Wise beyond her years, singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams invites you into her world through her soft and honest music. Her world is one of high school, music, and relationships (both kept and lost). And though her musical and songwriting abilities may suggest otherwise – she is doing this all at the age of 17.
Gracie’s musical style and ability is in full effect in her 2016 single “Blue”. When you listen to “Blue”, you enter the world of Gracie Abrams, age 17. The song is intimate – composed of just soft guitar and her melancholy vocals. Gracie sings the heartbreaking lyric of “and maybe it’s ghosts of your past that keep haunting us, and maybe it’s better if you see them through”. Gracie is letting us in – telling of her pain in letting go of something she wants so badly to work out. The song ends with the guitar fading out, and she intentionally includes the sound of her clearing her voice – the story was a hard one to tell, but one that she needed to.
I sat down with Gracie to talk about her music, what she’s excited about, and what she has in store for us down the road.
INTERVIEW WITH GRACIE ABRAMS
CONOR (HIGHLARK): I’ve known you for a while now, and you’ve always been writing and recording songs – how did you first become interested in music?
GRACIE: Well I took rock drum lessons when I was 8 and a year of piano when I was 9 and I felt like my music teacher really took me seriously. I remember thinking like “wow, if I could be a grown up and play music everyday I would literally never be sad.” I really think just starting young kinda propelled me in that direction.
CONOR: I love your recent track “Blue”, which, as the title suggests – is a very sad song. Do you think music has helped you work through and process your emotions?
GRACIE: One thousand percent. I’ve been writing in a diary almost everyday since 3rd grade so I’ve got a lot to pull from in terms of personal experiences. When I wrote Blue I wasn’t just sad, it was definitely a lot more than that for me. That being said I fully sobbed through the entire writing process, so yes, music has helped me process everything. I feel like naturally I just write more when I’m sad, but I’m trying to change that. It’s important to me to capture all the weird moments of being 17.
CONOR: Who are some of the biggest influences to your musical/artistic style?
GRACIE: There are definitely a bunch of people I look up to, but I try not to emulate anyone’s style in particular because I think the cool thing about music is how individual it really is. But in terms of songwriting, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Elliot Smith, and Lorde are all artists I’m definitely drawn to. And in terms of energy, I just saw Broods at Coachella who really blew me away. I can’t stop listening to them in the car.
CONOR: You’ve also done some great collaborations, like Pad Thai with Tjani and some tracks with Dapurr which have gotten hundreds of thousands of plays on Soundcloud – how did those all come about, and how is the experience of creating original songs different than collaborations?
GRACIE: Those were all really fun. I haven’t worked with Jacob (Dapurr) in a while because we are both really busy in school, but I started working with him because we had some mutual friends and we live in the same area. Before working with him I had really only done acoustic stuff with my piano or guitar. He kinda introduced me to the wonders of electronic music. Pad Thai happened pretty differently. I got in contact with Tjani through my boyfriend and we started working on this track together. It was funny because since he was in New York and I’m in LA, we never actually met until the song had actually been published and everything. He’s the greatest. I love collaborating. You learn so much.
CONOR: You’re also very outspoken about your political views across social media – you go to all of the LA protests, and have written some great posts about the problems you have with our (monster) president. Where did you get your interest in politics, and how do you think other teenagers who want to be more politically active can get involved?
GRACIE: My mom is super involved in politics. Both my parents are, actually. I think being raised by two people who really prioritize others has helped me be more aware of the world in general. Social media is honestly so toxic and it steals energy that people could be spending reading the newspaper or informing themselves on current events, and I’m guilty of this for sure, so I just try to post things that might help others either see new perspectives or just gain information that they maybe wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I think for people wanting to get involved, read more. Watch the news. Take advantage of whatever kind of platform you have (mine being Instagram). I also feel like there needs to be less blaming and hate and more discussion and willingness to listen. Not trying to promote any illicit substances here, but the new Heineken commercial knocked it out of the park. Go watch it.
CONOR: As you become more and more successful in your music does it ever feel almost like you’re wasting your time in high school?
GRACIE: Definitely not. I’m a normal teenager, so school can be tedious sometimes as it is for everyone, but I’m genuinely so grateful that I get to go where I do. I think education is crazy important when it comes to music. Everything I learn at school has contributed in some way to my songwriting, and that’ll only continue to be true at college.
CONOR: Your dad, JJ Abrams, is a director – do you think having a role model who is successful in the arts has helped encourage you to pursue music?
GRACIE: My dad is extremely supportive about my music always, but it was actually my mom who encouraged me to perform for the first time. I’ll always remember that kinda being a turning point for me in terms of recognizing that music is what I love. It’s fun with my dad though, because he plays music too and is unexpectedly good at and into the weirdest instruments. So we have a lot of fun together with that.
CONOR: Last book you read?
GRACIE: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf! I highly recommend it if you wanna wake up a little.
CONOR: What are some recent albums you’re excited about and can’t stop listening to?
GRACIE: Conscious by Broods, Melodrama by Lorde, DAMN. by Kendrick… Not an album, but the single “Don’t Take The Money” by Bleachers is like the perfect John Hughes anthem and I laugh and cry to it approximately four or five times a week.
CONOR: What can we expect from you down the road?
GRACIE: Right now I’m just getting in a bunch of sessions and working on some really fun songs that I’m excited about… No release dates for anything at the moment but just a ton of writing and artist development going on! Can’t wait for you to hear.