Just after graduating from the University of Southern California and touring with SuperDuper KYLE, pop artist Caroline Grace released a five-track EP that showcases her ability to be unapologetically vulnerable with her listeners. On Afraid of the Dark, released on May 24, she harmoniously combines fun beats and melodies with lyrics that aren't so lighthearted.
Odyssey: I love the fact that you were inspired to write Afraid of the Dark because of the photo process in the darkroom. I've never heard of that process inspiring music before. How did that idea come to you?
Caroline Grace: Back in November, I decided I wanted to write an EP. I wanted the concept to revolve around being afraid to be vulnerable and open up. I just started thinking about a darkroom and how you can't bring a photo into the light until it's fully developed – kind of like a person – you can't be the most authentic version of yourself until you deal with all the darkness in order to be brought fully into the light. Originally, I wanted to call the EP "Darkroom," but as I kept writing it, I started to like [the title] "Afraid of the Dark" because I was afraid to address the dark parts of myself. This EP is me addressing all the things that I had never wanted to talk about before. Talking about them was super liberating and taught me a lot.
O: Oh, for sure. And the people who deal with the same things are going to feel the same way through listening to it.
CG: For sure. I mean, a lot of the songs are fun. "Let You Go" is probably the most fun and "dancy," but the lyrics are like probably the least fun. I always thought that I had to write about rainbows and sunshine and always paint myself in the best light possible. But that's not being genuine or authentic or vulnerable.
O: Right, exactly. The "rainbows and sunshine" is not going to make as much of a difference in people's lives. Of all the songs on the EP, which one do you think was the most personal or the hardest to write?
CG: "Let You Go." And I think it's because like I say some things in there that isn't necessarily how I feel anymore. But I was reflecting on a time in my life when I really did feel that way – that I was too damaged for love or too this or too that. Admitting that was hard for me, and then choosing to put it in an EP was hard because [I don't want people to think] I'm like this now – I don't want people to judge me or think less of me. But this is how I genuinely felt in everybody feels like that at certain points, you know? It was the hardest decision put it in [the EP], but I really think that that it's going to relate to people the most.
O: I'm really glad you put it in. The songs that take courage to write and put out of the ones that are the most impactful.
CG: Yeah, exactly. Even people that are the most confident and love themselves the most are going to have moments of doubt and negative self-reflection. It's a common thing.
O: So, I know you did some live shows last year. Are you setting up any more once the EP comes out?
CG: For sure. I mean, my goal is to tour [the EP]. I'm just getting through the process of getting it out and then we'll see what comes of touring – most likely in the fall.
O: When you tour, are you thinking that you're going to perform "Let You Go?"
CG: For sure. I want to perform all the songs off the EP. I did all of these [songs] this year, so the first time I performed any of these songs was at a music festival I did a few weeks ago.
O: After you perform those genuine and vulnerable songs, have you ever had any experiences with listeners who told you they've gone through the same thing?
CG: For sure. I think that what's cool about music is you never know how people are going to interpret your songs. I could write one lyric that means something to me and it could impact somebody else in a totally different way. When people do react, it's a really cool feeling.
O: Do you have any meaningful examples of that?
CG: What's really cool about social media is I interact with people via DM a lot. I've had quite a few people reach out and give compliments, or tell me that [a song] helped them with something. Last year, a girl interviewed me for one of our classes. She messaged me saying she wanted to interview a female artist about female empowerment. I like saw it in my DM box – I guess she had seen me perform on the [SuperDuper] KYLE tour – and she freaked out that I responded and that I was going to answer her interview questions. That was really cool because it was all about education and how important it is. I'm such an advocate for all these things.
O: I love that you're an advocate for like multiple things.
CG: I mean that's why I went to school and got my degree. If I grow my music to where I want it to go, that means I'll have this huge platform and I want to use that platform to do a lot of things other than music. And that has always been a huge goal of mine. The reason I started in this industry is because I saw it as a vehicle to do a lot of other things and a lot of good in the world.
O: That's so inspiring!
CG: Oh, thank you!
O: Were there any other musicians that inspired you to go that route?
CG: For sure. Even when writing my thesis [on music and social activism], I was looking at some of my favorites ever, like Logic, Chance the Rapper, Bono, Beyoncé, and Sam Cook. Um, Anybody who harnessed their platform to talk about things that need to be different [in the world] is really inspiring to me.
O: And you're going to be that person for other people now.
CG: That is definitely my biggest goal in all of this.
O: What else do you want your fans to know about Afraid of the Dark and using your music to talk about mental health?
CG: Something that I think everybody should know is that the best things lie on the other side of your comfort zone, and a lot of this was not inside my comfort zone. But as you do more of it, it starts becoming your comfort zone. Just push yourself and be okay with not being okay.
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