Sunday, 09 July 2023 Portland, ME
  • 8:00 pmShow time
  • 7:00 pmDoor time
  • 23.00Standard Ticket
This time around, grandson wasn’t pulling any punches. He’d always been a fearless artist, one
unafraid to take aim at authority, fight the power and let his listeners know exactly how he felt.
But in recent times, the genremashing rock artist, who has long released soulbaring music,
decided to reveal himself like never before. “My whole career and my whole relationship to
songwriting has been driven by this real need to leave a mark and to feel understood,” says the
CanadianAmerican artist born Jordan Benjamin. “And yet I felt that I had been doing myself
and my fans, who have now been on this journey with me for half a decade now, a disservice. I
felt like we didn’t even have an honest conversation the whole time. I didn’t feel like I was
bringing all of me to the table.”

To that end, grandson wrote, recorded and is set to release his most personal and vulnerable
album to date. Where his past work tackled bigtent issues often political and social in nature
I Love You, I’m Trying, due May 5th via Fueled By Ramen, turned the lens definitively inward.

“I wrote this album trying to surrender some of that desire to control the narrative” grandson
explains. “I threw all of that out and tried to make something that was really personal and
grounded in a place that inspired me.” The songs on I Love You, I’m Trying are in many ways
unlike anything the foreverbold artist has released: it’s altogether a deepdive into the psyche of
a fragile, oftemotionally unstable and yet wildly creative force. After releasing 2020’s daring
theatrical debut album, Death of an Optimist, grandson says he needed to create a project this
time “that felt like I had something to lose. Where I was embarrassed to play it for people.
Where I was examining with a critical lens my own insecurities and my family history. And all of
a sudden, these themes that are following me through my career, now have a much more
personal and intimate home.”

He’d long been labeled a “political artist,” and while there’s undoubtedly a rich history of artists
who have lived up to that billing, grandson felt slightly boxed in by that title. “Political music is
necessary and it is inspiring,” he explains. “But it also has been historically completely
unsustainable for the people who burden themselves with the responsibility of making it. There’s
very few instances of artists that began and continued politically and lasted more than a few
years before either having this intense burnout or imposter syndrome or an inflated ego
feeling like ‘I’m going to write a song that will change the world.’”

On the strength of his breakout single, 2017’s “Blood//Water,” part of his eclectic trilogy of A
Modern Tragedy EPs, he’d been placed in the pantheon of some of the great political artists,
from Rage Against the Machine to Public Enemy, And yet, grandson was growing evermore
frustrated by how things were playing out in his life and career. “I was dealing with writing these
songs about changing the world and the world not changing,” he says. “My biggest songs are all
written from this fedup empowered place of ‘We’re not going to take this shit anymore.’ And yet
we continue to take this shit over and over again.”

Such feelings ultimately led him to a dark place one where he felt his only option was to
make intensely personal music…. or, well, stop creating altogether. The people around him, he
admits, “could sense a certain desperation from me… that I needed to make really dramatic
changes to how I’m doing things or I’m not going to be able to do it anymore.”

Cue I Love You, I’m Trying: the 12track project, while “incredibly hard” to complete, and an
emotionally exhausting undertaking for grandson, was not only creatively rewarding, he says,
but also entirely necessary in his life. If for nothing else then it allowed him to push forward in
life. “I just got really dangerously close to burning out to a degree I wasn’t sure I could come
back from,” he admits. “When that’s on that table, everyone is more willing and open to let me
do my weird thing.”

The result is a stunning, ambitious achievement, and one that peels back the layers of
grandson’s public persona in ways he never could have imagined. From the jump, the LP for
which grandson penned more than 40 songs and whittled them down to the essentials is a
bold undertaking: for the opening “Two Along Their Way,” grandson repurposed an old
recording his father made a generation ago; the result is a beautiful pianoanchored elegy. “It
sounds the way I want this album to sound and it pays respect to people who are the reason I’m
still here and this theme of all of us just being on this journey alone together,” he offers. It’s
immediately followed by lead single “Eulogy,” a chugging alternative hiphop anthem on which
the singer cries, “Do I exist if I don’t exist on the Internet?”

But it’s the strippedback, highly personal nature of the project that makes I Love You, I’m
Trying such a thrilling ride. Case in point is “Heather,” an exquisite meditation on fandom and
the way in which our relationships with each other are often complex and messy but altogether
beautiful. One of the first songs he wrote for the album, “Heather” explores grandson’s
insecurities with how some fandom might be fleeting. “It’s so scary to have this parasocial
relationship with your fans,” he says. “Sometimes, as an artist, you can feel like a toy that
somebody doesn’t want to play with anymore. You grow up listening to one thing and then you
grow out of it, and we’re still here.”

Taking these new songs to the biggest stages of his career is a thrilling if not nervewracking
proposition. “It’s all I can think about at this point,” he admits. This fear, however, is a necessary
evolution, he says, of his onstage persona. “As I grow dissatisfied or tired of the setlist, I find
myself having to risk more in order to feel connected with the audience. In order to feel like I’m
doing my job. I have to give people a part of myself that is vulnerable.”

It’s this mentality the ability to lay himself bare, to reveal himself to his listeners and bring them
along on the journey with him through life that has grandson excited about what the future
holds. He didn’t always feel this way, so in many ways I Love You, I’m Trying has been his
saving grace. “Being able to write songs and say “Yeah, I’m a little scared of this next chapter of
my life, but I think that’s OK,” that’s what makes me human,” he says. “And being able to give
other people a place to express that kind of thing, it means so much more because we’re going
through all this living together.”