Grace Womack’s music is beguiling, her voice drawing listeners in, the slightly funky, retro vibe keeping them there, firmly entranced. In a Sara Bareilles-esque way, Womack’s music has depth and breadth; the lyrics and songwriting are compelling and stellar. Womack’s piano-pop is at turns jaunty and eager, R&B-slinky, funkified disco, and melancholy-laced confessional. Her songs are, quite simply, impossible to forget.
Vents Magazine sat down with Womack to talk about her new EP, “Yellow Cowboy Hat” (out now), and we took a deep dive into our favorite song on the record, “Oblivion.” We chatted about songwriting in her childhood bedroom, how writing and playing music helps her cope with the tough stuff, and her musical influences.
Hi Grace, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been great!! Thanks for asking!! Life has been a bit hectic these last couple months, but I’m soaking in every minute of it!
Your new EP, “Yellow Cowboy Hat,” is really special and caught my attention right away. Can you talk to us more about this collection of songs? How did you come to put this EP together?
Thank you! It all came together over the course of a year or so and was the product of many different houses and dorm rooms and piano rooms. There are a lot of different stories woven into these six songs that sort of make up my life over the course of a year. I originally had 11 or 12 songs when I met with the producer the first time, and we narrowed it down to six that I felt really represented me best for this first endeavor. I wanted them all to be different enough that they showed a range of the music I liked and what I was capable of, but coherent enough that it all made sense as a collective coming from me.
We absolutely fell in love with the song “Oblivion” — it’s a great listen. What was the inspiration behind it? What prompted you to write it?
Thank you so much!! I had recently gone through a rough breakup, transferred colleges (for what would not be the last time), had completely changed my major twice, and had then gotten sent home from college two months into the spring semester where I was finally making friends and doing okay for once. I moved back in with my parents and felt like I had failed at being a grown-up, even though the circumstances were well beyond my control. I remember dragging the at least 20-year-old electric piano from the game room into a corner of my poorly-lit bedroom and just trying to let it all out. Writing is cathartic for me, like it is for many writers, but this song was particularly helpful for me emotionally. It felt like I was grieving the normalcy that I had taken for granted for so long.
Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?
I hope so! I’ve been working on some plans for videos, and this song is one I feel would be really special in a stripped-down, simplistic video format. I would love to create a video that really translates that feeling of fear and confusion in a way that makes sense and feels honest when watching it back.
How was the recording and writing process for that song?
This was actually the first one we recorded in the studio, meaning it was the first thing I’d actually ever professionally recorded, so it was a really cool experience for me. I was so anxious the night before and even all the way up to stepping into the recording booth, but as soon as I started to sing it through, all of that kind of melted away. I just let myself enter the headspace I was in when first writing this song back in my childhood bedroom, and it all just kind of came out.
When I finally got to hear it all come together, it was such a surreal moment for me. It felt like all those feelings of confusion and loneliness weren’t in vain and really came together to create a beautiful song!
Your lyrics are always consistently great across your songs. Do you have a favorite lyric line or two in this song? What about those words really works for you or speaks to you?
It would probably be in the bridge when I say “I’m losing all sense of control, dried up the river flowing through my soul. But four wise men once said just ‘let it be,’ but I can’t help but wonder who you are without me.” I think this line just kind of wraps it all up into one and describes the mindset I was in at that point in my life. I knew, logically, that I was okay and that none of my current circumstances were in my control, but the emotional part of me was very much struggling. I felt hopeless, in all honesty, and even though I knew I had to pull through just like everyone else, there were times when I really just wanted to give up on all my ambitions.
What do you hope listeners get from hearing the song?
I hope people can see that great things can come out of the worst moments. That sounds painfully cheesy, but as I came out of that really tough period I found myself being really thankful for the struggles I faced because of what came out of them. It gave me a lot of hope for the future and I hope this song can do that, too.
Your sound mixes up indie pop, roots rock, folk and tops it off with a modern sensibility, so the music calls to mind classic singer-songwriters but also is really fresh at the same time. How did you settle upon the “Grace Womack” sound? And how would you describe your sound, using one sentence?
I settled on it pretty organically! I like so many different kinds of music, and I wanted to include as much of that as I possibly could. I’m sure the sound will change here and there as I grow and progress as an artist, but this EP is very representative of who I am now and the music I look to for inspiration. If I only had one sentence I think I’d say my sound is a mixture of classic singer-songwriter and indie pop, with a special vintage, funky twist.
When you are able to head back out on the road and play live shows in front of an audience, what song are you most looking forward to playing live and why?
I think I’m most excited for the title song, “Yellow Cowboy Hat.” I just love the saxophone and funky vibes so much and really think that’ll be so exciting to play live, jumping around and dancing the whole way through. “Pity the Fool” is a close second though just because I can’t wait to feel the energy from the crowd on that one.
Who are your biggest musical influences? Why do you love them? What are your three favorite albums of all time?
My biggest musical influences are probably Sara Bareilles for her insane songwriting talents, Lake Street Dive for their retro, funky sensibilities, and The Beatles for their fascinating, weird lyricism and unapologetic, experimental sounds.
My three favorite albums of all time is a hard one. If I had to choose it would be “Amidst the Chaos” by Sara Bareilles, “Red” by Taylor Swift, and “Rubber Soul” by The Beatles.
What else is happening next in Grace Womack’s world?
There’s lots of stuff coming! As the world opens back up, I’m gonna start doing live performances and putting together some cool video content as well! I’ve been writing new songs since the second I finished these ones, so I can’t wait for you to hear those as well someday soon.
Artist website: https://www.gracewomackmusic.com/