What 21-Year-Old Dave Grohl Did to Stay ‘Grounded’ Amid Nirvana’s Overnight Success

Dave Grohl was a drummer in the rock band Nirvana from 1990 to 1994. When he first started making music in Nirvana alongside already-established members Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, Grohl was in his early 20s. In a 2021 interview with NPR, Grohl shared what it was like being in Nirvana while being so young.

A black-and-white photo of Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain, and Krist Novoselic
(L-R) Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain, and Krist Novoselic | Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images

Dave Grohl thinks he ‘was a kid’ when Nirvana took off

Cobain and Novoselic first started Nirvana in 1987, and Grohl joined the band in 1990. In an interview with NPR, Grohl shared that he thinks he “was a kid” when Nirvana started gaining more recognition.

“When Nirvana first became popular, I was 21 or 22 years old. And, you know, I was a kid. Before that, all I wanted to do was to survive playing music. Really, my biggest aspiration was, you know, to have an apartment! … I never imagined that things would turn out the way they did. I never imagined Nirvana would become so popular,” Grohl told NPR.

He continued, “I just didn’t, you know? At the time, that type of music just wasn’t commercially accessible. It wasn’t popular music. It was an underground music.”

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How Dave Grohl stayed ‘grounded’ as a member of Nirvana

Nirvana began to find mainstream success in 1991 with their album Nevermind and the single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Speaking with NPR, Grohl said the band’s popularity “happened at a frightening speed.”

“And when the band first became popular, it happened at a frightening speed. It was within a month or two that we went from being relatively unknown to being number one on the charts and a name that everyone recognized. So at that age, at 21 or 22 years old, that’s a lot to process,” the drummer said.

Grohl then shared how he was able to stay “grounded” in the popular band.

“And if I ever felt overwhelmed, I would just go back to Virginia. I’d go back to the house where I grew up and I would go hang out with my friends from high school and stay in my neighborhood until I felt grounded again. And then I would go back to Nirvana,” he told NPR.

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The drummer thinks he was ‘anonymous’ in Nirvana

As a drummer in Nirvana, Grohl told NPR that he thinks he avoided “the pitfalls” of the fame that came with being in the band.

“I felt pretty anonymous in that band,” he said. “I was lucky, that I could avoid a lot of the dark corners or the pitfalls – but at the same time, reap a lot of the benefits of that. I mean, I bought my first car. I bought an old Ford Falcon Futura 1963. That was it for me. I was set for life. I had a car. And it was that simple then.”

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