A Chat With…Gretta Ray

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Gretta Ray recently unveiled her debut EP Elsewhere. To me, the four tracks are a compelling introduction to what this young singer-songwriter is capable of. In between writing essays, Gretta put some time aside to answer a few questions for me.

Hi Gretta, thanks for the chat! Hey! No worries, it’s great to be talking to you.

For someone still in highschool, how are you finding balancing music & school work? I’ve found that over the duration of my time in High School, it hasn’t been too difficult to balance the two, because as well as music being an extra curriculum, it has always been incorporated into my learning; I’m a part of a few of the school’s vocal ensembles and am fortunate enough to be studying Music Investigations as a part of Year 12. Music and school have never been entirely separate from one another in my mind, and it was only when I began to play more shows last year that the two would occasionally clash. However, I tend to avoid gigging on school nights, particularly at the moment as school has recently become quite demanding. Also, I would never be allowed to stay out late playing music on a weekday. My parents would never condone it!

The four tracks on your forthcoming EP ‘Elsewhere’ were written between the ages of 15 and 16. How does it feel now, years later, to hear them on your debut EP? It feels pretty awesome! I wrote the four songs that make up ‘Elsewhere’ just on my bedroom floor at different stages over the course of 2 years, and I remember being uncontrollably excited throughout the entire recording process as I listened to these songs be gradually brought to life through the production. I listen to rough demos of the songs on my phone recordings now and it’s kind of funny listening back to how the songs sounded when they were first written. I feel as though these songs really grew and developed with me overtime. Now, despite being a little older, I am still really happy with the messages that are conveyed through the lyrics and feel like the songs are still an accurate representation of who I am.

Can you tell us a bit about the recording process of the EP? What was it like recording at The Aviary with producer Joshua Barber? I was 16, finishing up Year 10 when Josh and I started working on Elsewhere. We met through mutual friends and the plan for us to work together had been brewing for a short while. I’d been in studios a few times in order to record rough demos when I was younger, but this experience significantly differed from anything that I had done before. Clueless as to how I wanted the four songs to sound, we decided not to restrict Elsewhere’s songs to one specific genre and just go with whatever felt right, and with that approach, that sense of unknowing brought along a certain thrill for me whenever we were working on a song. For instance, I would never have thought that an Erhu, which is type of Chinese violin, would feature on one of the songs, but it does! And now I can’t imagine that song sounding any other way. All of the musicians that worked on this project were insanely talented, so fun to hang out with and were incredibly supportive of me and my music, particularly Josh. I had never seen anyone work so hard on anything in my life as Josh did on this EP, and collaborating with hardworking, extremely passionate people inspired and motivated me to work equally as hard. I think for me, what made that time so special and memorable was how comfortable I felt in the presence of the other musicians involved. There was never a moment where I was unhappy, I was truly in my element throughout the process.

I first saw you live supporting Packwood at Melbourne Folk Club. Since then you’ve gone onto support the likes of Darren Hanlon and Liz Stringer. Do any shows in particular spring to mind as a favourite? Oooh! Well, all of the artists that I have been lucky enough to support have been amazing performers and all such lovely people. The Darren Hanlon show, which was a part of Music On The Hill, was probably my favourite though. I had to drive out to Dromana for that gig, and I had never played a show outside of Melbourne before, so that was cool. It was also held at a winery, and when it was time for me to play, I remember the whole room being lit up by the afternoon sun and it was generally just such a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The audience was amazingly attentive and very supportive, and watching Darren perform his genius songs afterwards was so rewarding.. I even got up and sang a song with him at one point and that was fun! So grateful to have been given the opportunity to be the support act for such a beautiful show.

I was also lucky enough to see the debut performance of If You See Her, Say Hello. Incredible to watch, but I imagine even more incredible to be involved in. What did you learn from the experience of working alongside 20 talented female musicians? Firstly, thank you for coming to the show! Honestly, I don’t know where to begin with talking about how amazing that experience was and how dear each of those 20 girls are to me. My friend Brooke Russell, also a part of the group, invited me to join and during the first rehearsal, I was so nervous. Being surrounded by so much talent (and also being the only member of the group that is still in High School) can do that to you! During the rehearsals in the lead up to our debut shows at The Toff In Town, we all became really close and got excited about one another’s music. I think there is this universal assumption that when a bunch of women collaborate, they will inevitably want to compete with each other and arguments will start etc. etc. but it really isn’t like that at all, and definitely wasn’t in our case. We are all in awe of each other and have the absolute best time singing together. We’re actually heading over to Adelaide in a few weeks to perform as a part of Adelaide Fringe Festival, and I’m ridiculously excited about that. If You See Her, Say Hello makes me proud to be a part of the Melbourne music scene and reminds me that age doesn’t matter in these situations. I may be a bit younger than all of those women but I relate to them and get along with them just as well as I do with my girlfriends of my own age.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite Melbourne acts? I have so many, but I’ll try to only list a few. I grew up going to gigs; my family always made sure I was in touch with music, particularly local music, so I remain just as obsessed to this day. Ainslie Wills is one of my favourite artists ever; the way that she composes incredibly catchy hooks over complex chord structures continues to astound me. I’m also a huge fan of folk singer/songwriter Noah Earp, an insanely talented lyricist in particular, examining each and every idea explored in his songs down to the finest of details. He’s releasing his debut album this year, which I know he has worked impossibly hard on, and he is also supporting my EP launch of the 21st of February. I was in utter shock the first time that I listened to Dan Parson’s most recent record ‘Valleywood’, definitely one of the most stunning releases of 2015 and Japanese Wallpaper’s debut EP opened my eyes to electronic music. His song ‘Between Friends’ is nothing less than a masterpiece.

And Melbourne venues? I’m still getting to know venues at the moment but I particularly loved The Toff in Town and also the Melbourne Folk Club when I have performed there.

Apart from conquering year 12 and releasing the EP, do you have any other music related plans for the year? Or will you focus on finishing year 12? It would be amazing if we could keep this EP circulating for a while, but apart from doing occasional shows here and there and possibly trying out some co-writing, I’m just going to focus predominantly on finishing school. It’s such a short year and I’m keen to do my best, then hopefully I’ll start work on an album the following year!

Thanks for your time! Thanks for having me! I’m going to go and write an essay that’s due tomorrow now. See ya!

Gretta launches her debut EP Elsewhere at The Post Office Hotel this Sunday February 21st with Noah Earp. Doors 4pm, free entry.