An artist that puts her heart on a sleeve. Raw, straightforward, deep, but most of all, genuine. It’s Grace Carter, UK’s rising gem. She’s got introduced to making music thanks to her stepdad when she was thirteen and has become one of the country’s forces to be reckoned with. Life has been unfair, and with the unfairness comes a great deal of pain. A feeling that the singer knows well but has dealt with thanks to her support system and her loving mother. Like the saying, ‘Take your broken heart, and make it into art.’ With an urge to let go of her emotions, she writes whatever she feels at any moment. And no, she is not afraid to share herself with the world. On the contrary, she intends to speak up even about delicate matters that may seem uncomfortable, but once you listen to her, it may make you stop and reflect for a bit. Her being mixed race has always noticed the injustices of black people worldwide. This time, she speaks up about a phenomenon that seems forgotten but has been there for centuries. Police brutality is one of them, which is what RIOT is about. The main focus of this interview will be on this particular single, as there could be much to dive into in terms of perspectives, but her whole eight-track EP is lovely and worth the listen. LISTEN/STREAM RIOT HERE.

I’m really excited to do this interview with you today! Before getting into your latest single ‘Riot’, part of ‘A Little Lost, A Little Found’ EP out on BMG music, I’d like to go to your beginnings. How was growing up in the UK? How did you get into music? 

I grew up in London until I was nine, then I moved to Hove, a city near Brighton with my mum. I’m an only child, and growing up wasn’t easy, especially because my dad was not in the picture. My mother, she’s the best, she’s always given me love, strength and support. Despite that, not having a parental figure was hard and it made me angry. I was often alone, sad and questioning everything that was happening. I used to listen to a lot of Nina Simone, Alicia Keys and Adele. It wasn’t until I turned thirteen, where my stepdad suggested me to do something about those emotions. So, he grabbed a guitar and we started writing together. He really helped me release my frustrations and connect to myself on a personal level. Years passed by, and I was constantly writing what I was feeling in any particular moment, At sixteen I realized that I wanted to get serious with music. I released my first project just before my twentieth birthday with a group named ‘23rd’.Now I am twentysix and I feel that I have grown in terms of confidence and and assertion. I was initially signed to a major label, but then realised that it wasn’t the best fit for me. I think now, even in terms of collaboration, as I opened myself up again in the past year, and then I found a bunch of new people that I love working with that bring out a different side of me and a more experimental side of me, that’s not that twenty year old. I’ve had life experiences. And I’ve met people along the way that are now able to help me facilitate that. So it’s, like, as cool as ever evolving. 

Now that you’re more independent, you also have more creative control, right? Because major labels, they can have their say and make you feel constricted as an artist. But you want to say what you want at any particular moment. 

Like everything, there are peaks and troughs, highs and lows. On a major label, there’s lots of money to be spent and the opportunity to have that. But at the same time, spending loads of money is only a point if the creative vision is correct. You have to be in tune with yourself to achieve your best version. That’s why so many things are a struggle in the music industry because you were also young when we start that by the time we get to the point where we’re breaking and doing these things. We’ve been chipped away, and our confidence has been taken away. We need to rely on more people. So yeah, I feel very strongly about it because I’ve experienced both.

So you released your single ‘Riot’, and it’s such a powerful song, in my opinion. It is a song linked to police brutality and the injustices black people face around the world. When the phenomenon happened with George Floyd in the United States, people suddenly knew about it. But it has been there long and has not been tackled as much ever since, righ? It feels that when that happened, everyone was talking about it, and it slowly started fading away. From your perspective, how has it changed since this topic boomed in the world? 

The song came out of a place of being tired. That was the thing. You just said it well, when, in 2020, the world saw what happened to George Floyd, I think a lot majority of black people were like, wow, really, we’ve seen this for the first time? Now. Because we went this for years and years so there’s a level of exhaustion and okay, we’re bringing this up again, and no one realizes this has been happening the whole time. But then also, it was hard because everyone suddenly was speaking about this thing that, again, had been existing for as long as time has existed. 

I thought, well, as a singer, I have a voice; I can use it. I’ve been through many challenges in this industry that have pushed me in many directions, trying to be a pop thing, dancing, and this and that. I’ve had to return to my purpose. Like, what is it that I’m trying to achieve here? When I die, what do I want my legacy to be? Do I want to be doing that? Or do I want to use my voice if a few people hear at least the message has been sent? And so I got a Nina Simone print above my head, and she’s one of my favorite artists. I love her so much. 

So for me, the most essential part of it all is that I have a voice, a song, and I want to use it. That’s the bottom line. Hopefully, people will listen to it, stop for a second and listen properly to the lyrics. Take it in and kind of have a minute of reflection because the only way that stuff is going to change is if we all start to use our voices a little bit more. 

She’s such an influential artist when she sings. No fs given all the time. 

Exactly. You need to be artists like that’s because those are the people who have paved the way for us. Nina Simone said, “An artist must reflect the times”, and as an artist, it’s so true. The thing is ‘Riot’ and police brutality and all that bit black lives matter, all these things are so

important to me. But if I never speak about them, no one ever knows, and I have the power to

be able to talk about them. So I should, and that’s the view that I had. It’s been three years, and the conversation isn’t as loud as before. I don’t care that I didn’t put it out when in 2020. It came out at whatever point because the matter is still the same. This is still relevant. So, the most essential part is that I have a voice, a song, and I want to use it. That’s the bottom line. Hopefully, people will listen to it, stop for a second, and listen properly to the lyrics. Take it in, and have a minute of reflection because the only way that stuff will change is if we all start to use our voices a little bit more. 

So that’s exactly what captivated me. To listen even more to the lyrics and then let it sink in. You’re approach to music has changed throughout the years. First you started writing songs from a place of vulnerability, where you tackle deep subjects that happened in your personal life. When did you understand that it was time to make a shift and sing about something else? 

It’s interesting. I don’t think about stuff like that. I’m someone that likes to go off emotion. If I feel something, I want to talk about it. So when it comes to Riot, for example, I don’t even think it was a conscious thought of, like, I’m going to write a song for people like that. That wasn’t it; it was just like, I’ve seen this thing, and it hit me hard. Therefore, that’s all I can think about. So when I’m like making something, that’s all I can think about, so I’ve got to make it, and then it ends up in other things. But as a songwriter, my first project “ Why Her Not Me”, was about my family and my dad. And I was sixteen when I started writing; that was ten years ago, and so much has happened in my life. Since then, I have fallen in love. I had a heartbreak, and it was my dad. That’s all I can talk about. And so as I’ve got older, so many more things have happened in my life that now I’m like, I can talk about, and I want to talk about and so many things. I’m more self-aware and aware of what’s happening around me. So I look outside of myself and see things for the first time. When you’re sixteen, you’re so selfish, and inside of yourself, you’re like, it’s my movie. Then you get older, and you’re like, no, it’s not just my movie. 

I can imagine. Then you understand it’s like a collective thing we’re doing. It’s also courageous to put your heart on your sleeve like that. Was it hard for you to sing about stuff like this?

Yes, it is so hard. I didn’t even think like I just wrote them. My mom is so incredible, and she always empowered me to be vulnerable and not be afraid of being vulnerable. Even if it hurts, be open and allow yourself to feel things. Allow yourself to be in front of people who care. I’ve grown up in an environment where I’ve never been afraid of my emotions. Just like artists and the musicians like Nina Simone, Adele, and Alicia Keys, whom I gravitated towards, were and are so unafraid of being themselves, it gave me the confidence to write and sing about what I truly feel. I’m grateful, especially as a young woman of color, for having the confidence to be open about what is important. That’s why also, I love what I do, because it’s like, I see young girls that look like me in the crowds of my shows, and I’m like, you are connecting with us right now. I’m so grateful that you’re here and just, like, know that you can feel these things. And you can overcome them, and you can rise above them. I don’t care about being a pop star or anything like that. I want to connect with human beings. That’s it. 

I find it a rarity nowadays because we live in a highly selfish and insensitive society. We sometimes forget to connect and let emotions be. You have inspired many to normalize feeling emotions, accept them and reassure people who have gone through similar situations. A lot can relate to them. In terms of values, what are the values or messages, the values or messages that you would like to transmit to your audience? 

Well, I say it because my mum always told me when I was younger that I am fortunate to write down my feelings and release them from myself. Only some people can do that. But some people look to music and listen to music for that escape. That plays to put their emotions and experiences onto my lyrics or someone else’s. Then everything makes sense. My music is sad and emotional, but the main thing for me is that I hope that no song feels sad. I hope that people listen to music and feel their emotions and maybe cry. I hope people listen to any of my music and listen to me speak about the music as well and just feel less alone because we all have unique experiences. We all feel the same collection of emotions like we all have felt sadness before. We’ve all felt heartbreak. 

There is light beyond the tunnel. I think it’s beautiful that you try to normalize emotions because I feel that more and more.

Our generation is better with emotions and talking about them than the people of my mom’s generation. My mom is quite good, but when I hear some of her friends, I can tell that none has dealt with any of your issues in their life. Now they’re 60 and sad and angry. Our generation will probably be a little bit happier when they’re 60, or maybe not; social media might cut us all off. Who knows? 

What are you working on at the moment? 

So I’m currently getting back into the studio. The project only came out about a month ago, so I’m back in the studio experimenting. I’m having loads of fun and figuring out what I want my next thing to be. I’m very naturally, as we all know, lean on, like making sad music and slow music. As I’ve got older, as well, and just taken in more stuff, it’s like, I want to experiment with some more rhythm in my music. That’d be fun. I’m experimenting with new sounds and new people and making songs that I’m excited about. So we’ll see what happens there. I’m just delving into that right now. I want to come back to Amsterdam at some point— loads of stuff, like Fashion Week next month, for example. 

How exciting! Are you going to perform or attend any shows during that week? 

I mean, I’d love to. We’ll see. I love that music and fashion come hand in hand. I can express myself through music, but I can also express myself on stage, and I’ve put an outfit together, and it’s perfectly matched up with the moment we’re creating. That’s so fun to me. I’m excited about more fashion things happening in the next few months. 

Do you have any designers you’re more inclined to, and do you style yourself? 

I sometimes style myself, but I have a fantastic stylist, Beanie. I recently wore a 16 Arlington dress the other day and loved it. I love 16 Arlington a lot. There’s an excellent knitwear designer in London called Thalia Bar, whose pieces are lovely; she made some nice dresses. I’m very much into new designers. I love that there are so many incredible young designers in the UK in London who often come together and work on something together is remarkable to me. I love Fashion East, which is like a thing in London where they support new designers every year and put on shows for them at Fashion Week. I also love Acne Studios and Burberry. I also really like Ahlu Waia. She also directed the ‘Riot’ music video. She’s a Nigerian clothing designer. She is incredible.


Music editor: Joiah Luminosa

Talent: Grace Carter