Gracie Ray’s music is rooted in honesty. Sparing no detail or emotion while she reflects on the ups and downs of love and life with her songwriting, her lyrics are meant to be taken at face value, and for an artist that is only on the verge of releasing her debut EP and very first collection of music, that should be daunting task to take on – but Gracie makes it seem easy.
After making her debut with her first single, “Home To Me” last month, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter is gearing up to release her debut EP, Nighthawk on June 17th. Serving up yet another taste test of the EP, she has today released her latest vulnerable single, “One of These Nights”, which finds Gracie reflecting on a devastating heartbreak, but rather than wallowing in self-pity or harboring resentment for the other person, she finds growth and closure through the song. The type of introspection on a song like “One of These Nights” can easily be found throughout the entirety of Nighthawk, which has been a long time in the making.
Despite literally being born into music (her grandfather just so happens to be David Crosby of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash) Gracie Ray didn’t rush into the family business, so to speak. Instead, she waited for the songs to come to her, and during lockdown in 2020, that’s exactly what happened. Now, flash forward two years, and she’s on the verge of releasing her debut EP, an emotionally honest project that she took on with her own father. With Nighthawk out next month and “One of These Nights” out today, we caught up with Gracie Ray to talk about her musical upbringing, the cathartic process of writing “One of These Nights” and the most exciting moments of working on the EP. Read the full interview and listen to “One of These Nights” now below.
Prelude Press: It’s no secret that you grew up in a very musical household, but when you were growing up, was there any specific genre or artist that first drew you to creating music yourself?
Gracie Ray: Growing up going to CSN shows definitely showed me at a young age that I wanted to perform and just what a powerful thing music really is. When I was younger there was a lot of Jazz and Bossa Nova playing around the house that I think really influenced the kind of singer I would become. My parents would play Nora Jones, Sade, Bebel Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto. I always imagined making music that could create that sense of calm and inner peace. I also remember listening to a lot of film scores – I think the ‘American Beauty’ score CD was our alarm clock for many years. Now I listen to scores when I want to feel inspired, explore a feeling or an internal landscape.
It’s been quite some time since you first picked up a microphone, and you are just now getting ready to release your debut EP, Nighthawk later this year. What made now the right time, or the music you’re creating now the right music?
When the first lockdown happened in 2020 I found myself with all this time, and had gone through a series of devastating heartbreaks. There was nothing to do but sit down at the piano and let the songs flow – and that’s kind of how this started. Once I started to write more songs with my dad it became very clear that music could no longer take a back seat, and that I had to continue and see where it would lead me. It became a sort of “now or never” situation. Nighthawk is a collection of songs that had to be set free from my psyche. They come from deeply painful and transformative experiences that I realized could really only be alchemized through music.
“…it became very clear that music could no longer take a back seat, and that I had to continue and see where it would lead me.” – Gracie Ray
You released “Home To Me”, your first single from the EP just last month! Now that it has been out for a little bit, what are some of your favorite things about the song?
I love how I am discovering new things about the song, what it means for me, and what it could mean for others. I always really loved the way I inverted the hook but now that represents to me the confusing and disorienting nature of an on-again, off-again dynamic. I think my favorite part about the song is that it doesn’t exactly make up its mind. It’s calling out the pain that was caused, but still returns to the comfortability of that painful situation.
You’ve mentioned before that you don’t try to sugarcoat your lyrics when touching on where you’re at mentally or emotionally. How did this transfer into Nighthawk? Were there any subjects or emotions that you knew you wanted to touch on with the EP?
Definitely – I knew I had to confront the stories and narratives I had created about myself based off romantic relationships. I took on roles in others’ lives so much so that I kind of needed these songs to remind me who I really was, and what I wanted to say. I struggled for a long time with feeling worthy- of love but also of creating, so I think these songs were a way for me to free myself from judgment and create a space where I could feel proud of myself, my work, and how far I’ve come.
Your new single, “One of These Nights” definitely speaks to the lyrical vulnerability on the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about the background of the song and what inspired it?
One of These Nights was inspired by someone who was only in my life for a brief period but had a lasting impact on how I view love and relationships. It’s always dangerous to put someone on a pedestal but the truth is he seemed perfect until he disappeared. When I finally got answers I was able to step back, put the pieces together, and come to terms with why it wasn’t meant to be. That’s when I wrote One of These Nights- when I realized how cliche the whole thing was, and that everyone has the potential to disappoint you. I think the vulnerability of the song is rooted in the feeling of wanting to see them again- maybe for closure, but maybe because part of you is still holding onto something.
Was it a bit cathartic or rewarding to work on that song?
Yeah, super cathartic. If I hadn’t written it when I did I don’t think I’d be over it. I think the most rewarding part of making One of These Nights was re-discovering how quickly writing music can expedite the healing process. When I listen to it now, I’m just really proud of how honest I was and that I finally found a way to express what I was feeling.
Sonically, was there anything in particular you knew you wanted to accomplish on “One of These Nights” or Nighthawk as a whole?
When I first heard my dad play the changes that would become One of These Nights, I immediately heard a beat come in, and I knew that sonically I wanted to create an atmosphere that was really grounded and influenced by R&B. The vibe was really inspired by Snoh Aalegra and Sade, artists that I would play to feel at peace and at home. I wanted it to invoke a sensation that would feel like a big deep breath to the listener. That kind of goes for Nighthawk as a whole. I wanted it to capture my inner world in its rawest possible form. I’m drawn to art that doesn’t seek to be perfect but seeks to tell the truth, so that’s what I tried to do.
What was the most rewarding or exciting part of working on the EP?
The most rewarding part of this project was probably working with my Dad as my co-writer and producer. Because I grew up watching my dad and grandfather work together so closely, I always wondered when I would get to join in and kind of build on this really special family dynamic. I’m really grateful to both my parents for fostering this dream and always believing in my ideas and in me as an artist. It was especially rewarding to have Croz give me positive feedback on my songs, and to have him at my first show where I debuted them. He’s a pretty tough critic so I knew at that point I was doing something right.
“I hope it can make someone feel less alone, as so many songs have done for me.” – Gracie Ray
What would you like for fans to take away from the EP?
My biggest hope is that when people listen to this project, they feel less inclined to judge themselves and their journey. I hope it can make someone feel less alone, as so many songs have done for me. Nighthawk represents an idea or project that’s been circling you, yearning to be created not just live in your head. If anything I hope it inspires people to recognize their own Nighthawk, and encourages them to tune and listen to what it’s trying to say.
Do you have any other big plans for 2022?
I’m definitely excited to get back in the studio and keep writing. I’m also really looking forward to playing these songs live. Other than that I’m hoping to do some traveling- I had to cancel my trip to Rio last year so I’m stoked to be going this year. It’s already such a formative year for me so I’m really just excited to see what’s in store and how things unfold.