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Chicago’s Own Country Star

Steve Grand didn’t think there was anything special about his song on love between two men, a blazing campfire and the American flag.

But Grand’s song was the first country and western melody about same-sex love between two men.

Soon after the release of the song and video on YouTube, Grand found himself on “Good Morning America,” CNN and in other national media. He was labeled one of America’s “first openly gay country stars.”

Photo Courtesy of Steve Grand
Photo Courtesy of Steve Grand

Grand, who grew up in Chicago and later Lemont, a suburb southwest of Chicago, posted the song and music video, “All-American Boy” on YouTube on July 2, 2013. It was an overnight success, accumulating more than 1.5 million views in the first two weeks and more than 2 million to date.

Grand, now 24, said he is not the first country singer to touch on the issue of same-sex love.

“I am in awe of the trailblazers who came before me,” he said. “I never labeled myself country, but if some people hear that in my music, that’s great. I’m not sure I fit into any one box. I just want my music to touch people. If it does, I’m happy.”

Grand said he struggled for many years to accept himself as a gay person. Always feeling like an “outsider,” he turned to music for comfort and strength, taking piano lessons and teaching himself to play the guitar and flute.

Grand said he was 4 or 5 years old when he first heard the sound of Schroeder, the precocious pianist, in the movie adaption of the “Peanuts” comic strip.

“I became obsessed with every aspect of the piano, sonically and visually,” Grand recalls.

When he was 11, he began writing songs. In high school, Grand participated in show choir and marching band and he also sang and played in multiple bands. As a senior, he was an Illinois Music Educators Association Finalist in voice.

With his father and older brother, Bill, Grand enjoyed scouting, ultimately attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

Grand said his family members have been very supportive of his musical career.

In a Facebook post about his younger brothers new single, “stay,” released last year his brother, Bill, said, “I am hesitant I will actually make it to Friday. I just might spontaneously explode with excitement.”

Grand said his music is all about love, lost love, lust and friendship.

Grand completed his freshman year of college in the music business program at Belmont University in Nashville before returning to Chicago to attend community college and the University of Illinois at Chicago. With a sense that music is the only thing he could ever do in life, Grand put his college career “on hold” in 2011 to focus on writing and recording original music.

Since then, he has produced a catalog of compositions and recordings, some of which he plans to release soon.

“For now, I’m just going to keep writing, recording and getting better,” Grand said. “I feel a sense of purpose to honor the relationship and trust I’ve built with fans. Whenever I’m making a decision about my career, my fans are always at the forefront of my mind.”

Grand’s younger sister, Katie, said her brother is a role model who has taught her the value of perseverance.

“Never give up, chase your dreams and don’t listen to voices telling you, you can’t,” she said. “You can even surprise yourself with what you can do.”

Until recently, Grand made his living by performing weekly at the Chicago music venue The Joynt and as a music leader at four Catholic churches in the Chicago area.

Grand said he would like to say “thank you” to his fans for “changing his life” and giving him “a sense of purpose.”

“[Fans] are what I think about when I wake up each morning and go to work writing music,” Grand said. “The best part of all of this has been the people who walk up to me and say, ‘I’m from a small town. Thanks for telling my story. Thanks for giving me a voice.’”

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