"Don't Need Love" hitmaker and singer-songwriter, GRACEY, talks to Notion about her new music, writing with Kylie Minogue, eavesdropping on the tube, and much more.
On “Don’t”, GRACEY’s latest single – which drops today – the 22-year-old is standing her ground. It’s her closing statement as she exits a one-sided relationship, “We don’t need a conversation or a coffee/ Don’t say you miss me if you don’t/ Don’t say you’ll love me when you won’t.”
The track is the latest in an array of addictive, alt-pop anthems from the Brighton-born singer/songwriter this year. Her February single “Alone In My Room (Gone)” soundtracked lockdown for thousands of TikTok users – no prizes for guessing why. And in May, she collaborated with fresh-faced Australian riser Ruel for “Empty Love”, mastering the at-home music video by parlaying her bedroom into a set. Before her 220 Kid team-up “Don’t Need Love” ascended up the UK charts in June, adding a Top-10 hit to her 2020 scorecard.
But she isn’t finished yet. Her upcoming mini-album ‘The Art of Closure’ marks a fresh chapter following last year’s debut EP ‘Imposter Syndrome’. The lovelorn questioning of the latter is replaced by a newfound power she’s discovered in vulnerability. “I look back on ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and I’m like ‘Why were you so sad?’, she tells me. “I listen to this one, and I’m like, ‘I’ve got this.’”
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However, it’s hard to see why it’s taken her until now to acquire this assertiveness. On paper, GRACEY is an effortless over-achiever. She’s a BRIT school alumni, who spent her evenings as a teenager writing at Xenomania (the storied hit factory behind acts like Girls Aloud and The Sugababes’ biggest releases). By aged 18, she had co-penned Jonas Blue and RAYE’s platinum-selling “By Your Side”, and two years later, Tiesto and Rita Ora’s international smash “Ritual”. To top it all off, she’s written alongside pop icon Kylie Minogue.
However, despite her gold-plated CV, in-person GRACEY is one of the soundest pop-stars going. She describes her fans as “one big group of friends”, she’s an avid people-watcher, and like anyone, she had a momentary meltdown when introduced to Miss Minogue in the studio.
Her deftness at producing pop bangers, does, however, set her apart from the rest. It’s not a question of if she’ll be propelled to superstardom, but when? En-route, GRACEY chats to Notion about ‘The Art of Closure’, putting her bedroom in her music video, and how she’s still managing to people-watch in these socially-distanced times.
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Congratulations on your new single “Don’t”. Tell me about your approach to making that?
I just wanted to write a song where the bassline cuts through, and it has that juxtaposition of the vocal and the bassline not doing the same thing, but the lyric and the bass match, but the tone and the vibe of it is quite chilled. And, I think that’s kind of the way in situations when you’re done or finished, you kind of just get to the point where you’re like ‘I don’t wanna shout anymore, I’m just done.’ It’s the song of everything I wish I had said to that person at that time – it’s that moment for me. And that’s why I really wanted to put it on ‘The Art of Closure’.
We’re landing at ‘The Art of Closure’ a year on from your debut EP ‘Imposter Syndrome’. Does the title symbolise that you’re now more sure of your place?
I think I could happily sit here and be like ‘yeah completely fine, I don’t get imposter syndrome anymore.’ But, it definitely comes in waves. And, the reason I wanted to call it ‘The Art of Closure’ is because it is a fucking art. It takes you a while to get to a point where you can happily close that book and go ‘okay I can move forward’. They’re all the songs that kind of got me to this point now, so yeah it feels really special.
Your last single “Like That” is also a certified bop, and is gaining traction accordingly. The video shows off the limitless possibilities of the humble green screen. Tell us about how that shoot was on the day?
It was shot just after the lockdown restrictions were relieved a little bit, so it was different from the shoots I had done earlier in the year, like for “Alone In My Room (Gone)”. But, I loved it. It did definitely feel like a Year 8 acting lesson because they were like, ‘now this is happening’ or ‘this is happening’. But, I love green screens, they are magic. And, it ended up coming out way cooler than I even thought. I was like ‘oh my god, this looks really expensive and really cute’. The video represents, like the inside of a phone. You can do anything now with technology which is mental so that’s kind of the vibe I wanted to go for with it.
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I liked The Truman Show reference in it as well. Was that a favourite film for a younger GRACEY?
The Truman Show I think is just such a mad concept, like it’s so interesting to me. I don’t know about you, but when I watched The Truman Show, for at least three or four weeks straight, I was just in my bedroom posing asleep at night like, ‘gotta look cute for the fans!’ It fits with the themes of my mini album as well, so it felt right to put a little nod towards it.
I also heard that it was your fans that persuaded you to release “Like That” after you posted a snippet of the studio session on Instagram. Social media is a central theme in the upcoming project. Has your relationship with it changed as you’ve been making it?
For a time I was like, ‘aw being an artist is really hard because you have to use social media’, and it really fucked with my head. But I think nowadays, it’s not actually just artists – it’s everyone. So, it’s not necessarily that it’s gone away, it’s just the way I’ve found I’ve dealt with it has changed. And, that’s the same with any type of closure, whether in a relationship, or a work thing, or releasing things and getting stuff out. It’s not necessarily: ‘I’m never gonna be affected by this again’, it’s just the way that you deal with the situation when it comes up is like, ‘okay, I can do this’.
The video for “Empty Love”, shows you through the lens of someone stalking you on the internet. You filmed it in lockdown from your bedroom, was it weird putting your room in a music video?
Do you know what? It is so exposing and weird, and I literally was like, ‘I need to get mesh curtains’, cause I didn’t want my road to be on it. But, equally, it’s not any more exposing than me singing lyrics like, “don’t say you miss me if you don’t”, because some of the lyrics in my EP are pretty sad.
Did you have a good hoover beforehand?
Oh my gosh, I cleaned everything thoroughly. It was a huge clean!
Over summer you also landed your first UK Top 10 hit for your track “Don’t Need Love” with 220 KID. How was it watching that success whilst being stuck at home?
I found over lockdown with “Don’t Need Love”, and celebrating stuff with that song just sitting in your house watching The Chase, it was a bit mental. So, you’re like, ‘not really sure what to do here.’ I think the thing with live music is you get to actually see those people, they’re not just numbers. They aren’t just a follow number, it’s actual humans and you’re connecting with people. So, I guess it didn’t really feel real, and I don’t think it does and I don’t think it will until I eventually get to go on a tour.
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You’ve spoken in the past about undergoing vocal surgery last year, which meant you had to stay at home under voice rest for a few months. It must have felt like history repeating itself when the pandemic forced you back inside again. How did you manage to maintain a positive mindset this time around?
I think the thing that really got me through it, in the end, was something that my mum said, which was that last year, I thought my whole music career was over because I couldn’t sing or speak. So, my favourite day maybe ever, was the 26th June this year when my tune got into the Top 10. It was the exact day a year on from when I had had my vocal surgery. And to think that much can change in a year, got me through lockdown.
Whilst you can’t perform shows, you’ve connected with your fans via Instagram Lives and Zoom calls. How important has their support been?
I genuinely think a lot of them have helped me get through it, and I would like to think we’ve also helped each other. And, I think me and the guys who support my music have quite similar senses of humour and ways of dealing with our emotions. So, it’s like finding a big friendship group, it’s really sick.
In the past, you’ve spoken about getting inspiration for songs from listening in on people’s conversations on the tube. From one people-watcher to another, how are you still managing to in these socially-distanced times?
I’m such a nosey bitch! Well, yeah you can go to parks and stuff, like I’ll go for walks. I went and sat in the park the other day, and you just get to see people in love, people on the phone, crying. It’s really interesting. I can’t hear their conversations to be fair because, two meters. But even the way people’s body language is, it’s super interesting. And, you’ve got to look at yourself a bit more too, that’s what I’ve been doing over the past year as well.
You’re still only 22, but as an 18-year old you had already had a hand in making the platinum-selling “By Your Side” for RAYE and Jonas Blue. What was it like as a teenager, to hear your work on the radio or on a night out?
I actually went to school with RAYE, so it was a bit weird even hearing RAYE sing on it, because I was like ‘oh my god, look how far we’ve come, it’s mad’. But, I was in Brighton PRYZM with my best mate, and I had just bought a drink, and I was in the middle of the dance floor, and the song came on. And I literally was like ‘Waaaait, what’s going on.’ And my friends started screaming and going mental, and we were singing along and my mate was like, ‘she wrote this!’, and everyone was just like, ‘Oh, as if’. So, it just looked like I was full-on bullshitting, and I was just being an attention-seeking mess. But, I still remember that moment. It was such a big one for me, and it always will be.
Another big moment for you aged 18, was writing with Kylie Minogue. Did she have good chat in the studio?
Firstly, she was like the smallest person I’ve ever met. I don’t know why, but when I think of Kylie, or Gaga, or Ariana Grande – apparently they’re quite small women, but they give off tall energy. And, as a child, you just see these people as icons, I mean she is an icon. So, I think instantly I was like ‘okay, right, she’s a person so just calm yourself down because she will be creeped out if you start screaming’. And, I was working with The Invisible Men, who I wrote “By Your Side” with as well. So, I think that helped, because I had that friendship there. It was just mad when I was singing these ideas into the mic, and looking over and seeing Kylie Minogue just bop along, and be like *in Australian accent* ‘I love that idea, that’s great, put that in the pre-chorus’. I was just like ‘Oh my god, Kylie’. It was a bit of a bop as well, so maybe I can try and release it myself and get Kylie as a feature, imagine?
Who would you love to write with next?
I absolutely adore Mark Ronson, I’d love to work with him. Same with Calvin Harris, I think he’s like an incredibly talented musician, so I would love to pick his brain and see how he does it. Even just as a songwriter, not necessarily as an artist, but I’ll take what I can get to be honest!
When coronavirus restrictions are a thing of the past, what is the first thing you plan to do?
Obviously to tour would be sick. But other than that, I’m gonna be doing music videos where I don’t need to wear a mask every five minutes after getting my makeup done, and then I look like an egg on the camera. That would be ideal. And, yeah hit up the pub, let’s go! No 10pm curfew for me, it’s an all-nighter.
If you could describe ‘The Art of Closure’ in three words, what would they be?
Emotional and vulnerable, but quite powerful.