“There was a point in my childhood when I thought I was going to be a preacher,” says Michael Grubbs, the frontman-songwriter behind Brooklyn’s Wakey!Wakey! “I was going to have a congregation, talk to them about life, about how to get by. I guess this is kind of my pulpit now.”
Ever since his single “War Sweater” jettisoned him into stardom five years ago (thanks to a game-changing plug on One Tree Hill), the indie-pop singer has built a following that’s as passionate as his compositions. His fans have bought 45,000 copies of his self-released debut, the exquisitely tortured Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said the Last Time I Saw You. They’ve permanently inked his lyrics on their bodies (you can find them on display at the “W!W! Tattoos!!!” Pinterest board). And in the ultimate gesture of support, they crowd-funded his self-released follow-up album, the fittingly titled Salvation—and even exceeded the goal by 141 percent. Meanwhile, Salvation’s first single, the bright, palpitating “Wake Up (Lily, I Love You...),” is already off to an auspicious start, amassing global grassroots traction.
Wakey!Wakey! fans are not passive, and that is not lost on a humbled Grubbs. “That has fundamentally changed the conversation with me, the way that I connect with fans through music,” he says. With the optimistic Salvation, he continues, “I’m taking a leap of faith that my fans have evolved with me.”