When Grace Barker was sixteen, the UK hit factory Xenomania bumped into her on Soundcloud and immediately got her to start making hits after school.
Now twenty-two, her first big songwriting breakthrough came as one of the pens behind one of the UK’s biggest dance hits in a long time – By Your Side, the jaunty smash by producer Jonas Blue and fellow emerging popstar RAYE.
But it’s not just behind-the-scenes for her anymore. As an artist – adopting the simple nickname GRACEY – she’s found a deeply personal lane to tell some of her stories whilst masterfully maintaining the lucrative songwriting side.
She’s currently in the UK Top 10 for her collaboration with producer 220 KID – the house-heavy Don’t Need Love and as the lead artist, has a massive new song with Ruel called Empty Love – which came together much more naturally than one would expect for two simultaneous young next-ups.
To dive into this ridiculous talent’s brain, Nic Kelly is in bold, GRACEY is in not-bold.
Gracey, I’m very here for Empty Love. Congratulations.
Thank you! I’m still buzzing off it. I’m still getting really excited by it.
Was it always going to have Ruel on it, or it was originally just going to be a you track.
When I wrote it, I wasn’t writing it with the idea of getting Ruel as a feature. But I’d done a really bad second verse as well. I’d written with Ruel like the year before, just as a songwriter session and I remember us kind of talking about the subjects that popped up in the song. So I was just like, “I’m gonna send this to Ruel,” because we’re pals and see what he thinks more than anything, because he’s an OG from before I even released music & so I sent it to him and he was really into it, did a verse and I was like, “yes!”
For that to be something that’s happened naturally because you built this beautiful friendship with him from the very, very early days of your career is a really cool thing.
Yeah. It’s so great. He’s such a funny guy, I just feel like when we work together, we’re friends. It’s really legit.
You’re both very legit people. And I know we’ve only known each other for five minutes but you both got very legitimate energy. I want to talk about this songwriting journey that you’ve been even before the GRACEY project burst out the gates. Tell me about what life was like for you, what were you doing before people knew that this artist called GRACEY existed?
I was just a songwriter for other people. When I left school, I ended up weaseling my way into a session with a dance guy called Jonas Blue. Do you guys know Jonas Blue?
He’s huge here. His biggest song here featured an Australian guy called Will Singe.
Oh, of course! Jonas Blue is like, THE thing here. We love a bit of Jonas Blue. Anyway, I managed to weasel my way into a session with him and my first ever songwriting credit was on By Your Side by Jonas Blue with Raye. I was just a little 18 year old like, “let me write some songs for you guyyyyys!”. And that kind of sparked my little songwriting journey and I wrangled my way into a room with Kylie Minogue and some other artists and I was like “what is going on? What is life?” And then yeah, I think it just took me a minute to like figure out my exact plan. I knew I wanted to do my project, but I wanted to have a reason to do it. I didn’t just want to like, sing my offcut songs that couldn’t quite make a Kylie album. I needed to really figure out what I wanted to do.
So what is it? What defines the songs that end up as GRACEY songs, or what defined them initially and made you realise that there was a unique project here for you?
I think initially, I wanted to be honest. Some songs definitely feel a little bit more personal than other songs. I could be bopping, but it doesn’t make me want to cry. I wrote my first single Different Things and it was so disgustingly personal and I was just like, “I can’t give her away. I need to release her.” So I had to figure out how to deal with the aftermath of releasing a love song to someone that I didn’t want to hear the love song after I’d released it. But I’m really happy with the amount of time it took me to do my project, because now I know who I am. And I know what I want to say.
How do you balance the songwriting side of things these days versus the artist project, because it’s something that some people find very hard to navigate, how much time they’re gonna put into their artists project and how much time they’re going to put into the things that they love from the songwriting side.
I always say, since my artist stuff has kind of started to pick up a little bit, people are very much like, “leave the writing stuff…” but I have to write for other people because I feel like I need to vent out different sides of my personality as well. If I’m feeling really energetic, I’ll probably write a dance tune and I’ll be like, “send me every track you’ve ever written,” to every person I’ve ever met. Like, I need to vent out these different parts of my personality. So I think writing for other people is a really nice release. But then it’s really therapeutic when you’re writing for yourself and you’re like, “I did not know I was feeling that way!”
Is it almost like you’re working out different muscles? Maybe writing stuff for the GRACEY project is maybe working out the arms, and maybe it’s leg day when you’re doing dance tracks?
That’s exactly it! I should definitely use that in future interviews because that is exactly what it is. But it’s just fun at the end of the day. I forget that. I’m literally obsessed with music. I’m just like, “I’ll do anything, give me a small teaspoon tapping on a mug and I’ll write a song to it.”
I saw a TikTok earlier of a cat that had a funny, sort of melodic, meow and this producer kind of took the meow and turned it into a full song and it was actually quite good.
I love that. “Featuring Cat.” I should have thought of that… sorry Ruel, I’m so sorry. Empty Love featuring Cat.
Now you get this moment to maybe kind of like break through harder in Australia because you’ve got that little Australian connection with our mate Ruel. What do we get from you next? How do we take it next level for GRACEY in Australia?
Obviously, I can’t go over just at the minute, so I don’t know! I’m still pretty new in terms of the amount of music I’ve released so I think the more music I can get out, the more people can kind of build a world around you and like start to be a part of that. I’m obviously like, “GUYS!, what about the song we’re releasing in six months, we love that one!” and then I’m like “oh, it’s not released, no one can connect.” So yeah, I think it’s just more music and hopefully having Ruel on this song opens up more people in Australia to see my staff and if they connect with it then that’s great. It’s nice to have that little connection.