Each week, OOR Studio reaches out to various artists, musicians, and those with all-around good taste.
SOUND OF THE WEEK PT. 57: GRACIE ABRAMS
Fräulein: You are a multi-talented artist. I know you take a lot of pride in being a writer and not only a singer. So, maybe you can tell me how you get inspired to write. Why is it important for you to write your own song?
Gracie Abrams: I’ve started writing music when I was little with no intention of ever actually, attempting to pursue it in a professional sense, whatsoever. I was quite young when I found out that it made me feel better internally, mentally, emotionally, so it became an important part of my life; just privately. I didn’t wanted to include anybody else in it, performing was my biggest fear next to tsunamis. I had no interest to perform as it scared me to death. So, this part of my creative process was just, me, in my room by myself, writing for hours and hours and coming out on the other side feeling less intensely about whatever I was going through.
I was writing in a relieving way.
This is funny, growing up in the age of social media, I wasn’t allowed to have an Instagram account initially -my parents were strict- but I was on SoundCloud all the time, listening through things. On SoundCloud you can comment on any songs, and that was kind of my version of social medias. When I finally got on Instagram, because of my introduction through SoundCloud, I felt like the most natural thing was to use it for music.
I started posting little clips. I believe the way I used my Instagram for years was kind of a journal for my songwriting, I would write something and just upload it without thinking. I think I allowed myself to do that because there weren’t other people in the room, and it didn’t feel like an immediate threat. (She laughs.) It wasn’t so horrifying.
I’m grateful now that I did it, because I got to build this relationship with people that are generous enough with their time to listen to my stuff.
My creative process doesn’t look the same every time, but I journal constantly, and that‘s my number one tool for remembering extreme details. I also think, because of how long I‚ve been journaling for, I’ve trained myself to -Maybe to a fault- look for the details on things.
I’m trying to not be crazy about it, but it definitely helps the songs at the end of the day.
Fräulein: Would you always proceed by writing the text first or would you sometimes have a music in mind?
GA: If I’m writing alone, it’s rare that I start with music. It feels like it happens simultaneously most of the time, but if anything is coming first, it’s at least a line I wrote.
But then, I could also in the car, by myself, with my voice-memo running, singing nonsense all the time. So, I guess it does vary.
Fräulein: Interesting! You really are always in a creative process, even on tour or during a car journey.
GA: I’m just a crazy person.
Fräulein: How did you break through your fear of performing as you mentioned being extremely shy while growing up? Is it still something you are working on?
GA: The truth of it is that when I signed to my label, Interscope, I remember feeling my heart sank. I knew that eventually I would have adults, who actually know what they’re doing, telling me that we need to play a show. I was dreading it forever and then it happened. I just had to suck it up.
The first show was just over a year ago. It was in this tiny venue in Santa Ana, CA, and I think I blacked out a little bit. It was a kind of adrenaline that I had never known because I had avoided it my entire life. Then I loved it! I loved it so much that it helped me realize I’ve probably been wrong about everything else in my life, in a really good way. So, touring, playing shows, has become one of the most important parts of my life. It’s just so important to me now, the time I get with the people who come to the shows, that means the world to me. I feel like I’m a part of a larger community, they care so much about each other’s and to see that in person is so special and has also helped me have a real imagination about my music, outside of touring.
I‚m thinking in real time about how my music will translate in a lot of setting, and that is so much fun.
I just feel really grateful, but it’s hysterical that it was such a fear of mine. I was petrified before the first show, I would stay up thinking about it.
Fräulein: That’s quite amazing that this element which use to make you so anxious is now driving you in life.
GA: It’s really lucky! I would have been so screwed… (she laughs.)
Fräulein: When I listen to your song, I feel like you’re part of that generation of artists which write and sing about the everyday life, about things that are kind of mundane. When we grew up, we wouldn’t have artists singing about going to a therapy session for example. Is it something important for you to talk about normal things that your public relates to?
GA: Yeah! I mean, when I’m writing songs, it’s rare that I go into it being like “I wanna write a song about this.” Or “it’s important to me that I’m including these details in the song.”
I think it’s because of the way that I grew up writing, it was just a release for me and not to overthink it ever, but just to let it happen. So, the answer is yes, because it’s real for me and it feels like making it some larger, more dramatic story wouldn’t be me. -I mean… I do write very dramatic songs all day long-.
I do go to therapy weekly, that’s a huge part of my life. As much as my relationship with my best friend or with a partner or with my family. This is stuff that I have written about in the past and my relationship with my therapist is as prevalent.
As a fan of music, I’ve always appreciated when I can see myself in other people lyrics. Nothing is better than feeling like you can relate to something. Sometimes you need to feel like you can relate to something.
So, if I could ever be that for anyone else, I would be so honored but it’s not necessarily a conscious thing going into it. I think I still write music for me first and I’m really lucky it resonates with other people.
Fräulein: It’s also something that comes from your journaling approach of songwriting, I believe. I thought it was quite interesting because some years ago, it wouldn’t be topics that singers would make music on.
GA: Maybe not so explicitly perhaps, but I’m into it. I like the details.
Fräulein: Can you guide me through your newest song, “Difficult” ?
GA: The lyrics are quite specific in this one. I have tried to imagine someone hearing it and having a different interpretation of it. And what it’s about, for me, is being at this stage in my life where I’m very much on the edge of making decisions that feels like large changes, and being intimidated by those often. I sometimes get frustrated with myself at the fact that I am intimidated by those changes.
I love the song, sonically, but I also selfishly feel like it accurately captures the way that I felt so often this past year. It feels a bit of a time capsule for me. Probably even a year from now, if I listen back, I won’t even feel exactly that way anymore. That’s the nice thing about writing as frequently as I do, ‚cause it’s like journaling. If I read an entry from a month ago, I’m thinking “who was that?!”
Fräulein: Where do you find inspiration, in life? Any artists you look up to?
GA: Honestly, it’s a cheesy answer, but I have a brother who’s younger than me by seven years, and a bunch of younger cousins who feel like siblings more than anything else. I feel very specifically inspired when I’m with them because although our age difference isn’t massive, I still see the ways in which they’re being influenced in life as they grow. It’s important to me that I get to play a role as they are growing up. I don’t know how that translates to my work, but just as a person, it fuels me in many ways.
More specifically, work related, -even though it’s also just personal life- one of my favorite things in the world is reading poetry. I loved writing poetry this past year, in a more intentional way. I think before I would write poems which were actually more like lyrics, and I knew that. I find so much peace in reading poetry and having it feels so quiet, but at the same time cuts so hard and so deep. I feel very grounded and centered while reading poetry. I have this one collection of poems that I bring with me everywhere, I’ve read it like 100,000 times. I don’t even count anymore.
I’m also inspired by specific artists. My mom used to play Joni Mitchell in the house all the time growing up. And she was probably my first love, in music. Elliott Smith and Carole King and Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor Swift, just to name a few. I just admire storytellers and I think, all of those artists have lyrics which, when I read them without listening to the song, I find them equally as impactful. So, I could only hope to get to a place where I feel like my words do the same thing, until then, I‚m just gonna keep studying them.
Fräulein: That’s interesting, I was thinking the same thing recently. For such a long-time songwriting was considered as it is not real writing, in opposition to more academic texts. Now, artists can be singers, songwriters and published poets at once.
GA: Yeah, totally.
Well, I appreciate that there have been so many pioneering women, specifically. My generation very much stands on the shoulders of women that have dared to do more than one thing and have done it successfully and powerfully. I think the fact that I could even imagine putting out an album and then, putting out a collection of poems wouldn’t have made sense to some people, like 20 years ago. Artists have torn down Genre. We’re in a time now where there’s less judgment about just doing whatever the hell you want to do and to express yourself. I feel lucky to have been born into a time where that’s less egregious and more accessible.
Fräulein: Can you tell me about your relationship with social media? I believe it was very important for you to create a community.
GA: For sure, without a doubt, social media had played a huge role in me being able to share my writing. I feel it’s not even about the songs itself, which that was the catalyst for sure, but mainly the closeness that I feel with the people that are kind enough to listen to my stuff. I remember for years I‚ve had these group chats in Instagram DMS with people from all over the world who found my music and were generous enough to reach out to me about it and share their experiences. I don’t only see social media only from like an exposure standpoint, which definitely had a significant role, but from a community standpoint, I feel there’s no way I would have gotten so close -in a sincere way! – with the people that come to the shows, listen to every release, write to me every time. That has been huge for me, in my personal life. I feel so grateful for that.
And on the flip side, I really struggle with social media sometimes in terms of how I notice it makes me feel if I’m spending long periods of time scrolling. That does not do good things for my brain at all, and I think it’s so deeply unnatural to have so much exposure to everything all the time. There’s so much that we absorb all the time, and I feel so much better about myself, and about the world, when I’m not looking there. Right now, my relationship to social media is the most balanced it’s ever been. I had a realization about it a couple of months ago and I feel like posting every now and then and staying connected to the people that I’ve met through the platform and continuing to share the parts of my life that I love and value so much. But I’d rather read poetry for an hour instead of scrolling, and look at everybody, everything. It’s so curated and it’s so hard to not compare yourself to what you see all the time. I don’t know how that serves me in any kind of a good way, so just for quality of life I’m like “less of that for me right now”.
Interview Marien Brandon