On A New EP, SayGrace Breaks Down Her 'Defining Moments'

Feb 2, 2020
Originally published on February 3, 2020 3:00 pm

Although Grace Sewell is just 22-years-old, she is already moving into the second phase of her career. Sewell's first EP under the name SayGrace — The Defining Moments of SayGrace — is out this Friday, but audiences may already be familiar with the Australian singer's soulful voice from her 2015 hit, a cover of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me."

Sewell, who formerly released music under just her first name, Grace, signed her first publishing deal when she was 14. "You're a young woman trying to figure out your place in the world and you have all these adults attaching their opinions onto you," Sewell says of her early career and writing her new EP. "And it can be kind of confusing — especially when it comes to self-worth. And a lot of this music, for me, was the therapy along the journey of finding who I am and really discovering my self worth."

SayGrace sat down with NPR's Sarah McCammon to talk about changing her name after coming into the music industry at a young age, writing songs for her younger self and what it's like to have a song go viral on TikTok. Listen to their full conversation in the player above.

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

And finally today, new music from a 22-year-old Australian singer with a soulful voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GONE")

SAYGRACE: (Singing) Yeah, yeah. They say you don't know what you got, yeah, yeah, no, till it's gone, gone, gone.

MCCAMMON: That's "Gone" by Saygrace, which is the stage name for Grace Sewell. You may remember her from her 2015 cover of the hit song "You Don't Own Me."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU DON'T OWN ME")

SAYGRACE: (Singing) Don't tell me what to do. And don't tell me what to say.

MCCAMMON: Grace Sewell has been writing songs since she was 9, and she spent most of her career performing under the name Grace, until late last year, when she rebranded herself as Saygrace. Her EP, "The Defining Moments Of Saygrace," is out this Friday. And she's with me now from NPR West in Culver City, Calif., to tell us more about the album. Grace, thanks for joining us.

SAYGRACE: Hi. Thank you for having me.

MCCAMMON: So like I mentioned, you've been working on music for many years now, leading up to last year, when you rebranded yourself to just the name Saygrace. What was the name change about?

SAYGRACE: To me, it was mainly because I came into the industry so young. And I think at that time was a pretty - pretty critical years of sort of figuring out who you are as a young woman and just as a person in general. And I definitely don't feel like I was fully able to be the most authentic expression of myself. So Saygrace to me was really a way to kind of take back the control and to just direct the narrative myself.

MCCAMMON: Kind of a reset.

SAYGRACE: Yes, exactly.

MCCAMMON: You started your music career when you were really young. You signed your first publishing deal at age 14. What was it like working in the music industry at that age?

SAYGRACE: Now that I look back at it, it is definitely crazy to think that I was so young and just naive and just very vulnerable to, like, all of these opinions from people much older than me at such, like, a - just a vulnerable age, when you're still kind of molding and figuring out who you are as a person. And then you have all of these people, like, attaching their opinions and their perspectives on you. But at the time, I was just like stoked to be out of Australia and writing and, like, you know, just doing what I loved.

MCCAMMON: And not just young, but a young girl. And I see in this new album some of your songs seem to sort of orbit around the theme of being a young woman, a young girl. One of your music videos features a little girl sort of, I think, representing you. How did that shape your experience?

SAYGRACE: It was interesting, you know. You're a young woman trying to figure out, you know, your place in the world. And you have all these adults attaching their opinions onto you. And it can be kind of confusing, especially when you're trying to just - especially when it comes to self-worth, I think. And a lot of this music, for me, was the therapy along the journey of finding who I am and really discovering my self worth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOIN' TOO MUCH")

SAYGRACE: (Singing) Please let me know if I'm doing too much. I know I'm not perfect, but I'm close enough.

The whole time I kept writing this music, I was like, damn, I wish I could go back and speak to the little kid version of me and, like, warn her about certain things, give her certain advice and just talk to her. And that became, like, this running theme and concept throughout all the music.

MCCAMMON: What's the biggest thing you would say to your younger self if you could?

SAYGRACE: Just be yourself. Don't waste time trying to impress everybody and be what everybody else wants. Just make yourself happy first. And love yourself. And everything else will fall into place how it's supposed to.

MCCAMMON: I want to hear another song from your new album. This one is called - I can't say the whole title - but "Boys Ain't" - something that rhymes with spit.

SAYGRACE: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOYS AIN'T S***")

SAYGRACE: (Singing) These boys ain't - I'm not here for it. If you want me, act like it. Act like it.

MCCAMMON: I mean, I think every girl's been there. But what was going on with you when you wrote that song?

SAYGRACE: Oh, man. I was dating a guy for like six months. And I really, really liked him, you know. Like, I really felt like there was potential. I was invested, and then come to find out he had a whole girlfriend the entire time. And now that I look back, like, all the signs were there. And I say it in the lyrics in the song. Like, he would only call me late at night. It was just like there were moments there, but I'd never really experienced it before, so I didn't know what to look out for.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOYS AIN'T S***")

SAYGRACE: (Singing) And the cherry on top of the whipped cream, I'm the first call when she leaves. Talking like a gentleman, please. You just want cake with your ice cream. Why do you waste all of my time? Keep on telling me likes 'cause you know I'll come right back when you don't even write back.

Anyway, I wrote the song when everything had kind of come to a head and I had finally reached my boiling point.

MCCAMMON: You know, this song has been blowing up on the social media platform TikTok, which is, for those who don't know, sort of like the new way of knowing that your song is a hit, right? Be honest, have you gone down a rabbit hole watching all the videos that are recorded with the song?

SAYGRACE: Oh, most definitely. I, like, the other night was sitting in the bath and was probably on there for like an hour and a half watching ones that people have made to my song but also just in general. And I was dying laughing at a lot of the stuff that's on there. But it has been really cool to like see people resonate with it the way that it has, you know, and connect with - and like people of all different ages, like, really, really young kids and then like people around my age to people a little bit older and just all kind of, like, feeling the same thing. So it was - it's cool. It's very cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOYS AIN'T S***")

SAYGRACE: (Singing) I'm not here for it. If you want me, act like it, act like it.

MCCAMMON: What are you trying to say with this EP? And what do you want people to feel when they hear it?

SAYGRACE: Certainly empowered. I think my favorite part about being a writer is, for the most part, being able to, like, connect with the listener in a way that - sometimes we're able to articulate how somebody is feeling when they can't do it for themselves. And all my favorite songs throughout history have done that for me. Like, when I have just been feeling a certain type of way and I don't know how to get the words out myself, and then a song will just say so perfectly what is going on in my mind or my heart at the time. And I think, as a writer, that's kind of like the greatest gift that you can give to people.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOYAL")

SAYGRACE: (Singing) Met this boy, we vibe amazing. Every time we chill, it's wavy.

MCCAMMON: That's singer and songwriter Grace Sewell, known now as Saygrace. Her EP, "The Defining Moments Of Saygrace," is out Friday. Thanks so much for joining us.

SAYGRACE: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.