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Gracie Ray on “Love, Quarantine,” Noble Breakups, and Rio

Gracie Ray

I predict that L.A. indie pop artist Gracie Ray will be one of the most important voices of the next decade. Long after the one-trick-pony singers have come and gone, she’ll be writing and singing songs that compare favorably to all-time greats like Sade, Valerie Carter and Roberta Flack.

Gracie’s unique vocal phrasing, jazzy chord changes and well-crafted lyrics put her in a league of her own compared to most of today’s AutoTuned singers. Her new EP Nighthawk also has a nobility of soul that I associate with artists like Aimee Mann and Maggie Rogers. While rockers like Gayle shriek “FU!” in the midst of a breakup, Gracie takes the high road on “Love, Quarantine”:

And to put it bluntly

I shouldn’t have to say sorry to you

No, that should be you

Gracie Ray’s music is a throwback to the days when artists relied on real talent and inspiration, not TikTok gimmicks.

Reviewers sometimes compare your voice to Snoh Aalegra or Sade, but I think it has distinctive qualities all its own. How would you feel if (a few years down the road), artists start emulating your voice as the iconic sound they’re going for, not Sade?

Thank you so much, first of all. I think singers like Sade And Snoh not only have really powerful and distinct voices but their songs invite singers to find their own distinct sound. I think they both inspired me to think outside the box in terms of phrasing. So I guess I hope to encourage more people to find what makes their voice or gift unique. 

There’s a noble, forgiving quality to your breakup songs. For example, in “One Of These Nights” you sing “Despite what you made me go through, I’m honored that I got to know you.” Many artists your age would scream “FU!” and put their ex’s picture on a dartboard. Is there something about your songwriting process that helps you reach this positive place?

Once I started writing about my relationships in depth and creating songs from that place, I came to realize what a gift every interpersonal relationship is. Especially for artists. I think the reason a lot of my songs are rooted in forgiveness and compassion is that I like to make sure I’m being self-aware. If I’m not honest about the part I played in these dynamics, then I can’t grow from them. Through my songs I started to let go of my victim mindset and started to understand that these counterparts were mirrors where I could see the parts of me that are still unhealed. I’m sure I will still be writing some “FU” songs, that’s just kind of where my heart was at while creating this EP.

What’s the significance of your EP title Nighthawk? It has a more poetic feel than saying “night owl,” but is there a special reason why you chose it?

To me, Nighthawk means the thoughts and ideas that circle you at night – songs that come to you, a letter that you have to write, something that your soul is yearning to create and share. These ideas and songs lived inside of me long before I chose to do anything with them, so that’s why it felt important to title my first EP Nighthawk.

While in college in NYC, you sometimes backed up Chloe Chaidez of Kitten at live shows. Does this mean that there’s an “indie rock” side of you that may get expressed on future albums?

I loved singing with Chloe and have learned so much from watching her perform since we were kids. I definitely grew up on a lot of indie rock and hope to explore how I can incorporate those influences into future projects. 

You recently visited Rio de Janeiro. Was that just for fun…or was it a musical pilgrimage to the country that gave us Astrud Gilberto, bossa nova, etc.?

I actually had to postpone my trip to next year! I am so thrilled to be going with a dear friend who is from Rio so I can’t wait to get to experience her city and culture. I grew up listening to a lot of bossa nova so it will be incredible to visit the place where some of my biggest influences are from.

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