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From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
Today we’re joined by a very special guest to do the introductions for our Mother’s Day episode. Susan G Komen’s President and CEO, Paula Schneider is here to introduce today’s guest. Paula, over to you.
[00:00:59] Paula Schneider: Thanks, Adam. And I wanted to come here today to personally welcome our guest today. And we are so lucky to be joined by the multi-platinum singer and songwriter, Andy Grammer, one of my personal favorites. And Andy has topped the charts with such songs as Keep Your Head Up,
and Honey, I’m Good. You know it, everyone knows it, and inspires and empowers the world through his music. Unfortunately, Andy also lost his mother to breast cancer when he was 25 years. So Andy, welcome to the show. We are so honored to have you here for a Mother’s Day episode. And we actually have quite a bit in common, right?
Not that I can sing, because I cannot sing at all. But other than that, we both lost our moms to breast cancer, and we both have two daughters, and we both have a passion towards eradicating the disease. And I know that Adam is really excited to talk to you today and to hear about the impact that losing your mom had on your life and on your career and the beautiful ways that you honor her.
So thank you for your support and we are so grateful that you’re here.
[00:02:04] Andy Grammer: Thank you so much.
[00:02:06] Adam Walker: Andy, welcome to the show. So excited to talk to you. I’d love to begin by giving you an opportunity to share about your mom. What would you like to tell us about the kind of woman that she was?
[00:02:17] Andy Grammer: My mom was just an incredible woman as a mother.
Like she’s just a great mom. We can start there. Really just really looking out for me and crafted me as an individual. And as I get older and now that I have two little girls, I see how much work that is. So I really appreciate her for that as well as a real champion of women’s empowerment.
So I just grew up being kicked out of my house, cause all the women in the community were going to come over and my mom was going to empower them. And I, it was like, wait, why can’t I be a part of that? And it just became commonplace that like it’s while me and my brother, my dad had to leave and then all these women would come into our house.
And she was an incredible community builder and especially a champion of women.
[00:03:01] Adam Walker: Wow. She sounds fantastic. It sounds like you were, you’re obviously close. So walk us through her diagnosis. And how she told you about it and what that time period was like for you?
[00:03:13] Andy Grammer: Yeah, it was pretty intense.
I was 25 and it happened pretty quick. She caught it really late. And so I just remember I was headed up to a camp somewhere and she called really upset and said I had to come home. And then yeah, and then there was a lot of sweetness basically saying goodbye to her and it happened pretty fast.
I still have an incredible connection with her, wherever she’s at, in the next place. And yeah it was very it was a hard time.
[00:03:43] Adam Walker: You mentioned you’ve got daughters, you’ve obviously got a prolific career. How did losing your mother to breast cancer impact how you just go about living your life?
[00:03:54] Andy Grammer: You try to make the best of every situation. I’m someone who believes that tests in life are there to make you grow. If you can get to a place where you’re like, oh man, what am I supposed to learn from this? How do I grow from this? It takes a second, when you lose someone like your mother, to get to that place.
But for me, I just, hadn’t had a lot of tragedy in my life. So I didn’t have a ton of empathy. I wasn’t mean, I just didn’t know. I had no understanding that people were going through this level of difficulty, all the time. And so it became very important for me as someone who sing songs about lifting people to have empathy for what I’m for what I was singing about.
You, you don’t want to hear, Keep Your Head Up from someone who hasn’t been through a bunch of shit. You just don’t. And so it really grounded a lot of my art in a way that was really important for me. So this is what’s so strange is that you have these things where you’re like, I’m not glad that happened.
I miss my mom every day. But I’m grateful for what I got from that situation. I’m curious you mentioned empathy. Have you been able to translate that empathy into other things and having empathy towards other types of things as well? Like recognizing the pain is pain?
Yeah. Actually I had a song called Wish You Pain which is from a really cool quote by this incredible spiritual teacher, Abdu’l-Bahá, and it basically just talks about strange it is that I love you and still, I wish you sorrow because that’s what you grow from, but that’s where it comes from.
And so we did a meet and greet on not this tour that I’m on, but the last one where I had everybody in the meet and greet, it was like a big circle and people would share the deepest pain they’d been through and then what that turned them into.
And so every night it was like unbelievable people sharing the most devastating things happening in their life, and then what it turned them into and how they grew from it. And to do that on a whole tour night after night, a hundred people each night giving their example of the most intense stuff.
I tried to commit suicide, this gave me this. I lost a child. Oh my God. One of the ones that I just always tell the story of, cause it changed my life forever. Was this couple that talked about losing an infant and how devastating that was. And they said it was like, there was two years of the hardest years of the life, but now when anyone else loses an infant at the hospital calls them to go consult.
It’s so sweet, and so they’d said like from a place of power, like this is the most meaningful work we’ve ever done. We are the consolers to people who don’t want to be consoled by anyone that doesn’t know what they’re going through. So it really switched my view on a couple of things. One, it just showed me, wow, there’s people that are going through this pain all the time, in all different aspects of life. And then two there can be a lot of beauty that comes from that.
[00:06:50] Adam Walker: Wow. That’s really powerful. I appreciate you sharing that. You’ve been open about your desire to channel your grief into helping others? I think it’s pretty obvious from the stories you just told. Tell us more about that. Like how do you do that and how do you think about that?
[00:07:06] Andy Grammer: I think that for me, grief is just being open to talk about it and to participate in it. I’ve found that it’s going to come get you anyway. So you can wait for it to come in a moment that you’re not expecting, which it will do anyway, and you’ll just be in your car and be like, oh, here we go. Or you can set times to play with it, and that has been something that’s been really sweet for me. Where I sometimes go on offense to experience grief. So if I’m at a coffee shop, something very simple. As I see someone who reminds me of my mother, I go up and say, can I buy this coffee?
Because I don’t get to do that for my mom. Just playing with it in that way, or singing songs about her or talking about her like this not being afraid to just engage in it and then showing others that that can happen has been really sweet.
[00:08:00] Adam Walker: I can imagine that you’ve probably surprised quite a few people by asking to buy them coffee, so that’s amazing.
[00:08:06] Andy Grammer: Yeah, I think, I dunno why. I dunno. What’s our culture or what. I think the standard way to go about it is to just not talk about it or deal with it. So grief doesn’t even come up because we just keep it away. And so finding ways on our own terms to bring it out and dance with it has been really good.
[00:08:27] Adam Walker: I imagine it’s really cathartic, right? Because you’re not suppressing it, but you’re in a sense of embracing it. And letting it change you.
[00:08:36] Andy Grammer: Get creative with it. One of my friends lost her mom and we were talking about it and she’s saying how much her dad liked bread. And I was like, you should have the whole family over and cook a bunch of bread, like on your terms, set up the scene to remember someone, to grieve them, to feel the process of it on your own terms, because it will come anyway.
So you might as well be a part of it, rather than be dragged along.
[00:09:01] Adam Walker: So I think from our conversation, I know the answer to this question, but I would imagine there’s more nuance to it. So I’m going to ask anyway, so how was your mother’s death? How has that influenced the type of artist you’ve become?
[00:09:15] Andy Grammer: It definitely, at a fairly young age I know that people lose their parents way younger than 25, but it really focused me on, I don’t know if we’re about to get weird the next life. And be the next place after, like, where do we go? What’s the purpose of being here? That I’ve found for me really sweet. Threw me into a lot of meditation and prayers and just living in a space that’s oh, I think we do go somewhere else after this.
And that has really interesting implications on how I live my life. If I think that I’m going somewhere after this and if they’re like that, the points count and how you treat people counts and stuff. Am I going to cheat on my taxes? Nah, no, not that I was anyway, but like something simple is that, oh, okay.
There’s maybe there’s a higher version of this life that can be purchased. Yeah, that’s beautiful.
[00:10:12] Adam Walker: That’s beautiful. You’re a strong advocate for breast cancer awareness. Do you feel like it takes on an even bigger meaning to you now that you’re the father of two girls?
[00:10:22] Andy Grammer: Yeah, I mean, mostly it’s just like having witnessed this so firsthand, it can’t get any bigger than that. I’m in to, to help spread the word, to try and figure out cures, to play at events, to just be a champion of this work. It’s like really important work. Yeah.
[00:10:42] Adam Walker: It’s just, it’s so critical and it’s, it touches everyone.
So I’m curious. Are there any things that you and your family do to keep your mother’s memory alive? Any traditions or anything?
[00:10:55] Andy Grammer: Yeah. We do, my mom was really good at games and she passed that down to me. So anytime that I go on vacations or just throughout my daily life with my little girls we love to play games all the time.
Mom was a big, like jokes there and figuring out ways that you can build community through playing games. It’s something that my mom gave to me. So anytime I’m setting that up, the other way is I just sing about, or all the time. I have so many songs in my set that are directly to my mom. And and there’s this song I have called She’d Say, which is a song about what my mother would say to my daughter.
And that’s always a really sweet moment in the set. And I believe that my mom can see me and is like aware of what’s happening here. So I actually, sometimes have the crowd scream, like what’s up? And then thousands of people going, what up Kathy? On a daily basis. She’s with me a lot.
[00:11:52] Adam Walker: Wow. That’s beautiful. I would imagine that is an amazing moment in your set. I’d like to check that out. Yeah.
[00:11:58] Andy Grammer: Going back to a looseness to just play with it, I think is really important. I think that sometimes we get a little too tight about oh, that’s stupid or that’s weird.
Or that’s. Woo. And in my experience, it is not. Wow. That’s beautiful. So last question. What advice do you have for our listeners about how to find joy when they’re facing grief and loss?
It’s a great question. I would say.
It really, to me comes back to what are you getting from it? And to really be aware that with grief and loss, there’s also really sweet things that come. And so to make sure that you stay open to all the really intense sweetness that occurs around that. I remember with my mom, it just opens you up to other things in that space that like specific time period, when you’re losing someone that.
My mom was like, she requested that me and my dad and my brother just get on the bed and sing with her. That’s what she wanted. And I’m like, I was 25. So if she’d said that on a normal Saturday, she probably would’ve gotten a snarky remark from me. Mom, I’m not, no, I’m not doing that, we’re not getting on the bed, and like singing whatever song you want. No, that was my relationship. We like jokey and stuff.
But when your mom was has stage four cancer says, I want us all to sit on the bed. You go okay what would you like to sing? And that is one of my sweetest memories of my entire life. So as far as joy goes, it’s just a really rich time. So make sure if you’re going through it, if anyone’s listening make sure not to close your eyes to the richness that’s around you. It’s a special time.
[00:13:46] Adam Walker: Wow. That’s beautiful. Why this has been amazing. I appreciate you appreciate your music, appreciate the encouragement that it brings, but, and I appreciate how your mom has obviously influenced so much of it for so many people.
So thank you for joining us today.
[00:14:01] Andy Grammer: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:14:03] Adam Walker: Thanks to Bank of America for supporting this podcast. To learn more about how your everyday spending can help in breast cancer, visit komen.org/BankofAmerica and learn more about Pink Ribbon.
Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit Komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com.