There was a time when Andy Grammer couldn't get people to listen to his music.
When he moved to the West Coast, he tried to book clubs.
"No one would some see me play," Grammer said.
So, he took his songs to the streets — a place where people couldn't run away, Grammer said with a laugh.
"It was really a great place to learn," he added. The challenge was to win over indifferent listeners, most of whom were transfixed on cellphone screens.
"You have to be really good for them to stop and listen," he said. He knew he needed to perfect his voice and technique.
After about three years of busking for rent money, Grammer began to get attention for his blend of pop, rock and soul. He signed with S-Curve records and released his self-titled debut in June 2011.
His first two singles — "Keep Your Head Up" and "Fine By Me" — hit Top 10 on Billboard's Adult Pop chart. It had been a decade since another singer — John Mayer in this case — pulled the same feat.
Soon, Grammer was booking clubs and arenas opening for Taylor Swift, Train and Colbie Caillat. It was a bit of an adjustment from the streets, he said, but he was able to glean style pointers from other stars.
Then, Grammer went back home — and spent the next year and a half crafting his follow-up album. "Back Home" became the title of his first single on the forthcoming album and his summer tour.
Grammer's bus had just pulled into El Paso, Texas during a June 11 phone interview. He kicked off his tour the previous night in Phoenix. Grammer was slated to perform Tuesday, June 24, at Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center. But a scheduling conflict forced him to cancel the show.
Grammer, who grew up in upstate New York before relocating to Los Angeles, said he was an "attention hog" as a kid. He did magic and told jokes to make people happy.
Then he said he realized that music could illicite all kinds of emotions.
"It's like a magic wand," he added.
His first album showed him how his art could move people on a grand scale. He hopes to have the same effect with his second album, which is already finished.
"The levels of excitement and happiness are the same," he said. "It still has to serve people in the same way."
So far, Grammer has been pleased with the response. For the kick-off concert in Phoenix he created a set by pairing an old song with a new song.
People didn't only pay attention, they did a pretty good job at picking up the new lyrics, Grammer said.
He plans to continue that setup for subsequent shows.
"Just playing the new music is super exciting," he said. "I'm pumped."
Contact Erin McCracken at 717-771-2051.
Concert update: Andy Grammer was slated to perform Tuesday, June 24, at Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., Spring Garden Township. But a scheduling conflict forced Grammer to cancel the show. For details, contact the Pullo Center at 717-505-8900 or visit ThePulloCenter.com.