Three years ago, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Andy Grammer's touring itinerary could be written on a Post-It note, with most of his gigs taking place on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California. "I had the busker thing down," he says. "I knew my spot, I knew the best time of day to hit it, and if I was lucky, I could make money. Street performing wasn't as bad as some people make it out to be."
These days, Grammer has a lot more choices over the kinds of venues he plays. The success of his 2011 self-titled debut album, buoyed by resistance-is-futile pop hits such as Fine By Me and Keep Your Head Up, bumped him up from street corners to clubs and festivals nationwide; subsequent tours with the likes of Train, Colbie Caillat and Natasha Bedingfield even gave him a stamp or two on his passport. "Seeing what kinds of songs work in other cities and other parts of the world was pretty eye-opening," Grammer says. "I know it changed how I approached the second record big-time."
That would be his just-released Magazines Or Novels, a grander, denser, more introspective but no less engaging construct than its predecessor. But whereas Grammer's breezy melodies once tended to interlock with briskly strummed guitars, more and more they work off subtle hip-hop beats and artfully employed electronics. "That's no accident," he observes. "The first album was more born from busking – they were the 'me-and-my-guitar' songs. Going out on the road and opening for big acts changes you. You look out at those audiences and start to think, ‘OK, I need to write some music that’s a little bit bigger.’ So maybe you don't start with the acoustic guitar; you might start out with a beat instead."
The bevy of revved-up hooks throughout Magazines Or Novel's 12 tracks would indicate that Grammer's newfound mindset has paid off. Whether he's flirting with modern country (Honey, I'm Good), evoking vintage R&B (Forever) or pumping out a heart-on-his-sleeve pop anthem (Back Home), he hits his marks with uncanny precision. Grammer is currently playing a series of album release dates, but come September he'll be on the road with American Authors, with gigs stretching from Portland, Maine to Auckland, New Zealand.
Asked whether he would ever entertain the thought of opening up his guitar case on some street corner and knocking out an impromptu show for old times' sake, Grammer laughs and says, "You know, I’m not opposed to it at all. I do radio gigs, three-minute spots, solo shows, so I still get plenty of practice at the sniper attack – me at a piano or with a guitar, having win people over fast. When I get back with band, the lights and the whole production, that's me with the full artillery. A quick radio performance keeps me sharp for the big show.”
You can purchase the new album, Magazines Or Novels, at iTunes. On the following pages, Grammer runs down his 7 Tour Survival Tips.