Wonderland.

GRACEY

From songwriting for Girls Aloud to releasing her self-assured new project “The Art of Closure”, the singer talks biding her time and finding her identity as an artist.

Gracey wearing white fur jacket

All clothing by TOPSHOP.

Gracey wearing white fur jacket
All clothing by TOPSHOP.

Taken from the Winter 2020 issue. Order your copy of the issue now.

Gracey has always dreamed of being a pop star. Having started penning hits for pop royalty from the age of 16, the Brighton-born artist — real name Grace Barker — wrote future-hits for Girls Aloud as part of production group Xenomania, having been scouted thanks to her SoundCloud uploads. “Back then I thought I was grown, but I was just a child,” she tells me over Zoom from London, cosied up on the sofa in a hoodie and now in her early 20s. “I thought that was the music dream at the time…”

Although she only started releasing her own emotional, yet empowering pop bangers last year, Barker says the transition from songwriter-for-hire to solo artist happened organically. A pivotal moment came from her first proper songwriting cut, with Jonas Blue and Raye’s “By Your Side”. Although the track reached number 15 in the UK chart when it was released in October 2016, she had purposefully decided not to sing on it. “I remember feeling very grown-up having made that decision, because all my childhood dreams would have come true, like getting to perform at Wembley,” she considers. “In the back of my mind, I just knew that I needed to figure out what I wanted to say before I became an artist.”

Gracey wearing fur jacket

All clothing by TOPSHOP.

All clothing by TOPSHOP.
Gracey wearing fur jacket

Instead of rushing something out half-heartedly, Barker took her time to work things out — even her moniker, she says, “went through a journey of about 55,000 different names.” But then, in 2019 — just as she was ready to go — Barker suffered a major setback: vocal surgery had left her silent and at home with her parents for a few months. “I was in my own mini-lockdown,” she says, adding that her parents have remained supportive throughout. “My mum even threw me a party when my EP came out where everyone dressed up as me… Who doesn’t want to see their dad in a mesh crop top?”

It’s understandable, then, that she had high hopes for 2020. “I can’t lie, it’s not exactly the artist journey I thought I’d be on,” she says, still smiling, despite only getting the chance to play one proper show in January. But while the Covid-19 pandemic put the brakes on her first UK tour, Barker has found ways of adapting to the new normal, connecting with her thousands of “virtual friends” by recording Instagram lives. “It’s been pretty cool because it pushes you out of your comfort zone, which makes you see things that you wouldn’t normally,” she suggests, adding that the screen-based concept for her “Empty Love” music video was planned way before the coronavirus hit. She thinks that idea of constant surveillance, or ‘GRACE-CTV’, as she calls it, is what made the track resonate with so many people. “It’s not just artists that have to document their life nowadays.”

Gracey wearing topshop top and denim jacket

All clothing by TOPSHOP.

Gracey wearing topshop top and denim jacket
All clothing by TOPSHOP.

As well as being effortlessly funny on Insta, Barker’s popularity has grown via TikTok: self-isolation sad-banger “Alone In My Room” struck a chord during the first lockdown, its relatable lyrics going viral for obvious reasons, while the trendsetting social platform propelled “Don’t Need Love”, her upbeat pop-house team-up with 220 Kid, to become a top-10 chart hit. “Especially this year, when it’s harder to reach people, the algorithms mean that anyone can be seen,” she mediates, saying TikTok has helped to create a level playing field. “It’s not about who has the most money; it’s more about who has the coolest, weirdest, funniest ideas.”

Having anticipated a second national lockdown, Barker used her few months of relative summer freedom to make sure her new mini-album, “The Art of Closure”, was finished. Chronicling her relationships with others, social media and how she views herself, she says it represents a full journey. “You’ll have days where you’ll trip up, but you’ve got to keep going. That’s what the tracklist is for me. I think the difference compared to my first EP, “Imposter Syndrome”, is being assured of yourself and knowing your worth.”

“The Art Of Closure” also features the song that kicked the entire GRACEY project off: though it was written three years ago, she says “99%” “sums me up as an artist — fun, funky, feel-good, earwormy, energetic. That song live, I can’t wait; the bass is so fucking juicy.”

As for the future, she teases that the mini-album is “just a little taste of what’s to come,” but while she reveals her debut album is definitely in the works, Barker isn’t pressurising herself to complete it within a particular timeframe. “I feel like I’ve been working on it since I was 10 years old,” she says excitedly. “I can’t wait!” We can’t either.

Photography
Danika Magdalena
Fashion
Kamran Rajput
Words
Ben Jolley
Makeup
Mona Leanne at The Wall Group
Hair
Natalie Shafii.
Special thanks
Indra Studios
GRACEY
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