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Meet Hannah Grae, the fledgling rock hero who wants to take over the world

"I want to take over the world!," proclaims Hannah Grae - who combines pop-punk sensibilities with heartbreaking lyrics

By Emma Wilkes

Hannah Grae (Picture: Press)

Hannah Grae isn’t living the life she expected to. She thought she’d be at drama school by now, but in what at the time was a crushing blow, she didn’t manage to secure a place. “When I didn’t get in, I just thought my life was over and I had failed,” she recalls. The saying goes, however, that rejection is redirection, and it nudged her onto a path that she didn’t expect to take – making music on the internet. “It wasn’t really a choice; it was like I was kind of forced, but I’m very glad it happened.”

Instead of going to university, Grae made her own musical education, posting not only covers to YouTube but reinterpretations of existing songs that she had written, such as writing a response to Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘drivers license’ from the perspective of the “blonde girl” dating Rodrigo’s ex boyfriend. “I was writing from different perspectives, and people would send in their stories and I would write songs from that. There was a point where I was posting every day and therefore writing every day, and I learned so much about [conveying] feelings [through music] in that time. I benefitted so much from that in my own music.”

Distantly related to the gravelly angst of Alanis Morrisette and the catchy Disney pop-punk colouring the background of her childhood, Grae’s sound combines crunchy yet clean guitars with addictive pop melodies. Put simply, it’s somewhere in the cross section between the gritty indie rock of Wolf Alice, the sweet-and-sour vibes of Olivia Rodrigo and the cinematic coming-of-age soundtracks Beebadoobee commits to tape. If you lived a misspent youth, constantly asking yourself if there was more to life than exams and toxic friends, Hannah Grae gets it.

Lots of people started out making music in their bedrooms, but you end up making music from your garden shed. How did that happen?

Well, because then people can’t hear me! We moved into a new house seven years ago and my dad built a little shed in the garden. He doesn’t like it being called a shed actually – he calls it a cabin. It was initially supposed to be his office and then it turned into a little Ninjitsu studio because he’s into Ninjitsu. Then it turned into my little keyboard space and now my brother has started a band and he has taken over the cabin. We’ve had to soundproof it because we’ve had a complaint from the council!

When did the transition from doing covers and reinterpretations to writing your own music happen?

When I first did my first proper writing session two and a bit years ago, I knew I wanted to be very autobiographical, because I had so much pent up anger and bitterness from school and I needed to get it out in some way. I realized that I got a lot of closure from writing about things, so that’s when that journey kind of started.

How does your debut mini album, Hell Is A Teenage Girl, reflect that anger and bitterness?

That whole project is different angles of my teenage years and my school experience. ‘Time Of Your Life’ is about me feeling like I’ve maybe wasted those years, because I didn’t have the best time. But, you know, that’s ridiculous. You can’t force an experience. So I’ve kind of took a little sarcastic tone in that song. There’s also like songs about friendship breakups and then ‘I Hope You’re Happy’ is kind of like a little ‘See ya, I’m doing better now.’

How does your next project build on what you were doing with ‘Hell Is A Teenage Girl’?

I took a five month writing break between those two projects, which was really beneficial. In that time, I moved to London, and I wrote the whole of Hell Is A Teenage Girl when I was still living in Wales. So I experienced a lot of new things in that five month period. The second project in terms of concept is more about starting your 20s. I guess a lot of it is about me choosing a life that I didn’t think I would choose, I thought I would go to university and I didn’t. In terms of musicality, I wrote that project when I had started playing live, because with Hell Is A Teenage Girl, I hadn’t played one live show yet. I took the experience of playing live seeing people’s reaction to certain things into writing my second project.

You’ve said your new single ‘Screw Loose’ “kickstarted a new headspace” for you. Where were you in your mind when writing it and the other songs you have that are yet to be released?

I was in a pretty bad place when I was writing that project. I was struggling elsewhere in my life and I threw myself into writing, completely just distracting myself with these songs. They’re literally my favourite songs I’ve ever written. They make me feel so happy now in hindsight, but if you actually listen to the lyrics [closely], pretty much all of the songs are pretty devastating! The first song that I wrote for this project was ‘Screw Loose’ and it was just when I was feeling like every day was the same and I lost a lot of hope for what I was doing.

What would you say the big dream is for you right now?

A big dream is for me to take over the world! My main goal is to be in a room full of people, no matter how big or how small, and every single person in there knows every single lyric and [it feels] so alive when I’m playing live.