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Interview: 2020 Must-Know - Gracie Abrams

Interview: 2020 Must-Know - Gracie Abrams

"But don’t you dare close your eyes / I'm not finished here," asserts Gracie Abrams in an acoustic video snippet of an unreleased song posted to her Instagram - a compelling command which hints at untold depths and her strength of character.

As Professor Shrek once said, "Ogres are like onions," and although Abrams is neither green nor lives in a swamp, her multi-layered personality, too, is a considerable force of nature not unlike that of an animated hero. A superficial Google search will inform you that she's the daughter of filmmaker J.J. Abrams, but it's browsing her social media platforms that gives real insight - from Abrams speaking out in support of Planned Parenthood ("'Defunding' Planned Parenthood isn’t a thing. 'Defunding' Planned Parenthood really means blocking access to health care"), rallying behind the likes of Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford ("I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but as someone who has come out on the other side of sexual assault, this past week has felt incredibly heavy. Each headline stings. Silence has been central to women’s history since the beginning of time, but the fact that at 19 years old I can sit in my college dorm and watch as Dr. Ford breaks her silence is a feeling that I can only describe as grateful. As a young woman, watching Dr. Ford speak out as she has, recognising that it is her civic duty to table her own pain and relive her attack for the sake of this country and its future has inspired me more than I will ever be able to say"), and criticising Islamophobia ("Islam is a religion with the intention of promoting and maintaining internal peace and peace among others. Islam is about compassion. White supremacy is a plague"). And after reading Roxane Gay's memoir 'Hunger', Abrams earnestly implored, "Read memoirs written by women. Listen to their truths. Being vulnerable is not comfortable or easy. Being vulnerable is incredibly hard but it is honest. Believe women."

Having released her official debut single 'Mean It' last year - preluded by an intimate and low-fi video of the very first song that Abrams ever wrote and shared a minute of on Instagram, 'Minor' - and the heartfelt follow-up 'Stay', each peek into Abrams' musical diary shares the same down-to-earth empathy as every other facet of her bestowed upon the world; a crosspatch quilt stitched together with ubiquitous feeling.

MUST-LISTEN: 'Stay' and 'Mean It'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Clairo, Julia Michaels, Alison Sudol, Feist, Rachael Yamagata, Jenny Lewis... and the satisfaction of writing for the very first time on the first page of a brand new notebook.

COUP DE MAIN: In 'Minor' you battle a long-distance relationship. Does absence make the heart grow fonder or colder?
GRACIE ABRAMS:
Fonder </3

CDM: Why did you want 'Minor' to exist in its entirety on YouTube before releasing your first official single?
GRACIE:
I think I really just wanted it to feel like an extension of the videos I’ve been posting on my Instagram for forever. Weirdly I feel like 'Minor' more than any other song I’ve written speaks to what my teenage experience was like, so to be able to capture that in the bedroom I grew up in and in a way that felt familiar was important to me.

CDM: "You don't know what I'm feeling," you say in 'Mean It', as you outline how you're not on the same page as your significant other. Do you think relationships would be easier or harder if you could read each other's minds?
GRACIE:
Infinitely harder. Wow I would rather never be in a relationship, than be able to read the mind of my significant other.

CDM: When reflecting on a past relationship like you do in 'Stay', is it tempting to view everything with rose-tinted glasses?
GRACIE:
Tempting, maybe, but I feel like up until recently I’ve had a tendency to look for the problems in something that I’m trying to move on from. I’m trying to do less of that, I think it’s unfair.

CDM: What was it like filming the music video for 'Stay'?
GRACIE:
It was so energising. The very large majority of the people on set were women and I credit all of them for creating the most comfortable visually creative environment I’ve ever been a part of. It was just so cool to watch; we all wanted everything to be the best it could be. Moni Haworth directed the video. She is a magical force, I couldn’t appreciate her more.

CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
GRACIE:
It changed a lot after being in college because if I had an idea for something I couldn’t always just get up and go record it. Also with a roommate you have to be respectful of their space as well, so I felt more limited in that way, but I got into the habit of writing down anything that inspired me lyrically and trying to remember a melody long enough to voice memo it. And as frustrating as that process was in the beginning, I actually think it’s made it easier for me to write because I didn’t necessarily have that flexibility before. I’d more often think of something and later forget it. Now I just look like a crazy person all the time writing ideas in my Notes app or leaving the room for ten seconds to yell into my phone.

CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
GRACIE:
They’re kind of always specifically for songs, but I’ll pull from journal entries when I want to. I just see the two kind of existing separately. I go to my journal when I need to and I write a song when I need to.

CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you’ve written?
GRACIE:
Honestly, maybe 'Minor'. I wrote it so quickly and I was seventeen and I felt all the feelings and it was an angsty moment I’ll never forget. Love that for me.

CDM: What is your very first earliest music-related memory?
GRACIE:
I just remember Carole King being the soundtrack of every drive to school. 'Tapestry' is the best album ever made.    

CDM: At what age did you write your very first song ever, and what was it about?
GRACIE:
I wrote a 'song' over nothing but drums about losing my notebook in third grade and the line that I repeated over and over again that in my mind was the hook was, "I hate myself."

CDM: Do you have any upcoming plans to release an EP or album?
GRACIE:
Tehe yes.

CDM: Important question: When are you going to release 'Close To You'?
GRACIE:
That is an important question.

CDM: You've been outspoken on social media in support of women's rights. Is it important to you to use your platform to help raise awareness about societal issues?
GRACIE:
My values and beliefs are as much a part of me, if not more, than my music is. I don’t know how or why one would keep them separate. They inform each other - that’s how I was raised and that’s the only way I know how to show up in the world.

CDM: What’s on your bucket-list?
GRACIE:
I wanna learn how to crack an egg with one hand.

CDM: You’re one of our 'must-know’ artist picks for 2020… who are yours?
GRACIE:
Dijon, BENEE, ROLE MODEL <3 <3 <3

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DILLON MATTHEW
MAKEUP BY ROB RUMSEY
HAIR BY ERICKA VERRETT

Watch the 'Minor' video below...

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