David “D1” Grant was a musical kid growing up in DeLand in the 1980s and ’90s. Now 40 years old, he’s a musical adult, playing with the likes of Grammy award-nominated performer and pianist Jon Batiste and achieving growing recognition.
“Growing up in my father’s church, I started playing drums, and then migrated over to the keyboards and played saxophone at DeLand Middle School,” Grant told The Beacon. “I was a very musical kid growing up. I think that’s all I ever wanted to do.”
How did a young boy from DeLand end up playing with musicians like Batiste and walking the red carpet at the Dove Awards in Nashville in October?
Grant credits his success to hard work, persistence and the support of his family.
David Grant’s parents, David Grant Sr. and Gloria Grant, were both certain their son was going to be a musician. Her son “lived, ate and breathed music,” Gloria Grant said.
“He always loved music,” she said. “He used to get two spoons out of the kitchen, and my table was the drum set.”
Growing up, David Grant was often surrounded by gospel and other Christian music, thanks to his parents, especially his father, who was a minister at Refuge Church of Our Lord in DeLand.
Grant loved gospel music and cut his teeth playing in church. As he got older, he started to listen to funk and jazz, too.
One big moment during his music education, he said, was learning about producer Quincy Jones, who produced records for the likes of Michael Jackson, Little Richard, Donna Summer and many, many more.
“I remember doing a book report on Quincy Jones when I was little,” Grant said. “That was one of the few book reports that I did complete on my own. Once I found out he was a producer, I said, ‘That’s what I want to be when I grow up.’ I just stayed on that path.”
Grant credits much of his early musical drive to former DeLand Middle School band director Thom Chambers. Chambers got Grant started on the saxophone and piqued his interest in music production.
While teaching, Chambers was working on an album of his own music, and young David Grant was mesmerized by his setup for recording music. Some 30 years later, Chambers still remembers his protégé.
“I taught for 40 years, and I can name, like, 10 kids on my hands that get it, and he was one,” Chambers said. “He just got it, and he was a character, too.”
Of course, what David Grant’s sister Shameka Edwards remembers is her brother “loudly practicing” the saxophone in the bedroom next to hers. But she also remembered another moment that has stuck with her for years.
“I was like 16, he was 15, and one night, it was late, we were just lying around, and he said, ‘One day, I’m going to take you to the Grammys,’” Edwards said. “I’ve been holding him to that ever since.”
Workin’ day and night
After graduating from DeLand High School in 2000, Grant got a degree in recording arts from Full Sail University near Orlando. Shortly afterward, at the age of 24, thanks to his friend Trae Pierce — now a Grammy Award-winning bassist — Grant was able to tag along with the iconic funk outfit Ohio Players for their “Legends of Funk” tour.
“Just being around [Leroy] “Sugarfoot” Bonner, who was the lead singer, and touring with a legendary act at such a young age taught me a lot about what it would take to be a professional musician in the industry,” Grant said. “That was my first taste.”
Right out of college, Grant decided he wanted to produce an album of his own music.
That album was Diary of a Church Band, released in 2003 as the group Surround Sound Music Group, which featured several of his friends, including Pierce.
The album didn’t win any awards, but Grant was hooked. He continued making and producing music, and things only went up from there.
In 2013, Grant produced the song “Where Do I Go From Here” by the artist Olivia. The song was featured on the television show Love and Hip Hop and reached No. 16 on the Billboard R&B singles chart.
Recently, Grant had the opportunity to work on songs for a contestant on the TV show The Voice and to play keyboard on tour with performer and pianist Jon Batiste. Batiste received 11 nominations ahead of the 2022 Grammy Awards — the most of any one artist — including nominations for album and record of the year.
Grant was even featured in the announcement video for Facebook’s new pivot to “the metaverse,” in which users visit a virtual reality Jon Batiste concert, where Grant can be seen playing the keyboard onstage.
For Grant, playing with Batiste, one of his keyboard heroes, has left him star-struck.
“To be one-on-one with him in rehearsals and behind the scenes, the knowledge I’m getting from him is something I never could afford in a million years. But I’m there now, so God afforded it to me,” Grant said. “I feel like I’m in college all over again, at Juilliard, and I’ve been blessed with a one-of-a-kind opportunity to be around a pianist I admire so much. It’s a very, very awesome feeling.”
The Grant family also had the opportunity to travel to Nashville in October for the Dove Awards, a music-awards show focusing on Christian and gospel music.
Grant produced The Book of Mali by Mali Music, which was nominated for contemporary gospel album of the year. The Book of Mali didn’t take home the award, but Grant family members were thrilled to walk the red carpet and be among so many talented artists.
“I never got a chance to walk the red carpet; I always dreamed of it. My son put us on it, and I’ll forever cherish that day,” Gloria Grant told The Beacon. “I know it’s not going to be the last time, but it’s something about that first time. It was an awesome experience.”
The Grant family said they never doubted their star musician for a second. David Grant Sr. even calls his son “the hardest-working man in show business.”
Just as his family had his back, David “D1” Grant has theirs, and serves as an inspiration to his children and his sister Shameka Edwards’ children, too. Her daughter, Anyjha Frazier-Grant, has always looked up to Uncle David.
“He has an incredible work ethic; that’s something I’m so proud of. It’s something I talk with my kids about, like, ‘Look at your uncle, look how hard he works,’” Edwards said. “He’s definitely someone who inspires me, even as his older sister.”
Grant’s family is certain he’ll make it to the Grammys someday, and if his bringing the family to the Dove Awards is any indication, the Grant family can be sure they’ll all get tickets when David “D1” Grant scores a Grammy nomination.
“They’ve really supported me my entire career. It’s been 20 years of ‘I’m almost there, I’m almost there,’” he said. “This is why you appreciate your family.”