Conan Gray has made his return with cinematic new single ‘Overdrive’ – check it out below, as well as the LA-based musician giving us a progress report on his second album.
“With ‘Overdrive’, all I wanted to do was give people just a form of escapism,” he told NME.
“The song is about losing your inhibitions and just doing exactly what you want to do in a given moment, even if it’s a little bit reckless.
“I think that’s kind of the main thing I’m craving right now – to be able to live a life without inhibitions because, at the moment, we have a lot of barriers to living our lives. It’s really a fantasy. It’s a form of escape for me.”
Gray’s first album was made up of a collection of “sad bangers” (‘Maniac’, ‘Checkmate’) and softer, more emotional songs (‘Heather’, ‘The Cut That Always Bleeds’). While he still uses songwriting as a way to process his feelings, the pop star said that the pandemic has changed what he wants to do with his music.
“I’m so used to writing dreadfully sad music,” he explained. “I love writing sad music and I write mostly sad songs. But I purposely wanted to put out ‘Overdrive’ right now because I wanted to just spread a bit of joy. This was a song that I found myself listening to over and over, just for fun.”
Currently, the singer-songwriter is in the middle of working on the follow-up to ‘Kid Krow’ and said he was figuring out what he wants to say on the record. Although he isn’t sure when it will be released, he said the album will likely be “very all over the place”.
“As any music listener, as any human being, I experience a giant myriad of emotions,” he explained. “I definitely don’t always stay up or down. Some days I’m very, very happy and I want to sing about daydreaming about an alternate reality where I can just find some stranger and move to a different country with them. Other days, I am barely capable of leaving my bed. That’s what the album is gonna be like, similar to ‘Kid Krow’.
“I think people can expect the full range of human emotion out of me. I don’t think I could control myself enough to not give people that.”
He added that, as he continues to work on the new album, he wants to explore sounds that “make me feel like I’m in a movie”. “When I’m writing a song, I think that I always want to capture the moment as big as I possibly can,” he said. “I’m just a very intense romantic – I will take any small situation and make it gigantic, make it much more than it probably was in the moment. I think that’s what the album is probably going to feel a little bit like.”
As well as big, anthemic songs like ‘Overdrive’, Gray said that fans can expect his second album to also tackle some deeper topics.
“It’s definitely not the most mentally stimulating time for any writer so I’ve been writing a lot about my past,” he explained. “I’ve also gotten very existential in quarantine, like, ‘Why do I exist? Is fate real? Is there somebody out there that I just haven’t seen yet that’s going to change my life forever?’ I keep having those types of thoughts, so I’ve been writing very existential songs. I’ve been very nostalgic.”
Former single ‘Heather’ – which saw Gray detail his jealousy at his high school crush fancying someone else – took on a life of its own after ‘Kid Krow’ was released. The titular name has now become part of the cultural lexicon, used to describe someone “everybody can’t help but like”.
The song’s creator said that its success reminded him of the unpredictability and power that music can have. “It’s something I never expected – that song was just an album track and it was my favourite song off the album,” he said. “But I thought that maybe it was just a ‘me’ thing, maybe I was just being niche and annoying and unrelatable, but turns out that a lot of people have dealt with that kind of feeling of jealousy.
“I never expected millions of people to be talking about this girl from my high school and using her name as an adjective. It’s very, very strange – for her, I’m imagining, as well, but I’m hoping that she just doesn’t know that it’s about her.”
As well as plenty of fans online, Gray also scored the respect and admiration of Elton John with his debut album. Speaking last year, Sir Elton said that he was “the only person in the American Spotify Top 50 to actually write the song without anybody else” and later invited him on his Apple Music radio show. “It was so surreal,” Gray told NME of the experience. “I think every songwriter on earth has learned so much from him. I don’t know why he cares that I exist.”
He added that, rather than vindicating himself as being on the right track with his music, it made things feel “even more surreal”. “It’s definitely very hard to believe,” he said. “Maybe it sticks me even further into a place of feeling like I’m not really existing in reality.”
‘Overdrive’ by Conan Gray is out now.