The first thing Christina Grimmie wanted me to know is that she had no idea who I was, had never heard my music, and wasn’t even remotely nervous about jumping aboard my band’s tour bus for a few weeks. It was late-February 2016 and I was welcoming Christina and her brother Mark onto my bus, while we both supported Rachel Platten on her Wildfire Tour. The tour was exciting, the crowds were hyped, and Christina opened every show; singing and playing piano with Mark accompanying her on guitar. Mark was also her tour manager, a friendly, hardworking kid; eager to be a road warrior. The tour began in Texas and we trekked through the South, up the East Coast, thru Atlanta, Philly, NYC and Toronto. In Boston, we celebrated Christina’s 22nd birthday on stage during a show; Rachel leading the crowd in a sing-a-long while Grimmie (as she was often called) blew out her candles.
Christina, a Marlton, New Jersey, native, was smart and ambitious. Shy, but warm. She was polite, but also had a wonderfully youthful arrogance about her that seemed to say hang around with me long enough and you might get to be a part of my biopic. She was impossibly young. She adored video games and had the type of collection of consoles and games that I dreamed of having as a kid, all in cool gamer travel suitcases. And because she was young, she usually left the games and wires all around the bus for us to clean up. Every spare moment she had, she was gaming, often with friends she’d met online, who came to meet and visit her on tour. She was also impossibly tiny, like a high school freshman. She was small in a room, keeping to herself, but when she opened her mouth to sing on stage, she erupted with the power and control of Whitney, Xtina and Robert Plant. She could sing like hell. She sang Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” each night on stage (a song that had made her famous from her first audition on The Voice), and nailed it confidently, powerfully, gracefully.
On June 10, 2016, Christina Grimmie was gunned down by a deranged fan during a post-show meet and greet at The Plaza Live in Orlando. Mark was right there when it happened, tackling the gunman after the shots were fired, but it was too late. Christina died the next day. She was 22.
I was terribly saddened to learn about Christina’s death and instantly remembered how sweet and talented she’d been. It was a shock, and later I realized I’d never known someone who died from gun violence. The suddenness, the senselessness, and the permanence was sharp and cold. The following night in Orlando, less than four miles away from The Plaza Live, another gunman took the lives of 50 people in a gay nightclub. Soon after, I saw an upsetting Google Trends graph that suggested, based on past gun tragedies, America would forget about the killings in Orlando in two months.
This can’t be.
Please spend some time this week, reflecting on your life and your loved ones. Consider how you might get involved in fighting gun violence and in helping to implement commonsense gun laws. As a nation, we must not get bogged down in rhetoric and empty talking points, but must find real solutions. I will be continuing to fight for gun safety, in the memory of Grimmie.
Eric Hutchinson is a singer, songwriter and performer living in New York City.