Interview with Gretta Ray

Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Gretta Ray is an artist on the rise. At only twenty-two years old, the artist has previously won Triple J’s Unearthed competition, one prestigious award, and opened for acts such as Lianne La Havas, James Bay, and Mumford & Sons. But now, Ray is at a defining chapter in her musical career, her debut record Begin To Look Around is out August 27th. It’s a record that boats a collection of beautiful songs and it traverses topics like f womanhood, romance, heartbreak, travel, and friendship.

House Of Solo spoke with Gretta Ray all about the forthcoming debut album, lessons she’s learnt from her journey so far, and more. 

Hi Gretta Ray, your debut album, Begin To Look Around, is out on August 27th. What is the message you would like to convey with this record?

Hi! The main message that I’m hoping to convey with Begin To Look Around is that changing your mind or the way that you feel about something, is one of the most rewarding things about growing up. It should be celebrated and embraced. As I was writing this record I documented a shift in my perspective about love and life; I feel like I was a different person at the beginning of writing this album than I am now.

The music video for ‘Human’, which is taken from the forthcoming album, is beautiful. Can you tell us a bit about how the video came about?

Thank you! Well, there is a lyric in the song ‘your body is a landscape I’ve travelled over and over again which I really love. I wanted to find a way to amplify this lyric in the music video, displaying the similarities between the human body and natural landscapes. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with a wonderful company in the U.K called Patternity, who collect imagery and footage of close-up, super captivating patterns. The music video’s director Ben Devlin and I put together a slideshow of Patternity’s archive, that was then projected onto me and the co-star of the video, Josh, as I performed the song to camera. I loved making this video because a lot of my friends were involved in helping it come together. 

When you were eighteen years old, you won Triple J’s Unearthed completion, as well as a prestigious Vanda & Young Songwriting Award for your track ‘Drive’. Do you think those moments have had a big impact on your career so far, did they offer you any certain opportunities?  

Releasing ‘Drive’ offered me so many opportunities that I will forever be grateful for. What was interesting about winning those competitions with that song was that it exposed my artist project to a much larger audience than I could have ever anticipated at that point in my life. I was still in High School! So, as much as the impact was overtly positive, simultaneously the success influenced me to really take a look at where my artist’s project was at, and reflect on what I wanted out of this career. I’ve spent a lot of time working on my craft as a songwriter since then because when I released ‘Drive’ I was not consistently writing music. I think I am a much more seasoned songwriter now, and am more prepared to be in this industry.

You’ve previously mentioned that the record is a documentation and celebration of the lessons you’ve learned about love, life and your passion for music, as you’ve stepped into your early twenties. Can you please tell us what the biggest lessons you’ve learnt about life and the music industry are so far?

Oh man, big questions! I am learning so many lessons about life and the music industry every day. Being 23, I am in a very formative time of life. When it comes to the music industry, one of the biggest lessons that I have learned is to take time to focus solely on nurturing my creative self outside of the industry and my artist project. It’s easy to get caught up in keeping an eye on streaming numbers, ticket sales or your following’s ‘engagement’ with your social media platforms, but being aware of those things doesn’t help you make good music! Well, I’ve found it doesn’t serve me, so in order to grow my creative self, I need to limit my time focusing on the market and immerse myself in the world around me to remain inspired, driven and optimistic.

In terms of ‘life lessons’, a very valuable one that I learned whilst writing my album is that it is so, so important to be single, and to learn who you are outside of a romantic relationship. Romantic relationships can be wonderful, but as cliché as it is, loving yourself first and focusing on what you want to pursue in life should always take priority. I am so thankful to have learned this when I was 21. 

Gretta Ray

You’ve opened for the likes of Mumford & Sons, Gang of Youths, Lianne La Havas and James Bay. Do you have any standout moments from those gigs that you would like to share with our readers?

So many! Two moments that I will never forget include covering Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’ with Dave Le’aupepe while I was opening for Gang Of Youths in London, and getting to sing Mumford & Sons’ song ‘Forever’ with them when they headlined All Points East festival. Singing with Mumford & Sons was always incredibly mind-blowing, as their crowds are so massive; I would just be staring out into this never-ending sea of people. Singing with Dave is so rewarding. He is like a big brother to me. 

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue music?

It was less of a ‘moment’ and more of a gradual realisation throughout my childhood. Considering how involved I already was in choirs and vocal groups, and how much time I spent obsessively listening to music in my spare time, I think it was always a pretty inevitable decision for me. I have never loved anything as much as I have loved music.

Are there any certain unreleased tracks from Begin To Look Around that you can’t wait for fans to hear?

There are a few! Two songs that I am particularly excited for people to hear at the moment are Worldly-wise and It’s Almost Christmas In Philly. Both songs are about my love for travel. I wanted to be very visual with the lyrics and make the production very cinematic for both of them. 

If you could collaborate with any of your favourite bands or artists, who would you pick and why?

Probably Julia Michaels. I so wish I could have been a fly on the wall when she was writing her new album, especially when she wrote ‘Little Did I Know’. I think she’s incredible and feel like I would learn so much from her.

Let’s talk about your upcoming shows in Sydney and Fitzroy, have you got anything special planned for them? And can we expect you to come back to the UK anytime soon?

My headline shows in both Sydney and Melbourne will involve me playing a lot of new songs from the album! I’m really excited to share these new stories with my audience, as I have waited so long to do so. The production of my show is a little different than it has been in the past, which I’m excited about. We’ve been rehearsing a lot – it’s so good to be preparing to play live again.

Finally, alongside the release of your debut record, is there anything else you would like to achieve this year?

My main goal this year when it comes to my music career (aside from releasing my album) is to focus on reconnecting with my audience, particularly in person. A lot of my following I gained while I was on tour in 2018/19, opening for other artists. Because of this, I had the opportunity to meet and get to know fans in person, to hear stories about their lives and to properly connect with them. I find this slightly difficult to achieve online, so I really can’t wait to meet and hug people after shows now that they are happening again here in Australia.

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