Set to bring his second studio album, I Love You, I’m Trying, to Australia and New Zealand for the first time in February, the excitement grandson has for his upcoming tour is palpable.
Having spent most of 2023 touring the record relentlessly around the world, the Los Angeles-based performer and songwriter has been riding the waves of success but moreover, he’s been enjoying a new lease on a creative life that had faced some personal realisations and confrontations during the depths of the pandemic.
Ultimately needing to redefine his relationship to music on all levels – as an artist, a consumer, and as someone whose source of income was directly linked to his passion – grandson (aka Jordan Benjamin) achieved a sense of clarity that we hear on his genre-smashing album. It’s a clarity and new fervour that has also reverberated across the live shows of this tour cycle; clarity and fervour Australian and Kiwi audiences will soon be experiencing for the first time.
Ahead of the shows, Tone Deaf caught up with the man himself to find out how he has been handling it all, and what is sparking the fire for the next phase of his career.
Tone Deaf: The last year has been absolutely insane for you – every time I’ve checked to see where this album has been taking you, it’s always been to a different country, and it’s looked wild. Have you had a chance to breathe?
grandson: Now that I’ve had a little more time off over the past month, this is the first time I’ve been able to catch my breath since the pandemic ‘ended’. Once I was vaccinated in 2021, I went on this crazy scramble to play massive festivals across North America and as soon as that was over, I was doing some combination of beginning work on my second album as well as doing this huge opening tour.
Jumping from different tours that were all kicking off at the same time, I was able to tour with all kinds of bands, because my music is all over the place. I was able to rock arenas with Imagine Dragons, Avril Lavigne, and Bring Me the Horizon, and play sweaty clubs with Deftones across Europe. I had one month off, which I spent writing in the studio, making what would be my second album. Once that was done, I started putting the songs out.
I came to Australia for a little visit, just to hang out with my partner. I’ve played 100 cities around the world since then on my headline tour. Between the rollout of the album, the release of the album, and 200 shows over the last two years, I feel like I’m finally here! Just to be able to catch my breath, take in this incredible moment.
I haven’t had the time to reflect in gratitude on all the people who have come to the shows, who have bought tickets in this really uncertain time. Who have listened to this new album and have been getting tattoos, letting my art play a part in their artistic process. It’s just been a tornado that I’m finally in a place to receive. I’ve had to make really tough choices over this past year, as far as the people I keep around me; the vices that I’m avoiding now. Not only have I been on this mad rock and roll journey around the world, but I’ve also been working on myself so I’m probably in a better position to appreciate and be grateful for some of these gifts. I might not have appreciated them in the past.
I know that when the pandemic hit, it was such a severe jolt to the system – creatives in particular. The common thread I’ve been picking up on from conversations with musicians is that the time off has made them appreciate what they loved about their lives before…and what elements they wanted to bring into the new normal of their lives now.
I think that most artists, if you’re like me and you cut your teeth on tour… how many of us would have that opportunity to have two years at home to reflect on the people you want around you, to find a centre? It was such a stark contrast, going back on the road; in the past, I may have kept certain company or indulged on the road with the sense of, “That’s just what you do, I’m a musician and this is what musicians do.”
I never had time to build in these other parts of my life – to fall in love, to be more grounded outside of tour. It’s really dangerous to lose the plot there. Not only is it (music) our passion and what wakes us up in the morning, but plenty of people love making things and don’t go through the uncertainty and intensity of making it your primary source of income. People who do that, who work on the road… you don’t spend much time feeling like you’re living. You’re working to live.
Time off in the past, before the pandemic, was just time for me to be restless and to get ready to go back out there. I think that was a place from which it was quite easy to be more indulgent, in all the things that comes with being a musician. I think the pandemic afforded me and a lot of people around me a restructuring. It made me realise that even though I love going on tour and meeting people, I want to be building a life outside just the road, that I look forward to coming home to.
How do you think your creativity manifested during time off the road at that point?
I was very effusive. I did a lot of collaboration, a lot of music, a lot of features. I live streamed every week, I was acting…whatever you could throw at me!
While a big part of that was coming from an innate desire to create, there was also a real scarcity mentality there, a real fear of being forgotten. I didn’t want to look back and feel like I was undoing all the progress I had so desperately clawed my way to find, as far as making music that people fuck with.
Now, I’m at a place where some of that worked, some of it I may have done differently if I had just given myself a little more self-love and trust in the relationship I’ve built with my fans. I think I really felt like they would leave if I didn’t give them everything I have to give.
The versatility of the music on record translates so beautifully onto the stage. I was lucky enough to catch a show in Europe and that hunger that comes across on stage was so great to see.
Watching that type of connection between artist and fans was cool. You’ve been living with this music for so long now, getting that buzz off crowds experiencing it for the first time – like the Australians are set to do — that’s got to be exciting.
It’s so special. I do feel as though there’s always a special extra 5% you give when you’re really connected. I want to be in Australia; I have a partner who has grown up there, I’ve spent time there, and I really enjoy being there.
When you have a chance on the road to connect with a city, outside of just waking up on a bus and living in the green room, and playing the show? I have a real relationship already to Australia, so I think myself, the band and the crew all have a little something extra to give, because we want to come back. And we’re not gonna come back if we don’t kill it! That adds a healthy competitive spirit.
I recognise that this is at a time where times are tough and there’s a lot of different concerts happening at once, so I feel super grateful. I don’t want to skip any steps. People in America are spoiled! I’ve played seven or eight shows and worked my way from these 250 capacity rooms into these 4000 capacity shows I get to do now.
I want to make sure that people at the beginning get to buy that first piece of merch, that you can come back three years from now and someone will be like, “You’re someone who was at that first gig!” I’m excited for that opportunity. Once that part is done, then that chapter will really feel closed. It’s been such a crazy one for my mental health, for my relationship to my fans, that I’m coming in with all of that perspective and gratitude for this final leg of it. I’m stoked, I’m really excited.
Do you think you’re already onto the next chapter, or are you relishing this one a little bit?
I’m trying not to! I’m trying to just enjoy and have a different pace. My partner (WAFIA) is also an artist, she’s an awesome artist and she lets the work come to her in a way that is so organic. I’m trying to bring a little bit more of that into my career. Just meet people who I might make music with and not feel this compulsion to create! I’m starting to get it again, that buzz.
I feel like I’ve been on this creative journey where I love making different kinds of music and I’ve found a certain momentum at a time in my life where I made really high energy, riff-y, politically driven rock music. That is not the beginning of my musical journey and it won’t be the end of it, but that’s been the place from which most people who support what I do, found it. Found me. So I’ve had this tumultuous relationship with making lots of other things and wanting to express my creative independence from people’s expectations.
This new album has moments that are way more alternative hip hop feeling; they’re slower and much more muted, because I was going through this time that felt quite heavy. Instead of expressing that with stereotypically heavy rock, I expressed it with these muted, earthy tones. Now that I’m making so much progress in my life, as far as my mental health goes; I’ve really gone a long time without having a low like I used to, it’s making me excited to make the kind of music that people have expected from me. It feels more like a choice, because I’ve gotten a chance to explore all these different things.
Now I’m back to just giving people what they come to the show to experience; it feels like I’m back to making creative choices for myself that are going to piss off people in power, and give people something to throw their drink in the air to!
What have you learned about yourself, standing back and looking at the progress and evolution you’ve made as a human (and artist) during this time?
My goal wasn’t to have a big song, my goal was to be more secure. I thought that having a big song would do that for me.
What I’m learning is that I can’t control all these other parts of it, as it relates to whether it hits people’s algorithms in a contagious way, but I am changed from this process. Many of the things I hoped would happen, have actually happened over the past year. This album has shaped me and made me different from my peers in a number of ways and has helped me understand what is important. For that, I’m grateful that I had the chance and space to do it.
I’m ready to kick this last part off with a bang, continue on with this journey and then go make some dope shit! Who knows how I’m getting set up for the next part, but it’s been a really fun journey. I can’t say that about every part of it til this point but now that my cup is full, I’m ready to go again.
grandson 2024 Australia/New Zealand Tour
Tickets available via grandsonmusic.com
Powerstation, Auckland, NZ
Princess Theatre, Brisbane, QLD
Liberty Hall, Sydney, NSW
170 Russell, Melbourne, VIC
Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
Subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine
Subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine