Acoustic singer/songwriter Steph Graves from the North East of England has loved music since she was a child. She learned to play the clarinet at 9 years old and sang in school choirs, played in bands and wanted to become a singer at age 10. Today she discussed with us her upcoming EP, learning to play piano, and how writing songs about personal issues can help with coping with the situation.
Graves said when she was in school, she was playing clarinet in an orchestra and they were playing a song from Annie. She imagined herself singing it and from then on she started singing at home.
“I became obsessed with singing and as soon as I finished school I would go into my bedroom and practice until I went to sleep,” Graves said.
When Graves was discovering her own voice, she would listen to a lot of Celine Dion and Mariah Carey because they had big, powerful voices. At about age 12, Graves sang her first solo.
Nowadays, Graves is learning to play on an electric piano.
“I have been looking for someone to play for me at buskers nights and gigs, but I couldn’t find anyone,” Graves said. “I thought I would try and learn the guitar, but I couldn’t pick it up very easily. About 6 months ago my husband brought home an old electric piano that someone didn’t want anymore, and I started playing from then.”
Graves started out trying different chords and within a week she could play a couple of four chord songs and has been practicing ever since. She has thought about getting lessons off a tutor to take her skills to the next level.
“Although I’m not great, I can play along to most songs now,” Graves said.
A new song by Graves is “Black Clouds” dealing with the depression she dealt with 10 years ago.
“It’s not a happy song but the lyrics just came to me,” Graves said. “I think for me it helps me recognize what I’m feeling. Writing for me is an escape and helps me cope with what is going on or has gone on in my life. When singing, I find I have a much better connection to the song and I find it easier to portray the emotion I’m aiming for.”
Normally, Graves writes songs by going in her studio and writing for 30 minutes without stopping. All the thoughts that come out from that writing session are then used as the material to write a song from.
“I used to write a diary growing up and this helped me recognize and process my thoughts and I suppose that’s what I’m doing now when I’m songwriting,” Graves said.
When the track “Black Clouds” was finished, Graves said she felt a sense of relief because she had gone through dark times and survived. It was an uplifting experience.
The process of making music has led Graves to a new journey. She is now working on a new EP with a producer from the Netherlands named Peter Vugts, a.k.a. K3y5hift3r.
“I think the EP is finished now and being sent to different labels,” Graves said. “It’s all EDM songs and they all have great beats. It’s pretty different to the acoustic stuff I do, but I love it.”
Graves met Vugts on a Facebook group of producers and singers looking to collaborate. She sent him a link to her Soundcloud account and he sent her an e-mail with the track. Within a day she wrote and recorded the melody to “Light It Up” and sent it back to him and he liked it, and the musical partnership was formed.
“We work great as a team and he produces some awesome beats and I’m lucky to be working alongside him,” Graves said. “We have had some great feedback from family and friends too, so it’s encouraging.”
Graves said that listening to different styles of music has helped her open her eyes to new ideas, and writing about life experiences has helped her songwriting.
“I found I could only go so far without playing an instrument, so once I could play a few chords on the piano, it became easier to get the sound i was looking for, and easier to write,” Graves said.