Grace Gaustad‘s big break almost didn’t happen. The talented singer/songwriter has been making music for almost her whole life but it was a cover she did of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” a few short years ago that went viral, racking up millions of views and streams on the internet. But when I caught up with her to chat about her latest EP and her budding music career, she let me in on a little-known secret: She was sick the day she filmed that cover and almost didn’t do it.
“The day that we shot that I had 102-degree fever, and my mom was telling me that morning, she was like, ‘Grace, please cancel. You don’t have to do this,'” she shares over Zoom. Stubborn and determined, though, Gaustad still went to film that song. “When I got there, I told the director and the engineer, I was like, ‘Guys, I have like one take in me, maybe two. We’re going to have to do this really fast, because I’m sick. And I’m going to have to get through this today.’ So what was so funny about that one is it’s the song that blew up and got all the attention.”
Fast forward to now and she’s just released her second project, Welcome to Jupiter 1.0, including a brand new song and video for “Oxygen.” It’s a song she wrote about her mom that’s deeply personal to her. And it’s another “almost didn’t happen.”
“I have a hard time listening to the song,” she says. “I almost didn’t put it out, because it’s just, it’s so personal. And it’s about the most important person in my life. Sometimes I still cry when I listened to it.”
The accompanying video is just as powerful as the song. Directed by Benny Gagliardi, the video finds Gaustad alone in a dark warehouse letting the lyrics and her voice be the focus. For a song that evokes the feelings of being left behind, it felt only right to the singer to have the video match those feelings. “I wanted the video to feel like what the fear of losing my mom feels like for me, which is that big empty space, where I’m alone and there’s nothing else there, she’s not there with me,” she shares, noting that for the listener, that feeling translates to any kind of loneliness — a parent, a friend, a child, or any loved one.
Gaustad can trace her musical roots back to early childhood in Arizona and it all started with her mom. “My mom’s a very, very talented piano player,” she says. “And when I was a little girl, I used to listen to her all the time, at ages 2, 3, 4, and I would just sit there and I would watch her and I would observe. And then by the time I was about 5, I actually started sitting on her lap and I would put my hands over her hands on the keys.” She eventually started taking lessons and writing her own music, but she’s quick to admit that she doesn’t read music all that well, instead, she plays by feeling it and hearing it.
From there she learned to play the guitar and took voice lessons, always interested in creating, though at this young age, she wasn’t sure yet that this would all eventually become her life. “The instrument allowed me to almost tell a story, not only with words, but with audio as well and the visual and it sort of all came together,” she says of writing music as a child. “When I was a kid, I used to love to paint. I used to love to write poetry and short stories. I’ve been writing since I was about 5 or 6 years old. I didn’t have much to talk about at 5 or 6, so the songs are a little all over the place.”
Years passed and Gaustad’s musical abilities — and musical tastes — evolved. While she still calls her parents’ music (like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones) some of her favorites, she also found her own taste, and it all leaned toward pop. “I found Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and that’s really when my whole entire world opened up,” Gaustad says of her preteen years when her morning car rides with her dad became the spot she listened to the radio. “And I was like, that’s what I want to do. That’s the kind of music I want to write. That’s who I want to be.”
It wasn’t until she was 16 that she was able to convince her parents to let her start her own YouTube channel to post music, which included covers and original songs. The covers she went for at the start were songs she already loved, including Adele’s “Hello,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” which she still considers her favorite cover she’s ever done. “It’s been one of my favorite songs since I was a little girl,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite songs to play live,” which she does sometimes during shows if she wants to throw in a cover alongside her original work.
And then “Take Me to Church” happened, putting Gaustad on the map and opening the door for her to share her music more widely with the world. Her first project, Human, came out in 2019, followed by this month’s Welcome to Jupiter 1.0. Up next is her first full-length album, which contains 12 tracks to create a “linear story of the first 18 years” of her life. “It’s written in a very sort of universal way,” she shares. “I wrote it with all children and teenagers in mind, and just people in general, because so many of the struggles and so many of the things that I went through, I think so many people did.”
Gaustad candidly shares that not only does she deal with severe depression, but she’s always felt like she doesn’t quite fit in. “I’ve always felt like I was from another planet,” she says, which is also where she drew inspiration for the name of her latest EP. “Didn’t really fit in in school. Didn’t really fit in with my peer group. The whole time I just sort of felt weird.” She’s channeled all these struggles and feelings into the album, which she actually finished before COVID happened. But with the pandemic throwing a wrench into virtually everyone’s plans, she held the album until now, putting out her EP instead, which she worked on during lockdown.
The past year was a hard one for the teen, she says, thanks to her depression and her inability to connect with collaborators to make music. She feels fortunate, though, that her parents helped her through it and she made it to a place where she could start working with people and writing again. “The second I was able to start working again, even if it was virtual, that was super helpful for me,” she says. “That was a game changer, because the hardest thing was feeling just so hopeless and uninspired, and it was kind of like, I’m just sitting inside — where am I getting my inspiration from? Nowhere.”
She takes it day by day, continuing to work and create magic through music. Her lyrics and instrumentation — which vary with each new song that comes out of her — are incredibly raw, personal, and relatable, drawing listeners in at every turn. Her upcoming album and corresponding videos (of which there are 12 — one for each track) should be no different, but if you think she’s taking a break because her EP came out and her album is done, you’d be wrong. “I’m always working,” she shares. “I’m working on album two already. Album one hasn’t come out, and I’m halfway through album two. I mean, I’m one of those people; I can’t stop being creative, which I guess isn’t such a bad problem to have.”
Not a bad problem at all — and we can’t wait to see what this talented artist comes up with next.