Recently, I sat down to have a chat with Pat Grossi, singer for Active Child, in Reykjavik, Iceland at the annual Iceland Airwaves Festival. Like many other international performers at the festival, this was his first time performing in Iceland.
How does it feel to be in Iceland?
It’s nice to be in a Nordic country. It’s like Ikea: so clean and organized.
What was your first thought when you heard about being selected to play at the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival?
I was super excited to come to Iceland because I’d seen some imagery of parts of the country on Planet Earth, and I’d already been interested in visiting. I started doing more research as soon as I found out I was booked. I even got the chance to drive around the island a couple days before my show, so it’s been like a little vacation for me.
Do you find the country inspiring?
Definitely. I think I’m equally as inspired by imagery (like landscapes and nature) as I am by music and sounds. It’s been really fun to drive through desolate, empty places by myself. It’s been nice to get away from everything for a little bit because it’s been kind of hectic over the last few months… promoting the album and doing our first headlining tour in the U.S. But it was good to get that under the belt; it went really well.
How long have you been a musician?
I grew up singing in the choir: the Philadelphia Boys Choir. I did that from 9 to 13 years of age. Back then, I don’t think I was a musician by any means; I think that was just when I became a singer. Then I started making music – I played instruments like the piano, guitar and harp – but I didn’t really start to focus on it until college, about 8 years ago. I bought my first microphone and my first preamp… and computer programs for my old PC. That was the first time I felt like I had something I could do. I had a lot of friends around me who were making music. I’d make music with them, but I’d never sat down and recorded anything. They encouraged me to start doing my own stuff. That group of musician friends was very inspiring to me. I think it was around that time that I started to become a musician.
Is your family musical?
Not really. My mom can’t sing, but she likes to try to sing. My dad can sing. He’s worked in the record industry for like thirty years, and he’s a huge music lover. But no one plays instruments. No one really is that musical, so I’m kind of doing my own thing.
How did they react to your decision to take a career as a musician?
I think initially they were shocked. I lived in Denver for about 7 years, and I wrote a bunch of music there. But then I moved just cause I was ready to be in a new place and start doing something else. They were like, “What do you want to do?” and I told them I had some songs and wanted to keep writing more songs. I think my mom was a little shocked at first, but I played them for her and I think she could hear there was something behind them and maybe my music could go somewhere… My mom is now pretty much my publicist and my dad is my confidante for anything. He helps me with all my accounting. They’ve been incredible. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
What is it like to headline a tour around the U.S.?
I think there are always levels of stress. The first headlining tour was pretty stressful because I’d done five tours before then but always as a supporting act. There’s a certain veil you can hide behind when you’re a supporting act… “I’m here, I’m gonna do my thing, and hopefully people will really enjoy it.” Almost always it was a great experience and people enjoyed it. But being thrown on the headline bill, there’s pressure to make the live performance stronger and make everything better to live up to the hype. People were very curious, and I think it worked out well. I think people will continue to be impressed by what we’re doing… hopefully.
How do you get away from it all?
You don’t. That’s the thing. But it’s like a blessing to be doing this. I can’t even imagine what bigger artists, who are constantly wrapped up in this world of music manager and label, go through. There’s always something happening. I’m in Iceland now, but I go to Norway tomorrow and then London and Japan in December and Australia. I get to travel the world and play my music, which is unreal.
How do you keep your voice in shape?
I thought I was gonna get sick on tour – usually, you get about a week and a half in and you get a cold. You stay out too late, you’re hungover, and then you’re just screwed. Everyone else got sick but me. I don’t know how that happened because we’re in a van like ten hours a day. My voice has managed to survive.
I saw this George Harrison documentary that just came out, and there’s this scene in which he’s talking about him and all these other classic singers. He talks about a drink with vinegar, honey, and hot water. It sounds like an obvious way to prevent losing your voice – except for the vinegar, but apparently that’s really good for your voice. I also have a buddy, Tom Krell from How to Dress Well, who uses oregano oil or something? Some sort of oil. He’s like, “You should get some, dude.” I just quite smoking a few weeks ago. I got to the point where I told myself, “You’re an idiot. Why are you smoking? You’ve got to take care of your own voice.” Luckily I haven’t gotten sick.
What other musicians are you interested in or inspired by?
Lots of people. I’m touring with M83, and I’ve been a huge fan of his for years and years and years, so it’s just a little bit surreal that I’m actually touring with him. I think he can probably hear that a lot of my synth stuff and soundscapes are inspired by him. I also had the chance to meet Owen Pallett; I am also a big fan of Final Fantasy and the albums that he’s put out under his own name. I think he’s a super talented guy as far as his composition and lyrics, which form these crazy stories. He’s a really cool guy. I also listen a lot to this guy Nico Muhly, who does similar kinds of crazy compositional works – even moreso… kind of abstract stuff.