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Over the last 12 years, Greyson Chance has made a name for himself in the world of pop. In 2010, the star first made headlines when he performed an iconic rendition of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi –which has racked in over 70 million views on YouTube. After making an unforgettable debut in the music industry, Greyson went on to release an array of original singles, which helped him gain a dedicated fan base.

In 2017, the Bad To Myself singer made headlines when he came out as gay in an emotional Instagram post. “I came to fully recognize that I was gay when I was sixteen. I decided not to publicize my sexuality largely due to a matter of privacy, as I was still trying to find comfort and confidence within my own skin,” he said at the time. Since then, Greyson has created heartfelt music highlighting his emotional and heartwarming journey of self-discovery.

On 23 September, the critically-acclaimed songwriter released his brand new album Palladium. The record, which follows his beloved 2019 album portraits, continues to showcase Greyson’s undeniable vocal prowess and evolved maturity as an artist and individual. Prior to the release of the album, we spoke with Greyson about all things Palladium in an exclusive interview for GAY TIMES.

Greyson! It’s been a minute. How have you been? 

Oh my gosh, let me see how I can catch you up. You know, right now I’m doing really well. It feels so crazy. It’s like the most cliche thing, in the way that I can start this, but I feel like my whole career has been leading up to this album, like legitimately. Now that it’s out, I feel this kind of beautiful mixture of every emotion. I feel excited about it. I feel really nervous. I feel ready for it. I feel unprepared for it. I feel over-prepared. I feel every range of spectrums just because it’s very, very important this record.

I’ve listened to it a few times now and it is absolutely gorgeous. 

Aw, thank you so much. 

Sonically, it’s quite different to Trophies. The rock instrumental on Black Mascara, for example… I had shivers. What inspired this experimental new direction?

Yeah, I feel like all roads have kind of been leading to this record. There’s so much that happens behind the scenes with an artist, right? That people really aren’t too familiar with. You talked about an album called Trophies, right? That was a body of work that I really loved. I really cared for it, but I was so creatively constrained with that album because I was signed to a major label, and this was a chance for me to get back on an indie. I think Palladium was an album that I’ve been probably wanting to make since I was 15 years old, but I didn’t have the courage to do it. I didn’t have the creative intelligence to really understand how to make something thematic. I had to learn that by just continuing to study art. I was just never in a place where I felt like I was good enough to make something like this. And so I always wanted to be a bit more alternative, I always wanted to venture into this sound, and I think coming off of ending things with Sony last year, I just said ‘It’s about time at this point now, 12 years in the game, to just say fuck it and just get it over with,’ you know? 

Did you experience a resurgence in your creativity after breaking away from the major label system? 

Absolutely! What was frustrating about last year is in the arc of my career, you had this massive peak at the beginning. We would call it like “the valley” or “the plateau moment”, there was a few years when really nothing was happening. She was not booked and busy. And then you kind of had this resurgence moment, with portraits, and things were really good, and all of a sudden last year, I was back on a major label arguing over the phone over what I wanted my album cover to look like and why I had picked these songs. I had someone in their 50s telling me that they think this song is more hip than the other thing. I even had an A&R tell me on a conference call line in reference to a song called Hands, ‘Listen, I understand, and I truly support your queer identity and you putting it in the music.’ But he was like, ‘The pronouns are just probably a little too much don’t you think?’ I was like, ‘Shit, it’s 2021, and this is still happening.’ So it was frustrating for me to find myself back in that moment after being here for so long and having worked as hard as I did. So I think coming into this current album, there was such a chip on my shoulder, where I have to just go in and really do this for me and really not give a fuck about anything else. And that’s what we did.

I’m laughing because it’s just so ridiculous. I assume this was a cis, white, straight man?

100%, yeah. 

They just don’t give up, do they? 

No, they don’t, they don’t. Amazing tenacity! 

So, they basically told you to sacrifice your queerness to be more palatable? 

100%. And it was interesting too. I remember being told as well that if I was going to… That I almost had to pick a lane. That I had to do what Lil Nas [X] was doing and completely show off my queerness, and let that sort of be the thing and drives the music and be maybe a bit more provocative, or I had to be very safe and not talk about [my queerness], not use pronouns in my songs. You had to choose your lane and I’m sure a lot of queer artists are going through that right now, of just trying to fit into this space and feel like they have a road to go down. I think it was different for me as an artist who had a decade of experience underneath my belt. It was easier for me to say, ‘Yeah, I don’t like you. I’m not talking to you anymore. Go fuck yourself,’ as opposed to someone newer in the game. It just sucks that we’re still having to do this, and how you even have to think as an artist, ‘I’m gay, so how is that going to impact my career? How is that impacting my art? How can I take advantage of it?’ That’s so constant in music right now. It’s really gross, and it’s tough, it’s difficult.

That Lil Nas X thing is insane. but also, I’m not surprised because they probably assume that there’s only one way to be queer. 

And by the way, too, that was no shade to Nas’ music at all! But I think you know what I meant, right? 

Absolutely. What Lil Nas X has been doing is incredible and he’s breaking boundaries, but that’s not how all LGBTQ+ people express their queerness.


Having been in the industry for over 12 years, have you noticed any kind of progress for LGBTQ+ artists?

I think progress moves… It’s not a complete straight line, right? I think it moves in ebbs and flows. I think it’s moving in the right direction, but I think there are big pros and cons to seeing these massive queer people now having huge mega millions moments in music, because it just sort of gives these companies and it gives these executives a right to sit on the throne and say, ‘Okay, now we’re going to dictate this because there is money being made in this now.’ It’s like queer kids aren’t the weird theatre kids anymore. We aren’t the outcasts anymore. We’re at the centre of attention. So, with that comes a lot more people trying to get their hands in it. I’m still learning this today as an artist, this is the toughest thing to learn. The only good things that have happened in my career is because I followed my instinct. The times when I’ve listened to someone and they said, ‘This is where we think you should go, this is how the music should sound, this is what you should be talking about in interviews,’ it didn’t pay out for me. I’m reminding myself constantly that I let the music drive my creativity and who I am. If I walk into a studio one day and I want to talk about my relationship, or I want to really call someone out and hell, I want to use 50 pronouns, I do that because that’s where my creative instincts are. That’s where my creative heart is and I understand the importance in that. That was a massive thing. I think this record is another reason why I say that everything has been leading up to this moment. This was the first time I walked into the studio and felt confident. This was the first time that I was like, ‘Okay, I can be here, I deserve to be here, and I’m going to let this music drive me.’ 

Let’s talk more about Palladium. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the title? 

When I kind of took a break from music, when I was 18, I went to college. I was an archaeology student. I was a history student. And so years later, coming into the studio, I just remember… During this album, we wrote it in Nashville and I was doing by choice – which my management team thought I was crazy – I would take my car and I would drive 11 hours from Oklahoma City, where I lived, to Nashville. I did this probably like eight times. It’s a really long drive, but I felt a need to do it because it gave me time… It’s a great excuse when you’re out on the road in the middle of nowhere in America because you don’t have cell service, so I could just step away from a day and not be bothered. On one of the first trips to Nashville, I was thinking about this myth that I had to study in college and basically, there’s this fight in Olympus. Athena gets sent down to earth as punishment in the form of this symbol/idol. The Trojans are told if they protect her within this building named the Palladium, that if that placard and symbol were there, that the city would be safe no matter what. If it wasn’t protected in the Palladium, then the city would be besieged. That was on my mind as I was driving to Nashville this day and it was such a splash of cold water to my face of like, ‘You just left your record label. You have no one right now that’s making you go to Nashville to write this record. This is all on you. You need to protect your creativity. That’s what you need to protect. That’s why your city was besieged the last year because you didn’t protect what was most important and what was most valuable.’ And then I got into the studio the next day, and Palladium was the first song we wrote for the album. That felt like such an instinct of like this is what this album is about. This is what this record is. I really let that myth and kind of the whole theme follow through from beginning to completion. 

In another interview, you said Robert Mapplethorpe influenced the album. Can you talk to me a little bit about that? 

Robert Mapplethorpe inspired the album cover. There was this photo with Larry Desmedt. Larry Desmedt was this motorcycle guy and he just travelled around. He was this notorious biker in America and there’s this picture that Robert Mapplethorpe took of him and I just couldn’t stop looking at it as I was writing the album. We shot the photo and then I got a call from my lawyer that was like, ‘You can’t do this. This is exactly a ripoff. It can’t happen.’ And I pleaded with everyone like, ‘We got to use this.’ I think [Lady] Gaga taught me right, which is: if you believe in something enough, you just convince people it can’t be any other way because it’s your art and it’s your creativity. We made a call to the Mapplethorpe Foundation, and they allowed us rights to the photo to use it. So that was really, really special. This is a tribute to Robert Mapplethorpe, who’s a queer photographer that has inspired my art. I think he’s inspired so many. So this is a tribute to him, [but it] doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the album theme, but it just really felt correct to me to kind of pay tribute to him because he’s been inspiring my art since day one.

What was the most personal song for you to write on the album?

There are probably like three songs that are a bit more love-centered on this record or at least on the topic and Down & Out is definitely one of them. Hemmingway, 74 rue de Cardinal is a song that’s really personal. This was at a time when I had just ended a relationship that was my longest and most serious, and I had done that willingly. I think I realised that I had this picture-perfect idea in my mind, coming into my 20s, that I’m going meet someone and we’re going to be together. I’m going to dive in head first and I’m going to be a loyal partner. Maybe when we’re 30, we’re going to get married and look at adopting a kid. I had it all planned out in my head and it’s what I wanted for so long. It was the goal. I found someone who was amazing and who was brilliant, and then all of a sudden, I didn’t like myself anymore. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t have this autonomy of being an artist and feeling like my creativity was what was driving me. I just remember being like, ‘I can’t do this at 24. It’s too early.’ It was really, really tough. It’s so hard to hurt people that you love and that was really difficult. So, I think there’s a lot of frustration in Down & Out. It’s like I don’t want to see the shipwrecked parts of me. I don’t want to put myself through this and I don’t want to put anyone else through this either. It was a reckoning. I’m such a firm believer that everybody needs to be accepting of life. But in this current moment, now I’m 25, I have no idea what I what. I don’t know when I want it. I don’t know how I’m going to get it and I feel such a sense of peace from that. I think writing a lot of the album helped me find that clarity too. 

Well, I’ve just turned 29 and still have no fucking clue. 

Listen, you never find out, you know, there’s no light at the end of this tunnel. I hate to be morbid, but welcome to life.

After completing the album, how did you feel? 

To be really frank, I felt the most joy I felt as an artist in a really long time. And currently, I wish I felt that three weeks before release. I think it’s so busy right now and there is so much happening that I can’t really like… I’m trying to remind myself of the moment I felt when I finished it. Because I just remember leaving the studio and being like, ‘I don’t care what this sells. I don’t who care who likes this, who doesn’t like it. I am so proud of this art that I just made, and I’m going to work my ass off to see what happens with it.’ I don’t think I really ever… There’s always been something else that has been lingering in my mind when I’ve left the studio finishing an album. This one, I felt so much joy. I do think it will be a beginning chapter of a lot more music like this to come. I think that if I want to get back into the studio and make a full traditional pop album again, I’ll do it, but I don’t really foresee that happening. I foresee me continuing to kind of go a bit more alternative and just start making music that feels current and that feels true to form to me as well. I’m not 18 anymore. I’m not 21 anymore. I know 25 is still young, but it’s just a little different these days. I felt whole, and I felt excited. I felt like, ‘Okay, this is mine now.’ I finally took control of my life. 

This album definitely feels like you poured your heart and soul into it. What do you want Palladium to say about you and your artistry at this point in time? 

You know what’s funny about having a TikTok lately is that, number one, I’m realising how many people truly still just know me from my 12-year-old self. They’re like, ‘Oh my god, where have you been?’ But what’s interesting is that I have people who come to my shows that are like, ‘Yo, I didn’t even know that you started off as a kid. I just heard your song and got a ticket.’ I want people to realise that it’s a huge deal to have lasted 12 years in the industry. Something that I realised this year is that it actually doesn’t really matter. I think I wanted to hold this pride for so long to be like, ‘Look at me, I’ve survived this long.’ I’ve been dropped and gone through a few different majors and managers. Hell, I’ve been sued three times. I’ve gone through the wringer, but none of that really matters at the end of the day. What I want people to take from this record and to take from my greater catalogue is the songwriting. If I can leave a legacy of people saying, ‘He was a good writer,’ and that there was a lot of intention and thought into this, that’s what I want to accomplish. There’s a song [on the album] called My Dying Spirit. If people feel uncomfortable when they listen to the song, if they feel like it’s almost like a suicide note, good. That means I’m a good writer. That’s what I want you to feel when you listen to that song. If I can evoke emotion through this music, through the lyrics and through the writing, that’s what I want to focus on and remember for now. It doesn’t matter that I lasted 12 years in the music industry. Yeah, big fucking deal, so have a lot of people. It’s about what I am writing and how people are connecting to that.

You just finished your European tour, which marked your first tour since before lockdown right? 

The last thing I did before the lockdown was shooting the GAY TIMES cover with you all in London. I joked when I was on stage every night because I was like, ‘Thank you all so much. I really appreciate you for buying your ticket in 1987 for this show,’ because that’s kind of what it felt like. It had been rescheduled so many different times. I was kind of nervous coming back into touring and just playing shows in general after so much time off. I also play an hour-and-a-half every night, which used to be the standard and now it’s like exceedingly long. It’s a strenuous show and I was interested to see how my body felt and how I felt after it. That light just [reignited a] sparked in me playing these shows in Europe, and it was just so exciting to be with people again and to see fans; to just have this sort of reach again and connectivity again. And I got to play a ton of the new album and doing that felt really triumphant. Europe was amazing. I start North America in five or six weeks, and that takes me until January. I’m hoping to get back into that rhythm of constant touring again because playing these shows this year was really special to me.

After being away from live crowds for so long, what has the energy been like amongst your fans? Has there been a shift? 

I took a lot of time with the set. The other reason why is because I talked about this during the pandemic. I think of course, lockdown was really difficult for everyone, but I think for queer people, it just had an extra kick to it because so much of our identity is through music, through clubs, through going out, through being in the scene. It just felt like all that was being ripped away from us. So the show, I crafted this section where I’m basically pleading with the crowd where I’m saying, ‘Listen, I need you to leave your life outside tonight. I need you to release. I need you to let it go tonight.’ I think there is a line in the monologue where I’m like, ‘Tonight this is my church. This is my cathedral. You’re meant to be here. I need you to lift that energy up.’ I feel like that’s what people needed the most coming to the show. I think after COVID, in general, feeling that release. So yeah, the energy, now that I’m thinking about it, did feel more electrifying. A bit more important at these shows. I’m curious to see what it feels like in America because you know we’re always living in a nice little fucked up state in America, so I think we need a release every single hour of the day. 

The past few years have been… rough. Has the pandemic and the current state of the world, socially, politically and economically, impacted your artistry? 

Yeah. I think at this point now, there’s no more cutting corners for me anymore. There’s no more making decisions because it’s going to make someone happy at the label or trying to write a certain song because we think we need to have a push. I think one of the things that the pandemic provided for me, was it showed me how much stress I have around social media. And how mental health-wise it wasn’t good for me to be on these platforms trying to seek out how many likes I could get, how many comments I get. I had to refrain from how I thought about social media, which is now a lot more like I just want to talk to my fans. I don’t give a shit about what’s performing and what’s not. Which, of course, angers a lot of music industry people. But what I learned is that I have one life and I have one legacy to leave behind. During the pandemic, my sister had two kids. I want them to be able to look back at my life and career as an artist to know that I stood up for myself and followed the advice that I gave to other people. I’m doing things now with a healthy selfishness, if that makes sense. I think I’m finally putting myself first through all this. 

You can listen to Greyson Chance’s dynamic new album Palladium here or below.