Get to know: GRAE

GRAE. (All photos by Lizzie O’Donnell)

GRAE. (All photos by Lizzie O’Donnell)

GRAE, 20, has had an unforgettable year. The singer-songwriter’s first EP New Girl, navigates women’s rights, relationships and addiction. ALTo chatted with the Elora, Ont. native on her musical influences, her journey in the studio, and how women are dominating the Canadian music scene.

What is your earliest memory of wanting to go into music?

I’d say being five-years-old and dancing around to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation. That was the first record I ever listened to from start to finish and I was obsessed.

Any musicians you look up to?

There are too many! But if I have to (choose): Prince, The Cure, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Norah Jones, Bill Withers — the list could go on and on!

Then there’s my producer, Kyan. He’s a singer-songwriter and producer from the U.K. that I’ve had the absolute honour of working with. Kyan is otherworldly in what he does. He’s taught me so much about music and myself as an artist, which I’ll forever be grateful for.

What is it about their music that influences yours?

They all have one thing in common -- not caring what anyone else thinks. They’ve all taught me to experiment with different sounds, experiment with my music style, have fun, and create art that I’m proud of and wholeheartedly believe in.

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Most memorable moment of making the EP?

I might have to say two!

The first memorable moment was when Kyan and I started working on my track called 'New Girl,' the first song I recorded for the EP. That song came together so fast and I remember all of the excitement surrounding it.

The second memorable moment was travelling to London to finish my EP. I had never been to the U.K., so it was an amazing experience. Kyan and I had to write, record and master two more songs in 16 days. The final song just wasn’t coming to us but finally, a few days before I got back on a plane to Toronto, it happened.

How did it happen?

It was around 2 a.m., I was going through some past songs and melodies I had voice noted. I came across one and Kyan was like, “That’s it. That’s the song!” He jumped up and started laying down the track right away. I remember just watching him put all of this stuff together in a matter of minutes. The man is insanely good at what he does. We started laying down some vocals and that song became 'Woman’s World.'

What is the message being ‘Woman’s World?’

It’s important to stand up for women. It’s important to empower women. It’s important that women stick together and lift each other up because through that, we unite and we become stronger. We need to teach women to prioritize themselves, love themselves and stand up for themselves! Especially when it comes to their body and what makes them uncomfortable.

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Take is through some of your songs.

‘Woman’s World’ was written after my a night out with a friend where men called at us, followed us around and got extremely angry when we politely asked them to leave us alone. Gender equality is important, and teaching women, especially young girls, that they can achieve anything they want and have the same opportunities and choices to succeed, is the pathway to a bright future.

I watched someone I loved battle through some demons they didn’t deserve. The song ‘Fade to Black’ was written from the perspective of a little girl who was watching a family member struggle with addiction.

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Writing a song as intimate as this one was very emotional, but I remember being young and feeling so alone in what I was dealing with. I hope this can help those going through the same thing feel less alone.

What has making your first EP taught you about yourself?

The process taught me how to really push myself creatively. Working with Kyan was extremely eye-opening. He taught me to always be in a healthy competition with myself. I’m already thinking about the next project and how I can top what I’ve just done.

Any advice for those thinking about going into music?

You can be anything you want to be. You can create your life, your career, your future. You have the power to do whatever it is you desire. Just be confident, patient and be a smart worker.  

What does it mean to be a woman in the Canadian music industry?

Women are killing it right now, which is absolutely incredible. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a rise in confidence and belief in one’s self and artistry. Being a woman in the music industry is empowering. We’re capable of anything and we’re proving it!

Want to keep up with Grae’s musical journey? Follow her on Instagram @graesounds