The young, rising talent from Australia shares a personal account of her approach to songwriting, planned creativity and breakfast routine
Australian singer-songwriter Gretta Ray made an instant impression on the music scene with the release of her debut EP Elsewhere in 2016, and winning the Triple J radio ‘Unearthed High’ competition. At the tender age of just 18 years old, she also won the prestigious Vanda & Young songwriting competition and has seen success in her live shows, selling out every headliner and supporting the likes of James Bay, Vance Joy, Lianne La Havas and The Rubens.
This year is proving to be just as exciting for Gretta, with the release of a string of singles and her second EP Here And Now, so here she gives us an insight into her busy songwriting life.
It’s been a relatively quiet fortnight as I prepare to jet off once again to London, touch base with my co-managers at Everybody’s and work as diligently as I can within the window of time I’ll be spending in such a wonderful, inspiring part of the world. I think I’m always going to perceive London as somewhere that I find incredibly creatively stimulating, ever since I first came here for work in early 2017. I love everyone I have met over there and I cannot wait to go back.
I recently finished up my first headline city tour of Australia, which consisted of five shows and I had such a blast on the road with my band. I spent a lot of time in my head, obsessing over the show’s production and how each night would play out, what the audience would think. I feel like I’m weirdly addicted to pushing myself to be better all the time, which means that although performing is my favourite thing in the world, it’s also associated with putting pressure on myself to prove that I’m growing and developing as an artist, a writer, and performer. I want more than anything for people who come to my shows to walk away feeling like they’ve gotten their money’s worth. But, it’s been pretty easy to overthink every aspect of this job since I began working in the music industry when I was 16. I just don’t want to ever take this position for granted.
I’m so proud of the new songs that I’ve written, how they’ve been produced and mixed… it has been a dream getting to perform them. But if I’m being honest, my practice of songwriting has changed drastically over the past three years or so, as it has become so interlinked with the “working” side of things. Despite being immersed in a sea of voices reassuring me that ‘there’s no rush’ and ‘you have so much time ahead of you’, I find it challenging to sit down to work on a song without thinking to myself, before even beginning writing, “Will this be good enough?” That being said, I’m starting to go into more writing sessions, bite the bullet and be a little terrified, feel at ease with the idea of writing a song that isn’t perfect.
I’m learning that this isn’t a consistent job, at least not at this stage. The intensity associated with it tends to come in waves. Some weeks I’m frantically racing from one thing to the next, becoming accustomed to getting up early for flights, switching into ‘professional’ mode and reassuring myself that when tired, my good friend adrenaline will always be of assistance in getting me through a day’s work. Nonetheless, other weeks I find that I almost have to create work for myself, outlining time to write and get inspired, which I find awfully strange: the act of planning when and where you’re going to be creative because the fact is creativity itself also tends to come in waves.
I struggle a little with structuring these days of my life… people encourage me to engage in something other than music, but the thought of that is daunting to me! Even if I go a whole day without coming up with one song idea, I still find myself in some way, shape or form obsessing over my project, my vision for what I’m going to do next… for me, it’s almost like there’s no time to waste. There’s no off switch for my passion for songwriting and performing. And though not always immediately tended to, the creative cogwheels in my mind are constantly in motion.
BOIL TWO EGGS
So right now on days like this, I keep it simple. I get up, I shower, clean my room… deal with the accumulated piles of laundry post-tour. I boil two eggs. I go through all of my emails, making sure I’m top of everything admin-related. I prioritise my relationships most dear, catching up with people for coffee. I talk to my manager Charlotte on the phone every day, and not only do we talk about upcoming work-related events, but we check in on each other’s mental and physical health. I listen to music of all kinds non-stop, do the occasional babysitting shift.
Do I always pick up a guitar or sit down at the piano? Not necessarily. Sometimes I just need to go about this simple routine I’ve created for my downtime and observe the world I’m immersed in as it moves around me. I watch people, interactions between strangers, I talk to my friends, I listen to the stories people tell me and I reflect… I know for sure that it really won’t take much to spark an idea in my mind, to draw me right back into the depths of my obsession with being a songwriter.
Listen to Gretta Ray’s latest single Radio Silence above and check out her new EP Here And Now at gretta-ray.com