INTERVIEW: Gracie Abrams

Gracie Abrams is a voice for a new-wave of music lovers. With people desperately seeking music that explicitly details the hurt and deep emotions they’re experiencing in a urge to not feel alone, artists feel less afraid to open themselves up as they know that people are listening and relating. 

This is where Gracie Abrams fits in, because as a listener the 21 year old singer-songwriter was always drawn to artists who sung their pain, their heartbreak, their love and their candid thoughts. Growing up listening to the likes of Joni Mitchell around the house, and then obsessively diving into Lorde’s ‘Pure Heroine’ during middle school while trying to figure out how she fitted into this evolving world, she’s always found comfort in bold storytellers. 

Becoming one of those voices for people, Abrams started releasing acoustic versions of songs she was writing on YouTube and Instagram which saw her getting an early fan in Lorde who commented on one post saying “send me this mp3”. 

After finally releasing her first studio recorded singles ‘Mean It’ and ‘Stay’ last year, Abrams has unveiled her debut EP ‘Minor’ which is a deeply vulnerable and personal collection of tracks that detail the different stages of a relationship. 

I recently sat down with Gracie Abrams over Zoom to chat about the takeaway she wants listeners to have from ‘Minor’, the strong intent behind ‘Friend’, and we explore the storyteller side of her artistry through the explanation of some vulnerable lyrics. Check it out BELOW; 

THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut EP ‘Minor’ is out now, and it’s a deeply vulnerable and personal collection of tracks that are melodically and sonically beautiful. So what do you want people to take away from listening to it in full?

GRACIE ABRAMS: My goal with this project was to highlight different phases of the same experience. So I guess in terms of what people can take away, my goal was for them to feel connected in some capacity. 

For me, the reason that I am such a fan of music is that it makes me feel way less alone than I would otherwise. So as long as anybody connects to it it even a little bit, then that’s what my dream take away would be. 

TB: Well these tracks have already started to soundtrack some very intimate and emotional moments for people. So looking back on the music that was personally getting you through those moments, who were your go to voices?

GA: Joni Mitchell! And Lorde! She soundtracked my whole time through middle school when she released ‘Pure Heroine’. That album saved me!

*Laughs* It’s so funny because the Charlie Brown Christmas Album was also one. I know it’s not an influences kinda thing, but that’s an album that makes me feel a very specific kind of way. I feel very drawn to music that I can remember where I’ve been when I’ve listened to things. And the Charlie Brown Christmas Album fits right into that category. 

TB: I love when you can vividly remember listening to an album for the first time. For me, one of the first albums I remember listening to in full and feeling so connected and excited by what I was hearing was Gwen Stefani’s ‘Love. Angel. Music. Baby’. And as a 26 year old, that album still holds a very special place in my heart. 

GA: Oh, Same! That album is SO good! 

TB: You’ve named the EP after the song ‘Minor’. So what was it about this track that felt like it captured the whole essence of what the EP means to you? 

GA: Well I wrote that song four years ago, and I feel like it’s a fairly uncommon thing for young people to be in the same relationship for a long time. But this whole project is about a relationship that has run it’s course for up to four years now. 

I wrote that song when I was at the very beginning of it. I had the strictest parents in my entire social group, and I had to be home really early, and I kinda missed out on a lot of social opportunities as a result of it. 

It was a really intense feeling of longing and desperation that led me to write that song. But the reason I kept it on the project, and the reason it stayed so important to me, is that I felt like it was the first time I wrote something that was very genuinely my own voice. I wasn’t trying to immolate anybody else’s sound, which I had kinda depended on before that. But I also learn that it’s not a bad thing because my influences took me to other spaces. 

I listen to a lot of music because I just want to be as good as the people I love. But when I wrote this song I feel like I identified with myself for the first time ever, and that hasn’t changed over the years as I still feel really connected to that song. In the back of my head I always knew that I wanted ‘Minor’ on my first body of work.

TB: It’s also a song that your fans are so excited for because you released a stripped back performance of it on Youtube a few years ago. I was reading some of the comments on the track listing announcement this morning on Instagram and so many people were commenting things like “I cant wait to cry to Minor” *laughs*. 

GA: *Laughs*! It’s so funny because the communication between me and the people who have followed and interacted with me on Instagram for years has actually influenced how I think about making music. And getting live feedback has actually helped me dictate the track listing. 

To be able to get opinions of people that are my age, on the other side of the world, and going through the same experiences as me is amazing, and to be able to connect in that capacity is the most important thing to me. 

TB: ’Friend’ is a song that immediately pulls you into it’s lyrical storyline and relatability. So do you mind explaining how this song creatively came together?

GA: I wanted the song to feel like the initial shock, anger and laughable reaction of seeing somebody in a new light after you’ve gotten really used to typical behaviours from them for years. All of a sudden there’s a switch inside of you, and they look different to you physically and mentally. 

When I was making the song I put a lot of thought into how I wanted the vocals to feel because I kinda push harder vocally in this song compared to others. I’m desperate to make people feel the way I felt while writing something, and this one was definitely more aggressive and angrier. 

TB: Reflecting on the creative journey behind the seven tracks, what song took the longest to finish? What about it was challenging? 

GA: I think ‘Friend’! We wrote it in a day but in terms of the production it took a lot longer. Everything in the song, even the background vocals, is very intentional. I mean, the whole project is quite intentional, but with this song specifically, I hadn’t ever written anything that felt like this song. So the decision to keep the production as stripped back as it is meant a lot to me.

TB: You worked with the incredibly talented Joel Little on ’21’ who has worked with the likes of Lorde, Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith. So how was your creative experience with him?

GA: Unbelievable! He’s a hero of mine, and has been since ‘Pure Heroine’. He’s someone that has been burned in my brain and made me think about production in a really specific way as I think he makes the most nostalgic music ever. 

I just felt like I got to learn so much from him just being in the room, not only as a writer but also as a person. I went into that session without a lot of confidence, and he just created this safe space where I felt like I could just talk about anything. 

’21’ was written by me, Joel and Sarah Aarons. And Sarah Aarons played a really large role in being able to open up the conversation to the point where the three of us ended up having the best time. It was honestly just a fun day. So I’m endlessly grateful to the both of them and can’t wait to do it again. 

TB: Your dad is an incredibly talented filmmaker, so if you were to choose one of your songs to be put into the soundtracks of one of the movies he’s done in the past, what one would it be? 

GA: That’s such an interesting question! I would probably use ‘Minor’ because I reference my parents in that song and they get a kick out of it. So for his sake I would use that one *laughs*.

TB: Your songwriting is so vivid and beautiful. So I was wondering if I could say a few of my favourite lyrics from your songs and you could tell us the story behind some of them?

GA: Yes! I’m ready!

TB: “You said, “forever,” and I almost bought it” – ‘I Miss You, I’m Sorry’

GA: Yeah, that one is really sad *laughs*. I just think the cliche of “happily ever after” is such a dangerous thing and it’s so easily bought into everywhere. It’s almost the expectation now, even though it’s like “how is that even possible?”. So I kinda just wanted to highlight the hesitation to lean into that. 

TB: “Maybe that thing you said under your breath, you mean it” – ‘Mean It’

GA: When we wrote that song I couldn’t have been a happier place in my life so it was actually funny writing a break up song when everything was great. But I was really fascinated by the idea of passive aggression and little tiny details that to other people may look like nothing, but when you’re in the middle of the relationship you know there are underlining meanings. 

I’m someone who is hyper aware of details all over the place, and that kinda specific concept was really fascinating to me, so I wanted to highlight it. 

TB: “I held myself cause you wouldn’t, all wrapped in my sweatshirt. Wonder if you even noticed that that one was yours” – ‘Stay’

GA: I wrote that because that actually happened, and I think it’s really devastating when you do something to get somebody’s attention, even if it’s a tiny thing, and they don’t even raise it which makes you go crazy in your own head and question if you’ve been crazy the whole time. 

I think it’s interesting because the “I held myself” line is breaking away from the dependency, while the clothing is such an intimate and sad image, and it was really sad.

TB: “I still haven’t heard from your family. But you said your mom always loved me” – ’21′

GA: A break-up isn’t just with one person, it’s with a whole community. I think when you’ve been with someone for a long time it can all of a sudden feel like your whole world looks incredibly different as there are some people who are immediately absent. So I was kinda just coming to terms with losing other people in addition to my significant other. 

When you love somebody, you also love the people they love so it just feels like a hundred thousand strings being cut immediately. So yeah, that one was a real sad one to write. 

‘Minor’ is out now!