LEMONT – When Lemont resident Steve Grand spent $7,000 to make a music video for the song “All-American Boy,” his expectations were simple.
“I just wanted to make something beautiful that told the story that I felt that resonated with people emotionally,” he said.
The video has tallied more than 1 million views on YouTube and earned notice for being a rare country music video that tells a love story from a gay perspective.
Grand – who sings and plays piano and guitar – is the lead character in the video, which is a story of unrequited love between a man and his straight friend.
Grand started playing piano when he was 6 as a result of a childhood obsession with Schroeder from the “Peanuts” cartoons.
His father later introduced him to rock ‘n’ roll and classic artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. He started writing songs by age 11.
Grand graduated from Lemont High School in 2008 and attended Belmont University in Nashville for a year before moving home and pursuing a music career.
He had made cover music videos in his house before, Grand said, but came to the decision in June that he would not be satisfied with his life without trying to release an original song.
“It has always been my goal to perform my own music live and have an audience there who knows the lyrics and wants to sing along,” he said.
He scraped together the money he had and worked quickly to release the video before the Fourth of July, he said.
Grand said he was surprised by the song’s widespread classification as country music, but doesn’t mind the label because “at the heart of it, country is just good storytelling.”
His mother, Debra Grand, said she is not surprised by her son’s musical success.
“I know he was put on this earth to make a difference,” she said. “If this is the way, I’m truly behind him in getting this message out.”
For Grand, growing up gay in Lemont was tough.
“When I was growing up, I did not feel welcome to really be myself,” he said.
His mother said she feels bad for the experiences he went through.
“When he was growing up, it wasn’t talked about,” she said.
Besides performing at music venues in Chicago, Grand makes a living playing piano at churches, including two in Lemont.
Grand initially was worried that making the music video would jeopardize his job. But, as of last week, he said he still is playing at the churches, including Ss. Cyril and Methodius, where his family attends Mass.
Grand plans to keep writing music and eventually release a full album. He said he has received several offers from record labels but plans to stay independent for now.
“I did this myself, and I feel like I would have never wanted it to be any other way,” he said. “I gave up everything to do this. I have plenty of more music and a lot more to say. This is just the starting point.”