Josh Gracin Gets Personal With We Weren't Crazy
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  1. #1

    Exclamation Josh Gracin Gets Personal With We Weren't Crazy

    CMT News
    Josh Gracin Gets Personal With We Weren't Crazy
    Four Years After His Debut Album, American Idol Finalist Offers New Music
    By: Whitney Self

    Josh Gracin burst into the country music limelight in 2004 after earning a spot among the finalists on the second season of American Idol. Not only did his self-titled debut album reach gold status, it also churned out a No. 1 smash, "Nothin' to Lose," as well two other hits, "I Want to Live" and "Stay With Me (Brass Bed)."

    Since that time, Gracin has completed his active duty in the Marines and enjoyed several additions to his family. He says he's now ready to get back to his music and is excited about Tuesday's (April 1) release of his second album, We Weren't Crazy. During a recent interview with, Gracin opened up about his songwriting, fans and fatherhood.

    CMT: It's been four years since your self-titled debut album. Do you fear that this may have affected your fan base or that the time lapse will work against you?

    Josh Gracin : It really does worry me, but the cool thing is, I've continued to tour a lot. There's been people signing on to my MySpace and coming to shows. We've been selling more tickets. Each year, we sell more and more tickets where we go, so the fact that we've been able to build is a good indication for me. It makes me feel a little easier, a little less stressed.

    You've set the bar pretty high for yourself considering your debut album went gold and contained three major hits. Have you set even higher expectations for We Weren't Crazy?

    I hope so. This album is really personal as far as every single song on the album has to do with a particular situation that I've gone through personally or that I've helped out others go through or I've seen happen around me. It's a really a personal time in my life. ... I believe in songs. I believe that every song on the album is a good song you want to listen to, and I'm hoping that my opinion on it translates to everybody else. That's the only thing you can hope for, but I believe that we've put the best group of songs together that not only fit me but tell a story.

    For the first album you were still in the Marines and had to constantly fly back and forth to Nashville while making the record. Since you've been out of the service, do you feel like you've been able to spend more time and energy on this album?

    Yeah, it's more personal. I've had more time. I've been able to write more songs for the album. There's three on there. It's definitely given me a lot more time to really sit down and listen to music and figure out if this is the right stuff ... and we've changed it. It's totally different than the album four years ago.

    The title track, your newest single, is an autobiographical song about young love and taking chances. Talk about your motivation for writing it.

    "We Weren't Crazy" is a song I wrote with Bobby Pinson and Tony Lopacinski, and it's literally 100 percent about my life. It's not about, "Look at me. I'm on stage now." ... It's what I've accomplished as a family, being a husband and a father and having my own family -- and going from parents that said I was crazy for doing it -- until where I'm at now. That's what the song talks about. I was a lot of things growing up, but I wasn't crazy for doing it -- for getting married and having a family.

    What sort of feeling do you think your fans will have from listening to your new album?

    Well, it goes full circle. "Found" is the first cut, and it talks about being away from not having an album out for four years and basically trying to figure out what I want to do, where I want to go and where I am as far as music ...You go through a lot of personal stories in my life. "Livin' It Up" is like, "I'm going to do what's right for me. I'm going to do what's right for my family, and I'm not going to listen to anybody who tells me otherwise." You know, at some point in your life, you've got to stand up and say, "I know what's best for me," and go with it. The album comes full circle and is literally about everything in my life. Hopefully, people who listen to it and go through the same thing realize, "Hey, he's still having fun. He's still loving life. He's still singing."

    The last track is titled "Unbelievable (Ann Marie)." You solely wrote that about your wife. Talk a little bit about what this song means to you.

    I literally wrote it about two and a-half months ago, and that was about three weeks before the album was finished ... I'd written it at 2 o'clock in the morning by myself. There was nobody around, so I couldn't call and have anyone bail me out. So I had to go it alone, and I'm glad I did because there's no better feeling than completing something and everything about it is you.

    You've written or co-written three of the songs on We Weren't Crazy. Do you think you will continue writing?

    I do. I love writing, and the more I get involved in it, the more I can get involved with the writers in Nashville, the better it's going to be for me. I try to learn every day if I can.

    Is it hard for you to juggle having three children and being on the road? How do you handle this?

    The fact is that I have a great wife who is able to do it. That's the bottom line, the easiest way to put it. She is able to balance everything while I'm away -- which makes it easier for me when I'm out there. Yeah, she calls me with problems, and we've got to figure out how to handle it, but for the most part, she does a very good job.


  2. #2

    Exclamation Josh Gracin's crazy ride

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008
    Josh Gracin's crazy ride
    Adam Graham / Detroit News Pop Music Writer

    'American Idol" is the biggest TV show in America, but its track record as a launching pad for successful musical careers is spotty at best. For every bona fide discovery like Kelly Clarkson or Chris Daughtry, there are a half-dozen Anthony Federovs or Anwar Robinsons, contestants who, after the show, fade into the abyss and are never heard from again.

    Josh Gracin was one of the lucky ones. The stocky Westland-bred Marine from the show's second season parlayed his "Idol" exposure into a promising country career, and his self-titled 2004 album spawned three hit singles, "I Want to Live," "Nothin' to Lose" and "Brass Bed." It went gold, selling more than 697,000 copies, only 4,000 fewer than fifth season "Idol" champ Taylor Hicks.

    Gracin's career seemed to be taking off, but a funny thing happened on the way to his second album. Singles were released to radio and quickly fizzled, and more than two years of release dates -- an eternity in the music biz -- came and went. The album, originally titled "All About Y'All," was eventually scrapped and re-recorded.

    Now -- on April Fools' Day, of all days -- Gracin's second album, "We Weren't Crazy," is finally hitting stores, and Gracin is hoping the joke's not on him.

    "I was very disappointed when it didn't come out, but like everything else in my life, it seems to have worked out for my benefit," says Gracin, 27, munching on a burger at Red Robin earlier this month. "If I would have come out and had two hits in a row, a lot of the problems I had -- as far as people around me, as far as myself, where my head was at -- it would have been a disaster."

    He avoids getting into specifics, but he hints at butting heads with those in his inner circle as the "We Weren't Crazy" drama unfolded, as well as the near-decimation of his marriage to his high school sweetheart in the same time period. Ultimately, he says, the situation humbled him, made him re-evaluate his attitude, and helped him avoid being dragged through "a downplayed, countrified version of what Britney Spears is going through now" -- a mess that would have wiped him out physically, mentally and creatively.
    Discovering country

    Gracin, the middle child of five -- he has four sisters, ages 34 to 21 -- grew up listening to oldies and pop music in his family's one-story Westland home. He had no occasion to listen to country music until 1992, when local radio station WDFX-FM (99.5) -- at the time, a Top-40 outlet -- pulled a stunt and played Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places" on a continuous loop for several days.

    Brooks' country twang, entirely foreign to Gracin at the time, piqued his interest and left him wanting more. "That was the turning point," he says.

    Gracin became a fan of Brooks, and ended up performing "Standing Outside the Fire" at his eighth-grade talent show at Adlai Stevenson Middle School. It was a risk performing country music for his peers, who were mostly into pop and hip-hop. But he did it -- affecting his best Metro Detroit country accent -- and, to his surprise, it went over extremely well with his classmates.

    "Everyone was standing up and clapping," he says, "and that's when I knew I wanted to be on stage singing country music."

    Gracin continued to perform at talent shows and in school plays, including his high school's production of "Ducktails & Bobbysox."

    After graduating from John Glenn High School in 1998, he briefly attended Western Michigan University before joining the United States Marine Corps. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton outside of San Diego, Calif., and served as an MOS 3043, a supply administration and operations clerk, tracking shipping and receiving orders.

    While in the Marines, Gracin tried out for "American Idol" at the urging of his wife, Ann Marie. The crew cut-wearing Gracin had talent, but he also had a gimmick: He was a Marine, and season two was airing as America was entering into a war with Iraq. In the end, the timing played into Gracin's hands. "I'm not na´ve enough to think it was just my talent" that got him on the show, Gracin says.

    He finished fourth on "Idol," behind Kimberly Locke, Clay Aiken and winner Ruben Studdard. After the show, he signed with Disney-owned Lyric Street Records -- home to one of Gracin's favorite acts, Rascal Flatts -- and released his debut album in June 2004. Success followed, and Gracin played concerts with Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins and more.

    A follow-up was recorded and was slated to be released in 2006. But when its first single, "Favorite State of Mind" -- a fun, highly-charged rocker that name checks nearly every state in the Union -- stalled at radio, the album entered a holding pattern that lasted more than two years.
    Personal struggles

    Gracin is a different man than he was two years ago -- literally. He started gaining weight a few months before leaving the Marines in 2004 and eventually bulked up to 285 pounds, but he's shed 65 pounds in the last 13 months. And he's now well on his way to his target weight of 200 pounds.

    He's also different mentally. After the success of his debut album, "I was getting full of myself, I really was," he says. "I couldn't lay back and let things happen, I was always pushing for more. And I had to learn it's OK to push for more, but when you come across as not appreciating the people around you and what they're doing for you, that's bad."

    Gracin says during this time his attitude soured toward the music industry, and Nashville's "just be the artist" mind-frame in particular. Had the second album been released and become a hit, "I would have been in a really bad place, because it would have been justifying my behavior, and that's the worst thing you can do."

    He says the bickering with his label and the industry machine led to fractured relationships that are still being patched. And now he's faced with an even bigger fight, trying to re-stoke the interest of an often-fickle public, four years after his last album appeared on store shelves.

    The 11-song "We Weren't Crazy" was held due to timing issues, says Lyric Street publicist Cindy Heath, to "ensure Josh the best opportunities for continued success."

    Tim Roberts, program director at WYCD-FM (99.5), says Gracin can still win the fight.

    "He makes good song choices, and has a good sense of making mass-appeal music," says Roberts, who has booked Gracin to headline one of the nights of May's Downtown Hoedown, Gracin's third appearance at the annual festival.

    Roberts notes it's difficult to climb back from the kind of strife that has already greeted "We Weren't Crazy" -- "these days in radio, you're only as good as your last record; you don't get a hall pass anymore," he says -- he thinks the material on the album will help him win out. "I don't think it's going to hurt him. I hear some good singles on there, and if they pick the right single, he's going to be in good shape."

    The album is garnering positive reviews; Billboard's Ken Tucker calls the album "a solid follow-up" and says "Unbelievable (Ann Marie)" -- a song Gracin penned for his wife -- "might be this decade's 'Amazed,' " a reference to Lonestar's monster 1999 smash which, ironically, Gracin sang on "Idol."
    Right decision

    Gracin's relationship with his wife has been as rocky as the road to "We Weren't Crazy's" release. Two years ago, he gave his ring back to her and was ready to call it quits, following months of fighting stemming from his being on the road and her being at home with their children. Now, he knows sticking it out was the right thing to do. Listening to the new album's "I Don't Want to Live" -- "I admit I was wrong all along, now you're gone with all that I'd been living for/ I don't wanna live without you, anymore" -- Gracin says, "I know I made the right decision every time I hear this song."

    "We Weren't Crazy" includes three songs Gracin wrote or co-wrote, songs which made it on the album only after the delays took hold and the album was re-recorded. In that sense, Gracin says he's pleased the record hit the roadblocks it did, and says they helped make a better album.

    "It's all about having an album you can listen to front to back, and when this gets out there, hopefully that's what people will see," he says.

    "I'm happy the down happened before the release of the album," says Gracin, optimistically. "I think we had to go through the down before we could go back up."

    You can reach Adam Graham at (313) 222-2284, or at


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