Grace Carter is reclining on a couch at her home in northeast London. Just hours earlier she was with the likes of Jennifer Coolidge and Louis Theroux for an event at Soho Farmhouse. Despite having spent the night rubbing shoulders with entertainment’s elite, she’s looking fresh-faced and well rested when we connect over Zoom, wearing an oversized jumper with her hair slicked back into her signature updo. However there is a sense of quiet anticipation, which is understandable given that the day after our chat, Carter is releasing her first full-length project in five years. Named A Little Lost, A Little Found, it goes on to receive a five-star review from The Guardian and is featured on a Spotify billboard in London’s Leicester Square, cementing her prowess as a lyricist and affirming the power of the independent artist.
“I had started writing some of the songs in 2020 to 2021,” she says over a crackly line. Framed pictures of her inspiration Nina Simone are hanging on the wall behind her. “I came off tour and life was really tough. It was hard for a lot of people, but I needed to stop. I needed to be like, ‘OK, who am I now? I’m singing these songs about my dad and my life and my heartbreak, and I’m being defined by this thing that happened and I wrote these songs when I was 17, but who am I now?’ And I remember getting home from tour and just looking at myself and being like, ‘Who are you? I don’t recognise you any more.’
After taking some time to reflect, starting therapy and parting with her management team and label, Polydor, she found herself back in the headspace to start writing. “My identity was all over the shop, and between 2020 and 2022, I was writing these songs and going though these moments of processing things. The project is messy. It’s not perfect. The first song I recorded from my bed when I was feeling really low, and it’s just real. It’s me going from a place of not knowing who I was any more to slowly writing these songs, piece by piece, and being like, ‘OK, I’ve processed that thing.’”
Much like Carter’s acclaimed debut Why Her Not Me, her latest project digs into the depths of her inner psyche as she attempts to make sense of her identity and who she is now following five years of what she describes as “trauma spilling”. Her ability to write from the heart and her reluctance to make music for the masses might make her one of the few artists coming through today who isn’t intent on making music primarily for TikTok.
“I think TikTok can be a really powerful tool,” she says when I broach the topic. “TikTok has enabled people to have more power over what they can do. I think there’s a power in that, but also there’s this pressure now to write a song and for it to work on TikTok. I was having a conversation with an agent the other day about how there are people on TikTok who have a million followers and all the videos of them singing their songs go viral, but then when it comes to doing a live show they can only sell 150 tickets. And it’s like, where is the middle ground? I don’t want to do the TikTok thing. I want to actually feel like I’m being challenged and I’m doing something that is bigger than me and is going to last longer than I’m here. I want a career. I want to have an effect.”
Her ambitions are not too far from being solidified. With a steadily growing fanbase, she’s already got pulling power when it comes to live performances, attracting sizeable crowds at shows across the country. She admits that touring is when she’s at her happiest, mentioning her need for IRL human interaction. “I love being in a room and seeing people. It’s so funny because I do my shows and I go out afterwards and make sure to meet people and everyone is like, ‘Why do you do that? It’s so weird,’ and I’m like, ‘I like to know what Donna from Manchester eats for dinner!’ I want to know!” she says with a laugh.
“When someone says, ‘This song got me through this time in my life,’ or like, ‘Can you write this on a piece of paper because I want to get it tattooed onto me’ – all these different things. Those are the moments for me that are so powerful. With social media and Spotify numbers, it is really cool when you hit those milestones, but I’m an independent artist now. My journey is so different, so just having that physical contact with people in a room that value what I do is the most empowering thing, and that is why I do it now.”
As for fans gearing up to see Carter on her next tour, get ready to hear a more upbeat output. “I’m already thinking about the next thing. I got myself from the lowest of lows to getting to a place where I’ve regained all of my control, and now that chapter is over. I’m excited! I can create freely now. I’m having fun in the studio. I’m excited to make stuff that is not so depressing. I’m in a completely different mindset and it’s super-exciting. I don’t know myself 100 per cent. I’m not completely found and never will be, but I’ve got a new-found confidence and excitement for what I do and for my life, and that is all I can ask for.”