Gear Talks: Grace Aberhart

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Gear Talks: Grace Aberhart

Grace Aberhart
Words by Mixdown staff

Indie songstress and social media sensation Grace Aberhart is back with a brand new EP - 'What I Could Tell You'.

Having previously captured hearts as part of triple J’s Unearthed High competition with singles “Next To

Me” and “Famous”, Newcastle songwriter, indie songstress and social media sensation Grace Aberhart is back with a brand new EP – What I Could Tell You, four tight grungey tracks with a pop sensibility that would sit perfectly on the track list of a 90s teen movie score.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

Hot off of this fantastic release, Grace sat down with Mixdown to chat about everything from where she finds inspiration, to go-to gear and how performing covers online has broadened her playing capabilities and writing style.

Hi Grace! To start things off, I’d love to ask whether you made a conscious effort to expand your sound when approaching your forthcoming EP – I’d love to know what kind of sonic palette you were working from when you began writing and recording this body of work? What inspired you? What was the vision?

I’m always making an effort to expand and grow as a songwriter and through production.  I love trying out new creative techniques and discovering fun new ways to process things. 

The recording and producing of my music is done with my partner Healey Olsen, he brings his own ideas from a production/drummer perspective, creating sounds and writing drum parts that I could’t think of myself. We both love a wide variety of genres as well, which brings some cool inspirations into the mix. 

A lot of my inspiration happens very subconsciously and then after the fact I realise where it came from. Some of the artists in particular that have been influential to this EP’s sound are The Story So Far, (in particular their album ‘Proper Dose’), Hot Mulligan and Snail Mail.

We’ve been working together for 4 years now, & we’re now at the point where we work really productively together, whilst also having fun and frequently re-inventing. The first song under my name that we released was ‘Ex Again’, released in 2021. Since then, we have grown so much with every song we make, it’s awesome to look back over the years & hear progress in production / writing. 

Tell me about your songwriting process – is it a collaborative affair, do you tend to tinker alone and build from those skeletons, or is it a combination of both? 

I mostly write solo, but I love co-writing and have some really great collabs that I hope to release one day.
The EP songs I wrote mostly alone in a room using an acoustic guitar & voice memos. I sing some gibberish & come back to them if they get stuck in my head. Some sat there for months until I get random inspiration. Sometimes I like jamming the ideas with Healey playing drums, the song can go in a completely different direction. 

I find my writing to be sporadic, 99% of the time it is a chord progression, followed by melody with specific vowels that map out what the words need to be. From then it’s only finished in either 30 minutes or 30 months. I have a lot of half written songs with no lyrics, they’re what I struggle with the most as a songwriter. 

Talk me through your recording workflow from demo to track completion. Do you begin in the bedroom or head straight to the studio? Any preference of DAW/special demo set up that goes the extra mile?

These days I make my own demos on Ableton Live. I like to structure out the guitar/bass/vocal harmonies before I bring it to Healey to create drums & glue it together. Recently I’m more involved in the production side, writing my own drums, adding effects, etc which has been really fun.

I always have this general goal for the drum feel, so Healey has reached a mind-reading stage on what I need for the songs. There are songs where I just jump straight into the recording stage from scratch and see where it goes. Sometimes it can be a lot cooler that way, as I let a bit of the control go.

Which pieces of equipment are the most integral to you when it comes to translating the project’s essence from a recorded to a live context? Are you trying to replicate your studio sound when you perform, or do you prefer to let the songs breathe and find their own live groove?

Currently I am in the process of actually starting my live band up, so this process is a key consideration. I love the sound of my Roland Jazz Chorus 40 amp (for guitar), So I think that will definitely be involved for one of the guitarists. I try to delegate my weird guitar voicings and lead parts to match recordings, but I’m open to change and experiment on live sets. We have been switching up the feel & arrangement to make the live experience feel fresh. 

Are there any pieces of gear you’ve acquired, be it something cheap that punches massively above its weight, or a less-wallet friendly splurge, that have tangibly influenced the way you write and record music to this day?

Absolutely! When I was 14 I saved up money from busking every weekend to be able to lay-by a custom shop bass that I had seen in a music shop & had a ‘she will be mine!’ moment.
Since I’m a Jaco Pastorius fan, I wanted a Jazz Bass & once I tried it I knew for sure. Ever since then it has been my go-to for everything & remains one of my best decisions ever. Compared to other basses, it sounds insanely good recorded & feels like silk, I have played it on countless gigs over the years, it’s very well loved and worn. 

Could you speak a little bit about how your presence as a content creator with a sizeable following has influenced the way you write and record music? Do you think that platforms like TikTok are an under-utilised tool when it comes to building community and having direct access to your fans?

Since posting covers and videos consistently on social media, it has broadened my musical vocabulary as a bassist and pushed me to learn and cover a lot of new material. So, I guess in a way it has affected my writing. I am probably writing better bass lines than I was a year ago thanks to learning song suggestions from followers. Old bass lines in all kinds of genres can inspire my original songwriting. It’s been a really positive thing for me to have support on these platforms, as I have been working at music for so long, It is nice to have some validation and people enjoying what I do.

How do you recharge your creative batteries? What in your life inspires your music that isn’t music? It could be as logical as watching a film or listening to records, or as obscure as gardening or taking a long walk.

All of those things can spark that emotional response that is strong enough for me to want to drop everything and write a song. Usually when I am not actively trying to write, I am my most prolific. When the inspiration hits it tends to hit really hard and fast and I know I just need to run with it. 

For me, it’s important to not get too stressed about songwriting or feeling uninspired, I usually just give myself a break and work on something else. I can definitely get overwhelmed and frustrated with half-finished projects, as the final stage of the puzzle for me is usually lyrics. They feel as though they’re on the tip of my tongue. Sometimes I just sit back and let the inspiration come whenever it does. I know I could probably have a more disciplined routine to writing, but in my current stage, I am writing quite a lot and happy at where I am at. 

What’s on the horizon? What exciting things can we expect from you for the remainder of the year?

I have a lot of new songs I am working on and am super excited to finish recording them. Not too sure exact release dates as of yet, but I think that with each song, I am really growing and expanding my knowledge and that’s super exciting to me. Also, I am kicking off the live band soon, I can’t wait to get back on stage!

Keep up to date with Grace over here!