Grace Carter’s music is heavy. Not in a head-banging, mosh-pit inducing way, instead via her weighty, relatable and superb pop songs. In each line, the 20-year-old’s soaring vocals offer both solace and strength, as the restrained production allows that important voice to have its space.
‘Why Her Not Me’, her latest single, takes things up a gear. Written about her absent father during her childhood, Carter’s mature songwriting takes her to a place where many artists may never dare to tread. But then again, she’s not quite like any other artist. She’s honest, witty and writes songs not just for her own benefit but for those of others. Every song is both a blank canvas and a highly detailed product. By learning about Grace’s life, we can all learn a little bit about our own.
No wonder she’s made such an impression. She’s toured with Dua Lipa, Haim and rising R&B star Mabel, but is now preparing to head out on her debut headline tour this week. She is, in her own words, about to come “the main course”. On it, there’ll be songs both old and new – examples of where she has been, currently is, and sketches of the future. It’s looking pretty good from where we are.
You’ve spent a little while supporting people – you must be itching to do your own shows now?
We’re used to supporting artists. We’ve toured with Dua Lipa, Rag’n’Bone Man, Haim and Mabel, so apart from the one headline show I’ve done, we’ve never been in the position where we’re not actually the performer that people are coming to see. It’s been rewarding, because we expect no-one to give a shit and luckily they do give a shit. On this tour, we’ll be the main course and not the starter.
We were totally honoured to share those crowds and those artists were so welcoming, but it’s so exciting that people are buying tickets with my name on it.
What was the most important thing you learnt?
I think to just enjoy myself, really. Obviously we’re all human beings and you have good days and bad days, but the main thing I learnt was that even though you might have had the worst day, you should still get back on stage and enjoy it and make the most of it. Even if I had a crap day, by being on stage I could bond with people and have a good time and forget about everything. I’m extremely lucky to be in the position I’m in. Dua is a great example of this. She gives her all at every show that she does and remains so humble and nice, so I’ve learnt a lot from her.
When was the first time you performed?
I was 13, my step-dad got my first instrument. I’d known him for a few months and I’d grown up with a single mum, so hadn’t had a male influence in my life and it’d always been me and my mum or her friends. As a peace offering, he gave me a guitar and encouraged me to write songs about my childhood because I’d grown up with a single parent. I didn’t understand why I grew up without a Dad around, so he encouraged me to talk about that stuff. Even if I wasn’t talking to either of them, I was still able to think about how I felt and get it out in some way. I’d sung before that, but when I finished my first song, that’s when I realised there was nothing else I wanted to do.
It went from me being unsure and then a year later he was the reason why I was doing what I loved, so our relationship completely changed. He’s now the first person I play songs to and who I ask for advice. He’s the only father figure I’ve ever had.
Did the songs help?
I find it way easier to sing about things than talk about them. Try and sit me in a room and try talk to me, but the minute I’m sat at a piano and with chords and able to not worry and know I’m not going to be judged or whatever, I can talk about anything. That’s what so powerful about being able to write about music.
Was your mother a big part of your musical upbringing, too?
She had a massive influence in the way that she supported me. She’s guided me in the right direction and supported me to make these decisions, also the music she played when I was growing up heavily influenced me. We listened to soul and strong female voices, and those are the people that I look to for inspiration. She’s not musical at all, but definitely influential. I bought her a ukulele one year and it stayed behind the sofa, so yeah, we tried!
When did write ‘Why Her Not Me’?
I wrote that song about 3 years ago and it was the day that I found her hand picked some other life over raising me. I’d grown up with a single mum and never understood why until that day when it all came together. I was in a session that day and we were talking and I kept saying “why her not me” and that became the song very quickly. That song is probably the most me, in terms of what my music is about – I’ve tried to be as honest as I can in that song. For me, it means that, but I want my music to interpret in the ways and put their lives and story into it. I don’t want to take the songs away from people.
When I grew up listening to Adele for the first time, she was singing about things I’d never experienced but I was relating it to my life, like when I was 11 and had never had a boyfriend.
I think a lot of people hear songs and just assume that they’re about a loving relationship between a man and a woman – people assume that. As a kid I probably needed a grown-up person talking about their relationship with their father because I would have need that. I haven’t seen my dad for years, so I’m glad I found music to help me understand the way that I did.
How’s work going on the album?
Work is going amazing. Every minute I have I’m in the studio recording or writing things, but I’ve been writing this album since I was 16-years-old.
Is it hard writing such emotional music?
I never started writing music to chase after a fame. For me, the only reason I write music is to talk about how I’m feeling – it’s only natural that my songs are emotional because those are the songs that I’ve only ever written about. I didn’t realise how intense it was until ‘Why Her Not Me’ came out the other week. I’m an open book and I was releasing songs that I wanted to connect, but with ‘Why Her Not Me’ that song is so important to me and it shaped the person I am.
See Grace Carter live
22nd October – Soup Kitchen, Manchester
23rd October – Sugar Club, Dublin
25th October – Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow
27th October – Chapel, Leeds
29th October –Village Underground, London
2nd November – Les Etoiles theatre, Paris
3rd November – Melkweg, Amsterdam
5th November – Botanique, Brussels
6th November – Privat Club, Berlin
7th November – Studio 672, Cologne
28th March – Electric Brixton, London