In Andy Grammer's New Video, A Call To Act Against Homelessness | KERA News

In Andy Grammer's New Video, A Call To Act Against Homelessness

Nov 26, 2016

Andy Grammer's latest single, "Fresh Eyes," is a love song — but it grew in meaning when he filmed the music video on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Over the course of the video shoot, the pop singer and his team provided haircuts, clean clothes, meals and kindness to people seeking shelter at the Union Rescue Mission in L.A.

"We probably spent, I don't know, eight to 10 hours down there, just to really get to know people and share some love with them," Grammer says. "It was really powerful — by far the best day of my year."

Grammer joined NPR's Scott Simon to tell stories from that day in L.A. Hear their full conversation at the audio link, and watch the video for "Fresh Eyes" above.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FRESH EYES")

ANDY GRAMMER: (Singing) I got these fresh eyes. Never seen you before like this.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Andy Grammer's new single, "Fresh Eyes," is a love song. But the song got added meaning when he provided haircuts, clean clothes, meals and kindness to people seeking shelter at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FRESH EYES")

GRAMMER: (Singing) You dress up just a little. And I'm like, oh, damn. So suddenly, I'm in love with a stranger.

SIMON: And he filmed his new video on Skid Row in Los Angeles in September. And he encourages people who were moved by the video to help the homeless. Andy Grammer joins us from the studios of NPR West. Thanks so much for being with us.

GRAMMER: Oh, man, psyched to be here. This is awesome.

SIMON: Well, it's a very moving video. Tell us what it was like - the time you spent at the Union Mission - who you met there, what you talked about.

GRAMMER: It was such an incredible, incredible experience. You know, I've - I started as a street performer. So I kind of have - homelessness is really close to my heart because I performed out on 3rd Street Promenade in Los Angeles for about four years. That was the way I payed my rent.

So there would be a lot of interactions with homeless people out there - and just kind of getting to know them beyond just that they're homeless. So if you're walking through your day, and you see someone who's homeless on the street, you kind of pass by them. You're busy. You have things to do. And they're just homeless.

But if you're out there like I was on the street for, like, eight hours singing, and it's time for lunch - and there's a homeless man who's not just homeless anymore. His name's Bob - 'cause we spent, like, two hours chatting and getting to know each other. Kind of seeing past that was kind of the inspiration for this music video.

So to go down to the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles and spend a good - I mean, it was a long filming day. We probably spent - I don't know - eight to 10 hours down there just to really get to know people and share some love with them and clean them up and see them view themselves differently at the end of the day.

SIMON: Yeah.

GRAMMER: It was really powerful. One of the - by far, the best day of my year.

SIMON: 'Cause what's so extraordinarily moving about the video is not just to see people who you probably thought you knew. Oh, there's a homeless person. There's somebody who's shaggy. There's somebody who's down on their luck. But to see them after they've had their hair cut, their hair fixed - clean clothes on - and to see them, you know, not just cry but smile.

GRAMMER: To smile and be like, oh, you know - and when you're in such an intense situation like that, all the things that are occurring are so rich. So you clean somebody up. And then you ask them just kind of like - just sweetly, not expecting any sort of intense answer back. You just go like, how you feel?

SIMON: Yeah.

GRAMMER: And then the answer back was, I feel human. And you're like, whoa (laughter). Or, you know, I had another interaction with someone where I went in. And I was learning about where they stay. And they were showing me their bunks and talking about how they got there. And we'd already started kind of cleaning people up.

And so I came back from seeing where they were staying. And I started to have a conversation with this gentleman who was clearly a part of the video crew. And we talked for a while just about how cool it was that we were there.

And at the end of the conversation, I was like, oh, so what are you doing here? Are you on - are you part of, like, the catering? Are you part of the director's team? And he goes, no, no. I'm, like, one of the guys that you cleaned up.

And I was like, whoa. My brain - my brain is exploding. Why was I - what was the difference there? Why was I talking to you differently? We're all just humans here. You know, what is that gap that we can all overcome when interacting with this population?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FRESH EYES")

GRAMMER: (Singing) And now all I see is you with fresh eyes, fresh eyes.

SIMON: What did you say to folks when you got them to appear in the video?

GRAMMER: I said, I want you to be the star of my video (laughter). And they got super excited. And one of the - you know, one of the first people you see is a lady named Loretta (ph). And she was really excited. And she's like, oh, well, then I'm going to be the best damn star you've ever had in your video. And she got really - she got pumped up.

What I think was so interesting was the clothes were cool. The haircuts were nice. Putting some makeup on some of the ladies was really sweet. But what was the most important takeaway was they felt a sense of purpose for the day.

SIMON: Yeah.

GRAMMER: And so that's what they kept saying. It was like, oh, man, I don't even feel like I usually do today. There's like things that I'm doing that are important. And I feel a part of something. What I want to do is figure out how to keep going back down there and give them a sense of purpose in whatever way that is at my disposal.

SIMON: So you plan to keep going there.

GRAMMER: Oh, I mean, definitely. It's one of those things where you feel so incredible. I mean, if you go and give service, especially in a situation like this, where the need is so high that even a little thing that you do will create such a ripple, you feel incredible. And it's this circle of win, win, win that I never want to end.

SIMON: Andy Grammer - you can see his video "Fresh Eyes" on our website, npr.org. He joined us from NPR West. Thanks so much for being with us. Good luck.

GRAMMER: Thank you so, so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FRESH EYES")

GRAMMER: (Singing) If I could bottle this up - bottle, bottle this up - I would. I would bottle this up - bottle, bottle this up. I would. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.