Digital Cover: Gracie Abrams Takes Center Stage
Bedecked in ever-chic Celine by Hedi Slimane, Gen Z’s newest voice, Gracie Abrams, is taking on 2022 with a new album of sophisticated pop music and a new in-person tour, kicking off this week
At only 22 years old, Gracie Abrams is already showing signs of greatness. After releasing her first album, Minor, in 2020, Abrams—whose clear voice and highly-introspective lyrics have made her a favorite among the cool-girl set like Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift—traveled to her mother’s home state of Maine to create This Is What It Feels Like, her second musical project, out now.
Encompassing her experiences over the quarantine, This Is What It Feels Like details the feelings that came up for the singer-songwriter while in isolation—sadness and melancholy, but also moments of humor and love. Tracks like “The Bottom” and “For Real This Time” have enough of a quick-beat to almost be mistaken for pop songs, even while the lyrical content could be grim; while a song like “Rockland,” produced by The National’s Aaron Dressner with a slower tempo and thoughtful lyrics, reveals how deep Abrams’ songwriting ability is. This Is What It Feels Like presents an emotive experience that transports you into Abrams’ beautiful, somber world. V spoke with Abrams from her family home in L.A. to discuss creating her latest album, touring post-lockdown, and how she hopes her music will help her oft lovelorn listeners.
V MAGAZINE: Hey, Gracie! Thank you so much for doing this.
Gracie Abrams: Oh my god, no thank you! I’ve been a huge fan of the magazine for so long. This whole thing is pretty surreal, I’ve had to pinch myself.
V: So, when did you start writing music?
GA: I started journaling when I was really little, like seven or eight. I fell in love with it because it’s so secretive and safe. When you’re young, you need an adult for practically everything in your life. But you don’t need anyone to keep a journal, and that’s very empowering. So writing music came naturally from that.
V: Do you think growing up in L.A., and around people like your father and all the folks who work in the industry, helped drive you to make music and be an artist?
GA: I think it’s inevitable that it did. But it’s not like I was telling everyone I wanted to be a pop star when I was a kid. I’ve always been a really shy person with bad anxiety, and I definitely never wanted to sing in front of anyone. I feel lucky I have the opportunity now to make music professionally, but even if I weren’t making music, I would still be writing. It makes me feel like I can function as a human. I don’t know what I’d do without it.
V: When did you first start putting out music to the world, and not just in your journals?
GA: When I was in high school, I was writing music and lyrics in the hallways. I was writing more frequently than I do now. I would literally do it between classes and then record something on my phone. But it was a great way to figure out my writing style early on. So I would write a track quickly, immediately record it, and then just put it on Instagram and not think twice about it. I did it enough that I guess a few people noticed and a couple things hit. That was probably the best relationship I’ve ever had with social media. I remember thinking, “This is so fun and fulfilling at the same time!” I loved that.
V: And then your first major project, Minor, was released in 2020. That must have been strange timing for an album drop… But you did get to do virtual touring over Zooms. What was that like?
GA: I’ve always been a bit of a shut in. So actually, it felt oddly similar to how I had been interacting prior to the pandemic. I was always someone who chose to spend a lot of my time alone in my room, writing and reading and recording music. So when the pandemic hit, it was this weird Twilight Zone thing. My peers who had had the pleasure of touring before were really feeling the loss. They talked about not being on the road, being unable to be with their tour families and their fans in real time. But I didn’t know what that felt like yet. So every virtual show I did felt like a step up. The virtual tour allowed me to take baby steps toward full, in-person performing. I definitely think I needed it more than I even realized, and I’m glad I did it.
V: But then you did get to do some real touring over summer 2021 in support of Minor. How’d that go? Was your anxiety really bad?
GA: It was fucking great! I got to be with everyone, it felt like a family reunion every night with a family that I had never met before. It was amazing. And hopefully, I’ll tour more in 2022.
V: So let’s get to This Is What It Feels Like, which is actually a preamble to a fuller album still yet to come, right?
GA: Yes! I wanted to make a fuller album a while back, after we released Minor, but Minor was about a tumultuous relationship that had just ended, and I was really not in a great place mentally and emotionally for quite a while. So I didn’t feel like I could commit to the process enough to achieve what I wanted the full album to be.
The songs on This Is What It Feels Like very much came together in fragments, kind of scattered. I was recording it in Maine, and as I did it felt like I was getting back to myself artistically. I wanted to immortalize this fever dream moment in my young adult life. I’ve always romanticized the process of making an album, since I am such a genuine fan of music. And internally, the whole time, I felt like I was flailing, grasping at stuff, and trying to write words that made no sense at all. But I’m glad it’s all working out the way it is currently, because I don’t think I could have handled it last year. But I feel actually ready for it now.
V: So much of your music is often about the ups and downs of past relationships, and the fallouts you’ve suffered from them. Do you feel like writing music has helped you wrap your mind around your love life?
GA: Oh my god, it has helped more than anything else…except maybe actual therapy and sometimes talking to my mom. I have leaned on songwriting as my number one creative outlet for almost 15 years. That’s a lot of time. But it’s also my true passion, and I really do need it to stay sane. In my adult life as a writer, I’ve been able to revisit things and make sense of them and make those experiences digestible for me. To be able to help myself in that way is something that I definitely don’t take for granted.
V: And do you hope your music helps others who are struggling in a relationship?
GA: Yes, that is what music has been for me. Feeling acknowledged in a song is an amazing feeling. You listen to the track and you think to yourself, there is at least one other human being out there that gets what I’m feeling and going through…and therefore, I am significantly less alone. If I can do that for even one person, that would be a dream come true. I know how important music has been throughout my life, literally every single day. Even if the comfort you get from it is temporary. Sometimes all you need is a two-and-a-half-minute song to make your day a good one.
V: What are you hopeful for in the rest of the year?
GA: Definitely the possibility of touring in 2022 is amazing. I can’t wait to reconnect with my people in real life. We’ve all been waiting to see each other for a long time. And I’m just so grateful for this opportunity to take my music into the world [again]!