Breakthrough artist and shining member of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2021, Harper Grae, premieres her new single “I Think About You” ahead of the anticipated release on October 8.
The retrospective track is a product of the pandemic. Unprecedented time for reflection lent itself well to Grae’s touching tribute to the broken relationships that shaped who she is today.
Coming up on her ninth year in Nashville, “I Think About You” lands at a pivotal moment in her career trajectory. In 2015, she released her first single, “Hell or Highwater,” under her birth name Shanna Henderson. But by 2017, she had rebranded herself as Harper Grae— the first name in honor of her maternal grandparents’ last name, and the last name that serves as an acronym for “God Redeems All Equally”—a personal mantra. She filed her debut full-length album, Break Your Crowns, under her new moniker. In 2018 Grae released a four-song EP, Buck Moon Melodies, featuring “Monster” and “Bloodline.” These two tracks channel the adversity of her troubling childhood in Alabama into characterizable sonic strength.
“I’ve been in town for a very long time, and songwriting is so special to me,” Grae tells American Songwriter over the phone. “There are some stories you may have written a long time ago, but then you go back to it a few years later and you’re like ‘I could have maybe said this better or said that differently.’ And that’s where ‘I Think About You’ came into the forefront of my songwriting process.”
The original thought dates back even further to when she met her now-wife Dawn a year and a half before the pandemic began. “At least in my story, I have found that when you find someone new all of your exes, start falling out of the woodworks,” says Grae. “And they are maybe wanting to get you back, or it’s like this weird wedge. So when I met Dawn, I had so many exes come back into my space saying ‘You never think about me’ or ‘You don’t even talk to me anymore.’ That’s true, but it’s also not true—I think about you, it just doesn’t mean that I pick up the phone to talk to you. And I had many friends that had similar experiences, so I was like ‘Maybe there’s something to that.’”
“I Think About You” came into fruition by dedicating every single lyric to a past-lover with a specific thing or moment that Grae associates with that person or their relationship. For every ex that approached Grae to accuse her of not thinking of them, there is a poignant line that proves them wrong. “I was like, ‘you can refer back to this song now, and this can be your happy place,’” she laughs. “It’s kind of telling of how many people I’ve dated because there are a lot of lyrics in this song.”
Each line unfolds as a nostalgic vignette. The first, When the rains coming down and the sun’s still shining is a vivid memory associated with one person from her past. And the second, When I see a silver civic on a backroad driving is symbolic of another. “They really do jog my memory of different people, and you can listen to it and know those secrets behind it or you could listen to it and think it’s about one person,” says Grae.
The stillness of the pandemic put things into perspective for the artist, as it did for many others. Now, as a new mother living through the unnerving experience of the last year and a half, she recognizes the invaluable elements of her life. “For me, what’s important is my family and my career, my music,” says Grae. “I think being in this industry, women get pushed to the side. Like when you decide to get married or decide to have a baby, it’s almost like you become damaged goods—I hate that. But having a family lit a fire beneath my feet, and I started creating opportunities for myself.”
Bypassing the typical co-writing protocols, Grae has instead been reaching out to her dream collaborators over social media. Most recently, she sent an Instagram DM to Joy Williams—her “songwriter crush” about working together in the future. The worst she could say was no, but to Grae’s delight, she said ‘yes.’
“I don’t think that I would have had that perspective on my career of just ask for what you want if it weren’t for the pandemic,” she says. “Furthermore, my perspective of what I’m writing about has shifted, where I’m writing from experience which comes with, deep-diving into your stories, and being bold and unapologetic. I’m going back to my roots of storytelling songs, incorporating a lot of visuals—I think I went away from that a little bit.”
This homecoming experience through storytelling was bred from necessity. Social distancing disallowed her usually co-writing session, and for the first time in several years, Grae found herself writing alone. She adds, “As beautiful, as co-writes are, sometimes you should return to the space of being in a room with yourself and a piano and just let whatever comes out, come out.”
Shifting perspective unleashed critical components of her creative process that allow for songs like “I Think About You.”
“It goes without saying It’s such an honor to be a part of the next-gen country,” she says. “And I think the best way that I can honor being a part of this class is by being a part of the women of country music who have a family and inspire others to recognize that you can do it all; you don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why it’s important to you to be a mother. And you really can do it all with the right support system.”
Today (October 7), marks Grae’s first show as part of Josh Kelley’s tour in Nashville. With the help of a loving wife, the new mother will continue on for the 16-stop run that concludes November 20 in Seattle.
Tickets and tour information are available on Grae’s website. Listen to the exclusive premiere of “I Think About You,” below.
Photo Credit: Dire Image