Interview: Gracie Martin & The So Beautifuls

New York-based singer-songwriter and producer Gracie Martin will leave you spellbound with her captivating new single, 10%.

A song reflecting on the interconnection between a disintegrating relationship and capitalism fatigue, Gracie soulfully questions why she isn’t being given the compensation she deserves – a sentiment masterfully realised in the accompanying music video.

I caught up with Gracie while she was touring the US to find out more about the story behind the song, how she came up with the themes and concept for the video and why its so important to take care of your mental health when making music…

Hey Gracie! Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi! I’m Gracie Martin. I’m a singer-songwriter and producer, and I have a fantasy folk project called Gracie Martin & The So Beautifuls.

I was totally mesmerised by your new single, 10%. Can you tell me about how the song was written and recorded?

Thank you!

Yeah, I wrote pretty much the whole song in one big spurt around this time last year. I was working with my looper, trying to come up with music for a production of Romeo and Juliet I was working on… and this song just came out, and I was like oops this is about me, not Romeo and Juliet. The ukulele loop came first and then the lyrics and melody both flowed out really easily over that. I was depressed and had recently gone through a break-up, so the meaning of the song was something I guess I just really needed to externalize.

I had a lot going on at the time, though, so it was actually recorded after my Romeo and Juliet job was over and ever after we had shot the music video. I had just worked with Robby Webb on my previous single, so I asked him record, co-produce and mix 10%.

It was a really cool process figuring out the whole arrangement of the record, and Robby definitely brought in some ideas that were new and exciting for the So Beautifuls sound. I also tapped my bandmates from R+J to contribute. We recorded at Headroom Studio in Philly and had Ryan Schwabe master the track.

The music video is stunning. How did you come up with it?

The video happened pretty intuitively! The director Layne Marie Williams is a friend of mine from college and we first connected creatively when she guest collaborated for Plant Me Here, an art collective I was a member of. She’s since founded a film company in Chicago called Women of the Now and we had been talking about making a music video together for a while.

This past March, I found myself in Chicago for a week while on tour with Black Cat Harriet, and so Layne and I jumped on the opportunity.

At that time 10% was only in the form of my initial demo, so we worked in an improvisational way to discover the emotional story. We were fortunate enough to shoot in a gorgeous penthouse apartment, so the themes of wealth and abundance were hot for me.

The other actor, Joe Chazaray, jumped on the to shoot and Layne helped us work out a story for our characters. Thanks to Layne and her fantastic team we shot everything in one day and captured a really lovely mix of playfulness, mysticism and melancholy. 

Who would you cite as your biggest musical influences?

Joni Mitchell and Amy Winehouse were both big for me when I first really got into songwriting as a teenager. Obviously their just pure songwriting talent is painfully good, but I think I’ve always been influenced by their genre-bending.

I’m definitely always craving inspiration, though, and am consistently influenced by many musicians and particularly women making music. So artists like Mitski, Robyn, FKA twigs, Fiona Apple, Solange, St. Vincent, Grimes and so many more are getting me juiced up creatively all the time. 

What’s the best advice you’ve been given as an artist?

I have two things that go hand in hand: take care of your mental health and collaborate/ask for help when you need it. Obviously taking care of your mental health is a privilege that makes a difference in any profession, but I can’t stress how much it’s helped me with my relationship to making music.

It’s really easy to be seduced by the whole ‘I’m a recluse artist’, ‘I’m going to do everything myself’ fantasy, but that way of working is unrealistic and, at least for me, was my depression in disguise. Even artists who do a lot of their own production or whatever are helped greatly by collaborators. Investing in my wellness directly impacts how well I’m treating my collaborators. There will always be ten thousand things on your plate as an independent musician, and it’s all a lot easier when you have peace of mind and a support system.

What are your plans for the rest of the year? Any live shows coming up?

I’m actually on a cross country road trip at the moment! Played two shows in Texas and am going to check things out in LA for a week before driving back to New York where I live. It’s a huge adventure and so fun.

I’m looking to set up a couple small shows in Rochester for the end of the year. Probably cozy Christmas coffeehouse vibes. I have big plans for 2020 though…

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