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Music

11.13.2018

Grace Carter Talks "Why Her Not Me" & Confronting Her Past Through Song

When Grace Carter wrote “Why Her Not Me”, she had a precise experience in mind—her dad, his absence, his new life that neglected to include her. But having origins of specificity didn’t stop the track from becoming representative of a universal human experience—a longing to be known, and loved; a feeling that transcends circumstance. Thus, “Why Her Not Me” became a prime example for what Carter hopes to accomplish through her craft: “making music that people can relate to and connect to.” It’s with this in mind that she continues to pursue lyrical honesty and creative authenticity; staying true to her brand while expanding beyond herself to reach her community. We sat down with Carter to talk more about personal pain, artistic triumph, and what’s next for the rising London songstress. Watch “Why Her Not Me” below and keep scrolling for the full interview.

Can you talk about the creative direction for the “Why Her Not Me” video?

Yeah. So that video was kind of my interpretation of the song that I wrote. I grew up with a single mum, and I spent a lot of my childhood longing after a relationship with my dad, trying to find him, and trying to build that. It never really happened, and I wanted the video to show that and represent my experience. I did it with this director James Slater in the UK, and I had the idea of littler versions of me to represent the time that had passed, showing me growing up over the years, and still looking for the same thing the whole time. A lot of people have connected with it, and I wasn’t really expecting it. When you’re in a situation like that, you feel all alone a lot of the time, it’s not really spoken about that often, but since I’ve put it out so many people have reached out.

It’s crazy because when you get so personal, and so specific to your life, you think it’s not as universal, but everyone can still relate so well.

Exactly. I wanted the video to be a vehicle to tell my story, but at the same time, the song can be anything for anyone else. It’s written in a way where you can relate to it in a relationship, a friendship

I was gonna say, the first time I heard it I definitely thought it was a break up song.

Yeah! And I never want to take that away from people. People put their own lives and stories onto the lyrics that I’ve written and I love that.

Were you nervous to release something so personal?

I’ve always done it. I started writing when I was 13, and the only reason I started was because there was so much I didn’t understand about my own situation. On my 13th birthday my step dad bought me a guitar, kind of as a peace offering—because I didn’t like him, he was the first male figure in my life—and he bought me this guitar and encouraged me to write. I wrote my first song and I haven’t stopped since then. It’s always been a tool to get things out, that’s all I ever used songwriting for—a way of expressing emotion.

How do you feel like you’ve evolved as a writer since then?

I don’t know. I’m still writing about the same things. I found my first songbook a couple weeks ago, and the stuff I was writing about when I was 13 was just as deep as what I’m writing now. So I don’t think much has changed. I’ve always thought about emotion in a very deep way.

You’re an old soul.

Yeah. I’ve kind of had to be. But maybe my melodies and lyrics have gotten stronger as I’ve gotten older and learned more words [Laughs]. But I definitely still go to the same place that I went as a kid.

When you’re playing a show and start singing those songs are you immediately brought back to that place?

One hundred percent. I’ve toured the whole past year, and multiple times it’s kind of gotten the better of me. When I come off stage, that’s the best way to describe it—totally exhausted. When I’m done I just want to go to bed [Laughs]. I give so much of myself to people on stage, it takes me back there every time. Definitely cried a few times [Laughs].

What’s the most cathartic part? Writing the songs or is it when they’re finally out there for other people to hear?

I think it’s like the first time I hear it after I’ve written it. The musicians I grew up listening to—Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder—they’re always willing to talk about things that are really personal, and that’s why people are able to connect, because they’re being honest.

It’s just the shared human experience—everyone’s gonna experience love, heartbreak, everything. Do you think those concepts helped shape your EP, too?

Definitely my childhood, my relationships. They’re not all about my dad—some are about my mum, my friends, just the people who surrounded me in those formative years of growing up. I wrote what will be my album between the ages of 17-20, and now I’m 21, so it’s about my childhood and growing up into a woman. The lack of relationships I had and the amazing ones I had, and the people who helped me see past the negative. Basically emotional stuff about the people around me and not around me. A lot of my songs are quite vague, and I felt like “Why Her Not Me” was my opportunity to be more straightforward about who I am and what I’m talking about and what sort of artist I want to be.

Were you surprised by how many people reacted so positively?

Yeah. I’ve never had that before. I released my first song “Silence” a year ago, and that was amazing. People reacted so well. That was more of an emotion rather than a situation. I knew that I loved “Why Her Not Me”, but it was so much more of me, it’s giving a lot of yourself away to people you don’t know. And to just have people turn around and be like, “Thank You”, that was powerful. When I was younger I needed that. I remember listening to Adele’s 19 and for her it was about a relationship but for me it was about my dad. And that’s the power of music—you can put your own life onto a song.

Are you writing all the time?

Yeah, so the last year was pretty much dedicated to performing. So I toured with HAIM, Dua Lipa, Rag’n’Bone Man, and I’ve done a lot of touring in the UK, but now I want to come over here and do a lot of more in America. My biggest goal in my career and in my life is to make music that people can relate to and connect to. That’s the most important thing for me.

Stay tuned to Milk for more musicians from across the pond.

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