‘The algorithm is steering people, and that’s just nauseating’

Published date31 October 2023
“My father had these wonderful eight-track tapes of Roger Miller, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Jeannie C Riley and Donna Fargo,” says Grant, who is playing in Ireland this weekend. “I heard all of that when I was growing up, but I wasn’t terribly interested in it. I didn’t hate it, but as a teenager I was heavily into new-wave music, like Devo, New Order and Missing Persons, and a lot of heavier electronic sounds, the industrial stuff, like Skinny Puppy, Throbbing Gristle, Chris & Cosey, Fad Gadget and Ministry. That was my scene, so it was quite strange to me that from when I watched Sweet Dreams” – the 1985 biopic directed by Karel Reisz – “I was just completely taken by the music of Patsy Cline.”

Grant, who last year became a citizen of Iceland, where he has been living since 2013, allows that he is at the point in his career where he is established enough to choose whatever creative path he pleases. In his early 20s, he moved from his home in Colorado to Germany, where he studied as a translator. (He is fluent in German, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and French.) By the time he was 26 he had returned home and cofounded The Czars, but the usual music-industry conflicts (alongside his drug and alcohol dependency) caused the band to split in the mid-2000s.

Grant took a break from performing between 2006 and 2009, although he continued to write songs while working at various points as a waiter, flight attendant, hospital interpreter and retail assistant. He released his intensely personal debut solo album, Queen of Denmark, in 2010, since when he has walked a singular path.

“I’ve always felt that I was going to just do what I wanted to. The record label I’ve been with, Bella Union, has never put any pressure on me to do anything in a certain way, so I’ve been able to go in whatever direction I felt I needed. And for me, honestly, I still feel like a baby in the industry, because I still think the possibilities are endless.”

Grant says that, despite being in his mid-50s, he is continuing to figure out his creative game plan. “Some artists come out fully formed, people like Rufus Wainwright or the incredible Chrissie Hynde, but it’s taken me a lot longer because I didn’t have the confidence those people have. That said, I have a much better handle on my place in the world, and I’m slowly settling into my groove, finding my particular voice. I definitely think I’m getting there, and I think there’s a type of lyric and a type of ballad that is typically John Grant.”...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT