Image by Aidan Zamiri
While most of us have spent 2020 binge-watching, binge-baking, and generally under-achieving, UK-based wunder-babe Gracey (born Grace Barker) has decisively exploded onto the alt-pop scene there. Discovered at 16 by production powerhouse Xenomania (Kylie Minogue, Pet Shop boys, Cher, Sugarcubes), her writing credits already include tracks for Jonas Blue, RAYE (the platinum-selling “By Your Side”) and Olly Murs (“Feel The Same,” “Excuses”).
Inspired by badass babes like Blondie and Gwen Stefani, the 22-year old Brighton native morphed from a preternaturally gifted songwriter extraordinaire into stupendous alt-pop frontwoman in 2019, when she took the leap to releasing her debut EP Imposter Syndrome, notably featuring the ethereal gem “Different Things.” Despite the raging pandemic sidelining her debut headlining tour, she has otherwise lent her shimmery vocals and lyrical chops to a number of notable collaborations: 220 Kid, Ruel, the Top 10 UK single “Don’t Need Love,” and the dreamy “Empty Love,” remixed by A-Trak, Cureton and Kelvin Wood.
And tapping the corona zeitgeist, she also managed to pen and record the lockdown anthem “Alone In My Room (Gone),” a TikTok hit and Radio 1 Track of the Week.
We somehow slowed her down enough for a chat on the eve of the release of her newest single, “Like That,” a dancey pop-rocket featuring Chicago-based Alexander 23…which, we must admit, we have also been bingeing.
It’s been a really crazy year for everyone, obviously. Where have you been and what have you been doing during quarantine?
I went back down to Brighton, which was wicked, because I got to spend time with my family again. I spent most of my time either sleeping or in my room writing and producing tunes, mostly based off random Netflix shows I’d watched, so who knows, maybe I’ll be dropping a Tiger King themed album sometime soon!
While many people, especially high-achieving women, suffer from imposter syndrome, most don’t admit they feel this way. You did the exact opposite—although you were anxious about releasing the record, you titled your debut EP Imposter Syndrome. What pushed you to that level of honesty for your “coming out,” if you will.
It was such a whirlwind of emotions going from songwriting for other people to being the artist myself—I definitely felt like an imposter, especially when it came to things like recording music videos or doing photo shoots. I found myself completely out of my depth at first and feeling like everyone knew I was as well. What I’ve now come to learn is that you need to be outside of your comfort zone to grow, and that’s really what I feel I’ve done in the past year since releasing the EP. I was actually on a panel about imposter syndrome held at a women’s club in London last November.
A wonderful group of women and I got together to chat about imposter syndrome in working environments. It was amazing to hear all of these inspirational women talk about how they handled and overcame their feelings. If you ever feel this way, just know you are always where you are supposed to be and that you got this!
Speaking of high-achieving, you were a student at The Brit School when you were discovered by Xenomania. When you were uploading songs to Soundcloud were you doing it in the hopes of getting discovered, or was it more for fun?
It was definitely more for fun. To be honest, I was shocked when I got an email from Xenomania asking me to come in to write for the first time. I didn’t even record complete songs on Soundcloud because I had to record them on my phone, and I didn’t have enough storage space. I probably would have deleted some more apps if I had known who would be listening to the songs! But I’m very grateful for the people who believed in me at that point, regardless of the lack of phone storage.
Your songwriting credits are impressive. Did you set out to be a songwriter, or had you always wanted to be a pop artist in your own right?
I have always loved songwriting and, when I was younger, I would spend my spare time making up my own songs over instrumentals of my favorite tracks on YouTube. But, I always dreamed of being an artist and telling my own stories. I just think that when I started off writing, I wasn’t ready to begin that journey. Writing for other artists really gave me the confidence and time to develop and figure out what I wanted to say. I’m really glad I waited because “Different Things” felt like the perfect song to start with.
What drove you to step out from behind the songwriting curtain?
“Different Things” was one of the first songs I wrote that I knew I didn’t want to give away. It was so personal and special to me that the thought of someone else singing it didn’t quite sit right with me. There are also a few other songs I haven’t released yet that also helped me make the decision to release my own music. I’m so excited to drop them too.
Is it different when you are writing songs for yourself as opposed to other artists?
Definitely. When you’re writing for yourself you’re in charge and you can say whatever you want; but when you’re writing for someone else it’s all about putting yourself in their shoes and articulating their thoughts as best you can. When I’m writing with other people for the first time, we usually spend hours chatting, drinking way too much coffee, and laughing and/or crying before any of us even picks up a guitar. Rock and roll, baby.
You’ve been busy with collaborations this year. Do you think that starting out as part of a production team has influenced an affinity towards collabs?
I love when artists collaborate and I love collaborating with others. It’s really fun to share the experience and find other artists who can complement and bring new colors to your work—it’s so special. Also, with touring and many of the opportunities that a new artist would normally have taken off the table at the moment, it’s been wicked to have the chance to collaborate with lovely new people. Releasing music with other artists that inspire me is an all-round 10 out of 10 in my eyes!
Will these singles find their way to another EP or full-length release?
Yes—keep your eyes peeled, there’s lots on the way.
Image by Bella Howard