In the realm of pop music, where vulnerability often finds itself shrouded in metaphors and abstract storytelling, Gretta Ray took a bold approach with her latest album, 'Positive Spin'.Ray reflects on the profound personal journey embedded within the 2023 album, acknowledging its vulnerability. "It's a very vulnerable record. . . I don't think I quite remembered that, maybe, when I put it out as a whole," she confesses.
"It was so much fun with the campaign and releasing it, but I feel like after the year kind of wrapped up I was like, 'oh, I feel like I've just given so much of myself this year'; and I think that so much of that was to do with the fact there's just a lot of personal stuff in the songs – I was like, 'okay, I think I just need to not be perceived for a while'."
Despite the emotional toll, Ray is immensely proud of the project and speaks highly of the joy of connecting further with her fans throughout the album's release period. She even acknowledges a fan who had created a TikTok video to one of her tracks during our chat in the random Sydney cafe she's in, and pauses to say hello.
The authenticity of 'Positive Spin' lies in its direct and unapologetic approach to storytelling. Gretta acknowledges her writing had never been as direct as it was with this record.
"I guess with my other songs, they were quite metaphor heavy, and I would just kind of write them; they were literature essays, and I think I disguised a lot," she says, "but with 'Positive Spin', it was like the first lyric of the album is 'stretch marks on my thighs. . .', so I think from the second that the album begins, you're like, 'some real sh.t is about to go down'. We're just going to say everything the way that it is and that's that, which I love and I'm really proud that I got to do."
It's songs like 'Don't Date The Teenager', which Ray says was a scary song to release, but one she has loved performing live because of the connection she feels with the crowd when she performs it.
"Especially when I was touring the UK with Maisie Peters towards the end of last year, and I would just see in the eyes of these young girls that it was their story too, and just the way that they lean in because it's just walking you through this thing and I'm like, 'oh, she's been through something similar'," she says.
"It was really magical getting to see that, because the song's so upbeat and kind of carefree sonically, it was really quite healing, I think, to see how playful that heavy narrative became in the eyes of my audience, if that makes sense."
Gretta admits that while performing stripped-back acoustic versions of some tracks for TikTok in the album's promo campaign she noticed their intensity once the pop sentimentality was removed.
"If I'd gone in being like, 'this needs to feel really heavy and intense and confessional', I just don't know if I would've had the confidence to have been that honest, I suppose," she confesses, "and I think that there was something really freeing in the kind of lightheartedness of the production.
"We had such an amazing writing session with that song, and to be honest, getting to perform it and stuff, it's very much been kind of moved on from the heaviness of that topic. It's very detached in that regard, but it's still highlighting the importance of the message that I intend to send with that song."
In discussing the challenges of being a woman in pop music, Ray shares her insights on the pitfalls of social media and the comparison culture.
"I think it's very easy nowadays to take what you are doing and then go into the scary land that is the internet and look at everyone that is doing the same thing and compare where you are at to where they're at, and just find ways to pick apart where you're at," she admits.
Ray emphasises the importance of staying grounded and finding validation in direct connections with her audience.
"I think what keeps me really grounded is being really in touch with my audience directly and then getting to see them at shows and really feeling validated in that space with them, because when I'm reminded that I'm on this journey with them, with my audience, it just feels, I dunno. .. I feel like that's something that's really important to me," she says.
"Seriously, getting to spend so much of last year getting to know them was just the highlight of everything. So I feel very fortunate."
As the conversation shifts towards musical growth, Gretta discusses the evolution from her 2021 debut album, 'Begin To Look Around' to 'Positive Spin'. She acknowledges the improvement in her pop songwriting skills and a refined understanding of the pop song formula.
However, she emphasises the roots of her original style still shine through in songs like 'Dear Seventeen' and 'America Forever'. "I think that there are definitely times and songs in particular where it's good to fall on my more original way of writing, I suppose, which is long phrases and melodies that kind of go all over the place and very, a small amount of repetition and just kind of getting lost in storytelling.
"That's something that I'll always have a tendency to do," Ray says, "and so I think that it's nice, because I have really no idea what I'm going to make next, and I feel like there's a lot of room to explore."
The highlight of the 'Positive' Spin campaign, she says, has been connecting with community, from secret discord preview parties to massive international supports with artists like Maisie Peters, who Ray will share the stage again in Australia in a matter of weeks.
Though it's Ray's upcoming headline show in Wollongong for Great Southern Nights that will truly bring a sense of intimacy and connection with the audience, and that's something Gretta is truly looking forward to.
"These will be, I think, some of my first regional New South Wales shows; I am looking forward to these because my Sydney shows have always been insane and they have always felt like hometown shows as well," she says.
"So I'm kind of looking forward to the energy that regional New South Wales can bring to the shows; I think mainly just because it will have been so long since I've played and since I've seen them, and it just gives everyone an opportunity to all come together and sing all the songs together again."
Ray admits the smaller shows are always more scary than big arenas: "Which I know is a really strange thing, but it's true – just because you can see everyone, all of their faces, and you can't actually fathom that when you are in a room with thousands of people," she laughs.
"I think that I am really fortunate to have, as I've spoken about so much this interview, sorry, but because I have such a beautiful relationship with my audience, I think I just know so many of them now because I've met them so many times and I speak to them on the internet all the time. So it really does feel like, just like a fun hangout when we're at one of those intimate shows."
Gretta Ray plays LaLaLa's (Wollongong) on 22 March as part of the Great Southern Nights 2024 programme.
Gretta Ray 2024 Tour DatesSat 9 Mar - SummerSalt (Lake Macquarie)
Tue 19 Mar - The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane)* supporting Maisie Peters
Wed 20 Mar - Hamilton Station Hotel (Newcastle)
Thu 21 Mar - Hordern Pavilion (Sydney)* supporting Maisie Peters
Fri 22 Mar - Great Southern Nights @ LaLaLa's (Wollongong)
Sat 23 Mar - Margaret Court Arena (Melbourne)* supporting Maisie Peters