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The art of good Grammer

Pop singer to open for Train at Edgefield on Sept. 22


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Andy Grammer was one of pop music's breakout stories last year, scoring a hit with 'Keep Your Head Up.' He's appeared on 'The Tonight Show' and most recently 'Jimmy Kimmel Live.'Singer Andy Grammer may have realized he’d arrived when he started seeing the altered limbs and bodies.

“People are starting to show up with my lyrics tattooed on them,” he says during a phone interview. “That’s pretty intense.”

In particular, he says he’s seen words to such 2011 hit singles as “Keep Your Head Up” on some of his fans’ physiques.

“They just say it meant so much to them they just had to have it on their body,” he says, adding he likes to keep in touch with his fans via Twitter (his handle is @andygrammer).

If his fans are willing to ink their bodies permanently with his words, it appears Grammer — who performs with Train and Mat Kearney this Saturday at McMemanins Edgefield — is getting closer to his goal.

“I care solely about great songs,” the guitarist says when asked if he’s looking to become a hotshot ax slinger. “Rather than be a Jimi Hendrix, I want to go down like a Paul McCartney.”

The pop-soul-rock singer will perform at Edgefield with his current band, featuring Mike Baker on drums, Zach Rudulph on bass and Dave Maemone on guitar and keys. The singer comes here after a banner year. His debut album, “ANDY GRAMMER,” broke into the top 5 on the Adult Pop Radio charts with “Keep Your Head Up.” Its interactive video hit No. 2 on the “VH1 Weekly Countdown” and won an MTV O Award for “Most Innovative Video.”

Grammer went on to open for such artists as Natasha Bedingfield, Colbie Caillat and The Plain White T’s throughout the year and earned a big fan in Taylor Swift, who performed his hit single with Grammer at the Nashville stop of Swift’s “Speak Now” tour.

“She just heard it on the radio and liked it,” Grammer says.

Sidewalk singer

In a world where pop singers are elevated overnight to national status via reality TV shows, Grammer stands out for having done it the truly old-fashioned way — he spent years busking on the streets of Santa Monica, Calif.

“The thing about music is you don’t get paid until you draw a crowd,” he says with a chuckle. “I would make friends with break dancers and would beat box with my voice and draw 100 or 200 people.”

Playing a mix of covers and originals, the New York state native learned what did and didn’t work with the masses.

“If it’s not good, they don’t care,” he says. “The only thing that survives out there is if it’s actually entertaining and actually good.”

When he started selling upwards of 100 CDs a day of his own tunes, he knew he had a shot at the big time. Of course, it helped that he’d learned a few tricks from his dad, Red Grammer, who was a member of the famed 1960s folk group The Limeliters.

“My dad would bring me up to sing with him. I’d just have a couple of lines,” Grammer notes. “Afterward, I’d say, ‘Dad, I think I’m going to need a bigger part in your show because I nailed that. Seriously, it was intense. I can see it in their eyes, they want more of me.’ I was 6 or 7, and he just laughed and laughed.”

However, it wasn’t until he was in college a few years back that he realized he wanted to make music his full-time job. He worked on his song-craft, tackling such subjects as love lost and won, and keeping a positive outlook despite being broke and unsure of the future.

“I usually start with the chord changes and then hopefully the lyrical idea and melody come at the same time,” he says.

The hardworking showman says he’s glad he chose to focus on music full time, and recalls the first time he heard “Keep Your Head Up” on the radio.

“I was in St. Louis with my band, and we all lost our minds,” he says with a laugh. “We didn’t crash our car, but we did scream, and it was really cool.”

If you go

WHO: Train, Mat Kearney, Andy Grammer

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22

WHERE: McMenamins Edgefield, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale

INFO: 503-669-8610, andygrammer.com