FLINT, Michigan -- Dylan Grantham describes himself typically as a ‘well of optimism,’ but like most of us, the past year has been a test, both mentally and physically. The Flint indie musician challenged himself to write a song every day for the month of February, and his commitment has paid off already, with the upcoming release of a new double-single, titled A/B
, featuring “Peace of Mind,” and “Sondheim & David,” available for streaming March 26.
Grantham’s indie/alt passion project, Young Ritual, is inspired by Americana songwriters like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Randy Newman. The performer grew up in a very musical family, surrounded and sometimes joining family country and Gospel groups. After attending a Death Cab for Cutie concert, Grantham knew he wanted to make indie rock music, and started a band with his cousins. After that, he started doing his own music as Young Ritual back in late 2015/early 2016.
Grantham spoke about his own songwriting, and what he draws from in his storytelling tracks.
“The core is the emotion and the heart of it,” he said. “I can go into my own experience, like in the pandemic—these songs definitely have isolation painted all over them, but my isolation isn’t the same as somebody else’s isolation.”
is also the darkest release Young Ritual has put out, a lot less glamorous and glittery, according to Grantham, who frequently writes emotional songs about relationships, social commentary, critique, and sometimes, humorous elements.
Initially, the pandemic brought about a new EP, Spare Room,
released bit-by-bit each Monday.Then Grantham hit a wall this past fall and winter. To motivate himself, he decided to embark on a songwriting project, to compose one song a day. Writing and recording at home, this was also the first time he officially collaborated with another musician on a release, teaming up with Grand Rapids-based musician Aaron Senor of Dawning and Michigander.
Dylan Grantham describes himself typically as a ‘well of optimism.’
Lyrically, the two moody, Winter-themed songs focus on nostalgia of a pre-pandemic world, and reflect the self-introspection and work Grantham has done on himself in the past year.
“You get more familiar with your flaws in isolation, and you get more familiar with your strengths,”he said. “I feel like these songs are kind of like an inventory of those for me, like my good habits and my bad habits. More than anything, the songs are about working on yourself, reflecting on yourself, and understanding yourself; which you can do while you’re not in a pandemic. You just kind of were forced to do it more in a pandemic.”
Young Ritual’s last show in Flint was December 2019 at Jack’s Record Stache, and the performer has missed the atmosphere that live music gives to both the artist and the audience.
“I feel like in the live show, I’m just trying to take all of those things, and demonstrate to people that I’m here to engage with you,” he said. “This isn’t some vanity project for you to look at me, and think ‘oh, that’s a really smart lyric, he’s smart, or wow he’s good at guitar, he’s talented.’ I’m here to have us both walk away from this not feeling like this was a one-sided affair. I want people to get drawn into what I’m doing, and if that’s the case, then everyone will have gotten something of value out of it.”
Highlighting the beauty of live music, and the nurturing community has definitely been impactful for this Flint resident, and something he looks forward to resuming safely once able to.
“It’ll be back,” Grantham said. “I think it was something Dave Grohl said something the other day, where he was like, ‘we need that connection, we need live shows.’ There’s nowhere else you get that experience of being in a room of people that you don’t know, but you’re just all on the same wavelength, singing the same songs, and focused on the same thing. It’s an incredibly unique experience. It’s an essential thing that we decided as a society we need.”
“We are all in that moment together,” Grantham said. “There’s no escaping if you’re standing in the back of the room because you’re kind of uneasy about the show, or you came alone, or if you’re in the front row, there’s no escaping that you are there under that roof experiencing the same thing together. And if you want to let go, and fully engage in it, it’s right there for you. I feel like I just try to, in a very literal way, take it to the people.”
Though this release is uncharacteristic of Young Ritual’s traditional sound, Grantham is proud these two songs can stand on their own within his catalogue. Ultimately, no matter the subject matter or genre, the musician’s goal to connect remains steadfast.
“I think my true north whenever I release something is that I’m just trying to make someone feel a little less alone, and feel like they can express how they’re feeling, and talk about it, and that it’s a healthy thing to do.”
You can find Young Ritual on Facebook and Instagram. The latest EP, A/B will be available everywhere to stream on all media platforms Friday, March 26.