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‘All American Boy’ Singer, Songwriter Steve Grand Is Turning Heads And Minds

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Guest author Sean Sala’s exclusive interview with singer-songwriter Steve Grand, whose “All American Boy” music video went viral this summer — turning heads, and minds.

It was a cool October night in San Diego as music fans began to pour into Urban Mo’s Bar & Grill. The red carpet was rolled out as fans eagerly awaited a new internet sensation by the name of Steve Grand — whose hit track “All American Boy” went viral in July.

Normally, internet sensations come and go shortly after their fifteen minutes of fame. Steve, however, has done something that truly is remarkable. For the longest time, music that appealed to the LGBT community, what some might call “gay music,” has been defined by the likes of modern pop divas like Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and many others. All of these artists typically use wild pop imagery and powerful voices that gay men have found solace in and reconciled their personal feelings with. Up to this point, we gay men have been defined by divas but we might have found a new course to be defined by, thanks to the bravery of a simple Illinois boy who honestly shared his story.

I have worked as an LGBT activist for almost three years, which is not a long time compared to many other activists. However, in this short amount of time, I initially gained national attention through my organizing of the Military March at the 2011 San Diego Pride Parade. Then that following year at the 2012 Uniformed Military March where we fought hard to allow the Pentagon to certify uniforms in an LGBT parade for the first time in history. I clearly remember the immense pressure put on me by this. It was a tough few years being in the public spotlight and it almost broke my commitment to the cause all together. I say all of this not to highlight myself — but to really compare this mixed pot of our civil rights.

Everyone plays a role, and the artist becomes woven into an activist. Whether he liked it or not, Steve Grand has been thrust into the national spotlight for his honesty and for taking a stand. Who would have known that when Steve sat down to write “All American Boy,” he actually was writing a new chapter in the artistic direction of the LGBT movement? We may have much different lots in life, but it takes a village as they say. It takes activists, parents, siblings, teachers and artists to see the LGBT equality movement come to fruition. Some would say Grand’s hit is just another song or that he is just a “pretty gay boy” — but what he did thorough his music was significant. For decades, art has defined the course of a people and the course of a nation. Pop culture shapes how the next generation defines the way they love and who they love. This is also why we frequently see the religious right raging against the LGBT cause.

They fear we will define the future. Steve Grand has pushed against the gender code stereotype in our society, and in the music industry where homophobia still dominates much of the charts. In “All American Boy” we see a handsome guy fall in love with his straight best friend. This friend defines the new generation in his acceptance of his friend, all on the backdrop of a rural country scene where that is “not supposed to happen.”  

 The video hasn’t been free of criticism though. Some have viewed the part of the video where Steve is rejected by his straight best friend as controversial, tagging this as just a “gay boy chasing a straight boy” like “gay boys do” — which could cast gay men in a negative light. The bigger picture shows something more positive. We all have had that story and have been there. For gay youth, high school and being a young adult without a proper education about the LGBT community can be so confusing to a student, through fear of rejection. Yet the image we see here indicated an amazing generational shift. Upon the kiss the moment of embarrassment commences yet the straight best friend tells him, “I love you anyway.” The “straight-bro” culture likes to pretend that these incidents do not happen, but they do.

Need I mention the many moments that the straight boy kissed back? We as gay men know those stories all too well. Yet in the end the straight best friend not only accepts him, but he affirms his commitment and love to his friend. This is a wonderful sign of the times. I searched for further clarification on how Steve feels about this particular criticism and his response was nothing but graceful and genuine. “When I made that video,” Steve told me, “I did not set out to make any statements about gay people other than what we share in common with our straight brothers and sisters — that sometimes you love someone you can’t have. I know that especially rings true for gay people who grow up in a heterosexual world.”

It is good to note as well that in Steve’s second premiere music video “Stay” he “gets the guy” and celebrates a gay relationship emotionally, physically and sexually. He portrays it in true Grand form: wholesome, genuine and with a hit musical style.

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I had a few moments to chat with Steve at his October 19 performance at Urban Mo’s. Here’s what he had to say:

Sala: Steve, I understand the first stop on your “All American Boy Tour” was San Diego for Indie-Fest. Is that correct?

Grand: That was the first place outside of Chicago, yeah.  (Grand’s home town.)

Sala: I saw Lady GaGa at the House of Blues in San Diego for the first time with a crowd of about seventy-five people before she achieved super-stardom. It seems San Diego has great luck in making people famous! Tell me though, you were at the GLSEN awards in LA performing in front of a lot of prominent activists last night. How does your music correlate with Spirit Day and anti-bullying?

Grand: Well I think it’s just exposure. Just showing kids another example of gay people just being like everybody else. I am an artist just like everyone else and I express myself in a way just like any other artist. So I think it’s a matter of showing kids you can be whoever you want to be and you can be your full self. That you can find people and an audience that embrace you and make a career from that. I hope to continue to prove that.

Sala: In 2013 there still is a lot of bullying going on. It’s a lot more acceptable to be gay now than it even was in the 1990’s and the early 2000’s. I know that even when you were growing up it was not the most acceptable thing. What do you feel like as an artist, you can do to raise awareness about bullying and being yourself besides the music?

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Grand: Besides the music… Well, I was at GLSEN last night to support that cause. It’s something I hold very near and dear to my heart. GLSEN is all about anti-bullying and LGBT youth. Being out there, being yourself first and foremost is the greatest thing any of us can do.

Sala: I’m glad you said “being yourself.” I’ve noticed that a lot of “gay” artists do the “gay” thing. The reason why you’ve received so much publicity is because you’ve showed a wholesome “country” love story. You portrayed something that is needed, something that changed culture – making images like that the “norm.” So I think that’s pretty impressive. You used art to portray the greatest message you can: that love is the most important thing. So, how do you feel to be performing here tonight?

Grand: I’m stoked to perform here. San Diego was good to me last time and also love the fact that there is a sold out crowd. I do love San Diego. I’ve been here a couple of times and it seems really chill, laid back and everyone seems really nice. I know I have a lot of #Grandfams here that I have connected with through Twitter and Facebook and a lot of them are excited to meet them.

Sala: Well the last big performance here at Urban Mo’s was when the top three contestants for Ru Paul’s Drag Race were here so you’re in good “shoes.”

Grand: (Laughing) Excellent!

Sala: Well it was very nice to meet you tonight and everyone is looking forward to your concert. Thank you for taking a stand for gay youth.

Grand: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Keep an eye out on Steve Grand and his artistic talent of uniting hearts and minds in music! He is one of the most prominent LGBT artists we have seen in some time! Keep it up Steve!  

 

A version of this article originally appeared at TalkHillcrest Images by Joem C. Bayawa. Used with permission.

 

_The Great Reconciliation__ Gays take on Ex-Gay Inc. on Our America with Lisa Ling - Google Drive-1Sean Sala is a national gay, social and sexual rights activist. He was the organizer of the 2011 Active Duty Military March in San Diego in which over 250 active duty Military marched in San Diego Pride while Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still national law. He also was an organizer and liaison for the 2012 Active Duty Military March in which he pressured top Military brass resulting in the Pentagon issuing a historical first time blanket certification and approved the United States Military to wear their full uniforms for the first time in a pride parade in US history; where over 450 military personnel participated. He formally was on the national leadership committee of  Servicemembers United the nations largest LGBT military organization, where he participated in a White House Executive office meeting on Southern California and Gay Military issues. He has sparred in national news against anti-gay Republican Congressman opposed to Gay troops. He also advocated for troops battling PTSD to the San Diego City Council. He has been featured on the ‘Real World,’ MTV and sponsored internet casts on gay rights, local, national and international news and an official Library of Congress documentation on the DADT repeal movement for Story Corps. He is in progress of challenging the top ten Mega Churches in United States to denounce Uganda’s Parliament from executing gays. He was the chief organizer of the San Diego rally “Light the Way to Justice.” demanding the Supreme Court to rule for full federal marriage equality.  He is a popular blogger, columnist for San Diego Gay and Lesbian News and a featured guest writer for The New Civil Rights Movement. He has also been featured in “God and Gays,” an expose on gay reparative therapy with Lisa Ling. He also led a coalition to combat radical extremists from forcing a dangerous agenda on the LGBT community using the figure of Bradley Manning. He also has Co-formed the “Military Freedom Coalition” to challenge the Transgender ban in the Military. Recently he lead a coalition that called out the San Diego County Clerk who tried to stay Gay marriage state wide in a last ditch attempt to stop Gay Marriage in California.  He served in the United States Navy six years for Naval Intelligence, three combat tours and is an Iraq war Veteran – currently he is on staff for the St. Paul’s Foundation for Reconciliation, combating LGBT hatred spreading across the continent of Africa.” 

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