Riff On This: DeLand native David “D1″ Grant takes his piano skills from church to Grammys

Producer, songwriter, and pianist shares stories from his childhood to the red carpet

For David “D1″ Grant, his musical journey started really young, playing piano at his father’s church in DeLand.

When Grant reached high school, a guidance counselor asked what he wanted to do with his life.

“I said ‘I want to be like Quincy Jones,’” Grant said. “I wanted to be a producer, so I kind of just dove all into the role of a producer, what they do, how they do it.”

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Grant’s passion led him to Full Sail University where we sought out new artists to work with to build his musical resume.

“I would find new artists to work with people that were just starting in a journey just like me and they will let me record their song for them, you know, produce with them and some of them are Grammy Award winners now,” Grant said. “We just recorded in the apartment, and now they’re on the biggest stages of their career, you know, this amazing journey.”

David "D1" Grant playing piano at the age of 17. His love for music beginning even younger in his father's church in DeLand, Florida. (David Grant/WKMG News 6)

Grant’s first major gig came during his time at Full Sail when his friend Trey Pierce, a Grammy-winning bassist, took Grant under his wing opening the door to tour on a big stage for the first time in his career.

“Music Director Jay Williams with The Blind Boys of Alabama gave me a call and gave me a chance to tour with them,” Grant said.

From the tour, everything changed.

David "D1" Grant on tour with Gary Clark Jr. (David Grant/WKMG News 6)

“As a songwriter and producer I worked with VH1, the Show “Love and Hip Hop” on seasons one, two and three,” Grant said. “That’s when I figured out wait, I might be alright as a producer”.

Grant’s production resume grew adding artists like Erica Mina and Olivia. Their work reached the Billboard Top 20.

“Breaking the artists through television, and having records go through a reality show to you know, Billboard was the big thing,” Grant said. “That kind of gave me the confidence like ‘Yeah, I think I can. I can make a career out of this.’”

Grant decided to make a move. He left the Sunshine State for the Lonestar State finding a new life in Austin. The city’s official motto being the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Grant knew he had a chance to do big things. Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? This big move started from one call.

“I was called in to tape PBS Austin City Limits — legendary venue, legendary show — by my friend Jonathan Dees who is the music director for Gary Clark Jr,” Grant said.

Soon, Grant found himself playing piano on tour with artists like RayJ and Gary Clark Jr. A memorable moment for the musician was the last leg of Gary Clark Jr.’s tour where he was on stage performing at the Austin City Limits Festival performing in front of almost 100,000 people.

Grant said no matter where he performs, his DeLand roots and memories of playing in his father’s church keep his family close by, often calling his parents after big shows.

“When they say ‘We’re proud of you,’ those words right there... I mean, yeah, that’s almost like that’s, that’s just instant gratification,” Grant said.

Grant said it was his work with Dees that led to working with John Batiste.

“It was just for one show at that time,” he said.

Everyone part of the show, much like his church upbringing, had a spiritual connection. What the group didn’t know at the time was that connection would lead them to an even bigger performance.

David "D1" Grant next to the iconic pink Rhodes piano he played during the 64th Annual Grammy Awards performance of "Freedom" with multi-Grammy Award-winning musician John Batiste. (David Grant/WKMG News 6)

“We had no idea months later we’d be playing the Grammys or anything like that. It was just you know, about the spiritual connection we made and such a great show. And then, months later, they gave me a call back to come to LA to start rehearsing,” Grant said.

Hear more on what it was like preparing for the Grammy’s behind the scenes along with Grant’s experience telling his parents of his Dove Award Nomination and then taking them to the red carpet all on episode 22 of Riff On This.

About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.