FEATURED ARTIST – Ann Gray
Interview with Ann Gray – By: Dennis M. Kelly
Dennis: Hello Ann Gray! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions today! How are you?
Ann Gray: Doing well! Thank you so much for having me!
Dennis: You just released your debut album, “The Half Of It” a few weeks ago, how does it feel to have it out there finally?
Ann Gray: It feels so incredible to finally share this conglomeration of teenage angst with the world, especially after having worked on it for so long, and having hosted so many innumerous late night dance parties to its early mixes with my friends. It also serves as a sort of time capsule to that specific period of my life, particularly through the nostalgic and personal memories that they invoke.
Dennis: How has the reception to the album been from your fans so far?
Ann Gray: It’s been amazing! Sorry Excuse, the last single I released from the album, and the only one yet to have a music video (filmed by the incredible Dustin Booth owner and operator of Media Booth by the way), especially has gained such immense and empowering feedback. It’s just so interesting to see people respond in such genuine ways to experiences I had felt during my early teenage years.
Dennis: How long have you been working on this release and where was it recorded?
Ann Gray: I started recording the album at Soul Haven Studios in Virginia Beach, VA in late 2021, but the record itself contains songs written much prior to that, as well as those I randomly added in throughout that time, having written them the day before a studio trip or something.
Dennis: Tell me about your songs and songwriting process, and, is there an overall theme you wish to convey with this group of songs on the album?
Ann Gray: My songwriting process, specifically for the album, ranged a lot depending on the song, but I think the line in one of the first singles, Grace, encapsulates the story arc of that chapter in my life.
“Growing up happens when you least expect it to.”
I sometimes think of this line as an alternate title, as the lyric really illustrated how I look back on this time, realizing how much I grew and overcame challenges in such seemingly overwhelming circumstances (whether that be through a specific epiphany from a fight that lingered long after, a friendship that had slowly drifted apart, or the collection of home videos I found of my grandfather who passed away before I was born).
Dennis: That lyric is so true! How would you say this album compares lyrically to your EP, “Foolish?”
Ann Gray: I think it’s definitely much different from Foolish in its own way, as I very much wanted to try out new genres, styles, and techniques to illustrate the backdrop for this similarly new and developing part of my life.
Dennis: You’ve received great reviews, won the 2021 TasteBreakers Music Contest and more. How do these accolades and fan reactions impact you as an artist/songwriter? Do they help influence your musical direction in any way?
Ann Gray: All of the support from venues and fans has truly been astounding, and I’ve found that it really motivates me.
Dennis: I bet! It has to be very inspiring to get that positive energy back in such an amazing way! Given your age, how much time are you able to devote to your music career and do you have any trouble in balancing that time with the rest of your life?
Ann Gray: Ha, I coincidentally ask myself the same question quite often. I’m incredibly busy with school life and other extracurriculars, but music has always just been such an intrinsic and cathartic thing for me that I’ve always made it a priority to preserve its spot in my insane schedule.
Dennis: You’re also the co-founder (with your cousin) of the band, Times New Roman, please tell me about that.
Ann Gray: Yes! So I co-founded Times New Roman with my cousin (and more importantly and notably, best friend) Viv in the summer of 2020, and we started recording music together during the summer of 2021. Performing live with them is always just such a fun experience in itself as well, as I find myself much more relaxed and carefree when I get to collaborate and often mess around with them.
Dennis: Tell me about your vocals, did you have any vocal training?
Ann Gray: I started doing some formal vocal training when I was really young, but then stopped for a while and ended up resuming around fourteen or so (which I eventually also had to cease due to scheduling conflicts as well).
Dennis: Understandable. How about guitar, any guitar lessons?
Ann Gray: I actually first started by learning ukulele with the incredible Skye Zentz as my mentor. She was the one who first got me so infatuated with songwriting and the concept of writing and performing my own original music, and she has continuously served as such an amazing and reliable role model and friend throughout all of my music endeavors. I also started guitar lessons with Derek Smith about three years ago, which really helped to accelerate my understanding of the instrument.
Dennis: How would you say the lessons helped your ability to convey your music the way that you wanted?
Ann Gray: These lessons definitely instilled a new confidence and space for musical exploration, as I found myself delving into various topics, genres, and rhythms throughout the pieces that I had the honor of learning and the teachers I had the honor of learning from.
Dennis: Getting on to live performances, do you perform live regularly?
Ann Gray: I often try to when I can, it’s just sometimes quite difficult fitting in longer events when I have such a heavy academic workload on top of it.
Dennis: What type of venues have you performed at?
Ann Gray: I’ve performed at a variety of open mics, farmers markets, festivals, concert openings, and individual concerts of my own at local theaters.
Dennis: What is it about being a musician that keeps you going day after day?
Ann Gray: I think at the end of the day, it really all just stems back to the initial cathartic tool that music has always proved to be for me, as I find myself turning in to process many of the things in my life.
Dennis: How much time are you on social media and how often do you keep in touch with your fans?
Ann Gray: Pretty often. I love obnoxiously posting music updates on my Instagram account (@anngray_music) and getting to interact with fans.
Dennis: You’ve already kicked 2023 off with a great start with the release of your album, what do you have going on now for the rest of the year?
Ann Gray: I’ve got a lot of new and really exciting things in the works, with some new mixes having just decorated my inbox quite recently, and I honestly am biting my lip in a feeble attempt not to leak them.
Dennis: Ooo, that sounds very interesting and exciting! I can’t wait to hear more about that when the news is ready to share! What are some long term goals you’d like to work toward and accomplish one day?
Ann Gray: I don’t really have a definitive answer in that department except for a broad hope to further my musical career and techniques while developing a more extensive fanbase.
Dennis: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?
Ann Gray: That I love them dearly and wish all of them the best of days.
Dennis: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions for me today, I wish you all the best with your very promising career!
About Ann Gray
Ann Gray is a captivating singer-songwriter from Norfolk, Virginia. Winner of the 2021 TasteBreakers Music Contest, her songs pair the whimsy of youth with the complicated nature of growing up in the modern age. Ann Gray’s eclectic debut EP “Foolish”, received glowing reviews and regional acclaim, picking up a Veer Music Award nomination for “Best Acoustic/Folk”.
A busy and quickly accelerating sensation, Ann Gray has graced the stages of The Zeider’s American Dream Theater, Stockley Gardens Arts Festival and has made guest appearances on Out of the Box with Paul Shugrue, Hunter at Sunrise and Coast Live. Ann Gray’s original song “The Space Between” was featured on Hunter Hughes’ compilation album, “Sunrise Sessions Vol. 2: The Pandemic Recordings”. Ann Gray was also featured on an episode of WHRO’s Curate series.
In 2022, Ann Gray released a series of new singles, and a holiday EP, herself, as well as a new EP by Times New Roman, a duo project with her cousin, Viv. Ann Gray’s first full length album “The Half Of It” was released on January 27, 2023.
Heralded in Veer Magazine as “a gifted artist, a songwriter to watch” you don’t want to miss Ann Gray.
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Times New Roman: