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Lady Gaga had a question for Greyson Chance: “Hey, do you still play that song?”
The superstar was inquiring about “Paparazzi,” Chance’s cover of her early hit, the one that made him an overnight sensation, a YouTube star backed by Ellen DeGeneres, when he was a sixth grader from Oklahoma.
“Occasionally,” Chance answered. Gaga responded by politely recommending he stop. “‘Listen, your version of it is really good. But you shouldn’t play that anymore,'” Chance recounts Gaga telling him. “You should play your original songs, because you’re a really talented artist, and you don’t need that song anymore.’
“Once Lady Gaga tells you to do something, I follow quite willingly,” he continues. “She has always been somebody who has been around for me through every chapter of my career. I owe so much to her.”
In other words, don’t expect “Paparazzi” on the upcoming Trophies World Tour, which includes a stop on Friday, July 16, at D.C.’s Union Stage. Instead, Chance focuses on the original hits he’s had in the years since, including his newest batch of pop songs written over the course of the last two years for his new EP Trophies.
“I was very inspired when I was writing this record of just how I was feeling as the world was, in one way or another, crumbling around me,” Chance says. “I felt a lot of anxiety. I felt a lot of self-doubt. And the way I navigated it was really through this record. It’s been really cool to share it with the world…hearing fans’ similar sentiments about how they felt in isolation and in the pandemic.
“With Trophies,” he continues, “it was interesting because I was listening to a lot of Tanya Tucker, and a lot of older country from the ’60s — I wasn’t listening to that for sonic inspiration, I just was really inspired by Tanya Tucker because she started out at like 14 years old. She put out a record last year that I thought was so brilliant. And I just needed to see an artist — I needed to understand longevity, and to remind myself that I really have been around for a long time.”
Chance has been in the public eye for almost half of his life. “I’m 23 years old now, but I got signed to my first record deal when I was twelve, which is such a crazy thing sometimes to wrap my head around.”
His career launched at such warp speed and at such a young age, Chance says those beginnings are a bit of a blur now.
“It’s hard for me to remember certain things because it was so chaotic and so crazy,” he says about the rapid-fire series of events that took place in May of 2010, starting with a homemade video of him performing “Paparazzi” at a piano in his middle school gymnasium that went viral and garnered buzz from Perez Hilton, Ashton Kutcher, Ryan Seacrest, and Ellen DeGeneres, who went on to feature him on The Ellen Show and also signed him for her short-lived record label. “It was really overnight when it all happened,” he says. “I was really blessed to have a good family support system around me during that period.”
That family support system also made his coming-out process a few years later easier — far easier than you might expect, given that it all went down in Red-state Oklahoma.
“There’s always an assumption when you’re from Oklahoma,” he says. “When I tell people I’m gay in any of the big cities, people go, ‘Oh my gosh, was it okay?’ And they sort of look at you really sad for a second. In my situation, I was so blessed and I was so fortunate to come from a very, very loving family. I had a pretty easy go coming out to my family and friends. Where I actually had the most anxiety was actually coming out publicly.
“I came out to close family and friends when I was 16 years old, and then I took two years to do it publicly. It took me two years to realize that I needed to stand up on my platform so I could help younger fans, so I could help people out there who are from where I’m from and who know the journey that so many of my friends have had to go through, which is devastating and hard. It just took me some time to feel confident in that. Once I did that, the support has been amazing.”
These days, Chance continues to maintain a part-time home in Oklahoma as well as in Los Angeles. “Oklahoma has always served as a place where I can feel the most relaxed, the most incubated in my work. I feel the most inspired and creative out there.”
His Trophies World Tour actually kicked off early a few weeks ago with a performance at Oklahoma Pride — which also marked his first live show since the pandemic hit. “It was so crazy. I was onstage literally looking at my guitar player so many different times, going, ‘Where the hell are we?’ It felt like a dream just to be back on stage again after so, so long.” Chance is looking forward to making his return to D.C., one of the first stops on the tour.
“I actually share a connection to D.C.,” he says. “My sister lives there — she used to live in Dupont, but she lives in Alexandria now — and I’ve spent so much time in D.C. over the years. I love the queer culture in D.C. It’s very, very inspiring to see how people are just so proud in D.C. They’re proud to live there. They’re proud to take care of it and take care of the other people in the queer community. And I feel just great energy when I’m in D.C. And performance-wise, it’s always a very rowdy crowd, which is a good time for me.”
Chance also remembers D.C. fondly as one of the places where he felt the most love shortly after coming out publicly in 2017. “‘Wow, the queer community showed up for me in this town,’ I remember thinking when I was first on tour again after coming out. All of that has been really, really special.”
Throughout a recent phone conversation, Chance’s voice carries a palpable sense of ebullience, an agreeable disposition he credits to the successful launch of Trophies.
“You have to understand, everybody is really, really excited for the artist on release day, which was [a week ago] for me. An artist is never really, really happy until a few days after the release, which is where you’re catching me right now because everything went well. The record is out. The fans have it. There were no mistakes. I didn’t trip on my platforms the night I was playing my show. Everything is good. So you’re just catching me in a very happy time.
“But,” he adds, “I would be more than happy to talk to you six months into the studio process, when I’m depressed and watching horror movies and binge-eating all the snacks, trying not to cry anymore. I’ll let you see that side of me, too.”
Also playing a major role in brightening his spirits at the moment: the fact that he’s finally getting back on the road to perform live. “I’m so excited for this tour, just to really share that connection with people. It’s something that I’ve missed so much the past year and a half. Ultimately, you’re talking to a very happy artist, who’s ready to get back to what he knows and what he loves best.”
Not being able to perform during the pandemic took a toll on Chance just as it did for so many other artists who thrive on live interaction.
“Honestly, it was so, so hard,” he says. “You have to understand too, it’s not only that we love performing, but it’s the way that we’re able to validate ourselves. I really, really struggled confidence-wise during the pandemic because I almost felt like I was suffering from imposter syndrome. I didn’t know my purpose, just being around the house. There’s not really a way for me to move my office to an at-home space. And so it was really, really hard.
“But that’s what’s going to make it so much more worth it now, getting back, because it just feels like such an adrenaline rush. And I’m really, truly excited about this show in D.C. because I think it’s going to be so, so special.”
Greyson Chance performs Friday, July 16, at Union Stage, 740 Water St. SW. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, or $35 for Premier Plus with reserved seats, $75 for a Meet & Greet with the artist. Visit www.unionstage.com.
Trophies, released by Arista Records, is available now on all music-streaming platforms. Visit www.greysonchancemusic.com.
Follow him on Twitter at @greysonchance.
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