Having been “raised by the Internet,” YouTube sensation Conan Gray started out on the site as a 9-year-old vlogger.
“The first video that I put up on YouTube was of my pet gecko,” says Gray, 21, who would go on to post more clips of “my friends or random things I would be doing. It was my diary — an extremely public diary.”
Now Gray is sharing his world through song with his debut album, “Kid Krow,” out Friday. The LP follows up the 2018 EP “Sunset Season” by the singer, who has been called “Gen Z’s ascendant king of sad-boy pop.” “It is quite the title,” says Gray with a laugh.
As for the title of his new album, it’s a musical alter ego of sorts. “It came from an inside joke between me and my best friend,” says Gray. “We’d always joke that I was a crow, just because I’m pretty sarcastic. I tend to be darker, but at the same time I don’t really take life too seriously … I think life can be pretty painful at times, and my way of dealing with pain my whole life is just by laughing at it.”
Growing up in Georgetown, Texas, as a biracial kid wasn’t easy for Gray. “I’m half Japanese, half white, so I never really knew, like, where I belong,” he says. “For a lot of my youth, I wanted so badly to figure out what box I fit into.”
But, inspired by Taylor Swift, Lorde and Adele, Gray found his niche in music. “I’ve written two or three pop songs every single day since I was 12,” he says. “It’s all on my phone, all of my little voice notes.”
It was his song “Idle Town,” which he self-released in 2017, that got Gray signed to Republic Records. “I made it in my bedroom, and I produced it on GarageBand,” he says. “I figured out a way to upload it onto all of the streaming platforms by myself.”
“Kid Krow” highlights include the catchy, cheeky “Wish You Were Sober.” “Basically,” he says, “there was this person that I really, really liked, and they could never tell me that they liked me back unless they were blackout drunk.”
Another standout is “The Story,” an acoustic-guitar ballad on which Gray sings about two boys who “wished they were more” than best friends. So how does he identify his own sexuality? “I try really hard to just not exist in boxes,” he says. “I spent my whole life trying to shove myself into a box, and now that I’m older I think I have the privilege of being able to say that I just kind of want to be me.”