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Life & Work with Grayson Moon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Grayson Moon.

Hi Grayson, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I was blessed with an extended family that had an incredibly eclectic taste in music. My grandmother cleaned the house singing along with my grandfather whilst listening to Elvis Presley and the Rat Pack. On car rides, my mom would almost always be listening to disco phenomenons or jazz legends such as Donna Summer and Sergio Mendes. At night, my father, who played acoustic guitar, sat up practicing tunes from Cat Stevens, Eric Clapton, and James Taylor as I watched quietly from the foot of the bed. Dad also signed us up for one of those Televised CD subscriptions and month after month, a new mixtape of songs would show up in the mail and quickly be added to one of the tall wooden racks next to the living room stereo. It wasn’t long before I started singing along at family karaoke night, fiddling around with the guitar, and sitting in the living room to the vast collection of CD’s that had built up over the years.

I grew up with a profound connection to music, and when they started asking what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was simple. I wanted to be a singer who could “Sing everything”.

It wasn’t long before school choir rooms and auditoriums became my favorite places to be. At some point, I had discovered opera wonders like Luciano Pavarotti and Andre Bocelli and decided I would pursue classical music in the hopes that one day, I could make that kind of sound without a microphone. Years of study, coaching, and exposure to the arts lead me to a Virginia Conservatory where I would discover just how immense the world of music was, as well as what it was like to be the lead singer for a jam band. By then, I had been in a great number of theater productions and classical showcases, but as soon as I played a show with that band, performing songs we wrote together, I knew that was the only stage I wanted to be on.

I could now write songs with music theory alone, program music on a computer, and record whenever, wherever, thanks to the iPhone. The band didn’t work out, and after I finished school, I moved back home to Baltimore to start playing my own music in my hometown. I was old enough to go the bars and restaurants in Fells Point, Canton, Mt. Vernon, Fed Hill, almost all of which featured a musician or DJ. I watched in awe of the community that formed around these musicians as they nailed cover after cover on any given night. Even though my guitar skills were lacking, and I didn’t have my own audio gear, I was drawn to this idea that I could join this group of individuals and be the next name people flocked to on their nights off.

I found a site that listed all the open mic nights in the city and county. I found one just about every night of the week and quickly made my way to all of them as often as I could after work. Soon enough, hometown rockstars that I looked up to were inviting me on stage when I came to watch, usually giving them a well-deserved break for a song or two. In return, I was given my chance to sing within earshot of various talent buyers in the area, quickly replacing my open mic nights with full-fledged paying gigs. Within a year or two, it felt like I had played everywhere that had live music in Baltimore. I remember having a spreadsheet of everywhere in town I could find, and the day I noticed, I was almost at the end of it. By this time I was playing enough to quit my job and go full-time. After I tasted that victory, I couldn’t get away from it.

I continued writing and recording with whoever would have me, releasing my first-ever EP “After you” recorded in my friend’s basement. That EP landed me a production deal with a company in Austin, TX, where I got to play a showcase during SXSW. There I met my soon to be close friend, Mira Blues as well as her engineer and bandmate Casprin Haruna. Mira and I both grew unhappy with the methods and performance of the production company and terminated our deals within months of each other. Mira and I had both been scouted for various televised singing competitions, shared many of the same views about the industry and our careers, and continued to be friends well after leaving Austin. To my surprise and delight, Casprin had a studio in Bethesda, not too far from me, where he offered to track another EP that was later released under the name “I Hope You’re Ok” (IHYOK)

That EP featured a few songs that garnered interest amongst my early fans and word quickly spread. Bandmates began coming out of the woodwork, along with opportunities for original shows; this time with my own band playing my own music. I got my first team together for content creation and released a slew of live performance videos with Buzzlounge Studio, boosting my following as well as my drive to get after it.

I now had photo, video, management, a website, and enough songs to get on as an opener for touring acts. I was invited to play ticketed venues like Rams Head On Stage and music festivals like Artscape for the first time. I was selling my CD’s and digital music, throwing stickers to crowds, even being asked to sign things. I felt that I had done it. I was finally starting to feel like a bonafide career musician. People began asking for originals at cover gigs, and the lines between gigs and shows began to dissipate.

In 2018, just after memorial day, I received a call from my younger sister, saying the police chief was at the house, and that my dad had been found, and that he had taken his own life. Devastated, I felt that to honor my dad I absolutely had to now more than ever “Make it” in music and buried myself in my work. I took on any and all gigs that could give me a place to put my grief. Most of my gigs came with covered bar tabs, late nights, and people who saw me as a killer singer they wanted to party with, not some depressed, grieving kid. Within that year, I found myself at the end of my rope, wondering how long it would be before I was the next to fall victim to addiction and depression.

In a moment of clarity, I decided to get help. I sought treatment and support from the folks at Sheppard Pratt, some of the musician friends that knew what was going on, and my family. I ended my relationship with alcohol, late nights, and all the other things that came with them. I traded it for therapy, self-care, and the happy few that cared who I was when I was no longer the life of the party.

Management fell off during my initial recovery, as did the band I was playing with. This is a totally abridged version, but all that was left at the end of that time were me, my gear, my songs, and people who believed in me. Thanks to those people, I’m now four years clean, living and sounding better than ever. Within those four years, I established a whole new team of amazing, professional artists in Baltimore and beyond that have helped me take my content and career to a whole other level. I’ve also pursued interests like woodworking, custom fabrication, film, photo, digital marketing outside of my brand and most importantly, my own well-being.

I’ve found the best way to learn a skill is to work for someone that does it for money. I’ve used this knowledge to become friends with professionals in a score of different mediums, taking key lessons away from each of them. The little kid that began as a student of music was now a student of every craft available to him, and it has lead to an ocean of amazing experiences, friends, and possibility.

I’ve worked on film sets as an audio engineer. I now play my covers and original music all over the tri-state area for both ticketed and non-ticketed events. I became a finish carpenter and custom fabricator, building furniture and film sets for clients. I’ve written and recorded a multitude of songs in various styles and genres. I am now making a living and a life as a full-time freelance artist. What’s really great is I believe I’m zoning in on a sound that is entirely my own and can’t tell you how good it feels to know that people are enjoying it.

I’m now looking at opportunities to tour, write music for film, tv, and video games, even use everything I’ve learned pay it forward speaking to the future generations of creatives like me. I’m not really sure what’s going to happen next, and it’s even more exciting than I could have ever imagined. I’m still not able to “Sing everything”, but I don’t have to now because I figured out that no one sings like me like I can. I think that little boy talking to his parents would’ve thought that was even cooler. I look forward to this newfound way of living and creating, sharing my art with whoever happens to find it.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I step back and look at all that’s happened so far, It’s almost like I was always making progress, even though it didn’t feel like it. I’m still not exactly where I want to be in my career, but for the first time, I don’t really know what that career should be called. My identity as an artist extends past music now, and in many ways that has made life a lot less stressful. The other mediums take a lot of pressure off of how I approach music, and I think now things are smoother than they’ve ever been. That being said, there have been and continue to be many struggles. There are so many questions I find hard to answer for myself.

How do I make sure I can do this indefinitely? How do I battle the romanticization of the emotional and financial poverty of being an artist that so many others fall prey to? What is the end goal of all this craft that is craved as a product yet undervalued as a profession by society? Where does a relationship and a family fit in with the goals I’ve set for myself?

I live with depression and anxiety, a fear of not being good, or real, or strong enough. I have worries about the future and the longevity of a career in music. I’m in recovery for alcohol and addiction, problems which I always had direct and easy access to because of the opportunities that came with being an entertainer. There’s no handbook for an artist’s lifestyle and journey, and everything that comes close also comes with the preface that everyone is different and the industry is always changing.

I’ve found one of the hardest things about being an artist is finding others that you can genuinely create with as yourself. There is a lot of misconception about what success is and varying levels of ego that chase that success. There is a requirement of ego death in exchange for the ability to get things done. There is the constant struggle of asking whether or not I am doing enough, or too much, or the right things at all to reach my goals.

I’ve reinvented myself time and time again. I’ve heard “No” more times than I could count. I’ve been faced with a slew of “big breaks” that didn’t pan out. The most difficult of all of these issues is something that’s not exclusive to artists; Finding out who you are and how to best work through the problems so that win or lose, you can enjoy the ride. That being said, when I look at everything that’s happened to me, it feels like it’s been moving in a straight line upward. It feels like it’s all part of something much, much bigger.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Mainly, I’m a singer/songwriter, but I feel that the term creative best represents my work as a whole. I write and record my own brand of indie-soul music that weaves its way in and out of folk, rock, funk, pop, and R&B. As a musician for hire, I have built up hours of songs that represent every mainstream musical genre and am always learning new material to expand my reach to listeners of different musical tastes. I play a vital role in overseeing all of the content creation, bringing minds together under my little umbrella, and fostering the creation of something that everyone can be proud of.

Of all my songs, I’m most proud of “Empire” which was my first song outside of what most would call a conventional pop sound. Watching a song about overcoming your own struggles with feelings of self-doubt and insecurity break 50,000 streams left me speechless. I remember this feeling of immense sureness that I was doing the right thing, and I really had something going for me outside of my vocal training and list of covers.

I think what sets me apart from others like me is that I don’t have any one genre I’ve fully committed my work to. I write what I’m inspired to write at any given time and do my best to serve that music in how I arrange, record, and perform it. This results in a multitude of styles and genres being represented in my songs, and even though that might not be best for marketing, it feels true to the little kid in me that wants to be able to do it all.

There have been many times at cover shows where people hear me switch between various genres and ask for an original entirely out of curiosity about what “My music sounds like”. The truth is, I approach covers in a way that best fits my voice and arrange them in ways that people may not expect. I’m always looking for a way for people to experience the music that activates their nostalgia while offering them something new at the same time. I make art my own wherever I can, and understand that I’ll never be “the next” anybody. I’m just going to be myself.

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
People can get in touch with me on any of my social media accounts, send me a message or an idea they have. If I’m available and feel I can add something to a project, I’m always down to check it out and play around.

The biggest form of support anyone can give is a share; not just online, but in their world off-screen. I can’t tell you how many times someone has become a fan simply by knowing another one. I can’t tell you how many more people listen to music when it’s coming from a friend instead of the guy that makes it…

I have merchandise available for sale on my website Graysonmoon.com, where people can also see my upcoming shows, message me, and learn more about what I’m working on.

Even just taking a few minutes to watch one of my youtube videos, like or share a post, or just search me online is a huge help.

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Image Credits
Kaitlin Newman Katie Simbala

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