The all-but-unknown 23-year-old’s first music video has struck a chord, getting more than half a million views since it was posted on YouTube July 2, because of its gay-themed storyline.
“I wrote it from the most [pure] genuine place of my soul,” Grand said in an interview with ABC News. “It’s not about being gay. It’s about longing. It’s about that longing for someone.”
The country ballad ”All-American Boy” completely flips the traditional sexual-orientation script and boy-meets-girl romance storyline in music videos today, telling the tale of a gay man’s same-sex campfire crush.
A young gay man and his “all-American” male friend are on a camping trip with friends. The two go skinny dipping alone together in the woods, and even kiss briefly, but the romantic moment is met with a sweet-natured rebuff from the straight guy, leaving the gay man with some classic-country yearning.
Grand said he wrote the song after a similar experience at summer camp left him heartbroken. He is overwhelmed by the attention it has received.
“I funded this myself, because I was so obsessed with telling this story and it has resonated with thousands of people,” Grand said.
Grand bet everything he had on “All-American Boy.” The Chicago native, who had been doing odd jobs from modeling to playing music for church group events, maxed out his credit card to cover the $7,000 production costs.
Grand, who came out to friends as gay in eighth grade, said when his parents heard, they sent him to “straight therapy,” which he attended for five years.
“I felt like I was really a shame to my parents, and I felt like there was no way I could ever make them proud,” he said. “I felt like I was a constant disappointment.”
Music was an outlet for Grand, and now his passion and investment in “All-American Boy” seem to be paying off.
Beyond the viral success, Grand appreciates the hundreds of messages he has received on YouTube and Facebook from others sharing similar stories and praising “All-American Boy.” Even Grand’s parents have come around.
“I’m so moved by my mom. She said, ‘You’re touching so many people, and you’re doing a really beautiful thing and I love you so much and am proud of you,’” Grand said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.