“I'm very broody and a little mysterious. I don't really let people in very much. I just don't take things too seriously," says Conan Gray

By Tomás Mier
January 10, 2020 12:00 PM
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Conan Gray is like a bird — well, at least his friends say so.

“They say that when I’m having a good day I am like a beautiful flamingo,” he laughs. “And when I’m having a bad day, I’m an ostrich.”

Opening up to PEOPLE, the 21-year-old “Crush Culture” singer talked about his forthcoming album, adequately named Kid Krow, his latest single “The Story” and his obsessive love for Taylor Swift.

“I just wanted the album to be emblematic of who I am and who I’ve been throughout my whole entire life,” he says, adding that he asked his best friend, “Well, who am I?”

Conan Gray
Mallory Turner

“She goes, ‘You’re a crow.’ And that makes plenty of sense,” he adds. “I’m very broody and a little mysterious. I don’t really let people in very much. I just don’t take things too seriously.”

The 12-track record, set to drop March 20, is filled with some of Gray’s most personal lyrics and the nostalgia-inducing sounds featured on his EP Sunset Season that propelled his post-YouTuber career. Though Gray writes all of his song lyrics, he says creating Kid Krow was much harder than putting together his EP.

“I made my EP before I was ever signed. I made it on my own before anyone cared so there’s no pressure at all,” he says. “With the album, there’s just so many more factors to consider. It’s taken a while to get used to how much my life just completely changed.”

Following the release of Sunset Season in November, Gray’s career skyrocketed. He’s opened for Panic! At the Disco (and Brendon Urie’s “beautifully soft hands”), written his debut album and finally turned 21. But along with the milestones, 2019 became a year of big transition for Gray.

Kid Krow album cover
Dillon Matthews

“The past year has been a lot of healing wounds that didn’t really have time to heal because they were just constantly getting reopened over and over as a kid,” he explains. “And I also think that the past year has been a lot of learning and a lot of growing pains.”

Now, he’s kicking off 2020 by announcing Kid Krow, performing at Coachella in April and releasing the album’s last track, “The Story,” today.

The new song follows some of the darkest parts of his own “pretty tough” childhood and that of his friends growing up “in the middle of Texas.”

“When you’re young, it’s really hard to imagine life not always being hard,” he says. “I lived in a really unsafe household, and life just wasn’t very good for me. And so, as a kid, I was just like, there’s no way that I’m gonna make it, there’s no way that I’m going to survive or there’s no way that there’s going to be anything more to my life than just dealing with pain.”

On “The Story,” Gray echoes those feelings, repeating “Oh, I’m afraid that’s just the way the world works” and telling the story of some heartbreaking experiences he and some friends faced, including one about a boy and girl who are now “gone, headstones on a lawn.”

Like every one of his songs, Gray sent “The Story” to his best friend Ashley — who still lives back home — for candid feedback.

“When I wrote that one, she was just like ‘Please stop making me cry,’” he says. “I just wanted it to connect with people. And if it connects with my best friend, then I think it’ll connect to the fans because I think the fans know me really well. And I really do feel like we’re friends.”

Though his childhood was tough, music was a constant for Gray — especially Taylor Swift’s, who he credits with basically raising him.

Conan Gray and Taylor Swift
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty; Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

“I feel like there’s a weird taboo where you’re not really supposed to say how obsessed you are with people, but I am obsessed with her,” he says, laughing. “I love her so much. I love her music. I love what she does. I love her lyricism. I love how she’s handled her career. She’s just such a f—g boss. I grew up listening to her music since I was nine years old. I feel like she shaped me so much as a person.”

“She just really blows me away,” he continues. “I think if I were in a room with her, I’d literally evaporate so maybe I shouldn’t do that.”

RELATED VIDEO: Colbie Caillat Reflects on Working with ‘Brilliant’ Taylor Swift

Like Swift, Gray hopes to draw in fans with relatable lyrics and real human experiences. From his pop-heavy “Wish You Were Sober” to the acoustically driven “Heather” — about a girl “you hate but you can’t even hate because she’s so nice” — Kid Krow’s lyrics are similarly vulnerable.

“When I’m writing a song, I’m like, ‘Oh no, no one is going to relate to this. This is just such a niche thing that happened to me,’” he says. “But the reality of the human experience is that we’re all way more similar than we think we are. A lot of us have really similar problems and really similar challenges that we face.”

What makes Gray so relatable to those who listen to his music is his unfiltered energy and candidness, from his ever-changing Twitter bio that simply reads “Overthinking” to his random tweets such as the angst-filled, yet simple tweet stating, “i don’t care anymore.”

“I just say things as they are. I don’t really have much of a filter. I think I say a lot of things that I shouldn’t say.”

Kid Krow drops March 20.