Pink-haired and with a Prince meme taped to the wall behind her, Toronto singer-songwriter GRAE joined the Zoom call ready to recount her past life as a musician.
“When I was about ten, my dad bought me my first guitar at a pawnshop,” she said of her early days in an interview with The Harvard Crimson. “It was like this little purple guitar, and I just started writing songs and playing.”
However, it wasn’t until his mother died at the age of 14 that music played a bigger role in his life as a necessary medium for self-expression.
“I was a very angry teenager and the only thing that made me happy was music, and my dad recognized that,” she said. “So he did everything he could to get me into music lessons, get me into recording studios, to help me. I’m very grateful for that.
Although she was pressured in high school to go to college or choose a more traditional career, GRAE decided to pursue music full-time, with the support of her father. Since embarking on a musical life, GRAE has released 2 EPs, “New Girl” and “Permanent Maniac”, a number of singles, and her debut studio album “Whiplash” is due out later this year.
His latest single from January 19, “Room in the Desert”, is a true experiment in sonic creativity, channeling both Cocteau Twins and Tame Impala.
“The inspiration for the song was absolutely not from any inspiration. I went to the session and I had nothing to write,” GRAE said before joking, “I was in a happy relationship, and that didn’t happen. not help with writing.”
Having written most of his previous music out of personal experiences, GRAE decided to try something new. The first spark came from listening to “Cherry-Coloured Funk” by Cocteau Twins.
“I remember listening to the lyrics one day and thinking, ‘What does this mean? It sounds like a bunch of random words that are put together,'” she said. was kind of like, ‘maybe it would be fun to do something like this, where we just write from scratch and just put a bunch of words together.'”
This lack of formal or stylistic restrictions created an atmosphere of pure creative autonomy for the artist. “It allowed me, my producer and my writing partner to have so much creative freedom to allow us to do something completely outside the box and unrelated to me,” said she declared. “It couldn’t have come from me.”
Still, she noted that some lines in the song are indeed personal to her, like the chorus’ extremely vulnerable chorus, “Is it bad that I cry most days?”
“It’s true; I cry almost every day,” she said, her bright pastel yellow background in stark contrast to her confession. “I’m very emotional.”
Production of “Room in the Desert” was coordinated by GRAE producer Connor Seidel; the pair share a manager.
“I’m gonna walk in and I’m gonna say ‘I’d like to do something that’s older Tame Impala inspired with like The Cure, but let’s throw GRAE in and make sure it sounds along the lines of ‘Permanent.’ Maniac’ to make sure things tie together’, and Connor is just mad he’s going to say, ‘OK, I get it’ and then fuckin’ five minutes later he comes back and is like ‘here,'” a she said.
Such rigorous collaboration with producers and songwriters pushed GRAE to develop their musicality and, in their own words, to “sing better”. “I feel like Connor really developed my new sound. Connor and Derek Hoffman – they’re the only producers I work with – they developed my new sound for me, and I love them both so much,” she said.
In the future, GRAE hopes its music will reach the widest possible audience. After releasing “Permanent Maniac” during the COVID-19 pandemic, she has yet to be able to tour, although she is looking forward to the opportunity.
In today’s socially distant world, artists carry the burden of promoting themselves online through social media platforms, which can often take a toll on self-confidence and morale, according to GRAE.
“Social media is obviously this thing where you can constantly post promotional things for yourself and your music, and sometimes something can blow up and it can be amazing and all of a sudden you have a record deal” , she said. “But for artists who don’t necessarily fit into this content-driven world that we live in, it can be very difficult for them.”
Above all else, GRAE holds firmly to the power of music which she discovered at an early age. “I just think music plays such a big part in every part of our lives,” she said. “If you think of a certain time or a certain person or a certain memory, most of the time, a song is associated with that.”
Additionally, she notes the impact she hopes her music will have in the future.
“Even if it’s a person listening to my music and I make that person feel better, it makes me feel like I’ve done something,” she said.
“Room in the Desert” is set to be released on January 19. GRAE’s debut studio album “Whiplash” is due out April 15.
—Writer AJ Veneziano can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @aj_veneziano.