“I find it really boring to write about myself,” says Gia Ford. Instead, the singer and songwriter uses her songs to dive deep into the stories of others, embellishing them and adding her own perspective but using external narratives as her jumping-off point.
Signing to Dirty Hit for 2020 debut EP Murder in the Dark, Ford made dark alt-pop filled with 808s and electronic-leaning sonics. Lurking in the background, though, was a lifelong love of Americana and sweeping rock soundscapes, and when she parted with the label due to creative differences and went independent, this facet of her artistry came to the fore.
On recent singles from her debut album, due out in mid-2024, she uses literature as a springboard from which to explore others’ stories. This is best shown on new single ‘Falling in Love Again’, which tells the story of her friend’s father, who mourned the death of his wife by asking his new partner to dress up in her clothes. “That’s so uncomfortable, but also really beautiful and sad,” she reflects of the story. “It’s about those strange ways that people grieve, and how they aren’t often very comfortable to talk about [them]. He was trying to express something, and he didn’t know how to do it. It just leaked out into life the way these things do.”
This bold and multi-faceted world that Ford creates is also enriched by her co-writers, who bring different perspectives to the stories. “I wish I could just write something completely alone,” she says, “but I think there’s something really amazing about writing with other people because you have so many different perspectives on something. We learn about life through writing songs with other people as well. It’s not just about the song, it’s about the relationship that you have with those people.”
This songwriting style is intimately linked to — and significantly enhanced by — the sonic direction she is now travelling in. On ‘Falling in Love Again’, the story of the grieving widower is given space to make its impact accompanied by sparse and luscious piano licks and woozy guitar. “A lot of the stories that I’m drawn to require a big open sky and big open space,” she says of her new sonic palette, which recalls Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell and her new labelmate on Chrysalis Records, Laura Marling. “It’s hard to describe, but it’s that vastness of sound that I like.”
This particular sound was enhanced by recording her album in Los Angeles at the famous Sound City Studios, where Fleetwood Mac first met. “It felt like I was surrounded by the spirits of all these people,” says Ford, smiling. While there she also visited Laurel Canyon, a place with a distinctive and legendary musical vibe that Ford taps into on her new material.
Her upcoming debut album, though not written as such, has ended up as something of a concept album, as Ford explains. “Every song is about an outsider of some kind. Every character is an outsider. If it’s a song about me, it’s because I also felt separate from something. I haven’t even fully deciphered it for myself yet, but there’s a reason why I’m drawn to that theme. Everyone feels separate from something, don’t they? You live life in your own head, even though we’re all living the same thing. You do feel inherently separate from the world. You’re the main character because you’re the only one that can experience your consciousness.”
If Ford does sing of her own life, it’s through heavy metaphor, such as on new single ‘Alligator’, a driving soft rock hit which sees her refer to herself through parallel beings in the animal kingdom. “I wanted to embody them, so I didn’t talk directly about myself. That song’s about trying really hard to get my music noticed on TikTok and just generally in the world. I was getting frustrated at how difficult it was. I felt like I was doing everything correctly, but no one was noticing it or recognising all the work that I had put in.” In keeping with her distinct and unique lyrical expression, she chose to approach the topic from a metaphorical perspective.
This personal detachment and character-led style is also seen in the singer’s — real name Molly McCormick — artist moniker. “To me, Gia Ford is a narrator. Maybe that will change and maybe she’ll be just me, but I’m an observer. It’s from my perspective, but I’m telling everyone else’s stories.” She then pauses for a second, before deciding: “I think I’m afraid of writing about myself. I’m more comfortable pretending to be other people.”
Taken from Issue 14 of Rolling Stone UK, our Awards Issue. You can buy it here.