Isaac Gracie – Interview 2018

The 23-year-old West Londoner has been making some serious waves these last two years, culminating in the release of his debut album a couple of weeks ago. He always had a voice – as a choir boy – but didn’t start making his own music until his late teens, inspired by the likes of Leonard Cohen, and discovering the joys of GarageBand. Hunkering down in his bedroom to write and record, Gracie’s ‘Last Words’ demo inspired industry interest, and the rest, as they say, is history.

How’s it going today?
It’s going well!

In which part of the world do you live?
I’m based in Ealing. I’ve always been a West Londoner. I’ve never really ventured much out of it, to be honest.

You’ve got a date with Brighton, as part of a UK tour, at The Haunt. Do you know that place?
I don’t, but I have heard of it. I’ve only been to Brighton twice.

Is that all? Wow!
I haven’t been to many places.

But, you will be soon…
Yes, with all the touring. More travelling than I have ever done in my life.

How are you finding that aspect of it then?
It’s really enjoyable, actually. I like seeing new places. Especially in the vein of playing new music, opening yourself up to new cities. Everybody has been open and friendly. You don’t necessarily feel like an outsider.

You were in Brighton a couple of years ago playing The Great Escape…
I’ve played The Great Escape twice. I mean I’ve probably been to Brighton more times than just the twice. But when you’re on tour you don’t get to see much.

The album is fantastic. I think a couple of the tracks were on your previous EP.
Yes, ‘Silhouettes of You’, and ‘The Death of You & I. The record is actually about half new, half already been released. Personally speaking, it’s not necessarily ideal. I just like putting out new music. But obviously when you are trying to develop a name and get your music out there, I’m just glad to have it out there as an album.

Can you talk me through the first track on the album, ‘Terrified’. Lyrically, it’s real heart-on-sleeve stuff…
That song was about when I first encountered the music industry, and had a bit of a hectic time with that world. I wrote ‘Terrified’ as an introspective song about how I felt about that whole equation, and feeling overwhelmed by the pressure and responsibility of music as being some sort of measuring pole for my life. But also, not getting into bad habits per se, but this state of isolation relatively speaking, with my own self. It also interacts with heartbreak. It’s kind of a testing point to being on the precipice of adulthood and responsibility, but also waiting to cling onto the realms of freedom from those things.

I read somewhere that ‘Last Words’ is a song particularly close to your heart. You said, “This song changed my life in so many crazy ways”.
When I released that song that’s what kicked off the hubbub of industry craziness. That was in demo form about two and a half years ago. So, it did change my life. Prior to having that song out there I was at uni and had no real desire or intention to perform music as a career. It had never been something I had set my sights on doing. I just like writing songs. When that song was released, it became UK viral number one, and so many things happened that affected my life, and therefore the relation I have with music now has changed forever.

You’ve been writing songs for quite a while now. Do you write on the guitar?
Yeah, it’s always been that way. Just in my bedroom, with my guitar. I’ve realised the frailties of that songwriting dynamic. But that’s always how it’s been.

Do you remember the moment or the influences that inspired you to write?
There were a few things. I got into Leonard Cohen, and listened to his first record on the way back from a funeral for my friend when I was probably about 16. That had a really profound effect on me because his songwriting was so intense, and so involved.

Did you enjoy his last album, before he died last year, You Want it Darker?
Yeah, I thought it was brilliant.

I actually went out and bought a vinyl copy of it.
There you have it. That’s a solid purchase! I was impressed. You Want It Darker is up there with his best stuff.

That was a thing that compelled. But also, when I first realised I could record music was a bit of a mind blowing thing, to be able to record on my computer. ‘Bloody hell! I can actually record things. Insane!’ I felt that this was an amazing tool, and so as that happened I felt I could write my own songs.

You’re used to playing on and writing on your own. But the record has a full band sound. Who was involved?
We had quite a few people involved. The recording spanned a few different studios. We had Clive Deamer, of Portishead and Radiohead, playing drums for a while, and then other drummers.

And some of the production, there’s Markus Dravs, who has worked with Mumford & Sons and Florence and the Machine and Coldplay, and so many big bands. And some of the production is me and my bassist and engineer. It really is quite a diverse record in how it was recorded. I quite enjoy that as well. It moves in different ways on account of that.

Who do you have with you on tour?
My bassist who is also my MD, a guy called Jamie Biles. And I have Alex Torjussen on drums, who’s recently been snapped up by Niall Horan unfortunately. We’re in the process of finding a new drummer.

What happens after this tour?
There’s a European tour that is running for two to three weeks, and then we’ll be into the festival season.

You won’t be able to write songs in your bedroom very often. How will you deal with that!?
I think I’m tired of writing songs in my bedroom. I’m finding it more of a headache than a thrill at the moment. I’d rather write songs in the bathroom, I think.

You get more reverb in there?
Exactly. It sounds a lot better.

Jeff Hemmings