His is not a big name on the music charts, and while some might still be figuring out who this newbie is, Conan Gray might look like just another model off the record industry’s Gen Z. His story is something like the movie Eighth Grade, except with songwriting skills and a fairytale ending you’d never expect.
Singer-songwriter Conan Lee Gray was born on 5 December 1998, in Lemon Grove, California, to an Irish military father and a Japanese mother. He made it to Japan for a few years only to be with his ailing grandfather, which also gave him an opportunity to pick up a few lines of Japanese. His parents, however, divorced when he was three years old. His teenage years were spent in Georgetown, Texas. He was influenced by the art and music scene there and thought of taking the music line seriously after recording a few songs on his official YouTube channel in 2013 when he was barely nine.
In 2014, 14-year-old Conan sat on his bed in Georgetown, recording music all by himself. Like tens of thousands of teens, he had attracted a small but active following on YouTube by uploading short vlogs, photos, drawings, with titles like “Socially Awkward??” and other such notes. He had begun uploading covers of popular songs as well, like a ukulele-assisted rendition of one of his musical influences, Adele’s Make You Feel My Love.
A song called Idle Town, a wistful ode to his senior year of high school and his small town, USA youth, led to his big break. The video for the song cuts between filtered footage of the singer hanging out with his friends, and Gray walking alone down a suburban street while mouthing lyrics into a water bottle, his Chalamet-esque black hair bouncing as he moves with practised ease. He got many good vibes including a few snide remarks, but then he was onto something, so it really didn’t dent his ego.