Grounded and in his element, singer/songwriter Greyson Chance discusses his third album ‘Palladium’ and how it’s helped him reconnect to his roots while stepping into a new era.
Stream: ‘Palladium’ – Greyson Chance
But 14-year-old me, if he could see me now, would be so fucking proud and would be like—wow, you really did continue to fight.
Many people carry stories inside of them; some are shared, while many are left untold.
People often tell half-truths and leave words left unsaid. There is no greater regret than not being able to tell your story—to tell people how you feel, what they mean to you, or even hearing what you may mean to them. As Ernest Hemingway says in The Sun Also Rises, “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” The only person you’ll wake up with for the rest of your life is yourself. Those stories will be with you wherever you go. Whether in suffering or celebration, it is up to a person to speak their truths while they still can.
Greyson Chance has been in the music industry for over half his life. Since the start of his career at 12 years old, Chance’s music has portrayed many stages of his youth and adulthood. His last album, Portraits, was released three years ago and is still one of his biggest successes to this day.
However, Palladium, released in late September, is different from albums we’ve seen before. Now 25, it’s almost like Chance gets to tell his story for the first time. From his start in the industry to reclaiming who he is as an artist – Palladium takes listeners on his journey. Chance describes the album in three acts: Growth, pride, and realization. Each song explores these themes as Chance strips down who he is and realizes what music really means to him.
Now on tour, Chance also gets to reconnect with his audience and long-time listeners. Starting with a summer tour in Europe, the young artist went around the UK and Europe— then, in September, he picked up his US tour in Boise. Chance shows deep gratitude for his fans in both their support and genuine appreciation of his music.
I don’t think they realize how important this music has been to me. I need it just as much as they do. And I need them just as much as they need me.
On his Instagram, Chance stated that Palladium is “an album about running fingers across old scars and bandaging up new ones.” He also believes that “it will surprise people.” Chance’s music carves out a sense of timelessness and the new album will surely surprise listeners with its musical and personal intricacies.
In an industry that is easily polluted with distortion and egoism, Greyson Chance is a breath of fresh air.
The 25-year-old singer/songwriter dove deep into Palladium in conversation with Atwood Magazine, expressing a newfound perspective not only on his music career, but also on who he is today.
:: stream/purchase Palladium here ::
A CONVERSATION WITH GREYSON CHANCE
Atwood Magazine: H Greyson! How is your tour going so far?
Greyson Chance: It feels very surreal to be back on the road. It’s been three years since I toured in North America, so it’s this feeling of going back to see familiar faces and getting back into the rhythm of things. When I was writing this album “Palladium” all I could think about was playing it live, and how I wanted to see the show and how I was going to design the show around the album. It honestly is just a really big dream come true at this point, and the first two weeks have been really amazing.
Yeah, it's probably surreal to be back out, because I know you did an international tour in the summer. You went to Europe, right?
Greyson Chance: Yeah, and that’s always bizarre to go somewhere you can’t even speak the language, but every night you have people singing words back to you–that’s always such a feeling. But what’s cool about touring in the states is that most of the people that come to my shows have been coming to my shows ever since they were a kid, and since I was a kid too. It’s like a reunion in so many ways, of seeing old friends and seeing how people have reacted to the music and what they think about it. It’s a really special thing.
It’s nice to reconnect with your listeners and actually being able to perform for them and see them live. I know that's definitely a surreal feeling. I know on your Instagram you said you think this album will “surprise people.” In many ways, it seems different than other records you've released before. You’ve got top listeners from the Philippines, Singapore, and Australia and now you're reconnecting with your audience in the U.S. How has it been since release day and how do you think people are seeing this different side of you through the album?
Greyson Chance: There’s all this lead-up to get an album out, where you’re working 14-hour days, you want to make sure all the artwork is correct, that the video is right, that the visualizers are good. Creatively, I have my eyes on everything. Now, being able to sit with the records and play them live every night…in a weird way I’m starting to better understand the place I was in while I was writing the album. There are lyrics that are sticking out to me where I’m like—oh, okay, I understand that now. Now I understand what I’m trying to say with this line and this connection here and there. It’s this big learning experience and this evolution too, because a lot of the theme of the record is about determination and just continuing on. Now to be playing it a year later, I did what I set out to do.
Yeah, exactly. I think being able to look back at your lyrics and have that perspective now gives you a different level of insight. I also feel like the album is going back to your roots in a sense. We see all these different layers of you and your musical talent. You collaborated with Jason Reeves, correct? What was that like, within your creative process? How long did it take to work with him to complete the album?
Greyson Chance: We wrote the record really quickly – probably in three months, which was really crazy. Jason was an artist himself in the early 2000s, and I think that was what really connected us, because he understood where I was. I was coming out of a major label deal, my second major deal in my career, and it ended pretty poorly. I was coming into the studio at this place of being frustrated. Being like, “What am I?” or “What is my life going to look like?” and “Who do I want to be as an artist?” He had the right mentality that said you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and you need to get to work. No one is putting you in a box anymore. It’s on you at this point. Having that mentorship was really important. We wanted to make a record that was completely different than any of my past work. To be honest, I think 18- or 19-year-old me wanted to make this type of record, but I didn’t have the confidence yet to do it. It just took me to reach 25 to feel good enough to do it.
Well, I'm so glad that you did. I know you majored in history in college and the album makes a lot of references to Greek mythology and to music icons like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. In what ways has incorporating history helped you tell your own history within the industry as a kid and now as a young man?
Greyson Chance: I like studying history and particularly ancient history because it gives me a sense of how small I am in the grand scheme of things. When you’re able to look back and hear these stories and study these people, you realize that a lot of your pain—while it’s so valid—is just a part of life itself. When I had gotten dropped by my first record label at 15 years old, I started picking up history texts. It was comforting to learn about these figures that were so detached from me thousands of years ago and how they would fall in love and how they would have to fight and how things would collapse around them. I was like, okay, this is just the human experience and I think that was really healing to me as a kid. When I’m writing, I see things very cinematically in my head. I think there’s just a few of these great stories that really resonated with me, and I kept on seeing them playing out in my mind. I also think that I’m a very instinctual songwriter. I don’t second guess myself a lot. When I was working in the studio, all I wanted to talk about was this palladium myth and I just went with it. I think studying history is a good opportunity to recognize that we are just all a part of the human experience, and you have to give yourself a little grace in that period.
You talk about the album being in three acts of growth, pride and realization. When I look at a piece like “My Dying Spirit,” I see how your vulnerability can lead other people to further understand themselves and be able to connect with each other. How would you say that your album has helped teach your listeners more, not only bout yourself, but perhaps more about themselves too?
Greyson Chance: I do a pre-show prayer every night before I go on stage. I’m not particularly religious, but I was raised Catholic and so it’s this tradition. I’ve prayed every time before I’ve gone on stage since I was a kid. What I say is that me and my band are graced with the energy to stand true to our obligation. It is my job, fully as an artist, to create a safe place of release for my fans and for anyone who’s listening to my music. When I’m meeting fans out on the road, I’ll ask, “When you listen to ‘My Dying Spirit,’ what does it make you think of?”
That’s what’s so cool to me. I think this year I was just able to scratch the surface of telling my truth about the Ellen story. What I hope my fans get from all of this is that there are so many times where I should have quit, there are a few times where I did quit, but I always continued to pick myself back up and I kept going. So that’s my message to my fans—there’s importance and beauty in just surviving. If you can wake up and get yourself out of bed, that’s already a massive win. I hope that people get that no matter what you’re going through, no matter how hard it is, no matter how many eyes are on you in the world – if you just keep on going, good things will happen.
I think that’s one of the greatest gifts that you can give your listeners. When looking at a piece like “My Dying Spirit” – that’s probably one of the most vulnerable pieces on the album. How have you been able to understand your pride and further understand yourself through the creation of the album – can you walk me through those three acts again?
Greyson Chance: Once you start getting to a song like “My Dying Spirit”, that is the exhaustion level. That could have been the last song on the album because it was the peak. I think the reason why it wasn’t, was because I wanted to show that even when you think it’s finished, you still can muster yourself back up again to keep on going. I remember I played it for my parents and my mom was really uncomfortable because she said, “It feels like a suicide note.” And I was like, “It should.” That’s what we are so afraid to talk about because we don’t want people to think that we’re on the verge of something or that we actually are going to hurt ourselves. That’s what that song is about – it’s complete exhaustion. To me, I think one of the things that I cherish the most is that I love that it’s not the last song. It very well could have been, but I wanted to have that metaphor – showing people you can, again, always muster it up.
Yeah, you’re waking up with yourself every day and you’re going to be dealing with yourself every day through all the highs and lows. Then talking about instrumentals, the Hemingway piece has such great vocal layering. We also see songs with electric guitar or just a stripped piano ballad, which I feel like is really classic for you. How would you say that you and Jason used instrumentals to convey emotions when sometimes words couldn’t?
Greyson Chance: The first thing is, there’s no auto-tune on the record. That was really important to me. I just wanted my vocals to be very up close and personal. Jason would appreciate me saying this—we thought a lot about the lyrics, and we thought a ton about what the music was actually saying. It was really intentional art but so much of this record was just instinct. It was stuff that him and I wanted to feel in this moment. I remember in the balcony song; it should feel like you’re in this basement pub and it’s closing time and people are clinking glasses and walking around and it’s weird and it’s haunting. We just went into his living room and recorded ourselves on an iPhone for 5 minutes, just clinking on glass—but we did it. A lot of it was just shit we thought was cool and instinctual at the time. That’s what sets this album apart from my other work. In the past I was hyper-focused on making sure everything made sense and that it was all together. I’ve been trying to be Hemingway and Joni for so many years… and this one, I was just like, what do I actually want to feel?
Yeah, and you said you visualize each song before you write them. I really like that description of being in a basement and glasses clinking. I also know your “Aloe Vera” visualizer just came out. How was collaborating with people to create it?
Greyson Chance: All of the album was written in Jason’s studio in Tennessee, and he’s surrounded by forest and woods. I think the song feels very connected to that f environment. Creating the visuals has just been really fun and I knew I wanted everything to feel a little vintage, a little older. I felt like a kid in a sandbox just messing around and having fun with a lot of it. It’s been very fulfilling.
Yeah, you're like, I want this here. This there. Here's my idea.
Greyson Chance: 100%.
It was really well executed in what you want people to picture and what you want them to feel. You can tell that Jason’s instinct definitely played a good part into that. As far as connecting with your roots, I always think about if I could talk to my younger self. When I look at your musical journey you started when you were really young, you were 12 years old. If you could have talked to yourself at the moment before that talent show went viral or if you could talk to yourself from where you are now—what would you tell him?
Greyson Chance: It’s hard to know what I would say to the kid before the video went up. I really don’t have an answer to that. I think what I would tell the kid after the video went up is that you keep your head up and you’re going to make it. I’m very cognizant of this though and this is something that helps me get up every morning. But the 14-year-old me, if he could see me now, would be so fucking proud and would be like—wow, you really did continue to fight. The fact that you’re making a record that you actually like…he would be really proud because I had to fight for so much shit. That would have been difficult for an adult to go through nonetheless when you’re a kid doing it. I think I would have told him to keep his head up and to keep going because we made it.
You did. You’re finally making something that you like and you're releasing something that's not only very personal to you, but it's something that you truly enjoy. How has that changed for you from releasing music in the past to now releasing something that you can surely say, I love this? How is that feeling over the past few months in releasing this?
Greyson Chance: I feel like I’m at the very beginning again, which is so exciting. My headspace is there now too. I think there’s a level of gratefulness now because I know what it feels like to put out an album that you’re not 100% on, and it really sucks. I have two things that I feel significantly proud of and that would be my album “Portraits” and this album for different reasons. I’m just really grateful and it blows my mind that people are still listening. I’m so eternally indebted to my audience for sticking around now for 12 years. That’s just crazy. I feel grateful and happy. I’m happily back at square one, it feels like.
Yeah, it's a new beginning for you in understanding how you want to navigate the music industry. That’s just really cool to hear. How are you feeling going into these shows?
Greyson Chance: We’re just in the beginning. I’ve been loving it and I don’t know; I did 118 shows in 2019 and I don’t know how I did that. Every night has been such a pleasure and joy. Like I said, when fans come to me and they say, “Hey, you don’t realize how important this music has been to me”. I don’t think they realize how important this music has been to me. I need it just as much as they do. And I need them just as much as they need me. It’s just a night. It’s a reunion. It’s church for me and my fans.
I love that. You’ve still got a long run to go, but it's a good start. It's very exciting. My last question is if there's anything else you would like people to know about your story behind the album – if there's anything else you would like to share about your story and intention behind the album?
Greyson Chance: I think you really covered it all. I feel like I might have rambled a bit, so I hope that you’re able to get what you need out of this.
:: stream/purchase Palladium here ::
— — — —
Connect to Greyson Chance on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
📸 © Broderick Baumann
:: Stream Greyson Chance ::