'American Idol' star Josh Gracin opens up
About being a Marine
Published: June 24, 2014
There were certainly plenty of people paying attention to Gracin, as he came off of that show and put out a self-titled debut album in 2004, followed by We Weren’t Crazy in 2008, and Redemption in 2011, along with a bunch of hit singles.
“I remember Josh from American Idol,” says local country singer Mandi Layne. “I remember rooting for him, as not only do I think he has a great voice but he’s from my neck of the woods. It gave me hope knowing that performers from my area can make it in Nashville. He’s also an ex-Marine, which automatically scored high in my book. Anyone who risks his or her life for our country and our freedom holds a high rank with me. I really enjoy his voice and style. I haven’t heard too much from him in the past few years, but I know that he released a new song ‘Drink It Gone’ in 2013, and I’m a sucker for a good drinking song.”
Nowadays, Gracin lives with his family in Nashville, which makes complete sense if you’re a country musician who’s already achieved some success. He keeps a keen eye on his home state, though. “Michigan’s always going to be my home,” he says. “I’m still hugely supportive of all the sports teams — that’s never changed and never will change. I’m die-hard when it comes to that. I’m die-hard when it comes to defending Michigan and talking about Michigan to the people down here.”
When we ask him what he thinks of Detroit’s ongoing financial difficulties, Gracin heats up again. “I keep tabs on everything,” he says. “This is the problem with politics nowadays. People vote based on pride, party pride, rather than what’s best for people as a whole. They also vote on what’s good for ‘me’ rather than the big picture. So when I see articles with journalists blaming this person and this person, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We’re the ones who voted these people in. It was our responsibility, and we failed at that responsibility big-time. We’ve failed at that responsibility for the last 50 years. That’s why Detroit’s in the situation that it’s in. It’s not the crooks’ fault; crooks are going to be crooks. We voted them in and gave them the power to do it.”
Thanks to American Idol, Gracin was, for a while, as much a celebrity as he was a musician. Much of that has died down now, and he’s able to focus on his music. Still, there are plenty of articles and blogs online on the subject of his weight and inane crap like that. How does someone handle that sort of bullshit?
“People are gonna say what they want to say,” he says. “My grandpa put me aside one time and he said, ‘What do critics do?’ I said, ‘Well, they critique your stuff, put holes in it, things like that.’ He said, ‘Why do they have time to do that?’ I said, ‘Because it’s their job.’ He goes, ‘Critics are people that can’t do what you do, never will be able to do what you do, are too ugly, have no talent, or no personality to do what you do, so don’t worry about what they say.’ That’s as blunt as he put it, and that’s what I live by.”
It’s another great example of just how surprisingly biting Gracin can be. He may be anti-Obama, a military man, and a country boy, but Gracin is no redneck and he’s no fool. He thinks about his answers carefully and he offers them with grace, even when the subject is something he’s passionate about. Again, you don’t have to agree with him to like him.
On Thursday, Gracin headlines the Budweiser National Stage at the Stars & Stripes Festival in Sterling Heights, back in front of his hometown peeps. “I’ll be coming in, doing some hits, doing some new stuff, some cover stuff — we’ve got this cool Aerosmith medley thing that we’ve been doing for a while now,” he says. “We’ll just come in and have fun. We play our set and make sure people are rocking out in the crowd.”
After that, he’ll be continuing to tour, and get to work on his fourth album. It’s worth making a final note that Gracin’s songs are generally about girls, love, romance, and (occasionally) drinking. But in conversation, he talks hard and fast about real issues. Maybe a chance of lyrical subject matter would yield some raucous results. For now, just be happy with the knowledge that Gracin isn’t just a country mannequin with husky pipes.
Josh Gracin plays on the Stars and Stripes Festival’s Budweiser National Stage at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 26, at Freedom Hill, 14900 Metropolitan Pkwy., Sterling Heights; 586-268-9700; starsandstripesfest.com; the festival runs through Sunday, June 29, and is free.
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