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‘I want to do this forever’: How Gracie Abrams’ searing songwriting led her to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour

‘I want to do this forever’: How Gracie Abrams’ searing songwriting led her to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour

‘I want to do this forever’: How Gracie Abrams’ searing songwriting led her to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour

Gracie Abrams is living every Taylor Swift fan’s dream.

In just a few weeks, the indie-pop princess will open for Swift on the North American leg of the hotly anticipated Eras Tour. A self-described Swiftie with a songwriting prowess that echoes Swift’s, Abrams couldn’t be more excited to learn from the woman she feels is the best in the business.

“I found out about (opening for Swift) through my agent and I immediately texted Taylor,” Abrams said.

“I don’t even remember. I just blacked out. I wouldn’t believe it at all. This couldn’t be real life. All I can think about is how insane an opportunity it is to watch her perform every night. I’m so lucky to be a part of that tour. It’s the greatest master class in the world, being able to see the person who’s the best at this, ever, do it so many times.”

Before she joins the Eras Tour in April, Abrams is on a sold-out tour of her very own, promoting her debut album, “Good Riddance,” including stops in Toronto and Montreal. When we spoke, Abrams was warming up for her gig earlier this month at History.

These sound checks are one of the highlights of touring, she said later via Zoom. They’re part of a VIP concert experience that allows fans to hang out with Abrams before the real concert.

Typically, Abrams will perform stripped-down versions of her less popular songs, or covers of songs by other artists, and she’ll banter with the crowd, telling stories, making jokes. Taylor Swift songs often make appearances during these sound checks, “Folklore” tracks like “The 1” and “This Is Me Trying.”

“Those moments before every show are as important to me as the show itself,” she said. “It’s quality time we get to spend together. It means so much to me, to be able to hear (fans) talk about their lives, to get into their heads a bit more. They have such a window into my brain with the music, and knowing they connect with it makes me feel like I know them equally well, because it’s this shared experience.”

And connect with the music they do. Abrams’ EP, “This Is What It Feels Like,” and now her debut album, are fiercely personal windows into Abrams’ introspections and insecurities.

Her songs oscillate between conversational and confessional, brooding and beguiling. From song to song, and record to record, we follow Abrams through a diary of situationships and lost loves, and never once do the tunes feel repetitive or insincere.

Her music bleeds nostalgia and wit, and her fans make no secret of how much they relate to these editorializations of Abrams’ life story: she boasts eight million monthly Spotify listeners and a healthy social following across apps like TikTok and Instagram.

There’s a distinct rift in musical texture and production between “This Is What It Feels Like” and “Good Riddance.” For one, Abrams worked with the National’s Aaron Dessner on her new record, following in the footsteps of Swift, whose work with Dessner on “Folklore” won her a Grammy in 2021.

“When Aaron and I work together, it feels as if things just appear out of thin air,” Abrams said. “It feels almost all at once … the choices we make production-wise really emphasize the feeling behind the lyrics.”

Meeting Dessner was serendipitous, Abrams said: “We have the same lawyer,” she said with a laugh.

“We hopped on FaceTime for a little bit one time … and I remember feeling so immediately comfortable on the phone. A year later he hit me up and said I should come to Long Pond (Recording Studio in Hudson Valley, N.Y.). So I did and that was the first time we actually met. I stayed for a week.” The result was “Good Riddance.”

You can hear Dessner’s influence on the album: complicated synths, complex percussion, delicate vocal production with ample reverb. Echoes of Swift’s “Folklore” and “Evermore” peer through tracks like “Amelie” and “Fault Line.” And it makes sense: “I feel like I’m in my ‘Folklore’ era right now,” Abrams said. “I’ve been quite at peace internally recently.”

For the Eras Tour, Abrams will spend the next few months around Swift and her team. She couldn’t be more stoked.

“I’m just trying to keep my head down and stay quiet. Except for when I’m screaming her lyrics,” she added.

Abrams has fallen in love with touring and, just as Swift said about herself when she was younger, she wants to make it last.

“I want to do this forever,” said Abrams. “I want to learn from the best there’s ever been in terms of how to take care of yourself on the road, how to connect with your audience in a deeper way … she’s been playing these massive stadiums and she still makes it feel like it’s only you and her in the room.

“To be able to do that is such a magical thing. It’s a superpower. As much as I can, I just want to study that. I feel like I’m going back to school, honestly.”

Beyond the music, Abrams is wise beyond her years.

She’s mastered the art of keeping her personal life out of the press — “it all goes into my songs,” she said — and she’s long since escaped the shadow of her famous father, “Star Wars” director J.J. Abrams.

She’s given interviews about her family and the “nepo baby” discourse before, but not so much anymore. For now, it’s all about the music. When she feels stuck, she turns to poetry.

“That’s where my attention goes first when I’m looking for a specific trigger for a feeling. A lot of the poetry I love — there’s just such a wide vocabulary. Sometimes I find even a single word that makes me excited to go write. I’m drawn to a lot of Mary Oliver and Marie Howe.

“But I don’t think I’ve ever written a song that hasn’t come first from a personal feeling or experience. I envy writers who can put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and write from that place. I’ve thought about it, lying about the past to get out of being so brutally honest in some of my more confessional songs, I suppose.”

She writes some poetry herself, secretly. But she always knows the poems will turn into songs.

“It’ll always turn into lyrics,” she said.

And around the world, those lyrics will be scream-sung back to her by her fans: either at enormous stadiums headlined by the biggest name in pop music or in sold-out tours of her own.


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