"These songs are like the letters I never got to write," reflects Grace Carter. "They're everything I wanted to say but never could until now."
It was in music that Carter first discovered the strength to speak out, to face down heartbreak and forge something transformative from the pain. Through songwriting, she found her voice and what a voice it is. Powerful and pure, with a remarkable ability to convey weighty emotions well beyond her 19 years, Carter's singing relies not on excess but restraint. She commands your attention with subtlety at first, drawing you in with
a whisper rather than a shout. There are no showy vocal pyrotechnics here, no over-processed productions, just a raw, intimate truthfulness and a fierce independent streak. With the release of her arresting debut single, "Silence," Carter is ready to share her honesty and artistry with the rest of the world.
"Everything I sing comes from somewhere real," Carter explains. "I started out writing just for myself, but as time's gone on, it's become clear that the songs are so honest that people can really connect to them in relation to their own lives."
Carter grew up in the coastal city of Brighton, England, and she vividly remembers the moment that she first truly connected with a song. She was on her way to visit her grandparents, riding in the backseat of her mother's car, when suddenly, Nina Simone's voice brought her to tears. Carter was perhaps too young to appreciate the cultural undercurrents at play in the music the way she can now, but she certainly understood the emotion. Complicated family dynamics at home often left Carter feeling frustrated
and resentful, which could at times become overwhelming, but Simone's voice revealed the cathartic potential for music as a form of escape.
"Growing up I had a lot of anger" Carter says, "but I didn’t have a voice or a way of getting those emotions out and processing them. When I was 13, my stepdad bought me a guitar and steered me toward music, and as soon as I started writing songs, it felt like the weight just lifted right off of me. Songwriting was like this little weapon, this special tool I had. I never wanted to stop."
While her classmates headed to the park to play, Carter would race home after school each day to work on her songs. By 14, she'd begun performing her own material in public; by 15, she'd converted her bedroom into a makeshift recording studio; and by the time she started music college at 17, she'd taught herself to play piano just from watching YouTube videos. The collection of recordings Carter assembled during her time at school
are remarkable, not only for their emotional and musical maturity, but for the sheer magnetism of her performances.
"Silence" offers the first taste of what's in store for the debut album Carter's currently hard at work preparing, and it's a promising glimpse to say the least. Co-written with production/writing team The 23rd, the track was recorded during a two-week studio session in Spain, where Carter stacked up vocal beds 40 layers deep in some spots to capture her vision. The arrangement is simple, drums and a piano carrying most of the musical weight, but the textures are engrossing, and Carter's vocal delivery, which calls to mind shades of Adele and India Arie, is mesmerizing.
"It's a song about frustration," says Carter. "When someone's saying all these things to you that have no substance, you just want them to finally be honest with you. You want to say, 'Look me in the eye and tell me the truth.'"
The truth is Carter's specialty. As she sings the infectious chorus, "If you wanna say something / Silence don't mean nothing," it's clear she's castigating someone who's hurt her, but it's also possible to hear those lines as a reminder to herself. Music enabled Grace Carter to discover her strength, to create meaning out of chaos, to turn a lingering
ache into beautiful art. She's found her voice, and silence is no longer an option.