Andy Grammer: Pretend you’re in peanut butter

LSY! teen reporter Jessica Wojcinski interviews singer-songwriter Andy Grammer.

LSY! teen reporter Jessica Wojcinski interviews singer-songwriter Andy Grammer.

For this week’s Memories Monday installment, we dip into the LSY! archives and polish off a story and interview by Jessica Wojcinski, who was then a senior in our program at Mount St. Mary Academy and is now a performer and music major at Nazareth College. This piece is particularly special to me because the subject, singer-songwriter Andy Grammer, inspired Jessica so profoundly that evening. I walked away forever an Andy Grammer fan simply because he was so incredible to Jess, as you’ll see in this story and the interview video at the bottom of the page.

Tim O’Shei, LSY! founder

* * *

“Pretend you’re in peanut butter.”

That was the advice Andy Grammer’s acting teacher gave him in college, one of many personal philosophies that helped him disregard the opinions of others to pursue his dream as a musician.

That, and don’t get jaded.

After my initial on-camera interview with recording artist Andy Grammer, I decided to go out on a limb. While I didn’t want to come across as unprofessional in front of him, his manager, and Tim O’Shei (my teacher and the founder of LSY!), I figured I’d probably never talk to him again and now was my only chance to seek advice from someone that was living the life I eventually want to create for myself. I told him that I would like to go to school for music but don’t know where to start, and asked if he had any advice he could offer. He was more than willing, and at that moment I felt like we connected as fellow musicians.

He completely opened up and gave some of the best advice I have ever heard about the music industry. He explained that he went to SUNY Binghamton for Music Business, then later studied in Los Angeles, California. Before he started playing on the streets of Santa Monica, he took an acting class in L.A., and I asked if he thought that helped his stage presence.

“When you’re in a room full of fellow college students and your professor says to you, ‘Act like you’re in peanut butter,’ your immediate reaction is, ‘…um, what?’ but when he repeated the instruction, you just had to do it. So I acted like I was in peanut butter!”

He moved his arms gradually and made slow motion noises as if he were wading through a pool of peanut butter, making everyone in the room laugh and erasing any nerves I was still feeling. He continued, “When you’re in a situation like that, you just have to not care what anyone thinks of you. It’s extremely difficult, but doing so helped me when I was performing on the streets and even now on stage.”

He explained that when you write a song after a serious breakup or whatever emotional experience you’ve gone through, it becomes a part of you. But just because it has truth behind it doesn’t make it a great song. The words, the music, or anything could be slightly off to make it less than perfect.

“Still, it’s heartbreaking when you show your song to someone and they just tell you ‘it sucks,’” he said. “You’re like, ‘Don’t just say it sucks, tell me why!’ You’re already so vulnerable, and then to have someone say it isn’t good is terrible. But when it happens, you just have to pick yourself up and go forward.”

He said that the best advice he could give me was to not get jaded.

“It’s so hard to be putting yourself out there and working so hard and have people not like your music or literally walk up to you and tell you, ‘It’s not working,’ which has happened to me before. But the most important thing is to not get jaded. If this is your purpose and music is what you were made for, and you’re willing to work so hard it hurts, you’ll make it.”

He smiled and got up to say goodbye to us. I wanted to hug him and thank him profusely, but gestured to shake hands instead. I knew I wouldn’t be able to explain how he had inspired me without crying, and I didn’t want him to think my overflow of gratitude really came from infatuation. He surprised me with a hug and Ahmed showed us out of his dressing room.

On the way out, we passed Colbie Caillat’s dressing room. Originally, I was supposed to interview her and had been disappointed to discover that I’d be interviewing Andy Grammer instead. I laughed to myself and thought how incredibly blessed I was that things hadn’t gone my way, and maybe even how differently my life would be if I had interviewed her instead.

During Andy’s set, I watched from just feet away, taking pictures from the aisle. Afterwards, I waited in line to buy a t-shirt and bracelet, and figured I might as well talk to him one last time. When I got to the front of the line, I smiled and said, “Remember me?” and Ahmed and Andy both laughed and said, “Of course!” I handed Andy my t-shirt and while he signed it, I told him that I actually just got in line to tell him that some of the things he had said after the interview had really hit home for me, and thanked him again for taking the time to meet with us. Embarrassingly enough, he must’ve either heard something in my tone or seen that I was tearing up again because he said, “Aw!” and hugged me again before we posed for the picture. As I was walking away, I saw that he had written on my t-shirt, “Keep pushin’!” with a smiley face and his signature.

Especially in today’s world, it’s rare to come by such a humble and talented performer. He was discovered when he was playing on the street simply because he loved to sing. Andy is an example to not just musicians, but people everywhere, that if you stay true to yourself and don’t get jaded, your dreams really can come true.

(Our first interview with Andy happened in Chicago in June 2011. Check it out here.)

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