It’s early March, and the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee is brimming with anticipation. The electric atmosphere suits the church pew-lined venue — the crowd reverently, rapturously welcomes Conan Gray when he finally appears.
The stage is decked out with a massive, boxy screen, and Gray subverts expectations by climbing atop the screen and beginning his set on this stage-upon-the-stage. It’s dramatic, it’s glamorous, and it’s the sort of show everyone is there to see.
Gray is still just a Texas boy at the end of the day, and he excitedly asks the Tennessee crowd to give him a “yee-haw” by way of greeting. Dressed in an oversized white silk shirt, flared denim, and heeled Chelsea boots, signature dark curls framing his face, he makes an effort to address every single person in the audience, even if it’s just with a smile, a greeting, or a moment of eye contact. He’s talking to everyone like they’re his best friends. He also looks like a pop star.
Gray’s debut studio album, Kid Krow, dropped in March of 2020, confirming him as a verifiable pop artist exploding far beyond a solid breakout aided by TikTok.
“For the past two years, I have not been able to see, with my own eyes, all the change that’s happened because of the album coming out,” he says between sips of coffee, speaking to Consequence on the eve of his tour kickoff. “This is the first time seeing the difference in my life, seeing how much has changed. It’s going to be a very special night to be able to hear people sing these songs.”
It’s clear that Gray’s specific strain of pop music, which is heartfelt, brutally honest, and nostalgic, means something to the young people in the audience and his listeners beyond those walls. He tells Consequence that inspiration has never been a problem for him; writing has always just been what he did and how he processed the world around him. He writes all his songs in his bedroom with his guitar, illustrating the point when the screen onstage opens to reveal a second set — a recreation of said bedroom.
This doesn’t mean the writing process has always been a walk in the park, though. “Making this album was absolutely miserable. I hated every second of it,” he recalls of the time spent working on his upcoming LP. He mined the more sensitive subjects in his past that he didn’t think he’d ever have to discuss in detail.