There’s a song you’ve heard this summer. A lot.
It’s the one with the foot-stomping driving beat and the get-on-your-feet claps. It’s got those “nah nahs” in the chorus that earworm into your brain, its receptors subsequently branding an instant smile on your face. It’s that song in all those commercials, performed on all those talk shows, and on the radio all the time.
It’s Andy Grammer’s toe-tapping “Honey, I’m Good,” a country-fried pop sunshine burst that has been improbably rising on the music charts and in our collective conscious for nearly nine months since it became the breakout single off the singer-songwriter’s sophomore LP Magazines or Novels, released in August 2014.
Now the song lives in the Top 10 of both the Billboard and iTunes singles charts and, thanks to the hustling of its 31-year-old Chris Isaak doppelganger of a performer, it is among the crop of contenders duking out it for the coveted crown of Song of the Summer.
With the song’s catchy hook infiltrating the minds of new listeners with every subsequent play at Duane Reade, “Honey, I’m Good” could be this year’s version of “Happy,” the omnipresent and inescapable Pharrell track from last year that staged its blockbuster success on its message of positivity—the musical breath of fresh air in a summer of music usually polluted by overly sexual club bangers and whatever cacophony LMFAO may have unleashed that season.
As the ceaselessly grinning Grammer tells me repeatedly over the course of a lunch at Manhattan’s Little Beet Table, it’s the song’s positive message and content that is the driving force in its steady, months-long rise. And, despite my constant skepticism over this point, he insists that, yes, his song about being married and lusting after a hot girl’s ass—but deciding to go home to your wife anyway instead of cheating—is positive.
“There’s something in there about temptation that is striking a chord with everybody,” he says. “It’s an honest take on how it’s hard in a relationship to stay true to somebody. I think it’s romantic to acknowledge that it’s difficult and still push it away, you know what I mean?”
In case you’ve somehow not heard “Honey, I’m Good” despite its cultural ubiquity—and please, tell us what life is like under that rock—here’s a sample of the song lyric that Grammer is talking about, and that so many people are relating to:
“I got her, and she got me / And you’ve got that ass, but I kindly / Gotta be like oh, baby, no, baby, you got me all wrong, baby / My baby’s already got all of my love.”
Grammer admits that he has received a bit of criticism for the song on Twitter, tweets like, “Andy, do you want a cookie for not cheating on your wife?” But he maintains that the song is rooted in love and happiness in a relationship, and made all the more resonant by acknowledging what so many people face in reality.
“It’s an homage to the beast inside everybody,” he says. “You have that in you. There’s a hot waitress over there right now and I’m trying not to look at her right at this moment. And that’s OK! I think it’s OK to talk about it and be open and honest. Yeah, my wife’s awesome. She’s incredible and I’m going to be with her until I die. That doesn’t mean that I will never see a hot girl again.”
For Grammer, the success of “Honey, I’m Good” surpasses anything in his career thus far. He previously made a splash with his song “Keep Your Head Up” after it was showcased in a scene in Pitch Perfect. (It’s what the a cappella groups all sing together at the mixer early in the film).
But while that song is, in the Andy Grammer way, just as tuneful, catchy, and, most importantly, positive as “Honey, I’m Good,” the slow surge of that track—rare in an age of breakout hits and songs that go viral—is a mystery even to him.
Though he’s finally worked out a way to articulate it.
“Have you ever been surfing?” he asks, all but ensuring that this metaphor will be falling on deaf ears. (Don’t worry, he saves it.)
“I’ve been surfing several times and I’m terrible at it,” he continues. “But what I found was that you’re usually waiting on the board, hanging out, watching the waves come in. And one that you think is a big wave is not actually one. So you’re sitting there like, ‘It’s coming! It’s coming!’ and then when it gets to you it kind of dies over.”
Before he continues, he takes a self-satisfied breath, almost a Zen-like moment of silence to soak in and appreciate his own success. “And then once in a while you get the wave that actually is big,” he says. “And if you’re lucky enough to actually get up and ride it, it’s the best thing in life. Right now we have a legitimate hit, and, man, it’s really fun.”
Just before our chat, Grammer had a marathon three-week stretch, performing on Dancing With the Stars twice and the American Idol finale. This month, he’s performing as part of the Today show’s summer concert series, a lineup that includes the likes of pop supernovas Jennifer Lopez, Meghan Trainor, and Pitbull.
He’s in the midst of a bona fide career “moment”—his song “Back Home” was even used to introduce the New York Rangers during the NHL playoffs—and it’s one in the narrative of one of those profile-ready Hollywood journeys that never happen in real life, but happened with him.
After growing up a little more than an hour outside of New York City (and the son of a Grammy-nominated children’s singer), Grammer moved to West Hollywood in Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. He worked as a valet and busked on the side, but soon realized that he could make essentially as much money crooning on the sidewalk as he did parking cars, and made street performing his full-time job.
“It sucked to make my own CDs,” Grammer remembers. “I’m bad at that. It sucks to figure out how to power my amp. I don’t know that stuff. So I’m at an electronic shop asking Bob to help me. Just forcing the world to a place where I get to sing.”
It took a lot of confidence, to be sure—particularly after the one afternoon when he was rehearsing alone in his apartment and heard a knock on his door. He opened it to find sticky notes hanging on it saying, “Your voice sucks. Please stop. Give up on the dream.”
“There was nobody at the door,” he remembers. “There wasn’t even a person I could just call a dick. It was almost like the world was saying it, sending that message. So there was a lot of fighting through your own doubt of yourself.”
Grammer was eventually discovered while busking—the singer-songwriter’s dream—and signed to S-Curve Records. By 2010, “Keep Your Head Up” was getting him booked on his first talk shows and gigs as the opening act for the likes of Plain White T’s, Natasha Bedingfield, and Colbie Caillat. Currently, he’s headlining the biggest tour of his career.
“It’s really fun to have the spotlight and feel ready for it,” he says. “Not in a conceited way. But just like, man, I think I’m going to give you what you need.”
He’s a member of the Baha’i faith, which emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind, and when I mention the astonishing, almost addictive, upbeat nature of Grammer’s demeanor—not to mention in all of his music—he shrugs. “I’m just a happy guy.”
It’s not easy to be relentlessly happy, he concedes, in music or in life. He says he wrote 101 songs for Magazines or Novels before he felt he had his huge hit; that 101st song was “Honey, I’m Good.”
“It’s just a really hard needle to thread,” he says. “If you try to say something good it usually falls into cheesy land and nobody wants to be pushed there. The songs that are positive that cut through that and somehow aren’t cheesy—people need that. A song like ‘Happy’ from Pharrell. Or ‘Keep Your Head Up.’”
The “secret sauce,” he says, to his songs and also to his outlook on life, is acknowledging the rotten aspects of life—temptation to cheat on “Honey, I’m Good” or having to put on a brave face in depressing circumstances on “Keep Your Head Up”—and pledging to be happy in spite of them.
He credits losing his mother six years ago to arriving at that place. “In my life, it had been pretty easy,” he says, listing off a résumé that includes homecoming king and basketball star. “If someone was ever unhappy I’d be like, ‘You should just be happy. I don’t get it.’”
His mother’s death put that mindset in a more brutally realistic perspective. “You deal with something so heavy that totally breaks you down, it’s a grounding element to my optimism,” he says. “And optimism in spite of tragedy is awesome.”
“Being hit at 25 with my mom being gone, a full two years of being the quiet guy at the table and coming back into myself, having that as a grounding element is really important to the message I try get across,” he continues.
And then, somehow, still with an earnest smile: “It was a hell of a thing to go through.”