Isaiah Grass’ “Dance In Love” wasn’t specifically released for Pride month, but it sure is fitting. The nine-song collection of dance remixes of his previous songs is packed with high-energy spirit, in line with this weekend’s two-day Pride in the Park music festival and the Chicago Pride Parade Sunday.
But Grass’ more recent releases show so many other facets of the Northwest suburban-based artist, including his new single “I Need You,”which recently earned him an ambassadorship with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Grass, who was born in North Carolina and grew up in South Carolina, said his musical interests were fostered in his church choir and at the performing arts high school he attended. But his songwriting came from a need to express himself after childhood experiences.
“I was looking at one of the poems from a long time ago. Everybody goes through being bullied and having some bad things that go on in their life, but I had written about some stuff that I dealt with. And when I wrote the song, ‘I Need You,’ my latest song, which is about mental health, I was looking at a lot of experiences that I went through,” he said. “When I was creating it, I wanted to be able to have something that I can reflect on with other people. I feel like as a musician, God has given me the opportunity to have a platform to be able to share my story, my lyrics, my music, or even me to people, and hopefully it can help them. Going back and looking at poems that I wrote and other stories, it just kind of let me know that I’m following my heart and still doing the right thing.”
Grass, who started his professional career modeling in New York, had been writing music for years. Being scouted to audition for “American Idol” in early 2020 gave him new attention and a larger platform, but it came with a new set of challenges. A hack of his website, internet profiles and identity left him reeling, but he mined the turmoil for musical possibilities and a new song, “More Than Friends,” which plays off the uncertainty of connecting with strangers online.
“Everything was just really messed up. … And I went through a really big mental block in my heart where I was really feeling like ‘OK, I think I’m done doing music. I think this is going to be the breaking point,'” he said. Instead, he wrote the new song, which brought responses from fans and friends about experiences they were going through, which pushed him into a new productive mode.
Through his NAMI ambassadorship, Grass said he hopes he can shed a little light on mental health issues and help drive away some of the stigma.
“Mental health is such a serious thing to talk about. Nobody wants to talk about their problems in their life. … We all live in this world where it is social media, put on the perfect smile, put on the perfect clothing, and make everyone think that our life is great,” he said. “And I wanted to share with people that no matter what people are showing, if you can see it from a singer’s point of view who can take off that filter and just say, ‘Hey, you know what? I’m a human being, and I hope this can help you guys,’ then maybe I could touch people out there.”