Conan Gray, Rising Pop Star
By: Sydney Xiong
Conan Gray wrote his first song called “Those Days” when he was twelve. He wrote it
about the time he spent in a small town in Texas called Rockdale. One of the lyrics read “And I
know you really didn’t like the way I cried your name/But I hope you really didn’t mind the way
I was those days.”
The song was written when Gray was 12 years old, and it was written about when he was
7. The idea that he adopted such a knowing perspective at such a young age quickly elicited some laughter amongst fans. Gray, now 23, has built a large audience across social media platforms by singing about emotions widely known to young people. Namely, “Heather,” one of his more popular songs, discusses unrequited love and is about his envy for a girl that is dating his crush.
In this sense, he does not seem to be dissimilar from the rest of the Gen Z pop singer-songwriters who utilized the internet to grow in popularity. However, Gray stands out from the
rest of the pack with his songwriting; instead of solely writing about his feelings, he can perceive a larger perspective, as well as accept the melancholic cooldown that inevitably follows a heartbreak. In a song called “Yours” in his new album Superache, the lyrics “I want more/But I’m not yours/And I can’t change your mind/But you’re still mine,.” explain his
experiences from an unbalanced romance.
“Part of what makes Conan is the way he’s connecting so directly to this entire generation
of kids who grew up on the internet,” said Gray’s manager, Eddie Wintle, who's been managing Gray with his partner Colette Patnaude since 2016. “As long as he continues to do that, I feel that the sky’s the limit in terms of what he can achieve.”
Gray explains that his new album “wasn’t a fun album to make,”, as his emotions were
occasionally overwhelming. He described it as:
“My first album, it was a lot easier because I was just introducing myself — ‘Hi, my name
is Conan, I’m 19 years old and I’ve had my heart broken one time,’” he said. “But then the second album was like, ‘Oh God, now I actually have to tell people who I really am.’”
Gray’s debut album Kids Krow was released in March 2020, right before the COVID-19
pandemic caused a global quarantine. A planned tour was canceled, and during this pandemic, “Superache” was recorded in bits and pieces over the 18-month period where Gray stayed indoors and “spent two years of just thinking too much.”
“It took a while to figure out what we were making,” said Dan Nigro, the producer of
Superache who worked on nearly all of Gray’s music videos. The turning point came in February 2021, where the singles “Astronomy” and “People Watching.” were completed. “This felt like a new iteration of Conan that was more mature than ‘Kid Krow,’” said Nigro “It gave us the confidence to be like, ‘OK, we have the beginnings of something really special.’”
In the past few months, Gray has stepped into the spotlight of the music industry,
performing at Coachella and attending Met Galas. As a Taylor Swift fan growing up, he has been called personally to promote her music and has also befriended Olivia Rodrigo, another high-profile pop singer.