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Studio Session: Grayson Zelik's debut album is full of humor and heart

Grayson Zelik's self titled debut album, released March 23, 2024.
Grayson Zelik's self titled debut album, released March 23, 2024.

Singer-songwriter Grayson Zelik joined WYSO music director Juliet Fromholt for a live studio session and interview in advance of the March 22 release of his self-titled debut album. Zelik spoke with Juliet about learning to play music alongside his father, honing his performance skills at school talent shows, and deciding to record an album—in fifth grade. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, Grayson played three songs from his debut album live in WYSO’s studio: “Mr. FBI Agent,” “Tested Positive (For Loving You),” and “I’m a Shoulder to Cry On.”

Now a junior at Centerville High School, Grayson Zelik realized early in life that he felt at home on stage. He began playing music when he was eight years old after attending a Kenny Loggins concert with his father, Steve Zelik. “Afterwards we were like, ‘this is really cool. We should maybe start doing this,’” Grayson said. He and his dad–who had no prior musical experience–decided to study music together; Grayson attended lessons at Hauer Music Store and Steve poured over Youtube videos detailing guitar techniques. After lessons, they compared notes and practiced together at home.

Soon, Grayson and Steve were performing as an acoustic duo–a “Simon Garfunkle thing,” according to Grayson–on stages and street corners around Centerville. While Grayson was initially nervous to perform in public, he told Juliet that he quickly learned to enjoy the exhilaration of animating an audience:

“The school talent shows [are] where I cut my teeth in elementary school. At first I was nervous, but then it got really exciting. There’s always the buildup of the nervous part, and then once I'm on the stage and doing my thing, it's like, ‘oh, they're really liking it! I'm having fun.’ When I perform, I get my energy from a responsive crowd.”

From the start, Grayson wanted to write his own songs. “I loved tinkering around and making things that sound interesting,” he said. “A lot of them were really silly at first, but the as I got the hang of it and saw that people liked it, I was like, ‘I should stick with this.’” In fifth grade, two years after he began playing music, he set an ambitious goal: to write and record his own album.

“I read Brian Wilson's memoir, I Am Brian Wilson, and I just loved the way that he would detail the process of making the album, developing his songwriting. I thought, ‘this would be really cool if I did something like this with some of the songs I'm writing.’ So for Christmas my dad got this little digital eight track mixing thing and I was able to start recording myself.”

Now, six years later, Grayson has finally released his debut album. Recorded in his home studio and on trips to Nashville, Tennessee, Grayson Zelik shows off the singer’s humorous and serious sides, with heartfelt ballads like “I’m Your Shoulder to Cry On” and tongue-and-cheek songs like “Tested Positive (For Loving You),” which likens having a crush to coming down with COVID.

Grayson Zelik is available on all major streaming platforms, or as a CD at live performances. Grayson and Steve Zelik performed together at a release show for the album on March 23 at The Barrel in Dayton. For updates about Grayson’s upcoming releases and performances, follow him on Instagram @GraysonGuitar.

Text by Peter Day, adapted from an interview recorded by Juliet Fromholt on March 2, 2024.

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Juliet Fromholt is proud to be music director at 91.3FM WYSO. Juliet began volunteering at WYSO while working at WWSU, the student station at her alma mater, Wright State University. After joining WYSO's staff in 2009, Juliet developed WYSO’s digital and social media strategy until moving into the music director role in 2021. An avid music fan and former record store employee, Juliet continues to host her two music shows, Alpha Rhythms and Kaleidoscope, which features studio performances from local musicians every week. She also co-hosts Attack of the Final Girls, a horror film review podcast.
Peter Day writes and produces stories for WYSO’s music department. His works include a feature about Dayton's premiere Silent Disco and a profile of British rapper Little Simz. He also assists with station operations and serves as fill-in host for Behind the Groove. Peter began interning at WYSO in 2019 and, in his spare time while earning his anthropology degree, he served as program director for Yale University’s student radio station, WYBC.