Soul of Spain

Only a year out of high school, musician David Grams is on his way to mastering the intricacies of flamenco guitar.

At 17 years old, David Grams is in a class all his own. Quite literally, in one sense of the word: He was homeschooled, graduated when he was 16, and now spends his time pursuing his own personal studies. Chief among them: the art of classical and flamenco guitar.

Both of Grams’ parents are musically inclined, so it isn’t surprising that he showed an aptitude for music at a young age. But his successful venture into the complicated Spanish rhythms of flamenco guitar was a path he chose to follow on his own.

“My mom’s side of the family is Spanish, so I guess you could say it’s in my blood,” he says. “I was exploring different types of things I could play, and more challenging styles.”

Flamenco music originated in southern Spain in the late 1700s and has remained popular. “I would describe it as a fusion of Western and Middle Eastern music put together, so it has a lot of complicated techniques mixed with different styles of chords,” Grams says. “It’s a really unique sound. It sounds very exotic and Spanish.”

And Grams knows exactly what appeals most to him about tackling a genre that requires so much musical aptitude. “It’s the challenge. I’ve always loved the challenge,” he says. “The right hand techniques that it takes—most guitarists will use a pick in their right hand to pluck notes, but I have to use several of my fingers at once, and that takes a lot of coordination and practice.”

And practice he does, for about an hour and a half every day. He started seriously practicing guitar when he graduated from high school in 2015, and since then has played many venues in the Twin Cities area, including cafés and farmers markets in the lake area. It was at the farmers markets that Grams first sold his music: a five-song EP.

Grams released his second album, called 16:23, which incorporated a different approach, in late 2015. “The first album that I made was primarily Spanish and classical guitar, but for this one I’m [taking] a steel-string guitar as the primary instrument, and then there’s the harp and the classical guitar that accompany that instrument. It’s slower, more melodic than the other music that I have.” A third album, Shepherd, was released at Christmas.

Grams also offers guitar lessons, and you can find a few of his tutorials on his YouTube channel.

In addition to his musical abilities, Grams has another hidden talent: blacksmithing, which he does with a forge he set up himself in his backyard. “Aside from guitar and music in general, I was always just interested in working with my hands,” he says. “Just like flamenco, I discovered it on my own. I would watch YouTube videos and somehow I became interested in it. I actually started that before I started aggressively pursuing guitar. I saved up money for about a year and then I just bought all the equipment I could. Then I started selling the bows and knives and swords I made on Etsy.”

With such varied interests and talents, Grams could follow any career path he chooses. But for now, he’s simply exploring—and spending plenty of time with his guitar. “It’s just going to take a lot of hard work, and I’m definitely motivated to do that,” he says. “I want to end up playing some bigger shows.”

For more information about David Grams and his music, visit his website here.