looks like us standing up for people that we may never meet. And that's been such an interesting thing about playing these big arena shows with a Lavigne and Imagine Dragons this year, I look out into this crowd and after two years of being stuck alone at home in such intimate settings with my partner and with my family, you're in this big room of 50 and 17,000 people. And you see how many people are just, they're two opposite dots on the corner of this arena, and they're gonna take their Ubers home at the end of the show and likely never meet each other. That's just within this one little city let alone in the big world that we have, but we have to figure out not just how to get along with one another but how to be there for one another. I hope that fans of my music or listeners can within these songs find the motivation to get off the sidelines of that fight in their local towns and organizations, because that's where their impact will be felt the most. It's not just an election once every four years or every referendum. It is civic engagement. It is showing up for the local chapters of whether it's the ACLU or Planned Parenthood or the Sunrise Movement, whether it's climate change or social justice. So many of these issues can stem from people feeling empowered to help shape the next generation. And I hope that my music can play a small part in that."

grandson can count on LGBTQ+ fans in the audience. While his themes are universal like addiction, depression, and mental illness, they are all things that many LGBTQ+ people grapple with. o those sort of challenges, but definitely things that sort of stand out with a lot of, a lot of members of the community.

"It's been awesome, to be honest with you. Some of my fans that that identify as part of the LGBTQ community, the trans community, have been some of my most die hard. It's been some of the people who have just been through things that I could never imagine. Having grown up in an environment where I could be myself freely, having watched just fans come to my show and see how much they've had to fight to survive just to be themselves. When I sing a song that says something about being unapologetically, you, or standing up for what you believe in, I can just see how in the LGBTQ community, that means something that I may never understand. I feel really fortunate that I've been able to use music to connect with people that have that much love to give. And that have been through that much. Some of my gay fans are the fans that have the tattoos that show up early and wait in line all day to be front row, that passion and enthusiasm for life, because, you know, it can be taken from you, It's pretty special. Shout out to everybody in the community still rocking with grandson. I appreciate it."

*interview has been edited for clarity and length. Watch the full interview video.

Interview with grandson

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Contributor Jason Clevett |

Person grandson |

Topic Calgary Stampede | Celebrity Interview | Celebrity Video Interview |


grandson and Jessie Reyez
Image by: vixxion
grandson Jessie-Reyez

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