On Wednesday (Feb. 10), Toronto-based singer-songwriter Grae returned with another top-notch pop track: “Soft” utilizes the rising pop artist’s pillowy vocal delivery and understanding of intricate hooks to immediately captivating effect. Last year, the 22-year-old created a similar impression with “Permanent Maniac,” a love letter to Robert Smith of The Cure and the title track of her great sophomore EP.
Over the past few months, Grae has gained thousands of followers on Instagram and TikTok as Cure and non-Cure fans alike have discovered “Permanent Maniac.” As she celebrates her latest single release — and preps more music releases for 2021 while eyeing a proper debut album — Grae answered Billboard’s 20 questions about “Soft,” her upcoming music and her Robert Smith fan status.
1. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
Around the age of 12, I remember buying Michael Jackson’s Thriller with birthday money, I was a massive fan.
2. What was the first concert you saw?
Oh man, the first concert I saw was One Direction! haha
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?
My dad is an entrepreneur, he has ideas for businesses and then builds them from the ground up. I think that’s where I got my drive and confidence to build my own music career. My mom was very artsy and helped run a little antique shop in my hometown Elora. I like to credit her for my creative, spiritual side.
4. Who made you realize you could be an artist full-time?
When I was 18, I left high school and moved to Australia and I was somewhat lost with what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I always had this desire to do music, I just didn’t know how to actually do it. I started gigging in Australia, and when I got my first $100, I remember thinking, “Wow! I can make money off of this,” and I kept going. That was kind of the moment for me.
5. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
Oh my goodness, so many things! I can’t wait to travel the world and have my own headline tour. And of course, I’d love to do a song with Robert Smith.
6. How did your hometown/city shape who you are?
I grew up in a very small town named Elora, Ontario. Elora really supports local artists: writers, painters, singers, actors… It’s a very creative town with lots of opportunity. I think being in a place that had creative freedom like that really allowed me to feel okay expressing myself.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
“Necessary Evil” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
8. If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?
I hope it’s okay that I have a couple… The Cure for starts, I haven’t seen them yet, which is crazy. Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Prince in the 80’s would’ve been insane, Pink Floyd. There are sooo many.
9. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
Unfortunately because of COVID I haven’t had the chance to perform live much, but the first time I saw someone singing the lyrics to my songs was absolutely crazy to me.
10. How has the pandemic affected your creative process?
I’ve had a lot more time to myself. It’s been a great opportunity to reflect on my emotions and what I want. I’ve been writing some of my best songs (I think) because of it.
11. How did your new track “Soft” come together?
“Soft” came together when I met someone, who eventually became my partner, and it’s the healthiest relationship I have been in. They make me feel very happy and … soft.
12. How indicative is “Soft” of the sound of the music you’re releasing later this year?
Very! There was a moment where I was struggling to choose a direction for myself in terms of music style. When I finally started to be more true and authentic to my inspirations, that’s when “Permanent Maniac” was born, and ever since then I’ve really made sure the type of music I’m writing moving forward is true to me. “Soft” really embodies that sound and style I’ve been searching for.
13. Your 2020 single “Permanent Maniac” was a love letter to Robert Smith of The Cure. How long have you been a Cure fan, and what’s your favorite song?
I have been a Cure fan since I was 17! I’m turning 23 this year! My favourite song would have to be “Just Like Heaven,” just because I love it. But! Disintegration is my favourite album.
14. Which released song of yours was the most difficult to finish?
My song “Fade to Black” was difficult to finish because of the lyrical content and how emotional I felt towards writing it.
15. Which song are you most looking forward to playing in front of an audience?
“Permanent Maniac”!! I haven’t got to perform it yet and it’s a very fun song to play.
16. What’s one thing that even your most devoted fans don’t know about you?
It’s a really random fact but I’ve never drank alcohol.
17. What’s your karaoke go-to?
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.
18. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?
I am a very emotional person, I cry very easily, so basically anything but “Easy” by Lionel Richie gets me in the feels: “Vienna” by Billy Joel … “The Great Gig In The Sky” by Pink Floyd ….
19. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
If there’s a piece of advice I’d give myself, it would be: don’t feel like you have to please everybody and make them accepting of you all of the time. It’s okay and brave to be your own person in your own lane.
20. What does a successful 2021 look like for you?
Performing shows! Honestly… and I also really hope people enjoy the new music.