Gretta Ray is a young singer-songwriter with a very bright future. Already touring and releasing killer songs, since the time of publishing this interview, she also took out Triple J’s Unearthed High competition! Definitely one to watch, Gretta answered some questions for this month’s Artist of the Month here at the Push.
When did you start writing songs and making music? How did you get into it?
I wrote my first song when I was seven years old, but did not start writing consistently until I was about 9 or 10. I recall that my urge to start writing songs correlated with the time that I began playing instruments, specifically piano at first, then after that came the guitar. I wrote the majority of my first songs using the piano, whereas now I tend to utilise the guitar more often.
Where do you get the ideas for your songs and do you have a process for writing them?
I feel as though the reason that I continue to write songs is due to the unpredictability of the songwriting process. You never know when you’re going to get an idea, nor when you’re going to feel driven to finish a song. Sometimes you write the lyrics first, sometimes it's the melody. Aside from the one rule that I apply to all of the songs that I write, that being that I always record any idea that I have into my phone so I won’t forget it, having the process be different each time keeps me excited about writing music. As for where I get my ideas, I spend a lot of time observing human behaviour and relationships, and tend to gather a lot of inspiration from those observations.
Who has had the biggest influence on your music?
Over the duration of my life I have been influenced by many different artists and songwriters, particularly females, but my ‘biggest’ influences have definitely changed over time. When I was 9 and 10, my biggest influences were without a doubt, most definitely Taylor Swift and Missy Higgins. But then going into my teenage years, I started listening to a lot of Brooke Fraser, and then few years ago I discovered Laura Marling and she completely changed the way that I approached song writing, and the list goes on I suppose. Considering that each of those artists have inspired me in slightly different ways, my music has grown and evolved as a result.
It was recently announced that you are a finalist in triple j’s Unearthed High competition. How did that feel? Has it lead more people to discover your music?
Being a finalist for triple J’s Unearthed High competition was one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me. When I found out, I remember feeling particularly happy and proud, as my producers and I had worked really hard on my recently released single ‘Drive’, which was the song that was receiving the most attention due to triple j’s generous act of naming me as a finalist for the competition. I was also very in awe of the other four finalists, so I remember feeling honoured to be alongside them.
You’ve been touring, making music and you are still in your final year of high school. How do you balance it all?
Balancing music and school is, for now, just something that I have to do. It can be challenging at times, but personally, I wouldn’t feel too good about myself if I dropped the ball at school just because I was achieving music-related things outside of school. I wouldn’t feel good if it was the other way around either; I want to be able to accomplish tasks in both areas. I also only have 2 months of High School to go now, so I will continue to try my best until it’s over!
What do you like to do in your down time (if you even have any!)?
Currently, I seem to have very little down time, but when I do I just like to spend it with my friends or with my family. Sometimes I will try writing new music in my spare time, but Year 12 is becoming particularly challenging at the moment, so it's looking like the next few months will consist solely of studying, with a few shows here and there.
You’ve been touring with Japanese Wallpaper as a member of his live band, how has the experience been? Has it felt very different to playing your own set?
Touring and playing shows with Gab (Japanese Wallpaper) has been a dream come true! Honestly, I am such a fan of his music and being able to sing and play those songs at his side each night has been incredibly humbling. His shows are rather different from my own; my set up is just me, an acoustic guitar and sometimes I am joined by another guitarist and vocalist. Gab’s set up is pretty extravagant in comparison! So soundcheck takes a little longer, the sound of the set is fuller since it's a four-piece band, and the crowds are significantly larger and louder, which is amazing. I’m so lucky to be a part of this tour.
What is the best and worst thing about touring?
My favourite part of touring has been watching our support act, E^ST, perform her incredible set each night. She generates the most incredible energy on stage and is one of the most captivating performers I have ever seen. Touring has been a very positive experience overall, but if there was anything negative about the experience, it would be checking in all of the musical equipment at the airport before each flight, considering that we have quite a lot of gear!
How have things changed for you since your debut EP ‘Elsewhere’ was released earlier this year?
Since the release of Elsewhere, music has become an even bigger part of my life. I have been provided with many more opportunities to play shows, to tour and to continue making music. I am so grateful to those who were involved in the process of making and releasing that debut EP; it was very special to be given the chance to release music into the world despite still being in school, and I would not have been able to accomplish that without the support of my parents, close friends and the musicians who took part in the project.
You have just put out a killer new single, ‘Drive’. Will we be hearing any more music or seeing any more shows from you this year?
Haha, thanks! I’m actually flying up to Sydney in a few weeks to record a brand new song at the triple j studios, so I imagine that song will be released soon after we record. And yes, I will be playing a few shows over the next few months. I’m lucky enough to be supporting the wonderful Vera Blue at Howler in early September, and I will also be opening for my friend Noah Earp’s debut album launch at The Toff in Town in late October.
Where can people go to keep up to date with everything Gretta Ray?
My Facebook page would be the main place that one can go in order to keep updated! I unfortunately don’t have a website just yet, but I’m sure I’ll get that happening sooner or later.