Robert Grace On Why To Never Give Up

Robert Grace‘s debut album, ‘Happy Sad Songs,’ is more than a phenomenal body of work. In addition to the incredibly intriguing, catchy melodies and overall irresistible vibe, the project represents Grace’s ‘I made it‘ moment, the fruits of his labor, while confirming that the universe always has a plan for you.

Hailing from Ireland, Grace wanted to give up, to leave it behind him. He didn’t believe in himself or his music, but he gave it one more shot. Steamed in the vulnerability of a new song and an app that took over the world just before the pandemic hit, Robert Grace turned the page, and everything clicked and went according to the plan—even better. 

Four years in the making, Robert Grace feels relieved after his debut album, ‘Happy Sad Songs,’ is out. It’s ready to do what it’s meant to do—help and make people feel better about whatever is going on in their lives. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get here,” he reveals. I think I was always working to this point to release an album.”

Feeling delighted, he hopes ‘Happy Sad Songs’ will aid other people’s emotions: ” I hope that it connects with people, helps some people. It took so long to pick all the songs I wanted to have on it because I wanted them all to have similar messages and to fit with the theme of the whole album. I hope that comes across.  I picked out from the last four years—nothing from before,'” Grace shares. 

Across the eleven tracks, Robert Grace binds a raw depiction of his life packaged in perky, cheerful melodies. He explains: “I felt like I didn’t want to scare people. Even though I love depressing songs, I didn’t want the overall mood to be depressed. I wanted people to listen to it and feel good, but also feel like they can relate to it. So they can relate to the sad part and get happiness from the happy part. That’s what my goal was. People who don’t necessarily listen for lyrics on the first couple of goes. They’ll just hear a song and go, oh, that sounds real. They’ll have a vibe to it, and only then they will be hit with the message when they actually listen”. 

Even as an artist, Robert Grace admits he struggles with being vulnerable and talking about emotions. But he found his safe space in songwriting; he elaborates: “I feel like sometimes it’s hard for people to talk about how they’re feeling, and if my song can say it for them, that’s all I want. I found it very hard to talk about things, but I found it very easy to write about it and sing about it. For people who don’t have that outlet and can’t write or sing about it, if my song can speak for them and make them feel better or explain to somebody else what they’re feeling, that’s all I want.  If I can help at least one person with each song, that would be unreal”.  

Despite unpacking more severe themes in ‘Happy Sad Songs,’ Robert Grace did not struggle with finding the right words; rather, he felt reluctant to show this level of rawness to his loved ones: “With the song called, ‘Reasons,’ I was a bit nervous about putting it out because it’s probably my most personal song, and I didn’t want to worry anybody. For certain people, I didn’t want them to know what low points I was at, even though I’ve said it in other songs. But this one was fairly obvious. I was a little bit worried about certain people hearing it,” he opens up. 

Pressing play on ‘Happy Sad Songs,’ there is no subtle introduction; there is a magnificent entrance in the form of the first track, ‘Euphoria,’ which classifies as one of the impressive record openers. Grace talks about thefamous TV series inspiring the track: “I was late to the party with Euphoria, but I still binge-watched it. I got an idea for the chorus of my song Euphoria that was inspired by the scene where Rue, Zendaya’s character, is in the church with Labrinth singing. I think it was a brilliant scene. Me and my two other friends, Ryan Mark and Jake Richardson, Jake actually plays with me in the band as well.  We finished it off. I didn’t want both of the verses to be specific to the show. I wanted them to draw relevant from the show but not be specifically about a character. The first verse is about a character from Euphoria, Nate (Jacob Elordi), and then the second verse is very much about me and is very personal, and that’s how it all came about. It’s probably one of my favourite songs from the album”.

Before his 2020 breakthrough, Robert Grace made music for over ten years. Asking him to reflect, he gets honest, delving into the ‘could’ve, should’ve, would’ve spiral’: “I look back, and part of me is like, I could have done way more. I’m happy I didn’t give up because I was very close to doing that. Another part of me is, how did I go that way for so long? My manager always believed in me, and my family always believed in me; I had that support. But how did I just keep going?If I knew that this was going to happen, if I could talk to my older self, I don’t think he’d believe that this actuallyhappened. I find it hard to believe”. 

“I don’t know what kept me going, to be honest,” he adds. Feeling ready to pack all of it, but it wasn’t until Robert Grace wrote a song that his career’s trajectory changed. ‘Fake Fine’ was the first personal track he wrote; he tells how it all went down, or high, shall we say: “I remember I woke up on New Year’s Day in 2020. I had around -50 euros in my bank account. My son was vomiting everywhere. He was sick. I was just like, what am I doing here? And then, the day after my birthday (my birthday is the fourth) and on the fifth, my grandmother passed away.  And that didn’t really hit me for a while. You always have these things like, I should’ve gone, I should’ve been, I should’ve seen her more. I should’ve done more. I was also struggling in general mentally with having no money and nearly felt like a midlife crisis even though I was only in my twenties. I didn’t know what to do. And then a couple of weeks later, I wrote the first verse of ‘Fake Fine'”. 

He continues: “I wrote it on a ukulele at 11 p.m. I thought that there was something special about it. So I remember going to the studio, writing that, coming up with a chorus. It was either the best or the worst song I’ve ever written. Then I sent it to one of my friends again. I struggled with the second verse because I didn’t know where to go with it. I was trying to continue this story from the first verse, and it just wasn’t working. I sent it to one of my friends, who’s a talented songwriter. He did it, wrote the second verse, and I got it back, and it was completely different. It wasn’t like a continuation of the story, but it fits so perfectly with the song at the same time. I went with that, recorded it, and then wefinished it the week we went into lockdown”.

For the remaining six weeks until the track’s release, Robert Grace dedicated his time to posting on TikTok every day, promoting the song, and building his following. His efforts did not go to waste, and his plan was successful: “It was the weirdest thing because everything went according to plan. Nothing messed up. It even went better than I thought; everything just clicked.  It’s exactly what I needed, to be honest, because it is like the universe was trying to tell me, I need to keep going. Like I worked my whole life to get to a point where things work out for me,’ he says. 

Thinking to himself, “it can’t get any worse,” Grace approached TikTok, the app that was fairly new for musicians, early and open-minded: “I’m going to throw everything I can at, and if something clicks, then happy days. And if not, well, at least I tried.  I went on, and I started posting. It took a while because I didn’t understand the app, what works, and how you’re supposed to do things. What finally took off for me is I did like a looped cover of Jon Belion’s ‘All Time Low'”.  

From this cover onwards, Grace cracked the code and posted one daily for a month and a half. It worked, and with his previous following of 800, his account started to blow up. He proudly shares: “They used to take me like four to six hours to make a one-minute video. Before the ‘Fake Fine’ release, I got to a hundred thousand followers. I remember getting to 10,000 followers and nearly crying because I couldn’t believe it”.

He elaborates on how TikTok helped him with his self-confidence: “That whole journey was probably one of the most exciting times in my life. Even though it sounds stupid, I was in lockdown. I couldn’t go anywhere. I had my wife and my son. All I had to do was do this, and I needed the recognition and other people to confirm that they thought I was good. At the time, it was something I needed in order to get motivated to keep going and build my confidence back up.”

‘Fake Fine’ came out, and Grace felt disappointed not getting it into the taste-making New Music Friday Spotify playlist. Two weeks later, he got a call from his manager, wanting to share some news, which changed his life. Grace elaborates: “When he didn’t say it was good news, maybe it’s bad news. When he rang me, he told me that there was a label interested in licensing the song. I was so happy. I think I broke down crying after the call. I felt like I really needed that. Then I remember we had a Zoom meeting with this label. I was worried I had to be ready for questions. And then I got to the meeting, and I didn’t have to answer any questions. They were selling themselves to me, and what could they do for me? At the end of the meeting, we realized that they wanted to offer me a record deal, not just license the song, but an actual record deal. I didn’t know what to do with myself.  It was such a surreal time, and that’s when it all started, and then other labels got interested, and it was a mad couple of weeks”. 

Robert Grace is living proof of how unpredictable the industry is. One moment, your life can change forever. He also showcases how important it is to believe in yourself and to keep going even when that’s the last thing you feel like doing. ‘Happy Sad Songs’ results from real perseverance and talent that beat all odds. 

Robert Grace’s debut album ‘Happy Sad Songs’ is out now via Sony Music Germany.

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Words: Karolina Kramplova