She came all the way from Brisbane, Australia, fresh out of high school, immediately signed to RCA Records, and now, Grace Sewell is here in the States sharing her music with the world.
I had the honor and chance to speak to the hip hop / R&B / soul songstress, who goes simply by Grace in the industry, about her music and the entire journey. The conversation was incredibly inspiring and light-hearted.
Sewell is a 19-year old prodigy vocalist. If you had the chance to hear her voice, you would understand and agree. She carries strength, confidence, and character in every riff and lyric she professes. She’s talented in her art, and understands how to bring a fresh feeling to the sounds of the classics with her neo-soul approach. She reminds me of a cross between Tori Kelly, Jess Glyne, Noisettes and Janelle Monae. She’s got the funk, the power, and the vibe to create the stunning records that she makes. Best part of it is? Even with all of this fame and recognition and music industry influence, the star has not let it affect who she is as a person and she is still an incredibly humbled and genuinely grateful person for being where she is now.
The singer/songwriter has done many notable pieces of work, and most recently, she was proud to release her first ever album, FMA, on July 1st this summer! The entirety of the project is incredible well constructed and filled with hot attitude & rhythm. No pun intended considering the acronym stands for “Forgive My Attitude.” Off her debut album, she is best known for her single “You Don’t Own Me”, which is a contemporary cover version of the renown 1963 Lesley Gore song “You Don’t Own Me” that was produced originally by Quincy Jones. In Grace’s rendition of the song, she brings a new palette to the initial classic taste of the song and Jones adds a modern touch by featuring American rapper, G-Eazy on it. That track in particular hit Spotify’s Top 10 Most Viral Track and easily became a No. 1 hit for Australia. It also was featured in the official movie trailer for the Warner Bros. / DCA Comics motion picture Suicide Squad, which comes out August 5th this summer. You can watch the music video to her single with G-Eazy below. And you can listen to her entire full-length album at the end of this article.
With a family of artists and musicians, it was destiny that music would run in her veins. Even her brother, Conrad Sewell, is a musical artist as well, most known for his song “Firestone” with the trop-house EDM producer Kygo and for his solo hit track “Start Again”. Similar to his sister’s success, Conrad’s “Start Again” hit number one on the ARIA Charts and together, the two became the first Australian siblings to hit number one, as completely disparate acts, on the charts! Clearly, there was not an inkling of thought that crossed their minds for failure.
Grace has been keeping extremely busy in promotion of her recent studio production release, but she still was gracious enough to speak to me about her album, her music, her family, and some college advice she’d give to aspiring artists such as herself!
Here Is Our Interview:
Neelu Mohaghegh (NM): Hi Grace! How are you?
Grace Sewell (GS): I’m good how are you?
NM: Good, Good. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview and everything, I really appreciate it!
GS: For sure, thank you for your time.
NM: For sure, I’m really excited. So, let’s just jump into these questions then. What kind of got you started with music in the first place?
GS: You know there was never really a specific point. I always just loved to sing and do anything where I could entertain, and my whole family was pretty creative. My grandparents are singers my father’s in the industry and my mom is just like very artsy and is always writing books and painting and just anything really creative, so it felt really natural for me to do something like that.
The artist has had a lot of family support as she entered into the arena of music. I then continued to ask her what home was like for her then, what was the Australian music scene like out there, but that was after the fact that I raved about the country and how I so desperately wished to travel there one day myself.
GS: I think they have a great music scene out there. Especially right now, there are a lot of people getting out there on a more global level like Flume and obviously Sia is amazing, she’s been doing her thing for a really long time. I think there is really great music scene down there, it’s just sometimes it’s hard to cross through to America or the UK, be more globalized, but ya there’s a pretty strong creative scene out there. I have to go back, there’s always cool people coming up, and you have to be there to like really know. I haven’t been back in a couple years and I need to head back so I can see what’s out there. We have a very different community and kind quirky almost.
In general, Grace mentioned that it was hard to cross over your music when you are so far away.
NM: How was making the transition from home to the US? Was it difficult?
GS: It was never really something I thought about too much. Wanted to make music that impacted as many people as I could. So, thinking about markets and “would it work in America” or “would it work in the UK?” was something I really never thought about. I wanted as many people as possible to hear my music. There was more, not opportunity, but more going on in the States, and it was right when I finished doing my school work at 17, and I was showcasing for labels and stuff, and that was all in the states, and ya I just made the decision to move over here, and then once I signed with RCA, I was pretty much out here permanently for the next nearly 3 years. So ya, I never really thought about, it was kind of where the journey led me. Like fate.
NM: How was it like working with G-Eazy on your single “You Don’t Own Me,” and how did you manage to link up with him?
GS: It was amazing working with G-Eazy. He’s super dope. I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time, I have a lot of respect for him, and he’s really involved and about the music, which is really rare to come by and you don’t always see that in artists, and he’s very true to himself.
She goes on to explain how they met up for the track and how the decisions were made for the record itself. At the time, the rapper was working with Grace’s producer and at the same time, sessions were being held to rehearse and demo that song-to-be. After a few sessions later in the studio with both artists, Grace already being prepped for the single, they brought the two of them together to work on the song and pulled G-Eazy on to bring something different to the record. She said:
GS: He ended up really liking it, he kind of freaked out and was like “ya, I want to be a part of it!,” and we were all just stoked and blown away that he wanted to do this, and then a couple months later he put a verse for it and then in January/February, Lesley [the original artist of the composition] unfortunately passed away…
But in the end, Grace and the others continued to record, polish and master the song that Quincy wanted to reproduce so badly, and now, they got to do it in honor of the lost artist.
NM: So, what inspired the song?
Well it’s a remake done in 1963 with Lesley Gore, and Quincy Jones produced the original and he wanted to remake it but he hadn’t found the right voice for it yet, and fortunately for me, he got to hear some of my music through my manager and he was like let’s take a stab at it and try it out and see if you like it. And I was familiar with Lesley, but more of like her songs like “It’s My Party” and more of her bigger hits, and so I went back and researched her as an artist and found what she was all about. I was sitting with Quincy and he told me how she was a 17-year old girl who came out with a pretty bold statement song right in the middle of the feminist movement in the 60’s, and as a young woman growing up in an industry that can be a little sexist sometimes (to be frank about it,) that immediately inspired me, and I was super stoked to get involved. I loved the sound of everything, the song itself is super forward and just to hear what it meant, you know it was like a no brainer for me, I have to get involved in it, and having Quincy heading the whole thing, and bringing everything about and being the real orchestrator and making it classic and keeping it true to the original version, but still allowing it to be fresh and bring something different to it for kids my age to like, it was really Quincy’s idea. He brought it about and everyone jumped on board. It just happened!
NM: How was it making your album and how did it feel throughout the process and to now have it out & released?
GS: It’s been amazing. Like it’s been a week now, and I still can’t believe it’s already out there. It’s been a lot of fun, it’s been talked about obviously a lot lately and it didn’t even feel like I was creating an album at the time. I always record and I always write ,ever since I was 9 or 10, and I was just recording one day in the studio and we got 6 months into it and we were like, “Ya, I think we’re kind of making an album.” Haha. You know, it wasn’t even something we were conscious of. I got to be free with it, I didn’t have too much pressure or anything, I got to work with the people that I’ve been working with since I first started writing music. It was dope and it was a lot of fun.
NM: Are you going on tour soon?
GS: I am! I love performing live, that’s like everything to me. So hopefully get to do a lot of shows soon, I definitely want to get around places based in the States and the UK, and ya just bringing my music to life on stage. The things I’ve been creating in the studio get to have a live show.
NM: Now, I know that your brother is also a very famous artist himself, Conrad Sewell! It’s amazing that you both made it top No. 1 spots on the charts and have both been critically acclaimed and successful in your music, how has that been being together and rising to the top spot together, but as completely separate artists? You both have your own sound, which is awesome!
GS: It’s been amazing, honestly, such a weird, crazy journey and experience as it is. So, I have someone that’s going through everything at the same time as me and he’s almost 10 years older than me, so I get to come to him for advice and talk about whatever is going on, and it’s good to have someone that is family that you can lean on and speak to about these things because it can be tough sometimes in this industry. So it’s been amazing to have him there.
NM: I know there are many obstacles and challenges faced in this industry and I was wondering what might one of the hardest challenges that you have had to face in this field?
GS: I think I’ve been incredibly lucky, where I’ve had a team and my label and everybody around me who have kind of allowed me to just do me, and I haven’t had any real pressure to fit into a certain mold and I think that’s because I came in very certain of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to say and how I wanted to be as an artist. And I’m so fortunate to have a label and all these people around me who have nurtured that and they have encouraged it to be myself and talk about the things that I was interested in and wanted to express. So, the biggest challenge for a young woman in the industry is to find your own voice and to find your own lane and to not get caught by the pressures to fit into a certain mold or a certain category. And that hasn’t really been an issue for me, and so I’m very very blessed that I have been able to fly under the radar to do what I do and not really have any worry about it. Haha… Just find who you are, and … nobody questions it.
NM: So, this is side question, since we are college publication resource and we write to the college demographic, I was wondering if you went to college? If you don’t mind me asking.
GS: I didn’t. No, I finished school in Australia, and I came basically straight to the States. I signed pretty much right after I finished high school and I do want to do that though, that I do want to do something about it. I think knowledge is power, education is very important!
NM: What do you think you would study?
GS: Probably something to do with music, I don’t know what yet, but I’d have to look.
NM: So, Grace, do you have any advice for students or just people from our generation who are trying to aspire to the same goals as yours in the music industry?
GS: Ya! Definitely. Being real and true to yourself and doing what you believe is the right thing and talking about the things that you’re interested in and want to talk about are some of the most important things that you can do in the industry. It’s very easy to settle for pressures of what we think we should be doing about for it. But it’s really to find out who you are within it, the things that inspire you, and that you feel the need to express, and as an artist, I think that’s the most important thing you can do, and if you’re not real and true to yourself, then what do you have, you know? So, I think that’s definitely some good advice, or something I’ve stuck with. If you’re a student, just stay focused, don’t let anything distract you from your dream. I think I should have stayed a little more focused in school myself. Haha.
NM: Haha, but that’s ok, you stayed focused on your music! And look where it’s gotten you! Ok, fun question, if you had one word to describe yourself, what would that be?
GS: Probably “Different.”
I asked her then if there were any other things that we should expect from her in the future having to do with her music, to which she responded that she will be touring and that there will sure to be more visuals or her songs.
NM: Well, Grace. Thank you so much for your time and connecting with me for this interview. You’re truly so inspiring to me and so many others, and I absolutely love your music and I wish you all the best. Keep doing what you’re doing because it’s great and I look forward to what you’ll have for us in the future!
GS: Thank you! That means so much! Thank you so much! Have a great day!
As Grace mentioned, she is going on tour soon, so be sure to look out for dates! Stay tuned to this inspiring individual as she continues to express her music through the power of her music by checking Grace out on her Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Official Site!
Listen to her album FMA here: