Music Reviews

Published on August 28th, 2019 | by Guest Contributor


If Crushed Velvet Could Sing and Walls Could Talk: Grace Gaustad, Brutally Honest and Insightful Beyond Her Years

“I think a lot of artists are making music that glorifies the darker parts of life— but I’m interested in what is on the other side of that— I want to be a voice with a solution.”

With this one deceptively simple reflection, young indie-pop songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Grace Gaustad has tapped into that elusive, organic formula of the human heart that is the recipe for enduring pop songs with the power to connect and resonate across generations. And the message of hope is resonating, as evidenced by her rising stardom on Instagram (500k followers) and across major streaming platforms— a sign there are many listeners who hunger for her candid style of empathy and connection.

At 17, Grace has written hundreds of songs, having written and recorded her first at the age of six. Now, just weeks after graduating high school and on the cusp of major life change as she moves from New York to Los Angeles, Grace Gaustad embraces transition with the release of her first EP Human (out August 28, 2019). An ambitious concept album featuring eight songs, Human is an album that is as much about speaking to the angst of her generation as it is about Grace’s personal self-reflection, coming into her own as an artist, and coming of age.

“This EP is definitely the most authentic and vulnerable version of myself I’ve ever shared with the world. I know I’m only 17, but there is value in youth. My experiences of love, pain, rejection, and fear cut much deeper than one would imagine and I think other young people feel the same way. My generation has been deemed as shallow when in fact I believe we are forced to think at a much deeper level given the circumstances of the world.”

With three of the EP’s eight tracks produced by Grammy-nominated, L.A.-based songwriter and producer Scott Effman (Chris Brown, Akon, Boyz II Men), and the other five songs produced by premiere NYC engineer and composer Matt Anthony (Darius Rucker, Shontelle, American Idol), Human presents a Grace Gaustad who is coming into her own personally and stylistically, while experimenting with new sounds and collaborative dynamics.  For those accustomed to the softer acoustic sound characteristic of her earlier work, this will be the first project where you glimpse a darker side of Grace, particularly on the album’s title track and the hauntingly personal “F.L.Y”.

“I haven’t been this loud with my sound before,” says Grace. “And the songs are incredibly challenging vocally—they go places I haven’t gone before because I hadn’t been comfortable. But now I feel like I’m in a place where I’m constantly having to work at acceptance— accepting the crazy state of the world, and also a lot of the different lessons I’ve learned. And I’m finally taking a little bit of room to experiment and really see where I want to go in the future. This is really just a taste of what’s to come.”

The concept behind Human was to put together a collection of eight songs that paint a picture of the most impactful emotions that every human being feels in big ways or small, every day. A thematic thread running across each of the tracks creates a narrative about what a human goes through in life, over and over again, in what Grace sees as “a vicious but, often, necessary cycle.” The eight track titles are each paired to a human emotion or life event, and those are, in turn, connected to a story that unfolds in the song.

“There’s not one thing that was done on this EP that was done by accident,” says Grace. “Each song is there for a very specific reason; each song teaches a lesson. I wanted it to be a project that a listener could interpret and relate to their own life. I want other people to be able to enjoy the songs, feel connected to them, and understand that there’s someone else, and a million other people going through the exact same thing.”

The EP in Grace’s words:

1. “Human” – Vulnerability

The story of the breakdown –
We as people try so desperately to keep everything together until eventually it falls apart and we’re forced to open ourselves up to others. Expressing our troubles is difficult but sometimes asking for help is an ok thing to do. You should not feel ashamed, for we were designed to help each other.

2. “F.L.Y” – Surrender

The story of a realization –
Often the people we idolize and fantasize about being are shallow individuals. In a society where money, power, and fame dictate who is validated, it is easy to lose sight of who you are deep down and even harder to admit that heroes can sometimes be the villain. So, ask yourself, Is it worth it?

3. “Louder” – Acceptance

The story of a mistake –
We all make mistakes every day; some big and some small. Sometimes we hurt ourselves and sometimes we hurt those who mean the most to us. We can choose to ignore mistakes, or we can choose to face them and accept the consequences. The best lessons in life are the ones you learn on your own because when you lose someone you really care about out of selfishness, your eyes open.

4. “Famous” ft. Lito – Grief

The story of a psychological death –
In life, we lose people emotionally. They change and become something new; a person we no longer recognize and a person we no longer want to be associated with. More often than not, an emotional death can feel far worse than a physical one because we personalize emotional death. We blame ourselves when someone in our life seems to slip into a world of darkness and narcissism too far to come back from.

5. “Foreign” – Change

The story of growth –
When we were children, we imagined our lives in a very specific way. We believed that our friends would always be our friends, that our home would always be our home, and that are parents would always be around. But as time goes on, people and circumstances change. All those plans we made with an open heart and innocent mind never do seem to cross over into adulthood.

6. “Smokeclouds” – Forgiveness

The story of an addict –
Almost all of us know someone who has struggled with or currently struggles with addiction. Sometimes, deep down, we feel a great deal of anger and regret towards these people, but at the end of the day, addiction comes in many forms and is truly a disease. So rather than pushing them away, it is much easier to forgive and welcome them home when they need our help the most.

7. “Same Blood” – Rejection

The Story of deception –
Naturally, we as humans seek acceptance and love more than anything in the world. We crave it like a drug and will stop at nothing to get it; even if that means creating a fake narrative in order to gain that validation. However, a lie always falls apart and eventually, that fake persona we show to the world eats us alive and results in the thing we feared most in the first place; rejection.

8. “Westside”  – Healing

The story of adolescence –
We carry scars from childhood with us into adulthood because they define who we are as people. Each one represents something different; a time period, a place, or sometimes a person. They represent pain but also healing. Although they never go away, they do fade, and eventually we heal from the unimaginable. What once seemed impossible to overcome finally feels like a distant memory.

With the release of Human, we are meeting the new voices of a generation, one that has been defined by superficiality and the disconnectedness of social media. But the music being created by the likes of Grace, Billie Eilish, or Lorde speaks to something far different from those labels …not to mention their individual personas have abandoned the stereotypical objectified female. These new, less glamorized, street-smart kids are projecting and singing to fluidity, not because it’s cool, but because it’s exactly who they are as the next cultural disrupters.


by Benji Michaels

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