L.A. singer-songwriter Andy Grammer wrote his latest single, "Fresh Eyes," as a love song to his wife, trying to capture that moment when a loved one "kinda surprises you and you're like, 'I must've overlooked this one part of you and now I'm catching it and it's making me love you all over again,'" as he puts it.
But when it came time to make a video for the song, Grammer wanted to express that same concept in a more universal way. So when a video production company called Happy Ending Agency pitched the idea of viewing L.A.'s homeless population with "fresh eyes," he ran with the concept — especially because the issue of homelessness is an especially personal one to him.
Before he achieved mainstream success with sweetly inspirational pop songs like "Honey, I'm Good" and "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)," Grammer worked for four years as a street musician on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, where he befriended some of the homeless people who frequented the area. "When you work on the street, it's not just some [homeless] guy you're walking by. His name's Brian," Grammer says. Once he began talking to the homeless around the Promenade and occasionally buying them lunch, "they're not invisible anymore. They're people."
For "Fresh Eyes," Grammer and his producers spent most of the video's budget on clothes, food and barbers, and headed down to the largest homeless shelter on Skid Row, the Union Rescue Mission. There, over the course of a 14-hour shoot, they gave clothes, shaves and haircuts to roughly 50 of the area's homeless, then finished the day with a party and performance on the mission's rooftop.
"Probably the most incredible thing was seeing them see themselves," Grammer says, describing the moment when a freshly cleaned-up Skid Row dweller would first look in a mirror. "I was on the verge of tears the whole time."
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More than just the clothes, haircuts and backpacks full of fresh socks and toiletries, Grammer says it was just the positive attention that seemed to affect people the most. "For the day, they were seen by the world as more than homeless," he says. "When people don't see you for who you are, it's excruciating."
Grammer recognizes that his one day helping a handful of people on Skid Row and hearing their stories is just a drop in the bucket that is the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, where 45,000 people sleep on the street or in shelters on any given night. But he hopes the "Fresh Eyes" video can raise awareness and inspire others to help address the issue. At the end of the video, he urges fans to donate to the Union Rescue Mission — and speaking with L.A. Weekly by phone, he encourages everyone to find ways to give a little money, time or just love to the homeless.
"If you want to feel like you really have something to give that's valuable, give your attention to someone who's homeless. And your money, too. You will immediately feel so ... " He trails off, searching for the right words. Finally, he hits on what could be a lyric in a future Andy Grammer song: "This crazy feeling that your heart didn't even know how to work before you did this."
[Note: An earlier version of this article credited the wrong company behind helping Andy Grammer create the concept for the "Fresh Eyes" video. The company actually involved in coming up with the concept was Happy Ending Agency. We regret the error.]