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Conan Gray Touches the Hearts of Listeners Through Emotional Songs

By: Alice Cai

Sitting in his apartment in Los Angeles, Conan Gray writes a few nostalgic lines. He starts laughing after pausing to recollect that he had written such lyrics when he was only 12 years old. Gray continues on with his arms outstretched and hair pulled back tightly.

Conan Gray is a 23-year-old pop singer who started his career by posting his videos on YouTube. Now, much of his success comes from his ability to connect to his listeners through both his songwriting and the emotional timbre of his voice. “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 Eddie Wintle, Gray’s manager. His songs speak to his audience through their themes of unrequited love or acceptance of heartbreak, exemplified in both “Heather” and “Yours”.

Gray’s parents split when he was 3, and they were constantly on the move throughout his childhood before settling in Georgetown, Texas. As part of the community’s Asian minority group, he did not have it easy and looked to music as a form of self-expression. On YouTube, he uploaded videos, from vlogs to song covers, and amassed a couple hundred thousand subscribers. In 2017, Gray’s song “Idle Town” blew up online, and he signed with Republic Records.

Gray’s songs are inspired by his own experiences or ones of the people around him. For example, Conan Gray’s time spent eavesdropping on a couple in college, inspiring his song “People Watching” in which he admires a happy relationship. “I’ve always been much more of an observer of life than a participant,” he said, “I live vicariously through other people living their lives, and being able to witness them.”

Despite his emergence in the music industry, performing at Coachella, and attending the Met Gala, Conan Gray still has feelings of self-consciousness and doubt. “In the past few years, I’ve really grown to see that I have to let myself make mistakes, if I want to grow and not be this stunted human being,” he said. He explores that concept in his latest album, Superache.

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