Nº108 John GrantHelga Mjöll Oddsdóttir
John Grant was born on July 25, 1968 in Buchana, Michigan in the United States. He has just received Icelandic citizenship this year and is excited about finally being able to call the country his permanent home.
Grant experienced a rough childhood due to bullying in school, struggling with his sexuality, and rejection from his parents. His environment was strict and conservative, preaching the idea that queer people are sinful. Grant watched as other kids his age came out as gay and their families accepted them. He could not show his true identity in school, church, or even at home. Grant ended up repressing his sexuality until his twenties because of the views that were forced on him during his life in Michigan. All of this eventually drove him to leave his hometown to move to Germany in 1988 to study different languages and escape the prejudices held against him by family and peers.
After moving to Germany, Grant came back to the United States in 1994 and formed a band called The Czars. The band consisted of Grant himself as well as Chris Pearson, Jeff Linsenmaier, Andy Monley, Roger Green, and Elin Palmer. The band performed American alternative rock music and released six studio albums until 2006 when the band took a hiatus.
All throughout his time with The Czars, Grant really struggled with anxiety as well as a drug and alcohol addiction. Grant then took on many different jobs after the band broke up including working at a tavern, being a medical interpreter for Russian patients, being record store clerk, and even working as a flight attendant. During this time he met the members of the band Midlake, who eventually convinced him to return to music to start his solo career. The band helped him with his debut album Queen of Denmark , which focused on his struggles with alcohol, drug addiction, and accepting his sexuality. The album did so well that Grant received the Best Live Act Award and acclaimed British music magazine Mojo named the album as the best album of 2010.
Grant’s success continued and he was invited to perform at the 2011 Iceland Airwaves Festival in Reykjavík, Iceland. This trip to Iceland not only changed the course of his career, but his life as well. Grant was recognized by a local in a shop and ended up going on a three hour drive with him. This stranger’s kindness took Grant by surprise and showed him how great Iceland could be for him. Grant loved Iceland so much that he decided to make it his permanent home in 2013. He felt as if the country had saved him and showed him that it was possible to be a better version of himself.
During this trip Grant also met the Icelandic electronic pop group GusGus, who had the sound that Grant was searching for. Their sound inspired Grant’s next album Pale Green Ghosts, which granted him multiple award nominations. In 2014, Grant helped write No Prejudice for the band Pollapönk for that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. After that Grant featured on Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 40th Anniversary Celebration album where he sings a cover of Sweet Painted Lady. Grant continued to join other musicians such as the group Elbow, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and Alison Goldfrapp.
Grant released his next album in 2015 called Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, which has a moodier feeling than his previous albums. He performed at a few festivals before going on a world tour for this album. In 2018, Grant released his album Love Is Magic and went on tour in the United Kingdom. After finishing his tour in the United Kingdom he embarked on his world tour in November of 2018. Grant’s most recent album, Boy from Michigan, came out in June of 2021. The album focuses on his troubles in his small town from his childhood and connects them to current issues occurring within the United States. Boy from Michigan talks about heavy topics like homophobia, racism, capitalism, and other issues that Grant wanted to acknowledge with his music. Grant is currently touring this album and is scheduled to perform in Barcelona on July 6th at Casino La Alianza de Pueblo Nuevo.