Grace Davies: "There's no better feeling than being free as an artist"
Almost five years after winning the nation's hearts on prime time Saturday night telly, The X Factor star Grace Davies is going back to her roots. Pun very much intended.
The Blackburn-born singer songwriter has just released her third EP It Wasn't Perfect, But We Tried; and this time, she's in control.
Taking the reigns and producing her own music, the EP sees Grace hone her craft and achieve new levels of pop perfection; from much-anticipated track Wolves to exquisite new single Breathe.
Today, we speak to Grace about the importance of being an independent artist, and why there's 'no better feeling' than freedom.
Grace, your third EP in three years (!) is finally out there. How are you feeling?
We have a trilogy! Three in two years, it’s not bad going. I’m working very hard, I’m excited. With this one, I’ve been so close to all the songs and the production, it felt like it took me a really long time to be in love with it, after it was mastered. It kept feeling like I was seeking approval.
You've always been a songwriter, but when did you make the conscious decision to produce your own work?
It was in 2020 when we got put into Zoom sessions, so I kind of had to start producing, because I wasn’t in the studio. Frances [Sophie Cooke, a British singer-songwriter and producer] took me under her wing and told me all the stuff download.
During lockdown, [producing] was kind of my hobby. I always say when I started doing music, I lost my hobby, because it became my full-time job. Production was always something I really wanted to learn, and you look at Imogen Heap and stuff; she has her name under every single credit. I had a few co-production credits last year, but this year it was like…OK, we’re doing it. Fully!
Wolves is a very big moment on the EP. You performed on The X Factor, and you released fan-favourite track Roots last year. What did it feel like, having these songs in your back pocket for almost five years?
I still get questions about the other songs that I performed on the show all the time. I’m very point blank with the fans; no, they are never coming out.
I knew I was going to release Roots, because it would have been my winner’s single and people loved it, and still love it. Wolves, there was a pressure there, because if I release one, do I have to release them all? I didn’t want to do that, because those songs served their purpose at the time.
What convinced you to release it? Other than the fact it's a massive banger, obviously...
Wolves is a banger! It’s catchy! I’ve been doing a lot of live online shows for the past three years to help fund the independent side of things and every time I sand Wolves, it was probably my most requested [song to sing]. And, I mean, it’s really good. You’ve got to give the people what they want.
WATCH Grace Davies' Breathe video below:
Breathe, the EP's opening track, is a song we have to talk about. It's a stunning little synth-pop song...
I’m buzzing about it. That’s actually the oldest song, apart from Wolves. It was the first song I wrote after The X Factor, with the same people who did Wolves. I’d gone through an experience where I felt like my personality had been dimmed down, and I didn’t necessarily have control over what to say or do.
The song starts “The end of where you tear me apart,” I’m free now and I can be myself. It was a period of my life where I felt trapped and perhaps controlled in a way. I wrote it five years ago! But then coming out of a major label deal [Grace was originally signed to the Syco label, which stopped actively releasing music in 2020]. There is no better feeling than being free as an artist, and that’s why that song is so important to me as an independent act.
2021 was a huge moment for you, with Roots becoming your first single to chart in the UK. That must've felt amazing...
It was actually way more shocking than I would have thought. I felt like I’d f*cked it. It had been four years since The X Factor, I thought 'no one’s going to give a sh*t, I should have released this song years ago, I’ve missed the boat.' It was so shocking and unexpected, but I have to completely give that to the fans for that one. They stuck with me and begged for the song and they really came through.
So Grace, you have three EPs now. That’s very much a trilogy, the completionist in us says that we can now start looking towards an album, right?
I’ve always said this. I believe in trilogies. But that does put a massive amount of pressure on me to deliver an album now. I would love to do a body of work, but I’m not sure how I feel about doing it independently. If I’m going to do an album I want to do an album.
Grace’s new EP It Wasn’t Perfect, But We Tried is out now.