Conan Gray Leans Into Loneliness on ‘Comfort Crowd’
Music is more accessible than ever before. Not only can fans listen to whatever they want, whenever they want, but these days artists can record and produce everything on their own and send it out for millions to hear instantaneously. And while that's widened the playing field, there are some artists who have been able to separate themselves from the crowd and make a real impact. One of those artists? Conan Gray.
Gray was just another kid recording songs in his bedroom using a laptop and GarageBand when, after the release of his song "Idle Town," his entire world changed. Thanks to streaming, the song went viral and landed him a deal with Republic Records. In November 2018, he dropped his Sunset Season EP. Since then, he's had two sold out headlining tours (with another trek coming up in October), amassed an impressive social following and even played the main stage at Lollapalooza this past August.
His latest single "Comfort Crowd," released September 5, quickly raked in more than 1 million streams. (Since its release, the music video for the single has received half a million views — and counting.)
"I try not to think about it in numbers," he told PopCrush before his recent show at Public Arts in New York City. "I'm really happy that the fans really liked 'Comfort Crowd' because I feel like 'Comfort Crowd' was the song that, after I wrote it, I knew what my whole album was going to be about. It was a really big moment for me as a songwriter. It means so much to me. So I'm glad that they relate and [that] I'm not the only person on Earth who gets that lonely."
Growing up, Gray and his family moved around a lot and "never stayed in one place for more than a year." Eventually, his parents divorced and remarried, and Gray had to adapt to the changes going on around him, doing everything in his power to keep some kind of consistency in his life.
"I was constantly trying to hold onto everything I possibly could," he shared. "So I was always taking pictures. I was always taking videos. I always journaling and writing and drawing and doing everything to remember everything that I possibly could because I always thought it was going to leave me or disappear."
Since Gray was shy, he used songwriting as a way to express himself. "If it wasn't for my shyness, I would have never started writing songs. My childhood wasn't ideal. But I wouldn't have changed anything just because the places I ended up after all of it was everything I ever wanted to do with my life."
Gray's honest and, at times, raw lyrics have resonated with many, making him a voice for his generation — something you can witness at his shows where everyone seems to hang onto every word he sings. But despite his success, Gray wants his fans to know that he's no different from them.
"First of all, I've never been a cool, perfect, popular person in my whole entire life. I think it's important for them to see me as a peer. I always say if I wasn't up on stage singing, I would be in the crowd with them. They would very much be the people I would have hung out with in school ... I want them to be able to look at me and think, 'Oh, he could be in my class,' because a year ago, I probably was in one of their classes. It's important to me that they not be confused by the music videos and magazine clips. I want them to know I'm the same as them."
While gearing up for his tour in October, Gray is currently in the middle of working on his full-length album. He plans to release more music before the year's end, and with the power of streaming, there's no doubt that his fans will be in the wings waiting for the new songs to hit the web.
"Streaming really changed my life," he shared. "It definitely makes it harder these days because of how fast music is consumed. But I love writing music so I'm not going to complain. I'll always be making songs. And I always try my best to make the music I want to make and if people like it, they like it. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. If you made a good song, then you've succeeded."