Steve Grand on Life After Kickstarter Campaign & Navigating 'Toxic' Social Media Landscape

Christopher Free
Steve Grand

A little over two years ago, the unsigned singer/songwriter Steve Grand dropped out of the sky with his viral video for "All-American Boy" and quickly garnered national attention. The buzzy self-funded clip’s gay-themed storyline was based on the out indie artist’s own life and net 1.1 million YouTube views in its first 10 days.

Grand also gained views and fans for a different reason, after it was discovered that he had previously been an aspiring model with a lot of saucy underwear shots in his portfolio. Still, his fleshy past only perhaps propelled his career. Grand later mounted a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his first album, All American Boy. It was the fifth most-funded music project ever in Kickstarter history (and the largest by an act never previously signed to a label), bringing in $327,000. The set later debuted on Billboard’s charts, including a No. 3 bow on Independent Albums.

But now, despite how social media helped fuel his rising career, the 25-year-old Grand recently took a “social media vacation,” as he tells Billboard. “It can get really toxic,” he says, noting how some of the coverage he’s received from blogs and websites has been “malicious.”

Grand -- frustrated by sites that continually showcase his years-old underwear modeling photos -- tweeted on July 29 that it “would be nice if any other aspect of my life/work as artist/advocate got a fraction of the press I get 4 wearing a bathing suit by gay media.” More tweets followed from the exasperated artist, including one to Queerty asking them to “stop only posting the handful of half-naked pictures of me taken over the last 6 years to get your page clicks.”

“Ninety-nine percent of those [modeling] pictures are from six years ago,” Grand tells Billboard. “I've never used those images to represent me as an artist. They had their place a long, long time ago.”

Grand knows that social media can, “of course,” be a wonderful tool, but right now he feels “a sense of clarity” following his social-media cleanse, so to speak.

That said, “I am going to have to figure out how to reintroduce [social media] in a more healthy way,” adding that he’s “lucky that people want to talk to me at all. I should be grateful for that, and I absolutely am.”

Moving Forward

“I felt so much more creative this week,” Grand says of his social media break. “I've been actually recording again.”

Grand, who co-wrote all of the songs on his album and penned 11 out of its 13 tracks on his own, is already working on new material.

“There's a song where I'm really using a lot of religious references. … I don't think I ever expressed my deserved anger at the church for everything that I see it responsible for, in terms of what I struggled with as a kid in being gay and the messages that I was told. I think that I'm taking out my anger a little bit on all of that.”

He also has a series of live shows lined up through October, including pride festivals in cities like Cleveland (Aug. 8) and Louisville, Ky. (Sept. 19).

Would Grand do another Kickstarter campaign? He’s hesitant, but “wouldn’t throw” the idea out. “I've definitely learned a lot from that. I would definitely do some things very differently. Like, not offer to draw people's faces for $25 and then get 200 of them.” Ah, the perils of Kickstarter funding -- where fans can not only pledge money for an album, but also receive creative rewards in the process.

He also says he would “absolutely consider” signing with a label, depending on the terms. “I've learned that there's a lot of good things about being on a label, now that I know everything that you have to do without being on a label.”