Isaac Gracie is what people want, at this point
Signer-songwriter Isaac Gracie is figuring out the world through soaring tunes that come straight from the heart.
Published: 9:13 am, March 13, 2018
"What do people want at this point?” Isaac Gracie ponders during a break from the mastering of his as-yet-unannounced debut album. It’s a question that’s hard to answer, especially for young, burgeoning solo acts who can quite easily get lost among countless other singer-songwriters, and it’s this thoughtfulness that is Isaac’s greatest weapon.
His appropriately titled debut EP ‘Songs From My Bedroom’ was quite literally that - a bunch of tracks recorded at home using a guitar and GarageBand. What’s come since though has ebbed into frenzied rock, acoustic-folk and whatever’s in between. Which begs the question, where does he fit in?
In all honesty, Isaac doesn’t really know. He’s just Isaac Gracie, a twenty-something from Ealing. “I don’t suppose that I’m breaking too much from convention,” he cooly muses. “But just the mere fact that I don’t know how to clarify where I fall in with these things, or even how I write a song, means there is a little bit of difference there.”
While his standard singer-songwriter influences sear through - your Bob Dylans, Jeff Buckleys et al. - Isaac also takes inspiration from modern muso-type bands such as The National and Parquet Courts, all the way through to everyone’s favourite-to-hate contemporaries Coldplay and Snow Patrol, which he certs as “just massive - melodic.”
“When I first started I was doing demos in my bedroom, and that was the first taste people got,” he starts. “And while it was a good indication of me and my songs, and how, in a minimalist sense, I’d like them to be, it’s not necessarily an indication of how, given the opportunity, I’d like to present it.
“A large part of my relation to the songwriting thing - and why I’m glad to be here now and to have this band around me to make that sound - is because it will ideally grow from a small place of honesty and vulnerability to this large unfurling blooming picture. I think in a lot of my songs, that’s the structure behind it. In a way that’s the only structure that I know how to do.”
Having a band around him allows Isaac to focus on “sculpting a sonic identity”, and his world of ideas is growing. He describes his formative tours as a “tiresome experience”, recalling them with a haunted fondness. “I was literally on my own. It does get a bit tricky trying to find meaning, and to find yourself, in all of that.”
“Also, you don’t value your own shit enough,” he continues. “You can’t tell yourself, ‘Yeah, I’m worth this’. You can’t so easily build yourself above all that takes you down because there’s no framework around you to keep it up.”
Taking that initial step into solo-dom was a brave feat. “It’s scary!” Isaac exclaims. “When I first got into the music industry, like two years ago, I was freaked out by all of it, and I still am.” The somewhat fractured music ‘scene’ didn’t help, either. “I can purport to desire to be a part of a scene, or for there to be scenes or for there to be that kind of organic communal reaction to a certain sound or a certain vibe that grows,” he says, “but it doesn’t look like it’s happening here.”
“It does look like it’s happening in America a little bit,” he ponders, referencing acts like Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. “I’m jealous because that’s a cool look, man. They’re all making music that I think is kind of the best out there now. At the same time, I’m very introverted and have been for like the last two or three years. To idolise a scene is what I may do, but to expect that it would ever really be a part of my life, I doubt very much.”
While the future is certainly in Isaac’s hands, scene or not, the journey from the bottom is one that’s close to his heart. Recently featured on BBC Radio 1 as a talking head around the discussion of small live music venue closures, Isaac is conscious of the hurdles that keep these organic collectives from flourishing.
“The more we close down places where culture or creativity is an important part of the puzzle, then we just become a boring species, you know? We don’t have anything to bring light or difference into things; we just have Pret and McDonald’s.”
Isaac Gracie tours the UK from 11th April. His debut album is out 13th April.
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