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Singer-Songwriter GRAE Takes The Youth Questionnaire

“I know how to differentiate between my ego and my soul.”

Toronto-based singer-songwriter GRAE just dropped her debut album Whiplash—and even though it’s only been in the making for a year, it’s a project the artist has been working towards since she was ten years old writing songs in her journal. To celebrate the album, GRAE is embarking on a series of live performances from Toronto and Montreal to Los Angeles and New York City.

GRAE wrote the album’s single “Forget You” after finally deciding to let go of a relationship she’d long romanticized. Though the person no longer served her, she found herself caught up in nostalgia—despite the fact they weren’t good for her. 

“This song was therapeutic and emotional for me to write. A release of all these emotions I had been feeling for years,” she says. “I felt sad writing it because as much as I knew I had to let them go, a part of me didn’t want to, but this song is goodbye to them and our failed attempt at love.”

“Forget You” is an embodiment of GRAE’s approach to songwriting: dissecting her past to envision her future. 

“These songs have a huge piece of my heart,” GRAE says, “and I appreciate anyone who takes the time to explore and dive into my creations.”

Read GRAE’s responses to the Youth Questionnaire below.

Question 01: How do you help others?

I would stop whatever I was doing to speak to anyone who needed someone. I think it's so important to hear people out and connect with them on a deeper level, and if they ever needed something, I would do absolutely everything I could to get it for them.

Question 05: What do you dream of?

I dream of being at peace within myself, allowing things to be as they are. I want to get to a place where I'm happy with the idea of everyday life. Life doesn't have to be exciting all the time; I don't have to be posting on social media or doing things specifically for social media to feel relevant. I want to romanticize the little day-to-day things and feel satisfied with just living, existing. I long for and desire that inner peace of feeling grateful to be alive and breathing. I suppose I take that for granted sometimes. I exist and have the power to do so many incredible things that can contribute to a difference in this world. One of those things is my music. I like to believe that maybe it makes a difference to those who listen to it. I, of course, dream of my art making its way into this world, having enough longevity that people come back to it years and years from now. That it'll hold enough significance, and people will remember me for it. 

Question 10: Describe your relationship with your ego.

I've never talked about this, but I had what I'd consider a pretty intense ego death back in 2018. I completely lost all self-purpose and felt highly detached from my body. Nothing around me felt real, and it caused extreme distress. I went to therapy and got told I was dealing with depersonalization/derealization, which can come on after long periods of anxiety. I remember looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself. I didn't feel human. I'd talk to my family about how I thought I was in a dream. I questioned if I was even alive for an entire year. It came on after my wisdom teeth were removed, so I was convinced I was either in a coma somewhere or just straight-up died, and this was the afterlife. It was the trippiest thing I have ever gone through. What brought me back during this time was finding spirituality. Therapy, of course, helped, but the only thing that could build me up again was me.

I started getting into crystals, meditation, the law of attraction, chakra healing, astrology, holistic ways of living. I spent so much time with myself and had a lot of patience as I was healing. I became more aware of how I'm not my thoughts and that my ego doesn't control me. I fell out with my old identity and social conditioning. Everything from the past almost felt like an illusion. I became less and less scared of branching out into my own being and doing things that fulfilled my heart and soul, not my ego. I surrendered and let go of the old me who needed reassurance all the time; the old me needed their ego boosted to feel relevant and good enough. I immersed myself in the small parts of life that brought pure joy and no longer engaged in things that brought short-term excitement.

I learned so much, and I'm forever grateful for that experience. Although it was terrifying, it made me who I am today. Fast forward, I, of course, still battle with my ego. It's impossible to let it go completely. In the music industry, everything is so ego-driven. You have to promote yourself all of the time, make TikTok's and shove your way into an algorithm in hopes of people finding you and liking you enough to stream your music. It's just about silencing the noise and understanding when it's your ego fighting for attention. I've become self-aware. I know how to differentiate between my ego and my soul. I always stay true to what my soul wants. We are so much more than our minds, our ego, and when we become aware of jealousy, hatred, intimidation, insecurity, we understand it's just our ego talking. Our ego wants to create a rise out of us to get the validation it needs to feel superior. It's easier to live a more fulfilling life when you understand this because you can push those feelings aside and let them be. They do not make up who you are. They are not you. I could talk about this forever as I find it so fascinating, but this is all to say the relationship I have with my ego has been a journey, but I'm at a good place with it now. 

Question 13: What is your most useful affirmation?

As someone who has suffered from intense anxiety, my most helpful affirmation has always been “Let it go, you are okay.” For some reason, these words help turn my perception around, and I can get back on track. I would obsess over the littlest things, and my anxiety used to trick me into believing I would stop breathing, fall over and die. “Let it go, you are okay,” reminds me I've made it through every single time. I've survived. My anxiety hasn't physically harmed me, and it won't. I won't allow it. I use this affirmation every day, not only for anxiety but also for situations that get a rise out of my emotions. Learning to let things go is hard, but sometimes it's for the best.

Question 15: What is your personal goal for this year, month, or day?

My goal for this year is to start shaping into the artist I've always dreamed of becoming. I want to make sure I'm always staying true to myself and my influences. Creating music that shines a light on what inspires me and who I am. I'm hoping to tour this year. I miss performing and feeling the energy of a live concert venue. I'm releasing my debut album, which is exciting; I'm incredibly proud of it, and I hope my music finds its way to those it's supposed to and that 2022 is a year of growth and experiences that bring joy. 

Question 24: What does it mean to find yourself?

Sometimes it can take a lifetime to find oneself. We live in a day and age of technology and vast amounts of information/content thrown our way, to the point where we want to be other people. We can't decide what is us and what we think should be us. I used to be someone those around me could significantly influence, which became evident during my music career. I realized I was becoming what other people believed I should become, rather than what I wanted. It was almost more comfortable to let other people lead than to dig deeper within myself and search for what I enjoyed. 

We carry so many expectations; we feel this need to be perfect for everyone. I used to have groups of friends I'd act differently around than others; then, I realized I only wanted to surround myself with those who truly accept me and can help me grow into who I'm supposed to become. So on the path to discovering myself, I had to let certain people go. Allowing yourself to be in an environment where you can flourish as like-minded individuals surround you is critical in the process. You want to feel your most authentic self. You need to pay attention to your feelings, intuition, and surroundings. Embrace who you are, and don't deny any parts of yourself. You have to be grateful and happy with your life, where you are at and where you're heading. Self-reflection is key, and making sure you're living for your soul and not your ego is also essential. I'm still in the process of finding myself, but every day I seem to get a little bit closer.  

Question 26: What does it mean to live your truth?

To live your truth, to me, means to be unapologetically yourself. I have a lot of values and morals that make up the pure foundation of my entire being, and no matter what happens, I'd never do anything to compromise that because it's the pure core of who I am. I think following your dreams and feeding what your soul wants despite what other people feel is living your truth. Many things could contribute to living your truth; it just depends on each individual.