At the age of 12, Greyson Chance’s performance of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” at his talent show went viral on YouTube, to the point that even Ellen DeGeneres took notice of his talent. He is now 21 and ready to come back out into the spotlight with his new single “shut up” from his upcoming album, portraits, which is set to release on March 15th. A brave individual who had the courage to come out publicly in 2017 through an Instagram post, Chance hopes to inspire those who look up to him and who may have not been as lucky as him when it comes to having a loving support system.
Were you always into singing/songwriting and performing as a kid?
I always remember having an interest in performance when I was younger, and I can’t place a time in which I was not singing. During holiday and dinner parties, I would always be asked to sing when I was a kid, and I loved to do it. I also have distinct memories of watching old Sam Cooke and Donny Hathaway live takes with my dad and wanting to do what they did — to be on stage. I didn’t start seriously songwriting until I was 15 or 16; I don’t think I really had anything to say until then. Anyone can write a song, but not everyone has something to say or a story to paint.
Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you realized your performance of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” at your school talent show had gone viral?
If I am being honest, no. That part of my life was such a whirlwind. I remember getting onto the plane to fly to LA to tape [The Ellen DeGeneres Show], I remember meeting her, and then I remember being introduced to my label team at Interscope; it all happened so quickly. Within the span of the day, I had created a new career. I remember being happy, and the entire experience was a whirlwind.
Who do you admire? Is there anyone in specific who inspired you to pursue music?
I admire every artist who is out there writing and releasing music and all of the writers and performers who have come before me. This career is so difficult and often so exhausting, I don’t think people realize half of the things that happen behind the scenes. But you keep on marching forward because if you are a true artist creation is not a choice, but rather an obligation to yourself and to your path. I admire the musicians who are working three jobs to write songs and perform them on the weekends at local dive bars. That is determination, and it is what keeps me going.
What advice would you give someone trying to start in the music industry?
I don’t want to say anything too cliché here, so my advice would be to do things on your own terms, always.
If my music and my message can help anyone going through a hard time, then that is a huge victory.
Your single “shut up” is out now, the first off your upcoming album portraits. Would you say they’re based on personal experiences, and if they are, is singing/songwriting a way for you to process those experiences?
Songwriting is the only way I know how to relax, heal, and cope all at the same time. When I think of songwriters that I am directly inspired by, I think of Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlile because they are storytellers. For me, portraits is a synopsis of my entire year in 2018. It’s cool because I can look back at the album, and it feels like a journal more than anything else. “shut up” is about a boy that I fell for in Jerusalem this summer. Anytime I hear it I think of him and our shared experience, which is a beautiful thing because although we don’t talk anymore, I will always have that song. I think every record in the future will be the same too; I don’t write music that’s not personal to me because I simply don’t know how to.
What are you hoping this album will show about how your sound has changed? How is it different from some of your previous work?
I think this album is different than my previous work because it finally portrays a sound that I would want to hear as a listener. For portraits, I didn’t cut any corners; I took risks and put my foot down when I felt it was necessary. It was a joint collaboration between me and my producer, Willy. We worked until the songs made us jump around the studio out of excitement and joy. In the past, I felt like I looked around the room to see validation in others, but not in myself, and I don’t do that anymore.
Do you have any words of encouragement for anyone who looks up to you as a role model and might be struggling with their sexuality or trying to feel comfortable in their own skin?
My first piece of advice would be to remember that every case is individualistic and that we all have our own paths. People can look up to role models in the community and immerse themselves into LGBTQ+ culture, but that does not mean that their journey will resemble those people’s journeys just because of that immersion. I think the most important thing to do if one is struggling to feel comfortable in their own skin is to look inward toward themselves rather than outward, to surround themselves with people who truly love them and care for them, to do more things for themselves, and to remember that life is too short to live in denial in of who you are.
How do you plan on using your platform to be a resource for those around you who may not be as fortunate to have as positive of an experience as you when coming out?
I just want to be as accessible as possible. I try to scroll through my mention pages and Instagram DM’s as much as I can, and I purposely look for people reaching out for a lifeline. If my music and my message can help anyone going through a hard time, then that is a huge victory. So, if it’s starting to get bad out there for you, please hit me up! I’m around, and I’m here for the people who have been riding out this journey with me, always.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Be kind to one another, and have some fun in this lifetime.
STORY SOPHIA MONTALBAN
PHOTOS BRODERICK BAUMANN