The title of Gil Grand's first album turned out to be prophetic. Famous First Words, the 1998 Monument Records release which featured five songs he penned himself and another half dozen traditional country numbers contributed by renowned Nashville songwriter Byron Hill, was nominated for Album of the Year by the Canadian Country Music Association. Grand also has been nominated as Male Vocalist of the Year.
In his native country, Grand couldn't have asked for a better kickoff to his career in country music. South of the border in the U.S., however, his timing couldn't have been worse. A number of factors seemed to make the American market less receptive to the rising artist. Grand faced a market that was growing less receptive to the traditional country sound, while play lists faced cutbacks. It didn't help matters when another new act launched by his label took off like nobody's business. The phenomenal success of the Dixie Chicks left Grand in its wake, at least in the U.S., despite an aggressive promotional campaign that included showcases in New Orleans, Austin, Atlanta, and San Francisco.
Grand is frequently compared to George Jones and George Strait, two major stars of traditional country music whom he counts among his inspirations. Other influences include Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, and Buck Owens. Grand's musical family, too, was an early influence. Eleven uncles and nine aunts from his dad's side of the family often jammed at his home and shared their musical knowledge with their nephew. The singer had barely entered his teens when he began to write songs. Within a year he pulled together a band and starting playing out. In 1997 at a music showcase held in Calgary, he got his first teasing taste of the possibilities that awaited him. Music publishers in attendance liked what they heard and introduced Grand to Hill. In addition to contributing songs to Grand's debut album, Hill also produced it. ~ Linda Seida
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