I'm a big supporter of singer/songwriters. Sometimes, there's nothing better than hearing a song in its purest form. I'm also an avid supporter of them because there can be a lot of freedom with their songwriting. Some songs may be written for various genres, but that's what makes it so fun to listen to. An album can end up being an eclectic mix of tracks that gives you an idea of not only what the artist was going through emotionally, but what the artist felt like doing musically.
Austin singer/songwriter Malia Grace understands this concept of writing what you love, and not limiting yourself to the boundaries that can try to be forced onto musicians when writing. Her six song self-titled EP is set to debut on October 29th, and I had the chance to talk with Grace about the writing process of the EP, her song "Chains of Love", and what it means to truly make the music that you love.
With “Chains of Love”, when did that song specifically come into play? When did first become introduced to the track listing of the album?
I had already decided that I was going to do an EP, and I had decided what (songs were) going to be put on it in the fall of 2013. Most of those didn’t make it on there, by the way (laughs). Sometime in the Spring, right before I recorded, I wrote “Chains of Love” while I was cleaning dishes in my kitchen. I just immediately knew that it was going to be on the EP. I called my producer shortly after. I had recorded a little sample track that I had put on SoundCloud at the time, and I was like “I’m in love with this! We have to put this on there!” (laughs) It was pretty immediate for that one.
This actually answered my next question, which was “was the experience writing this track more natural? Or did it take some time to develop?” It sounds like it was much more natural.
Yeah! It was a very, very natural song for me. It was one of those that literally just flowed right out. I wrote everything but the last verse within forty-five minutes. I just added another verse later, because I felt that it was a little short. It was a great experience when (the song) came to me. It was really ironic that I was cleaning dishes. (laughs)
Inspiration can strike at any time, though.
It can! I find that it always strikes at the oddest times.
Circling back to something you said earlier, how many songs did you originally start with when you were writing this EP? Was there originally a plan to have just seven?
Well, I didn’t have forty tracks, because I had already thrown some out. As soon as I write them, I’m like “….ah this is okay, but this one is better.” I had probably twenty-five to thirty that I was going through by myself. One I started meeting with a team, I probably had fifteen to twenty. I had wanted to do a full album originally. It was just…we went and decided to record just the first four tracks with the money that I already had, and see how it went. Everything wound up being way more expensive then I had hoped. Which was fine; it came out so well! I just realized it was going to be a much more expensive process than I had planned. The amount that I was planning on raising for the full album was barely going to cover an EP. We only did full production for six songs, and then I did an acoustic one.
Lyrically, on this EP, is there a persistent theme that runs through the course of the seven tracks?
There’s definitely consistent theme, and it’s focused around these hopes and dangers of love, temptation (“Chains Of Love”) and how you can be tempted into something and then it often turns out to not be what you thought, and then this idea of getting back up, no matter what, and staying strong.
You won the Austin Songwriter of the Year Award in 2014. You received an invitation to play an official showcase at SXSW 2015. With all of that being said and all of those accomplishments, was there anything in particular that you learned about songwriting when you were taking on this EP? Not necessarily tips or tricks, but anything that you noticed made your songwriting change as time went on?
Kind of. It’s kind of a hard question, because I feel like I’m at a point right now where my songwriting is in a new process, and I’m having trouble grasping what the heck I’m doing. If anything, this EP taught me that I don’t need to limit myself. I don’t know if you noticed, but the songs don’t all sound the same. At least, I don’t think (they do). I got a lot of criticism about that before I started really sharing it. People who I knew in the industry, who listened to the songs before I started to showcase them, were saying to me, “what’s your direction? Your songwriting is too all over the place. You write for too many different genres.” I started to feel bad about that.
Now, I think I’m realizing that it’s working for me. It’s like a niche. I want my songwriting process to be something where I’m not limiting myself. I’m letting myself write whatever comes to me.
I don’t know if you know this, but I used to just want to be a songwriter, and not a performer. When I wrote a lot of these songs, I wrote a lot of them in mind for different artists. I was hoping to plug them with publishing houses. I don’t know, it’s more fun to write whatever you’re feeling! That feeling where you go, “oh that’s cool, I wanna do that! Yeah!” (laughs)
What kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
I really want this album to be cathartic. I feel like we live in a culture that says that it’s stupid to have a motion. The whole stoicism for men has transferred to women. Everyone supposed to be stoic now. I want people to listen and know that it’s okay to be upset about something or feel down, but I also want them to walk away empowered; to say it’s totally okay to feel let down and feel like the world is hating you right now, but then it’s also okay to get back up, even if there’s not really a reason. You just get up and get stronger.
What does music mean to you?
That’s a complicated questions. (laughs) Music is kind of everything to me. I was just thinking about it. A lot of people ask, “when did you find music?” I would argue that music found me when I was a baby. Music is kind of like my best friend, or my other half that’s been there forever. It is life to me. It’s the only other thing I’ve ever really thought about.
Malia Grace's debut self-titled EP comes out on October 29th, 2015. For more information on Malia Grace, visit www.facebook.com/maliagracemusic
This has been another Shameless Promotion.