When BuzzFeed first noticed the underdog success of Steve Grand’s debut single, “All-American Boy,” it anointed him “the first openly gay male country star.” The humble 23-year-old singer/songwriter is quick to point out he’s not yet a star and that there have been openly gay country singers before him — besides, he doesn’t even call himself a country artist in the first place. But with nearly 1.5 million YouTube plays and an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” already under his belt, stardom is unfathomably closer than it must have seemed on July 2, when Grand first uploaded the self-funded, sentimental ballad.
?“I’m so grateful for the media,” the Chicago native says. “I didn’t spend any money marketing that song. I didn’t have any marketing strategy other than posting it on Facebook.”?
“All-American Boy,” a bittersweet tale of Grand’s unrequited love for a straight friend, is a true DIY success story. The fresh-faced Grand self-funded the video with money he’d saved from playing cover songs every weekend at a local bar and by maxing out his first credit card. Producer Brendan Leahy and director Jason Knade helped him bring his vision to life, which includes a backdrop of skinny-dipping, whiskey bottles and campfire sing-alongs.
?“They said I was the most detail-oriented person they had ever worked with,” Grand says. “Which I think was a nice way of saying I was crazy.”
?Once he realized he had a viral hit on his hands, Grand turned to longtime family friend Chris Ricchetti, a financial adviser who has stepped outside his day job to serve as Grand’s acting manager.
?“Our plan is to have a plan over the next few weeks,” says Ricchetti, who will travel with Grand to New York and Los Angeles, meeting potential partners and plotting the singer’s career going forward. “He has a lot of original music, so the big decision now is if he should stay independent or pick one of the label deals that’s coming his way.”
?Once a new song or video is completed, Grand plans to package it with an EP of about six songs. ?
To date, Grand has made a modest income from fans downloading “All-American Boy” from Bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want basis — according to Bandcamp, of the song’s 19,000 downloads, 11,000 have been purchases. The single will be made available on iTunes and Quello in the near future. On Facebook, he’s responded to as many fan messages as possible, and he plans to maintain a close relationship with his supporters going forward.