Grace: “I love to play with extremes”

Perth-born singer Grace has seriously astounded me with her debut single Pluto. Dark, almost obscure at times, the electronic track is confronting and catchy all at once. She’s been working with some musical heavyweights Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio) and Sam Spiegel (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) on her debut EP, set to drop in 2015, and will be heading out on a brief run of live shows – with a full live band – next week.

I’m really intrigued by Grace – not only because of her unique musical style, but the fact that she’s been performing for a few years under a different name and in a totally different style – but it’s all changed now. I sent her a few questions to get to know her a little better.

Growing up, can you pinpoint a first time or ‘moment’ where you realised that you wanted to be an artist? If so, could you describe?

I didn’t have that specific moment but I do remember telling myself there was no point trying to be a musician because I could never top anything the Beatles did. Nowadays though I feel joy and completeness when I connect with an audience on stage or manage to perfectly reflect on a moment within a song.

Learning about you as a new artist, what are three important things you’d like us to know?

1. I put an enormous amount of personal information in my lyrics. 2. When I play live I feel myself transport to the time I wrote the song I’m playing and what I was feeling. 3. I love to play with extremes.

Could you describe the first gig you ever played?

My first gig was at 15 in an all girl band from my high school. I only played guitar except for one song where I sang. Our first show was a semi-final for a Battle of the Bands competition. We crammed the room with our school mates and We ended up winning that round and went on to win the Encouragement Award. Yes!

You’ve been making some pretty amazing music as GraceWoodroofe for a few years now.  Would you describe the shortened moniker and new style as a new chapter in your musical journey, or more of a complete overhaul/redo?

So much time has passed between now and my first record, it does feel like a new beginning of sorts, but the changes have occurred completely naturally. From my experiences touring and collaborations working with other artists, I pushed myself to be open to so much more than self inflicted confines. Now I’m following a vibe that can float between a few genres. I write to serve the song, so I let it develop into what it is at the same time as having an overall vision for what I want to do.

Do you still write and perform your more folk/soul tracks, or is that in the past now?

I’ll never discard any of my previous work but I feel a great need to push forward and focus on what I’m creating now. My connection to my music is stronger if I feel in the moment with it.

You’ve been working with some great names – Dave Sitek, Sam Spiegel and more. Could you share any of the most rewarding/important lessons you learnt from your time together?

Sam was the first producer to challenge and make me feel comfortable enough to sing ‘freestyle’ over a track. For my entire life, for some reason, that seemed like the scariest and hardest thing to do. Now I know it’s a great method to use when you don’t have a specific idea for lyrics or melody. You just allow it to fall out.

Dave is full of wisdom and knowledge. One night we sat down and discussed the importance lyrical directness and immediate connection. It came up because we had started working on a new song and my lyrics were so overly laden with symbols, no one (apart from me) could figure out what I was actually singing about. He told me that the lyrics which hit hardest are the ones that go straight to the point. He said “literally just say exactly what you feel. You feel like shit? SAY ‘I feel like shit.” At first I was disheartened, but overtime I realised the validity of what he said. That advice had an enormous impact on my work afterwards.

Your website features a gorgeous collection of pictures of artworks, photos, quotes and drawings….. in essence, what does it all mean? Is it just a personal collection of images/words that you like, or something more?

It’s all art and poetry I love but there is a method to its layout. I like to use tumblr and instagram as a visual output of my feelings. When I’m writing I look through it and pull together mood boards referencing the themes I’m working on too.

Considering the electronic feel to your music, I was surprised (and delighted) to find out that you’ll be performing with a live band on your tour. In your opinion, why is it important for you to have live musicians?

I’ve never considered any other option. I love the connection that grows between people playing music together as well as the opportunity to experiment with the show live. I always find my material evolves on the road – it’s what keeps it fresh as a performer. Essentially working as a solo artist, it’s also nice to have those moments on stage to share with people who love your music too.

Finally, what have you got planned for 2015?

In the new year I’ll be releasing my EP and playing some more shows upon the release. I’ll also hopefully do some more cool supports and a few festivals. On top of that, I’m extremely eager to get back into recording and finish the album between, during and after.

Grace: Tour Dates

Sat, Nov 29: Mojos, Perth
Thurs, Dec 4: Black Bear, Brisbane
Fri, Dec 5: Goodgod Small Club, Sydney
Sat, Dec 6: Workers Club, Melbourne