Originally published on the-declaration.org on 11/12/2016
Header photo by Christine Naulty
UVA singer-songwriter Grant Frazier released his debut album, “Runaway,” this summer. It’s a collection of original songs which showcase his strong talent for acoustic pop composition in the style of John Mayer or Matt Nathanson.
“Runaway” is an intimate album as a result of its minimal instrumentation (Frazier sings and plays guitar and piano, and he is joined by a cellist and a drummer on several tracks) as well as the palpable connection between Frazier and his songs.
Frazier has been performing frequently in support of the record but was available for a Friday morning cup of tea at Grit Coffee, as well as an interview.
How long have you been writing songs, and how did you get started?
I started writing when I was probably a freshman or sophomore in high school. I picked up the guitar and piano freshman year, and after that, I just started writing. I picked up music when I was two or three; I learned to play violin by ear, and then I played trombone in high school and middle school, and then I finally picked up the guitar and piano, and I just started writing. My mom is a screenplay writer, so I feel like I definitely get that from her. From there on, it was like a snowball effect.
Do you ever get drawn to that storytelling mode?
I do, absolutely. I think I love songwriting because you can tell a story and incorporate music into it, and incorporate rhythms and patterns. It’s a great way for me to portray my feelings and everything.
Who are your biggest influences, and how did you get into their music?
John Mayer is easily my biggest influence.
That definitely comes through on the album.
Funny story, when I was probably five or six, I was going into Target with my mom and my brother, and my mom said “go get a CD.” The first CD I ever picked out was John Mayer’s Heavier Things.
And the rest is history.
Yeah, it was literally that I randomly picked out an album and I’ve been listening to him ever since. Then I really got into Ed Sheeran in high school, and Jack Johnson, and all those acoustic singer/songwriters, so I think they’ve had a big influence on how I write and play music.
You’ve been playing music your whole life and writing songs for a long time—how did you know it was time to make an album?
I just felt like I had the material, and I felt like it was really just right for me–at a point in my career I feel like I’d played out a lot, and I’d gained a pretty decent-sized following. I feel like I needed to come back with that, with something where I’d be able to get people excited.
How long have you been working with this particular set of songs?
One of the songs on the album was actually one of the first songs I ever wrote–when I was 15–which was “Fly.” I think that’s the last song on the album. Some of them I just wrote this past spring or summer, so there’s a wide range of when I’ve been writing them.
Not to be weird, but I did google you beforehand and I saw something where it was like, “Grant Frazier, 15, performing”—
Yeah yeah yeah, so that was the first song I ever played live. I think I just love playing that song because it’s always something great to go back on.
That song and “Stay Now” I notice you did live in the studio as opposed to the other way. Why those two?
I feel like you get such a more intimate setting with the songs. They’re more piano-ballad based. I didn’t want to heavy it up with all this instrumentation; I wanted to keep it simple and I wanted the listeners to be able to just really connect with the feel of the song.
Which track of the bunch is your favorite, and why?
I’ve been answering this a lot–I don’t want to keep telling people different answers.
No, that makes it more interesting!
Right now, I would say “Wait” is my favorite song. It’s just a super upbeat love song. I think it’s probably the most upbeat song on the album. The other favorite one I’d say is “Wasted.” I just think it really portrays to just, you know, be like the best version of yourself and to not waste the talents that you’ve been given—just go out and just do the best you can.
One you haven’t talked about before is the title track, “Runaway.” What’s the story behind that one?
“Runaway” is a song that I wrote probably winter of this last year. It’s a really personal song for me and my family. It’s tough to play because it really gets to me and it’s something that’s been at the core of who I am as a person, and it’s really made me who I am. It’s one that really gets to my emotions whenever I play it. It’s such a powerful song.
You featured some cello and percussion on the album, and I know you’ve done gigs with them accompanying. Are there plans to put together a permanent band?
That’s the hope. The cello player, Nick Rupert, he was actually in my orientation group going into UVA. He’s a super-talented cello player, and I got into contact with him last spring for the O Records showcase, and I said, why not have him featured on the album too? He’s such a great feature to a lot of the songs. He really just adds a lot. The drummer, I had a set player come in. Nathaniel Davis just plays all around up in Northern Virginia, but I’d really love to keep playing with him.
What’s been your experience with O Records?
O Records has been probably one of the best groups that I could have joined at UVA. They’re such great musicians and great people. I mean, you can really create a network within Charlottesville. You can get connected with so many different venues and so many different live settings, and just create these amazing relationships.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I just try to take it all in. When I was first starting off playing live, I would get super anxious, but now since I’ve been doing it a lot, I try to just relax as much as I can. I drink a lot of tea before gigs.
Good for the voice.
Yeah, really good for the voice. I bring it on stage with me too. But I don’t know, I just take in the moment. I just relax and have a good time with it.
Aside from O Records, how do you think the Charlottesville scene has impacted your music?
The Charlottesville music scene is amazing. The people who come out and listen to the shows, they’re super energetic. They just have a passion for the arts. It’s something that’s really special, and it may be a smaller music scene compared to big cities, but you know, Charlottesville, I see it as an arts community. I didn’t see that coming in. I had no idea about the whole downtown area, and the Jefferson, and everything.
What’s the best show you’ve seen in Charlottesville so far this year?
I went to Ben Rector’s show at the Jefferson last month. It was the first time I’ve ever seen him live. It was by far the best concert that I’ve ever been to. It was amazing. He’s very personal with the crowd, he was really able to get the crowd going, and then when he was doing his more like, ballad songs, it was really amazing.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
The easy answer would be John Mayer, but I’m not going to say John Mayer. [laughs] You know, I’m really big into jazz, so I would definitely collaborate with a jazz artist. I don’t know if you know Chris Botti, but he’s a trumpet player, and he does a little bit of everything. I would totally collaborate with him, or like, a Trombone Shorty, something like that.
When’s your next show?
I’m talking to the Ante Room right now to get a show going, I’m trying to talk to Grit to do a show here, the O Records Showcase is coming up November 11th at the Ante Room and, I mean, I’m just playing little shows here and there.
Do you ever drop by Ante Room open mic on Tuesdays?
Yeah, I was there a couple weeks ago! It’s a really cool night. So, I’m definitely going to have a lot more shows. I’m playing for the Fralin Art Gallery–I’m really excited about that one, but I’ll be playing shows all around downtown and on the corner.
“Runaway” is available on Spotify and iTunes. For gig information, follow Grant online at facebook.com/grantfraziermusic