Please tell us your story! How did you get to where you are today?
Hi! Well, I was lucky enough to grow up deeply immersed in music. My parents played a lot of amazing singer/songwriter records around the house when I was younger, I sung in a choir from the age of five, and I just loved singing so much. I think me getting into writing my own music was pretty inevitable. I’ve been writing songs since I was seven years old, so by the time I was in my mid-teens, it made sense to start sharing my music. I recorded my first EP in my hometown Melbourne with a producer named Josh Barber, and after that was released I put out a follow-up single called Drive. That song was kind of the beginning of everything for me, career-wise. I’ve been working in the music industry ever since.
What does a typical (if that exists) day in the life of Gretta Ray look like?
My typical day-to-day life at the moment is usually in a lockdown! Being from Victoria, we are now in our sixth lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic, so I have become accustomed to living out very simple days.
I do a lot of promo for the record online, and a lot of admin throughout the day as well. I’ll go on walks by the Merri Creek near my house, or with a friend. I sing, play my instruments, exercise, listen to music to keep me inspired and spend time with my family.
What’s your favourite touring/show moment and why?
One of my favourite moments was in 2019, getting to sing Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You with my friend Dave in London when I was opening for his band Gang Of Youths. The crowd was incredibly supportive and I remember it feeling so special to get to sing that song together.
What is the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
I’ll tell you some really great advice I received recently. It feels like a very strange time to be releasing my debut record with everything going on in the world, I won’t lie. The other day I was feeling down about the idea that I might still be in lockdown on my album release day.
A friend of mine said to me, “it sucks yeah, but you didn’t make this album to go out for drinks with your friends to celebrate on its release day. That would be nice, but you made this album for it to have a life. For listeners to have their own journey with it. It will still have its life, pandemic or no pandemic.” I think it’s important for me to remember the power of music, and the comfort that it can bring to us in uncertain times like these. I hope my record can do that for people.
If you could work alongside an Australian artist that you have yet to work with, which artist would that be?
I would love to do more work with Jack River (Holly Rankin). She’s a friend of mine, and I toured with her as a part of the Electric Lady lineup in 2017. She’s doing so much for the music industry right now, fighting for creatives and initiating super important conversations. There’s a lot that I have to learn from her.
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
Honestly, I think managing to pull off an album campaign in the midst of a global pandemic!
I’m really thankful for the windows of time I’ve had where there hasn’t been COVID cases or lockdowns in Australia, and I’ve been able to make content for the songs, meet with people in person for interviews, premiere the songs on the radio in person etc… but for the most part, I’ve been working from home, promoting this record I’ve put years of my life into over Zoom and on Instagram, which isn’t quite how I imagined it!
There have been countless setbacks, but I feel like I’ve still managed to portray the stories of the songs in the way that they deserved. And I still feel super positive about the record! Which, considering everything that’s happened, feels like an achievement to be proud of.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in music who would like to pursue a career like yours?
Write lots of songs, and listen to lots of music. Keep yourself inspired and driven by your creativity, rather than getting sucked into the vortex of looking at streaming numbers, or Instagram engagement or TikTok views, etc. It’s a really weird time to be an artist, but if you remember that the music is the most important factor of everything, it’s going to feel really great to share it with people regardless of everything else. And when building a team of people around you, make sure it’s people who want to support you and your music for the right reasons.
You’ve recently performed as part of Splendour XR – Splendour In The Grass’ virtual festival. What was that experience like?
It was great! I mean, obviously a little weird without an audience there physically, but it was the first time getting to run through the new show, and play some songs from my album. I’m so grateful that I got to do it.
What has been the best gig that you’ve ever seen?
Oh there are so many, I couldn’t pick a favourite!
I think the most impressive production of a show that I’ve seen was the Taylor Swift Reputation stadium tour. It was a bit like going to a circus; fire and dances and lights everywhere! It’s been so cool to watch Taylor over the years and to see her at that phenomenal, untouchable level.
Who are your role models in the industry, be they international or Australian?
I really look up to Lianne La Havas. I opened for her years ago and was so struck by her performance and her gratitude.
Here in Australia, I admire Missy Higgins a lot and always have. She’s such an incredible songwriter and by far the most grounded person I’ve met in the Aussie music scene.
In the world of pop music, I’m so inspired by Ariana Grande because I think she’s the best vocalist of our time, and really showed how hardworking and driven she is when she made two albums in six months, and then took them both on tour pretty much immediately.
Who are your top three ‘artists to watch’?
At the moment, Sycco, MAY-A and Charley. Three amazing Australian female artists.
You’re releasing your debut album ‘Begin To Look Around’ in August. Can you tell us about the album and how it came to be? How are you feeling ahead of its release?
I wrote Begin To Look Around over the duration of 2019, which was a pretty jam-packed year for me. I was travelling a lot, touring as a support act and going through a pretty up and down time in my personal life too.
The record as a whole tells a story of that time, and I’m feeling really excited to share it with my audience. I think the more that I talk about it, the more I’m really excited for people to have this record in their lives.
What does the rest of 2021 hold for you? Anything exciting you can tell us about?
I really hope that I can play a show some time this year! I’ve only played one this year, and have announced others but they’ve been pushed back due to restrictions. So, if towards the end of the year it’s safe to do, I really hope to get back on stage so I can play my record live.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
My best friends and I sing a lot of Fleetwood Mac and ABBA when we’re hanging out. I feel like any song from those artists would be a great time.
Gretta Ray’s debut album, Begin To Look Around, is out this Friday, 27 August. Head here to check it out.