Album Walkthrough: Gretta Ray breaks down her triumphant debut, Begin To Look Around
Five years following her explosive introduction, Gretta Ray finally finds the limelight on a debut album amongst the year's most brilliant.
Gretta Ray has always proved to be an exciting presence in Australian pop music. After her breakthrough single Drive introduced the Victorian then-teenager as a new force bound to blossom in the year ahead, she quickly made everyone's predictions ring true with a string of singles over the 18 months that followed: Unwind, Towers, Time and Radio Silence all showing different sides of the musician's multi-dimensional nature, and how she brings them to life with a personality and charm that has become defining of the musician since her beginnings.
2018's Here and Now EP - her first major collection of tracks post-commercial success - seemed to encapsulate Gretta Ray's journey thus far and the woozy, potent sonics that have soundtracked it; a warm, seven-strong collection of songs that felt like Gretta Ray closing a chapter on her career's beginning, summarising the growth and evolution that has come with her blossoming breakthrough. In the time since, however, Gretta Ray has been busy translating this growth and evolution into new music, and with the release of her debut album Begin To Look Around, we really begin to see how far Gretta Ray has come in such a short amount of time.
Begin To Look Around feels like a career-defining moment, even for an artist that seemingly has already had many of these moments in her past. It's an adventurous journey through Gretta Ray's coming-of-age and the musical prowess that has defined her last few years, capturing the sense of evolution - both personal and artistic - that has accompanied her blooming. On one side, it's an album that waves goodbye to a previous form of Gretta Ray - the one we've come to love. On the other side, however, it debuts someone new; someone a little more assured not just in their being but in their skills - and that's something that really shines on Begin To Look Around.
It's an album that sees Gretta Ray reach for the stars, contrasting between her many sides and the multi-dimensional nature of her work. It's something that was unveiled through a series of paired singles throughout the year: Bigger Than Me / Readymade boasting with its confidence; Cherish / The Brink relishing in the complexities of romanticism; Human / Passion delving into the indulgence of the human nature - pairings that often worked in their sound as well as their themes too.
In the greater context of the album, however, these singles feel like blips on a journey through self. You almost hear Gretta Ray grow up within the confines of the album's duration, using detailed pop music - whether it be bold and maximalist or intimate and bare-boned - to navigate the natural pathways of growing up, and the deep emotional turmoil that often coincides (no less in a time where the world around her feels much the same).
"This record is a documentation and celebration of the lessons I have learned about love, life and my unremitting passion for music as I’ve stepped into my early twenties," she says on the album. "It is beautiful how much you change your mind throughout those formative years; things can always be seen from a different perspective, and when you’re immersed in incredible opportunities that see you travelling the world, falling in and out of love, and losing your sense of independence only for it to return stronger than ever before, it is only natural that your view of yourself and the world will be refined when you wake up, and begin to look around."
By the end of Begin To Look Around, Gretta Ray emerges from the musical cacoon as a fully-fledged pop star, armed with the sonic range of some of the genre's most mighty, and a self-assuredness and self-understanding that will no doubt be important as the Victorian musician continues to follow the musical and emotional pathways of her future.
For now, however, Begin To Look Around is Gretta Ray's moment, and you can take a dive into the album below alongside a track by track walkthrough, in which Gretta Ray breaks down the album's themes and creation one song at a time.
Bigger Than Me
A song about my relationship with creativity, a love that has held me hostage for my whole life that I want to shout from the rooftops! I believe creativity to be an outer force that we are all merely vessels for. This song celebrates how that can unite us and encourage us to be inspired by and learn from one another.
I have written about the all-consuming nature of romantic relationships since I was a teenager. With Passion, I explored this theme with the heat dialled up a notch. Now that I’m 22 there's a maturity that I can lean into when writing about romance and intimacy.
A love song delving into the details of a blossoming relationship through the perspective of hindsight. It’s nice to be able to look back on the very beginnings of a connection between two people that was yet to fully develop and recognise that the spark between them was there from the first day, even if they didn’t know it yet.
I’ve often written about being wrapped up in the highs of a relationship as a temporary, fleeting moment in time, but when writing Human, I wanted to explore that notion as if it were our most ‘human’, natural state to be immersed in that feeling; to fully indulge in shared moments with someone, not thinking about ‘life outside this room’, just the two of you.
There comes a moment in any breakup where there is just blatant, devastating sadness. The Brink is a reflection of this moment for me, a time where I was completely overwhelmed by panic and anxiety surrounding the ending of a relationship. I felt like all I had known was suddenly, entirely changed.
In this song, I thought about the city as a metaphor for heartbreak and rediscovering my sense of self. Chaotic yet grand, magic yet slightly sad… feeling out of my depth in a foreign environment, but being able to sense the excitement and see the silver lining of my initial discomfort. After all, it’s Paris. How bad could it really be
Cherish sings of wanting to redeem a relationship that was in troubled waters, while also reminding my partner (and myself) that I could recognise the damage that was being done to both of us. I knew at that point that it would be 'brave of me to walk away', and in permitting myself to be fully honest and open in this writing session, Cherish became the most truthful, bittersweet song on the record, for me.
Writing The Cure felt like coming home. I wanted to champion London, to amplify how strong and nurtured the city made me feel. Getting up, going out into the day and writing my album amidst a time where I could feel quite lonely, taught me that no matter how distraught or broken you can feel, there are always moments where you will feel OK. Acknowledging these moments in The Cure helped me regain my strength of character in a time where I needed to the most.
I have been able to turn to songwriting to grow, heal, and to help make sense of the world around me for as long as I can remember. In Readymade, I wanted to articulate my appreciation for this more private relationship that I have with creativity. I often feel like it ‘greets me at the door’, and after writing this record I have no doubt it will always be there to catch me.
It’s Almost Christmas In Philly
When touring North America in late 2018, the long drives that my manager Sam and I would endure consisted of deep conversations about creative projects, past relationships, and constant delirious laughter. It was a joy and a relief to write about such an amazing time and such a special friendship. It's so valuable to me to be a good, nourishing friend.
Learning You encourages the idea that obstacles in a romantic relationship are a normal part of “learning” your significant other, which you will both continue to do over the course of your time together. There is an innocent sense of hope in the lyric, but also an underlying naivety. To me, this song feels increasingly melancholy, and a bit blindly optimistic in its tone.
Love Me Right
One of the larger lessons that I learned when writing my album was to stop over-compromising when trying desperately to make a relationship work. Love Me Right is the moment I realised that I deserved better. Relieved to have regained my sense of independence, this song is a reminder to myself to not invest in such relationships unless they truly ‘love you right’.
The songs that make up my debut album discuss some big, intense feelings that I experienced through my late teens and early 20s, but when writing Care Less, I was not overly investing in a certain feeling and for once, actively choosing not to give energy to that scenario anymore. This is the moment I knew I had detached from a past situation and previous partner. I felt I had finally ‘come to my senses’.