Rob Grant is a big boat guy. We’re sailing up the Hudson river in a classic leisure yacht, the Full Moon. This isn’t his boat, but it sure is a nice one. He grew up in Rhode Island, adventuring on a beloved sloop called Erewhon. (Named after the 1872 utopian novel by Samuel Butler, not the Los Angeles grocery store with $20 smoothies.) Now he lives on Anna Maria Island, Florida, where he sails plenty in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a comically perfect late spring day, the kind of day invented by God precisely to cruise around on a boat and do fuck all. Grant has white hair, a tan, and the mellow aura of, well, a big boat guy.
At 69 years old, Grant is in the midst of promoting his debut album, Lost at Sea, which is out on June 9th. Whenever Grant would crash at his eldest daughter’s house in LA, he’d often find himself playing her old, out-of-tune piano. He wasn’t classically trained or anything, choosing instead to hit whatever notes instinctively flowed out of him. If his daughter heard a chord progression that clicked, she’d join him. Soon enough, they had a couple of songs between them.
“She’ll start singing and the songs will come together magically, but in a very beautiful, organic, intuitive way,” Grant tells me. “There’s no planning.”
“It’s so cool to create music with my daughter,” he adds. “Because we really are very simpatico.”
“Oh yeah,” his daughter chimes in, an ethereal sparkle in her voice. “I like what I like.”
His daughter, I should mention, happens to be Lana Del Rey. As in: internationally famous singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey.
Yes: Lana. She’s next to her father, both of them sipping sugar free Red Bulls. In her white Los Angeles 1984 sweatshirt, black skirt, and white sneakers, the high priestess of mystery and melancholy appears disorientingly normal. On this four-hour boat tour, she could be any millennial daughter good-naturedly spending the afternoon with her boomer dad, were she not, you know, Lana Del Rey.
Her presence is a slight surprise. A few days beforehand, Grant mentioned that his daughter might want to join. By the time we set sail, Lana, who flew in from LA to support her dad, is blasting Kodak Black on the speakers to set the mood. Later, she’ll step in to help stage daughter her father during the photo shoot, advising him on how to best angle his face. (“Maybe don’t smile, Dad.”)
With all the cultural discussion around the prevalence of nepo babies—children of celebrities who have a leg up, especially in the arts—Grant occupies a unique, singular role. He may be the world’s first, and perhaps only, nepo daddy. Papa Del Rey. And, hey, he’ll take it.
“The nepo daddy thing I love,” he says, having first encountered the concept in his Instagram comments. “I thought, My God, this would make really cool merch.”
“I mean, at that point, he was on his own, obviously,” Lana says with a laugh.
“I’m happy to be the first nepo daddy,” Grant says.
Lana points out that he’s not technically the first nepo daddy, what with Mitch Winehouse trying to make it as a jazz musician after daughter Amy’s untimely death.
“Well see, back then, during Mitch’s time they didn’t have nepo babies. It’s only because of the whole nepo baby thing. Who wrote that story?” Grant asks.
“Someone without a brain…” Lana says, taking a puff of her cherry red vape. “It’s just another way to rile simple folks up.”
As we make our way up the river, the silver skyscrapers on shore give way to dense, peaceful woodlands. An immaculate American flag flown from the boat’s stern snaps and sways in the breeze. It’s enough to make anyone a big boat guy.
“Nobody wants to give anyone any credit for doing anything,” Grant adds. “God forbid that you actually have talent. People don’t want to acknowledge that. They will find a way to undermine you and to really make you feel bad about yourself. So the nepo daddy thing, I love that. Hell, I’ll sell you hats, T-shirts, canvas bags, you name it.”
“Fuckin’ Barnum & Bailey over here,” Lana jokes back.
That said, you can now actually buy his “Nepo Daddy” branded t-shirts—in both full-length and crop tops.
And credit where credit is due. Lost at Sea is a wholly intriguing, unexpected debut album, where transportative piano chords meet a trippy ambient soundscape. Lana lends her voice and lyrics, smokey and full, to the songs “Lost at Sea” and “Hollywood Bowl.” The first time he heard the title track, Grant was so overcome with emotion that he burst into tears.
The two first collaborated on “Sweet Carolina,” a song on Lana’s 2021 album Blue Bannisters. When they were recording, Lana would be about five hours late to the studio. Rob was early, as dads tend to be. Once, he asked the producers to record him while he played the piano for 75 minutes straight.
They were taken aback. So was Lana’s manager, Ben Mawson, who liked what he heard so much that he started shopping it around, landing at Decca Records. Super producer Jack Antonoff and ambient master crafter Luke Howard stepped in to help Grant shape his songs, and the long stream of consciousness recordings were partitioned into individual tracks.
Mawson has known Rob, through Lana, for over a decade now. “Well, Rob’s the pop star,” he tells me, when I ask about the similarities between father and daughter. “No, I’m joking but… Rob probably enjoys the limelight maybe a bit more than Lana does. He’s more comfortable in the spotlight.”
The ocean has been a constant, renewable source of inspiration for Grant. He has actually been lost at sea at times, stranded alone in heavy fog out in the Atlantic, which he recounts with excitement. Both father and daughter have a taste for storm chasing. He also seeks out his thrills by shark fishing—he regales me with a story about a 12-footer dragging his boat for two and a half hours—though he always throws them back.
Beyond the album title, most of the songs have nautical names, like “Moon Rise Over the Ocean,” “Setting Sail On a Distant Horizon,” and “The Poetry Of Wind and Waves.” A six-minute ambient looped track called “The Mermaids Lullaby” is what Ariel might hear if she did shrooms in Joshua Tree.
Lana, who’s been watching her father deep-sea fish for years (and included a song titled “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing” on her most recent album) was interested in seeing how he translated those experiences into music. “It’s fun that there’s more of a tangible outcome from all of that time alone on the water,” she tells him.
As an adult, Grant landed in New York City, working in advertising on Madison Avenue. He came up with the Playtex bra slogan “Thank Goodness It Fits,” which turned into a $500 million campaign. The job was demanding and its pressures unrelenting. It was the ‘80s version of Mad Men; trade in the three-martini lunch for a frazzled coworker doing deskside coke. Grant would often linger in a small bookstore near his office, where he would flip through guides about fly fishing and the outdoors, dreaming of a simpler life.
When Lana was born (née Lizzy Grant), he and her mom found themselves dragging a stroller up a five-story walk-up. They realized they had to get out. The family moved up to Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks. (Mom and Rob are now both in Florida.) He was working as a real estate agent, though he kept an eye on a nascent thing called the internet. Grant realized that nobody would be searching his name when looking for a house. But something like, say, AdirondackRealEstate.com? That was gold.
So he started buying up domain names. Bought all his kids’ names. Their stage names, too. And all these years later, he still knows a good domain name when he sees it.
For instance, when all the nepo daddy stuff went down. “I went ‘Oh, shit. I’ve got to own that.’ I went out and registered the domain. So you type in ‘nepo daddy’,” he says, proudly, “and I pop up.”
During Lana’s childhood, the two of them bonded musically over Paul Simon and the Beach Boys. He says he always knew she had musical talent, back from when she was a toddler and would serenade their next door neighbor. “Al, what a great guy he was,” he remembers. “She just sang all day.” Grant also tried his hand at trying to become a country star, around the time Lana was 11. He went down to Nashville with a song he had written called “Big Bubba.” Lana pulls up a video on her phone of a grainy old home movie where she and her siblings, sister Chuck and brother Charlie, dance along to it as children.
Trouble was, the country producer was offended because he thought that the track was making a mockery of a typical country song. And he was doubly offended when Grant said something about how bad most country music was in those days, citing a specific song. Turns out the guy he was talking to had produced it.
Thus was the end of Grant’s musical career—until Lost at Sea.
“I do love that story,” Lana says, with a smile. “I also did a similar thing with an artist I won’t say. I got kicked out of the office.”
They are in tune in a lot of other ways: both are big on trusting their intuitions. They consider each other friends. They love to hang in Vegas. Lana may have an entire oeuvre that hints at daddy issues (she literally titled a song “Daddy Issues”) but the two seem to have a close, healthy relationship.
And Rob, in his own way, has a keen instinct for fame and self-promotion. Take the cover shot of his album, which has him out at sea with seagulls surrounding him. It was unplanned, the result of his daughter Chuck taking a photo of him on a fishing boat.
“That’s because that was supposed to be a family trip,” Lana points out.
“But everything becomes a photo shoot,” he says.
“Well,” she answers. “It does if you bring 11 Hawaiian shirts and say, ‘Shoot! Shoot!’”
Even before this album, Rob has been a recognizable part of the Lana Del Rey Cinematic Universe.
“He’s the only fucking reason why we get stopped at TJ Maxx,” Lana says. “If I’m with you, then there is zero chance that we’re having a calm day at Marshall’s.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Rob says, smiling.
“They love Rob because Rob loves them,” she says, about her fans. He reads all the letters they send in, and stands there for hours to chat after concerts.
“Yeah, I do love them,” he agrees. “What’s not to love? I mean, my God.”
It’s yet to be seen if Rob will go on tour, but he is thinking of opening for Lana. Just him at the piano in a tropical shirt. Maybe.
“This is all so new for me. The idea of going out and actually going on a big stage and playing, that’s still intimidating to me. I’m willing to try it,” Rob says. “It’s really more if I’m with Lana, I don’t want to screw her up.”
“There is nothing to ruin here,” she says, with a glittering smile. “We have seen and done it all.”
Photographs by Caroline Tompkins
Grooming by Mark Edio using Kosas
Location on the Yacht Full Moon, special thanks to Classic Harbor Line, NYC