Hailing from Del Norte, Colo., Grayson Erhard’s style leans heavily on the technically complex tap-slap style of percussive guitar often paired with moving, airy vocals. Erhard often feels the pull between performing as a musicians’ musician and the accessible, trend-obsequious world of pop, creating a sound that weaves between complement and contrast. This unique tension, combined with Erhard’s experience sharing the stage with Stevie Wonder, has led to Erhard’s viral success and a sound that both complements and contrasts his various styles.
Songs like “Manifest” and “Tapestry” showcase Erhard’s ability to stand on his own, organically, and represent beacons of the kind of musician Erhard strives to be.
While he daylights as a computer programmer, Erhard’s work showcases his authentic, organic style, honed since his childhood in the southern Colorado town of Del Norte—a rural community of 1,800 people on the western edge of the San Luis Valley. More commonly known as “The Valley,” it’s a section of Colorado hot with alien observatories and cosmic undertones. Here, in isolation, Erhard ground out a sound that is entirely his own, but this small town was no place to pursue a music career or develop his budding interest in programming, driving him to the Front Range.
However, after moving to northern Colorado, he quickly experienced culture shock. The oversaturation of fake news, politicking and the constant distraction of this new environment drove him to the extent that he needed to write music relentlessly. Hence his standout piece, “Manifest”, was born, a cultural narrative that laments our dependence on social media and its propensity to overwhelm our lives. “Manifest / your world is your reflection,” Erhard sings in its video, surrounded by televisions and computers that flicker with images of then-president Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian and infomercial detritus. Written in part to assail the internet, Erhard’s song was championed by it. In November 2016, “Manifest” shot to nearly 1 million views from Facebook and YouTube in its first week, with an appearance on Reddit’s front page.
Recently following the viral success of “Manifest”, Erhard was finishing an abbreviated cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” to a small audience at a music trade show called NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) when Wonder himself approached the stage. Baffled, Erhard apologized to him for not knowing the lyrics to the second and third verse.
The rest is viral history.
“I’ll teach you the words you don’t know,” Wonder said, and over Erhard’s knotty guitar playing, the two launched into an impromptu duet. The crowd grew exponentially and proceeded to watch through their phones. The next day, Erhard was in Rolling Stone, taking calls from Good Morning America and appearing on major television networks all across the globe. The media attention from that second strike of viral lightning allowed Erhard to resign from his day job to pursue music full time.
Ironically, with the help of his computer programming background, Erhard has been able to capitalize on the importance of social media by building a web presence and community around his music, pushing his message of authenticity via the channels that challenge it.