Gracie Abrams Celebrates Best New Artist Grammy Nom by Working on Next Album, Which Is ‘1 Million Percent Influenced’ by Crowd Response on Eras Tour

Gracie Abrams Celebrates Best New Artist Grammy Nom by Working on Next Album, Which Is ‘1 Million Percent Influenced’ by Crowd Response on Eras Tour

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What a funny way of saying hello — by saying “Good Riddance.” But as Gracie Abrams happened to be saying goodbye to certain things in her life in the album of that name, she was also introducing herself to much of the general public. Although the now-24-year-old singer-songwriter had released EPs on Interscope going back to 2021 and singles as far back as 2019, “Good Riddance” marked her first full-length album, and the first release where she really found her own voice, with some help from producer/co-writer Aaron Dessner.

So (with apologies to Joan Didion and the poet Robert Graves): Hello to all that! Variety named “Good Riddance” as one of the best albums of 2023 — debuts or otherwise — and the Recording Academy obviously agrees that Abrams is a find. She is among the worthy performers up for best new artist at the 65th annual Grammy Awards, going down Feb. 5, 2024.

“It is a wild honor to have even been considered at all for this nomination,” she says, checking in by phone from Dessner’s Long Pond studio, where they’re at work on her next album. “And to have gotten it means so much to me and is something I think I will forever be attempting to wrap my head around. I’ve watched the Grammys every year of my life, and I’m such a huge fan of everyone in the category that I’m excited just to be there to cheer everyone on, which is pretty nuts, because I do it from my couch at home every year. To have the opportunity to take part in the celebration of all the work from the past year that I think has done a lot to sustain us as people… I’m just so excited to cheer on all of my heroes and peers.”

So how cutthroat is this year’s best new artist competition, really? So bloodthirsty and ruthless that she and one of her fellow nominees in the category just released a song together. Noah Kahan asked her to jump on a new version of his tune “Everywhere, Everything” as a duet. He is the first to profusely sing Abrams’ praises; we think we might know who he’s voting for.

During the unveiling of the nominees, says Kahan, “They read her name, and I was so happy for her —  I still didn’t know if they were gonna read mine or not, but I’m like, ‘Let’s fucking go, Gracie!’ She was the first person I called — oh no, that’s not true, I called my mom, but I called Gracie right after. She and I have kind of struck up a friendship over the last year, and there’s no commonality in anyone’s story, but I feel like we both have been touring hard and raising the profile, and I’ve really admired the way she connects with her fan base and feels welcoming to the people that support her, and that’s something that I really try to do in my career. I’m also just a massive fan of her songwriting, and her collaborations with Aaron Dessner are always stunning. So getting a chance to work with her after getting to know her as a friend a little bit has been really special. She’s really special.”

For her part, Abrams sings Kahan’s praises too, of course. “We actually met at one of (Taylor Swift’s) Eras shows, and I was immediately struck by how kind and sincere he was. There was something that was just so incredibly, positively disarming about talking with him, it just instantly it made sense to me why his music feels as emotionally charged as it does. And I’m just deeply grateful to be on that song with him.”

But enough of the Grammy competitor lovefest. Kahan brings up another mutual admiration society — the one between Abrams and Swift, who brought the younger singer-songwriter on for a very substantial part of her Eras Tour. That will continue well into 2024, with Abrams having been enjoined for all the North American dates that will apparently finally close out the nearly two-year stadium tour late next fall.

“Good Riddance” was a pretty quiet album… closer in nature to the fairly subdued material that Dessner did with Swift on “Folklore” and “Evermore” than the superstar’s bangers. But if anyone expected a quiet response to Abrams’ presence on the tour in response, they had another think coming. Whatever volume the songs were originally pitched at, that doesn’t bear much correlation to how loudly certain key lines were sung back by fans at either the Eras shows or her own headlining outings.

She’s particularly happy about the the response to a couple of tunes in particular. “’Full Machine’ is one that I am happy that my audience has liked, because I really loved writing that song. The bridge gets screamed absurdly loud, and that’s always really fun for me — this back and forth screaming match thatI get to have with my audience. That rocks, even though it’s a quite intimate song. And they put real emphasis on certain lines in ‘I Know It Won’t Work’: ‘I’m your ghost right now / Your house is haunted.’ I have to assume it’s rough (for the screamers) the next day, with some vocal cord damage. You don’t assume it’s gonna be death-metal screams, listening to ‘Good Riddance.’ But, oh my God, I take part in screaming at the quietest moments of Taylor’s songs, so I’m an active participant in that capacity.”

For Abrams, 24, finding just how quiet she could be, while emerging with just slightly larger-than-life star quality, was a process. She nailed it with “Riddance,” produced by Aaron Dessner, who, of course, besides his productions for Swift and Ed Sheeran, is known for his quarter-century tenure in the National. After they got their feet wet together with a few songs on her previous EP, which involved a mix of producers, they teamed up full-time for the full album and Dessner brought her to his home studio in rural New York, a sedate setting where a whisper really does speak volumes. The set of songs they came up with established Abrams as a true lifer.

The breakthrough album “felt deeply representative of my brain, actually,” she says, “versus a lot of the music that I’d made before ‘Good Riddance’.” Prior to this experience, Abrams admits, “I personally was struggling a bit, trying to find my voice and my perspective as a writer. And something that absolutely changed my life — not just in terms of the music that I have made, but the kind of person that I am —  is when I met Aaron.”

If the album was introspective and hardly micro-targeted at top 40 radio — almost conveyed in a hush, at times — Abrams says Interscope didn’t balk at that. “I don’t feel like my label has been in my grill at all about any of that. They want to invest in the artists that they believe in and in letting us, in my case, at least, take time to search for what feels like the right thing to put out. In the process of making this album, I was able to get to know myself better. And what I am excited about now with the next collection is how there is a throughline with ‘Good Riddance,’ yet it feels so different.”

Yes, full album #2, also being produced at Long Pond as we speak, is “scary close” to the finish line, she says. As for how it departs from “Riddance,” she hesitates to characterize a musical style, but notes that the Eras Tour was “the best experience of my life. To have that become a part of my weekly routine for four months straight has bled into kind of all ways of my life, not just how joyful I feel internally, but the songs that we’ve been making.” The new tunes are still personal, but more playful, she indicates — and “1 million percent deeply influenced by seeing what the effect is” on the wildly receptive audiences she encountered on the road.

“Writing ‘Good Riddance,’ there was a lot of working through feelings in real time, in a way where there were lots of questions being asked,” Abrams says. Not that she’s developed all the answers in the time since, but “this music feels like bolder statements, in real time. Everything feels differently charged, and it makes me incredibly excited about the live show, because I think I’ll be able to have more fun on stage with this new energy.”

So, a note to anyone attending the last six weeks of the Eras Tour late next year, which will have Abrams opening all dates, presumably with a setlist updated with material from a scream-worthy new album: Start gilding those vocal cords now.

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