Teddy Grossman

by Corey O'Flanagan

Teddy Grossman had one foot in and one foot out of the music industry for years before he finally jumped in with both feet. The LA-based singer/songwriter left his 9-5 in early 2020 to pursue his passion and will finally release his debut studio album, Soon Come, on March 11, 2022.

Grossman, who gave listeners a taste of his retro R&B style on tunes like "Giving Up" and "Ready," has a voice that simply must be heard - it reminds me of St. Paul and The Broken Bones and Leon Russell. His lyrics are both relatable and personal, and his story, even at its beginnings, is worth hearing.

The process of writing a debut album is long and winding, with many ups and downs along the way. We get into a lot of that here and also are treated to a live performance of his latest single, "What I Owe."



The Fine Line Between Ambition And Fun

I remember before I put out my first song in November of 2020, I was in a really great head space because I expected literally nothing. I had an old band and whatnot, but I was starting from ground zero. So my expectations were pretty modest out of the gate, and I just felt this amazing response from the internet and Spotify.

But every time you have a little bit of success, despite trying to continue to walk yourself back, the mind inevitably wants to level up, and that becomes the new watermark. With every release, it has been a practice in that emotional disconnect, and I'm working on it. There's an awareness of the need for that, but I don't think that's ever going to change. It's a fine line between being ambitious and wanting to get your art heard by a lot of people, but also just remembering that it's fun and it's a blessing to be here to begin with.

I spent over a decade of my adult life with one foot in, one foot out, holding down a full-time job and weaving myself into a musical community here in LA. It's what I'm living and breathing and trying to hustle everyday doing. Being at this point and having made the album is the kind of success that I envisioned years ago when it was unclear if I'd ever get to this point. So I try to remember that as well.


"Giving Up"

It's about a friend, but there was a time when the relationship had a romantic tilt. We've all been there, but it was a situation where I pined after someone for a long time and we eventually started dating. I was new to town and there were a lot of wonderful memories, but it became pretty apparent that it wasn't going to be "the thing." It's an age-old story where you're just not seeing the love reciprocated, and it can drag on you for a while, but then eventually it comes to this point where it's like, okay.

There's that Frank Ocean line [from "Self Control"] where it's like, "wish we grew up on the same advice and our time was right" - and timing being such a crucial piece in all this. I finally turned a corner on this and that is really what the song is about at its core in a simple, sweet way.

I remember at the time being completely obsessed with this cover of the Bob Dylan song "Heart Of Mine" that Blake Mills did with Taylor Goldsmith playing bass and Danielle Haim playing drums. Bob's the most savage songwriter ever when it comes to relationships and his whole thing was hiding your feelings away. I took a lot of that same energy, not showing any vulnerability. I was poking a little bit of fun at myself about how much my ego was getting bruised. I was almost trying to write a song that was a caricature of myself. It was so therapeutic for me and got me to a wonderful place.


Building A Songwriting Routine

I'd love to get to the point with songwriting where it's really becoming a craft where I can be like, "Okay, here's my goal for the day." I want to try to take this style and solve this problem or write in the style of this and just go. But I'm still at a green point in my songwriting evolution where all I can write from is the heart and whatever that subconscious place we go to when you look at the early stages of creating something. So, that's my one speed right now.

I'm really trying to home in on what my routine is and what the consistency of songwriting can do for me. I'm still talking about it as opposed to committing to it on an everyday basis, but I'm on my way and in that evolution and that's absolutely the goal. I've gotten lucky and it's probably something that you hear a lot of times - on your first record, you can collect these inspirations and songs over years at a time, and then it's out in the world. It's like, all right, let's write the next 20 to file down for the next 10 in a year or two. And you can't do that on a continual basis unless you're going into the woodshed on a daily basis. That's at least what I subscribe to. So, it's absolutely the goal and I feel empowered knowing it's possible, but it does take a heck of a lot of discipline to fight all the avoidance and distractions that we all have.


When Did He Start Singing?

I have all these vivid memories of being in elementary school, sitting in front of a mirror singing to Stevie Wonder records or Christina Aguilera or NSYNC - the gamut of stuff. I always felt like I could sing a little bit, but it wasn't until high school when I started singing in an a cappella group with an incredible vocal teacher who would do all these really rad arrangements of Beach Boys, Beatles, and spirituals, that I really began my journey with the voice.

It has since really focused on instruction because early on in my last band, we were playing all these loud clubs with bad monitoring systems, and we had a five-piece plus horns, so I was blowing my voice out to the point where I actually had developed some growth on my vocal chords. Since then, I've had an incredible instructor and have been able to work my way around those.

So, I've always known that it was something I could do and was gifted with, but it's also an ongoing process to just continue to refine and take care of that tool.


"Ready"

The whole album Soon Come is really chronicled. I chose to list the tracks from old to new songs, for the most part. One of the first songs on the record is from a relationship of mine back in New York, like six years ago. I started writing shortly thereafter.

"Ready" is the penultimate song on the record, and I remember writing it after most of the album was finished, and I was at the early stages of a relationship that I'm still in - a wonderful thing in my life. I had gotten used to being single and dating constantly for years and years. I had a lot of walls up, and the relationship continued to flower the more I was just able to stay present and be open with it.

So on the surface, that is definitely what the song's about, but the whole time I was writing it, it dawned on me that there was this deeper spiritual thing I was tapping into about opening myself up to a life dedicated to honing my craft, and whether it's God or the muse or my subconscious, whatever it is, really trying to access that.


What Drove Him To Finally Pursue Music Full-Time?

It's been my whole narrative, probably to a fault for the better part of a decade - ever since college even. I moved to Chicago with my band, we actually went at it pretty hard for a few years in Chicago. All the while, though, I had a full-time job, and after that, I moved to New York for four years and was still working at the time. I was at an early stage company that I was flying around like crazy going to conferences and worked pretty hard at that. While in a vacuum it was a cool thing and I learned a lot and I'm very grateful for all that, I was slowly feeling a decay inside from being more and more removed from what it is that lit me up.

The move to California was the biggest step towards where I am now, and within two or three years of being here, it was a gradual process where I was going to step to do this. I actually decided to put in my notice the weekend before the COVID lockdown happened. I feel very lucky to have been able to have this smooth transition from working, not only all the craziness of the pandemic, but then being able to transition into focusing on my music full-time.


In Hindsight, Would He Approach His Career Differently?

The prevailing themes on the record are patience and hope and faith. The title Soon Come is the belief in this inevitability of whatever it is that you want to achieve or do in life. I don't necessarily look back and have any regrets or things that I wish I did differently. I feel like I've heard a million different things, from different people and mine is just one story.

I know some people might say, don't wait so long, start earlier, but at the same time, I'm grateful for having worked for a decade and giving myself a little cushion for what is a very scary time financially approaching. I can only share my story in the sense that I'm grateful for the timing of everything.

Any time you're making yourself vulnerable, trying to step out and do things, it all leads to growth. I have to remind myself every day that this is all supposed to be fun and joyful and to always stay connected to that, even though it's a total rollercoaster at times.


"What I Owe"

"What I Owe," like "Ready," I wrote a little earlier, but it's another song that was written during the album-making process. The record was made sort of piecemeal. Ryan Pollie is a high school buddy, one of my best friends in LA and the producer on this record. We first linked up and we were just going to make one song and go from there. Eventually every other couple of months, we'd do another.

By that summer of 2019, it was like, I'm loving the tones we're getting, there's a real connective tissue and vibe with all these songs, no matter how different they are. Let's go in hard and make a whole record. We were in that elevated, inspired state, like a muse living over your roof. We'd be at the studio all day and then I'd come home and have this immense sense of gratitude and joy, because there'd always been this little voice of unfulfillment. Then I finally got to LA and was finding my lane and making this record, and this was the headspace where "What I Owe" came out. It was essentially about the gratitude for being here and the patience of the muse or whoever that may be, but also an obligation and a commitment to service, to work hard and come in every day with a pot of coffee and chase down more songs.


February 1, 2022

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Photos: Steph Port

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