Grace Carter’s raw, deeply emotional, yet powerful piano-led pop has garnered her the millions of fans across the world and critical acclaim, despite only having stepped onto the scene a year ago. Having supported the likes of Dua Lipa, Mabel, Dermot Kennedy, Jorja Smithand Rag N Bone Man on tour, she’s now headlining her own.
We spoke to the woman of the moment about how making music helped her understand her emotions growing up, the importance of being polite, and feeling empowered.
How did you go from being a young girl writing songs in her bedroom to a young woman getting millions of streams?
I’ve always been someone that loves singing. I grew up with a single mum and she got together with my stepdad just before my thirteenth birthday. I’d never had a man in my life before – especially one that lived in my house. I didn’t feel threatened by him but I wasn’t sure about him and I think he saw that in me. He understood my situation – he was a musician so he bought me a guitar and encouraged me to talk about how I was feeling at the time. I felt confused. I had a lot of feelings towards my biological dad growing up and not really understanding why he wasn’t around and that’s the stuff I started writing about. I would write these really deep songs in my room every day after school. In my first year of music college, I met my publisher, who’d heard some of the song’s I’d written. I don’t even know what’s happened in the past few years, to be honest! I think people saw that I was writing songs because I needed to and connected to them.
You’ve said that music helped you express your feelings of frustration and confusion growing up. What do you hope your music will do for others in turn?
I think as a kid, music was definitely something that helped me understand my emotions; not necessarily my situation but more the way I felt; like Adele might have felt the same way I am [laughs]. I used music as a way of losing myself and connecting things. It’s extremely important to me that people can listen to my music and put their own meaning and lives on to it. Just because it means something to me, it doesn’t mean it has to mean the same thing for them. Especially with, “Why Her Not Me?”, which is about my dad picking another family over raising me, but to someone else, it can be about a friendship or relationship.
You’re very honest about what you’ve been through in your songs. Do you mind living your life so openly through your music?
To be honest with you, it’s all I’ve ever known. Ask me again in a couple of years and I might be like, oh god, what have I done? But right now, I’ve only ever written songs about stuff that means something to me. I think it’s important to me when I’m sharing my songs that I can share that as well. I’m a 21-year-old girl and these songs are being written by me and they mean a lot to me, and hopefully that will inspire people and get people to realise that the things they’re feeling, other people feel too and actually, they’re not alone. I think that’s something that I felt as a kid before I got older and was able to process things. When I released “Why Her Not Me?”, I got so many comments from people saying that they’ve been through the same thing. Releasing this song has helped me so much personally because it’s made me realise that a lot of people had the same experience and we can share it and connect with each other and feel better together.
Which artists have had the biggest influence on you musically?
I love strong female voices. I love Nina Simone. I heard her for the first time when I was eight years old, I remember the day so clearly because I burst into tears. I remember the passion in her voice and the way she connected with the words she was singing. I love Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys. When it comes to my own music, I really wouldn’t say anything I’m doing is breaking the rules of music but I don’t necessarily listen to records from other artists and say that’s what I want to sound like.
Looking back, has this year played out the way you thought it would?
I definitely think this year has been the craziest year for me so far, with respect to my career and me as a person. I’ve been given so much room to grow as a person and experience new things. Tour was a massive thing for me. I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened to me. The music that I’ve been able to put out, I’m super excited and super empowered as a young girl. I feel really empowered that people are listening to me and my ideas are being brought to life.
What would you be if you weren’t a musician?
I’ve never really thought about it. I remember when I was younger, my mum always told me never to have a plan B because it’s setting yourself up to fail. I definitely have other passions. I love people. I love talking to people, I love sharing experiences with people, so I’m not sure exactly what it would be, but some sort of therapy, I guess? I like helping people. Music is probably the only thing I’ve properly thought about doing. I truly believe that if you think you can achieve something, everyone else will. It’s a confidence thing.
What are your hopes and fears for your career going forward?
My hope is that I’m able to tour for a very long time. I would love to release another album in 15 years and people still care about me and for it to be something people still want to listen to. My biggest goal is for as many people as possible to connect to my music, my story and what I’m saying. I think a fear for everyone is that you might lose who you are, but I think I’m surrounded by good enough people and I’m friends with people I’ve known for years so I don’t see that happening. My biggest fear is that I might fall out of love with what I’m doing but I can’t see that happening either. I love it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My mum’s always taught me to always be nice, say hello to people and look them in the eye. Be polite to people, that’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever had. People remember that stuff. In what I do, you’re never doing anything on your own. Everyone’s chipping in and getting involved. It’s just being grateful for everything you have and the people around you.