“I’m going to go on tour, I’m going to hug everyone, I’m going to go to all the places that I’ve ever been,” Conan Gray says excitedly. “I’m just going to spend a year being surrounded by fans… I hate social media so much, I can’t wait to see people in person again, that’s what I want.”
The 22-year-old’s attitude to the pandemic restrictions easing is highly relatable – just like his indie-pop hits, like ‘Maniac’ and ‘Heather’, that have crowned him the musical king of the TikTok generation. While the rest of us might be looking forward to being surrounded by a roomful of friends and family at most, the singer-songwriter’s reunion will stretch to the millions – and counting.
Gray, who describes himself as “a very shy person”, might be a little more used to having that much attention on him now but, as he recounts his vivid memories of his first-ever show in Houston, Texas, you can tell it’s been a journey. “It was when everything was already happening and it was happening faster than I could handle it and I was learning it as I go,” he recalls. “It was intense!”
Despite the initial nerves and being backstage thinking, ‘Is there some way that I can die right now?’, it wasn’t all terrifying. “I remember walking up on stage and everyone started screaming and clapping and I think in that moment I was like, ‘I’m safe here, all these people are going to be nice to me’,” he laughs.
Earlier this month, the musician shared his gentle new single ‘Astronomy’, a poignant break-up song about growing apart from someone you love. As evidenced in parts of his debut album ‘Kid Krow’ last year, Gray is an expert at crafting songs to cry along to – perhaps something he learnt from the first artist he fell in love with, Adele.
“I was watching videos on YouTube, just crying,” he explains, adding with his tongue firmly in his cheek: “I’d been through many break-ups at 12, so I very much felt connected to Adele.” We’ve all been there.
In the latest instalment of NME’s Firsts, Conan Gray talks us through his musical first times: from the first concert he ever attended, to the first CD he owned. Watch the video in full above.