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John Grant weaves 'Magic' spell on fans
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Out singer John Grant was born in Michigan, started a band called The Czars in Denver and eventually moved to Europe. Along the way he created a legacy of solo work that included his debut album, Queen of Denmark. During London's Meltdown Festival, he announced he is HIV-positive while he was onstage with Hercules & Love Affair.

His record Pale Green Ghosts had him singing three tracks with artist Sinead O'Connor and during the album Grey Tickles, Black Pressure had guest vocalists Tracey Thorn and Amanda Palmer. He recorded with singer Robbie Williams on the album The Heavy Entertainment Show.

Grant's 2018 album, Love Is Magic, music brings him to Chicago while on a world tour.

Windy City Times: Where in the world are you face timing from?

John Grant: I am in the Netherlands. I have two days off before my show here. I am on tour so all over the place. We were in Milan, Germany for several shows, before that England. We are just getting started.

WCT: Where do you live?

JG: I am in Iceland.

WCT: Do you ever run into Bjork on the street?

JG: Yes, a few times. She's around, but I haven't seen her in quite a while.

WCT: How many languages do you speak?

JG: Around five—German, Russian, English, Icelandic and pretty solid Spanish.

WCT: Talk about the new album, Love Is Magic.

JG: I started this record down in Cornwall in a studio surrounded by modular synths in an incredible house. It was a beautiful setting in the Cornish countryside. I spent about 10 months doing the record going back and forth between Texas, Cornwall, Iceland and England.

I was doing a big Scott Walker concert. I had a festival that I curated in England. With everything, it took me about a year to get the whole thing done. I spent a lot of time getting the rich sounds right. On a big system it sounds fat, lush and gorgeous.

I wanted to get my love for the '70s AOR ( album-oriented rock ) ballads. I like to write those on the piano. It was nice to take my time with the sounds.

I took my time, but towards the end I like when I am given a deadline. I am a perfectionist and would probably never put it out. I would just work on it until the end of time otherwise.

WCT: How does your music reflect your day to day life?

JG: I have been thinking a lot about my trajectory in music and life recently. I am learning to love, which usually means having a good relationship with loving yourself first before you can love others. That has been a particularly difficult journey for me personally.

I know I am not the only one, but there are people out there in the world that have a good relationship with themselves. They attract healthy relationships as a result of that.

I have been in a lot of destructive relationships, but the last one was very nurturing. It helped me realize that all the work I have been putting into myself in the last 14 years has been yielding good results. I have great people around me. That is what I have always wanted.

WCT: You have been open about having anxiety. What helps you?

JG: I initially took Paroxetine, brand name Paxil, back in 1994. It is to deal with severe anxiety and that was helpful to me.

These days people should look at caffeine intake. It is also good to have someone to talk to about every day living like a therapist.

WCT: We come from the same generation where we were bullied for being gay so I am thinking that was where some of the anxiety came from.

JG: Oh yeah. I was basically told I wasn't on the same level as other human beings. There is a spiritual side as well where we are separated from the creator of the entire universe for being what you are. You must change to have a place in society or any other world after this one. That sets you up for problems right there. That led to substance abuse for me.

WCT: Well, it must be great to put out music as a way of dealing with it.

JG: It is. I think if I wasn't working on my issues then the music would further my downfall. If I were wallowing in self pity or rage I wouldn't get anywhere. The music would just be a toy to escape and would eventually destroy me.

When you are young it doesn't matter what was done to you, as an older person you need to figure out a way to survive and thrive in this world.

WCT: In the "Love Is Magic" video, what was behind all of the dogs?

JG: That idea was pitched to me by someone who sent in the treatment. I liked the idea that humans can experience the unconditional love of an animal that is almost impossible to get from humans. I thought it was nice to see a snapshot of this type of love.

WCT: Do you own a dog?

JG: No, I don't. I would like to, but can't with this type of career.

WCT: Was the video for "He's Got His Mother's Hips" inspired by past Peter Gabriel videos?

JG: It was. It wasn't my idea, but the guys that pitched it to me wanted a love letter to the "Sledgehammer" video and Eurythmics "Missionary Man."

WCT: How was working with Kylie Minogue?

JG: She's a badass and super-lovely to work with. She's kind and gracious. She's been through a lot and it is nice to consider her a friend. We are not close, but we keep in touch.

Everyone just shit their diaper when she walked onstage and sang "Glacier" with me at the Royal Albert Hall in London. That was epic.

She invited me to sing at her Christmas show after that. I really like her. She's impressive.

WCT: What [will] your stage show at Lincoln Hall be [like]?

JG: We have a big crew around us. We have a band. We present the music in the best possible way we can. I am excited about connecting with the crowd.

I won't have Kylie with me or won't have Sinead O'Connor fly down from the rafters on a platform!

WCT: That would be so great, though? Dressed as an angel just in time for the holidays.

JG: Totally!

See Grant live at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m. Ticket information for the show is at .

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