He was one of the first singers to add a country twang to “American Idol,” but Michigan native Josh Gracin doesn’t want only those in 10-gallon hats dancing in the audience at Music Fest Friday, Sept. 13.“A lot of people who don’t listen to country have a view of country music,” the 32-year-old commented during an interview for the radio show “The Relevant University: Toledo.” “I encourage them to come to my live show. It’s more in-your-face, very loud, lots of movement on stage, and happy-go-lucky interaction with the crowd.”
During the interview, it was suggested that fans arrive early, as Gracin, a former Marine who finished fourth during the second season of “American Idol,” expects many from his hometown of Westland, Mich. — about two hours from Toledo — to trek south for his 7:30 p.m. show.
The Music Fest crowd will hear Gracin’s newest single, “Drink it Gone,” described as an anthem celebrating the rowdy fun of “it’s five o’clock somewhere” with a responsible bent.
“Drink it Gone,” also the name of Gracin’s national tour that began in April, is one of several songs to be released as part of an EP this fall. With technology providing a transitional era for music-buyers, Gracin said he and his new recording company, Private Label Studios, debated whether to release a fourth album in an industry dominated by digital media.
“The music business has changed,” Gracin said. “Everybody knows that. Because of iTunes, people download singles more now than they do albums. We’re trying to feel it out, be ahead of the curve.”
His three previous releases — 2004’s self-titled debut, 2008’s We Weren’t Crazy and 2011’s Redemption — have been successful. “Nothin’ to Lose” was a No. 1 smash, and Josh Gracin was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. We Weren’t Crazy produced five chart singles, with the title track peaking in the top 10. Redemption showcased Gracin’s skills as a songwriter, with one tune, “Long Way to Go,” appearing on adult contemporary charts.
“Since Redemption, I’ve been pretty much doing nothing but writing,” Gracin said. “I think that’s the way the industry’s going, seeing artists as actual singer-songwriters rather than singing whatever songwriters pen and interpreting how they wrote it.”
In a tour bus about 200 days of the year, Gracin said he fills his time away from his wife, Ann Marie, and their four children with songwriting and is an active participant in social media, maintaining his own Facebook and Twitter accounts. His posts diverge from leaking new lyrics for feedback, personal revelations (his father was recently diagnosed with cancer), and trying his hand at controversial social commentary.
Following singer/actress Miley Cyrus’ performance on the Video Music Awards Aug. 25, Gracin posted a statement to her father, country singer/actor Billy Ray Cyrus, remarking that she needed her dad “desperately” and that he would no longer allow his 11-year-old daughter to follow Miley’s career.
The post spurred 1,148 comments of differing opinions on Gracin’s Facebook page.
On Aug. 26, Gracin posted an official statement on his website,: “I am in no way passing judgement [sic] on her talent or the way she chooses to perform, but I am making a judgement [sic] call as a parent in regards to what is appropriate for my eleven year old [sic] daughter.”
When asked about his experience on the television show that launched his career as “American Idol” readies for a 13th season, Gracin reminisced fondly: “I believe everything happens for a reason. It was just a coincidence that, after I joined the Marine Corps, of all the places I could get stationed, I get stationed an hour away from where they were filming ‘American Idol.’
“I just got lucky. It definitely was a good experience, definitely a lot of fun, and it really prepared me for what I’m doing now.”