Grentperez knows how to mend a broken heart.
The 21-year-old, Western Sydney raised artist, has quickly become one of the voices of the internet generation, spinning us in circles from the strum of his guitar, and his smooth, warm croon. Having started exploring making music through YouTube from the age of five, Grent was already aware of the daunting expectations that come with being on full display on the internet — his explosion during the peak of the pandemic was a long time coming.
But how did a kid from the area become one of Australia’s most promising musical acts?
In The Beginning
His humble beginnings on YouTube stem from a JAMnomination video, which currently sits at 9,800 views. Jamnominations were a video trend in the early 2010s where you nominate someone to perform a cover of a song. From here he started building a dedicated following. With several videos garnering over a million views, his ‘sing u to sleep’ series, which became popular during Australia’s lockdown in early 2020, catapulted Grent further into bedroom-popstar territory. Soon, this local kid from St Clair was evolving to become one of the Internet’s musical sweethearts.
While the pandemic made a lot of people rethink their journeys, Grent’s confident that if the pandemic hadn’t happened, he would still be on the path he is today. Recognising the deep reliance we all had on our phones and computers during that time, Grent explains that his rapid growth as an artist can be put down to how fast word travels on the internet.
“I do have confidence that I would go somewhere with music, but I’d probably still be in uni right now. Other than my teacher’s grading and her comments, I feel like COVID really pushed me to drop out,” he reflects.
There was a lack of encouragement and drive from Grent’s uni teachers — he was labelled “weakest link” in his class, he tells me. Over time, though, Grent’s learned to take knock-backs in his stride — with his gig, critique comes with new territory.
“I do get the occasional critiques and whatnot, but it’s like, one out of quite a few. So you just brush it off in a way. And for the most part, with certain critiques, you can choose to take little bits that you can somewhat agree with and just turn that into an actual constructive criticism. There’s always ways around it,” he voices. He finds self-critique harder to drown out. Ignoring the constant urge to appease his listeners, he explains, is a work in progress.
Nostalgia In Real Time
On his latest EP, When We Were Younger, Grent dives into all his favourite musical vices, regardless of how manic or striking it may sound. Tapping into bossa nova, Philadelphia soul, Hollywood-esque soundscapes, and ’90s romcom soundtracks to detail heartfelt and intimate recollections of nostalgic moments in his life, he’s set on ensuring that his music is authentically Grent.
“I feel like I’m my biggest critic always, but I think the struggle that I have currently is just really seeing what genres I do like because my music is incredibly genre fluid,” he says. “It’s a good thing and a bad thing because the more poppier the sound, I lose credibility in the R&B scene or something, or the more indie rock and whatnot. There’s always a battle. So right now I’m just like, screw it, full send. I may as well just do everything and figure it out later.”
This experimental approach to music is what helps build and craft the many stories Grent features throughout his EP. Drawing on things that are innately nostalgic to him, Grent has been able to build up sonic worlds that are bathed in sentimentality. Effortlessly weaving in child-like wonder and youthful innocence brought us the track ‘Stuck On You’, which is about him and his mates playing handball at the IKEA Marsden Park carpark.
It’s these relatable and wholesome backstories that makes When We Were Younger a stellar immortalisation of Grentperez’s child and teenhood. These specific evocations of nostalgia form a compelling insight into Grent’s psyche, from the media he consumed, to high school friendships, to being alone.
“The movies School of Rock, Click, Bedazzled are very nostalgic to me. I grew up relatively on my own as a kid. My siblings, while we do have an incredibly close relationship, the gap is 9 and 12 years. It’s pretty huge,” he reminisces.
“So a lot of the time I was at home, I wasn’t that confident to ask my friends to come over. I didn’t know how that worked. I just watched movies, played games. A lot of Xbox 360 is very, very nostalgic to me. Moving into high school and walking around my area was very, very nostalgic to me. Every school holiday, me and my best friend Chris would just wander around the area on two BMX bikes just seeing where we haven’t been yet.”
In writing his EP, Grent found himself reckoning with the reality that times are changing. While he doesn’t feel like he’s running out of time in life, he’s no longer as carefree as he was through his teens.
“Every holiday, my best friend used to come over and sleep over, but it’s been maybe 3 or 4 years since that’s happened. So I guess it just made me realise how sentimental I am, and how much I cherish making memories, and the value of those around me. I guess it made me think more critically about that side of myself.”
The Boy Next Door
Grentperez’s growing success can be largely attributed to his musical talent. However, that’s not the whole story. His boyish, cheerful relatability, and happy-go-lucky attitude has not only captivated the hearts of his fans, but made him one of this generation’s most relatable artists.`I think it’s really cool that [my fans] don’t only like me for my voice and my music, but the personality that I have to offer. And I think that means quite a lot to me.” he reflects.
“Once I understood that I could truly just joke around, be myself, that’s when I realised, oh, I’m funny, people find me funny. I feel like that’s cool because within [my fans], there’s definitely some awkward people out there and I wanted to show that I’m also awkward as hell at times as well.”
He’s an endearing soft boy, with a strong, youthful spirit that endures even through the chaos of newfound fame. His music is a collection of poetry that details cherished parts of his life, serving as a constant, and kind reminder of the things and people he cares for.
Grentperez’s feet are firmly planted on the soil of Western Sydney, which he makes sure to mention whenever he can. And despite how big he becomes, and how far he goes, he aims to stay as close to home as possible.
“I really want to rep the area. Every time I get asked what area I’m from, I specify that I’m from Western Sydney because I feel like it’s really important. I don’t even see myself moving so far out of the area, maybe to Castle Hill at most.”
Things like the heavily present jam culture he experienced with other Filipino and Pacific Islander artists in high school and the melting pot of musical talent paving the way in Western Sydney now excite Grent the most when he comes back home. He highlights Zion Garcia, Breakfast Road and FRIDAY* (members of the Full Circle collective) as artists he hopes to work with in the future.
Maintaining the same tight-knit group of friends from high school, who have only ever seen him as the same kid they got to know from the early days, has also helped him stay grounded, especially when navigating and maintaining the fast-paced lifestyle that’s become his new normal.
“I feel like as a person, I have confidence in saying that I don’t think I’d lose myself very quickly. It does help to have good people around you if you’re in the music industry. Having friends that aren’t in the music industry is great. Old high school friends, they don’t care who you are. You’re the same kid from Year Seven, essentially. I feel like having a good circle is the best thing you can do to yourself.”
When The Day Is Done
As much as his EP walks us through remnants of the past, Grent’s introspective outlook on the future and his views on the feeling of ‘running out of time’ is one that you wouldn’t expect from someone at the ripe old age of 21. Living in the digital age, and gathering an understanding of the world through the lens of internet culture, has ultimately altered the way Grent has been able to ‘grow up’. As he meets and interacts with different people everyday as part of his job, diving deeper into understanding the inner workings of being a bedroom popstar, he feels as though he has been able to adjust accordingly to the people he is surrounded by.
“I’d say going into any workforce at a young age forces you to grow up in a weird way. Like, imagine being an accountant at 18, working with 30 year olds, 40 year olds. I did grow up with my siblings being older, so I did understand how to talk to people that were not my age, and it wasn’t so alien to me. But this job in particular really just taught me how to communicate with a more diverse group of people, especially learning how to speak in business, how to put a business voice on. That’s weird.” he expresses.
“It’s definitely been difficult finding friends in different countries. Thankfully, I have been fortunate enough to surround myself with good people. And, yeah, I guess it’s just challenges everywhere you go, there’s always challenges. I think ultimately, if you’re really putting yourself out there, you’re putting your heart out in the right places and you’re being true to yourself, I feel like that’s great. I feel like that’s more than enough in some cases. If you want to prove something to yourself, by all means, go for it… But at this point, running out of time is not a big deal for me.”
Grentperez’s new EP When We Were Younger is out now.
Written by Adele Luamanuvae, a Sydney-based music writer and radio host. You can follow her on Instagram at @smellydel and Twitter at @smellydel.