Hear First: Grant Pavol’s Okay

The premiere of the debut EP, plus some words on its creation from producer Shamir.

Hear First is Talkhouse’s series of album premieres. Along with streams of upcoming albums—today’s is Grant Pavols’s Okay — we publish statements from artists and their peers about the mindsets and impressions that go into, or come out of reflection on, a record. Here, Shamir Bailey talks getting to know Grant and eventually producing his debut EP Okay, which you can listen to right here.
—Annie Fell, Associate Editor, Talkhouse

It all started with a Facebook post. I had just gotten off a year-long tour promoting my last two albums. It was August and I was gonna find a major project to keep myself busy since I knew I’d have a lot a free time, and wasting time is a pet peeve of mine. About a year prior, I found my engineer, Zack Hanni, who happened to live a few blocks away from me, and I was feeling myself becoming accustomed to having one and not pushing myself to become a better engineer. I knew I wasn’t using my beloved 4-track recorder — which I struggle-produced two records on, and, for whatever reason, people responded to — to its full potential by slapping a bunch of distortion on everything and calling it a day.

So, I posted on Facebook: “any philly bands w/ no money want me to record/ produce a cute lofi record for ya with the same 4 track i used to make Hope and Revelations for free? I like being in the studio now but i love mixing full projects on that thing! hmu if interested or know someone who might be?”

It was no surprise to me that only two people hit me up. While people liked my albums Hope and Revelations, its rough production value is what held some people back. One of those two people that hit me up was Grant Pavol. Grant and I were not particularly close; last I’d seen him, he told me he had just graduated high school, which was a lot for me because I had talked to him and seen him at shows for what felt like years and had thought he was at least in college because he’s tall and has “Big Grandpa Energy.” Grant sent me the demos to Okay, which was just him and his acoustic guitar recorded on iPhone, and I listened to them in the car on my way to Lollapalooza in Chicago. I nearly cried. We recorded it a week later in only two days at my kitchen table.

I like to call Grant the love child of Elliot Smith and Nick Drake, but less depressed. Okay will always be hard for me to describe, because calling it acoustic-pop in these musically dicey days would be a disservice and would have him lumped in with the Ed Sheerans of the world. You can tell the boy was born to write, and later finding out he comes from a family of writers only solidified what I already knew. Every word he sings has movement; each word tells a story on its own, and together they all rush in so quickly that sometimes each song feels like the first few seconds of intensity you feel when you chew 5 Gum. I can’t say much more about this record, except that it’s only about 10 minutes long but has enough material for you to think about all day. But don’t think you know what the songs mean to the artist, because you never will — when I took on the role as director of the opening track “Hair,” I thought for sure i knew what the song was about, until the Grant told me. I also had a similar experience when I found out what “Vintage Clothes” is about. So, I stopped asking, because I realized that these songs are written to be mirrors, no specificity, but completely relatable. Is there anything more beautiful than that?

— Shamir Bailey

(Photo Credit: left, Mooj Zadie)

Grant Pavol is a prolific 19 year old singer-songwriter and Philadelphia native. Coming from an artistic family, Grant was constantly surrounded by music and taught himself guitar during his early teen years. Pavol started to cut his teeth in the Philly music scene around the age of 15. He attended DIY shows around the city, one of his first being a basement show which happened to be singer-songwriter Shamir first show in Philadelphia. Soon after, the two began to develop a friendship as they frequently saw each other at shows.

Currently in college, Pavol began writing confessional acoustic pop songs in his bedroom. Equal parts Elliott Smith and Nick Drake, Grant’s hushed vocals and lyrical melodies carry the sincerity of his sound. After sending Shamir demos via Facebook in the summer of 2018, the duo quickly tracked all five songs for Pavol’s debut EP Okay, the release being one of the first releases for Shamir’s label Accidental Popstar Records.

(Photo Credit: Mooj Zadie)