“Happy, Sad, & Nostalgic”: GRAE Dives Inside the ‘Whiplash’ of Her Dazzling, Undeniable Debut

GRAE © Gemma Warren
GRAE © Gemma Warren
Toronto standout artist-to-watch GRAE dives into the depths of her triumphant debut album ‘Whiplash,’ a coming-of-age record that captures inner turmoil – the traumatic beauty and pain of our twenties – with stunning grace and cinematic passion.
Stream: “Boxes” – GRAE

The title ‘Whiplash’ came to be because the album takes you on a journey of ups and downs. It’s all over the place, and so was I back then. When listeners think they have my emotions figured out, it’s like ‘Bam!’ I’m right back to where I started, and you don’t really know what’s going on.

Our twenties are the ultimate emotional upheaval:

A time of self-discovery, transformation, and comeuppance, dissonance and harmony, dreams realized and insecurities exposed, connections lost and new ones found. There’s a seemingly constant churn as we come into our own. The turbulence of teenage angst is amplified as we navigate the hills and valleys of young adulthood, our actions and decisions shaping who we are inside and out at every point along the way. It’s a beautifully exciting and equally fragile time in a person’s life, and it’s this potential and possibility, joy and pain that serve as the exhilarating backdrop for GRAE’s highly anticipated debut album.

A coming-of-age record set to a dazzling indie pop soundtrack, Whiplash captures inner turmoil – the traumatic beauty and pain of our twenties – with stunning grace and cinematic passion. It’s a wondrous, intimate set of soaring highs and sweeping lows, emotional pushes and pulls that ensure we’ll keep coming back for more long after the first listen.

Wherever you are in life, you will surely relate to GRAE’s visceral portrayal of the human experience.

Whiplash - GRAE
Whiplash – GRAE
I’m feeling nauseous
Feeling a little too cautious
Kinda wanna let it all go
Not that kid anymore
One poster at the time
I take ’em off the wall
Don’t need them anymore
But I’m still holding on
A little too hard
So sentimental, let it all go down the drain
(Nostalgia knows me well, nostalgia knows me so)
So sentimental, I don’t wanna regret it, no
(Nostalgia knows me so)
But I’m not that kid anymore
Yeah, I’m not that kid, no
– “Boxes,” GRAE

Released April 15, 2022 via AWAL, Whiplash is an undeniable triumph.

GRAE’s debut album arrives two and a half years into a career that has been filled with growth, movement, and acclaim for the rising Toronto-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

One of Atwood Magazine’s longtime artists to watch, GRAE introduced herself with the songs “Your Girl” and “New Girl” in mid-2019 – both of which featured on her four-track debut EP, New Girl, released later that same year. “Newcomer GRAE has an absolutely enthralling, cool and smooth rhythmic alt-pop style about her,” we wrote in our Editor’s Picks at the time. “‘Your Hands’ finds GRAE painting a dazzling, softly intense and emotive soundscape. Percussive vocal work creates an impressive background, out of which GRAE rises with tidal force to reject a former manipulative relationship.”

GRAE © Gemma Warren
GRAE © Gemma Warren

GRAE has continuously left us stunned (and at times, at a loss for words) over the past two impressively prolific years. 2020’s sophomore EP Permanent Maniac delivered increasingly charged, heart-on-sleeve lyrics delivered through vivid vocals and equally alluring soundscapes bustling with sweet guitars and dynamic beats. At the center of it all lay a voice of pure gold.

I’m pretty great, ’cause breaking up didn’t break me…

– “No Lovey Dovey,” GRAE

Fast-forward to the present, and GRAE presents herself as a star in the making, bridging the alternative and pop worlds with effortless ease and indisputable style. Her lyrics are clever and provocative, her instrumental work is impeccable and engrossing, and her performances are irresistible: Charming, captivating, and charismatic all at the same time. Every song makes the head turn so much that it’s no wonder this album gives us whiplash (pun intended).

Speaking to Atwood Magazine, GRAE explains how this album came together over the timeframe of a year.

“I believe the first song I wrote for it was ‘Spinning.’ I wanted to create a vibe like my song ‘Permanent Maniac’ as I had newly just found my ‘music identity’ and wanted to keep on that vibe of The Cure, new wave, indie type music,” she explains. “I didn’t know I was creating an album; I thought maybe another EP, but it naturally progressed into the project it is now, and an album made sense.

“I knew with whatever project I created after the Permanent Maniac EP, I wanted it to have that ‘new wave’ vibe I was going for,” she continues. “I didn’t go into the creative process with it all planned out. After I wrote ‘Spinning’ and ‘Soft,’ it was a couple of songs in we decided it would be an album; that’s when I knew I wanted things to fit sonically. I would’ve liked that regardless, but now I had to make sure I knew what it was what I wanted.”

“A debut album is a big deal, and I’ve always been a bit confused about my music identity, so I took a vibe and stuck with it for the album’s sake. Which, in return, helped me with the ‘music identity anxiety’ I had been experiencing prior. When I created ‘Room In The Desert,’ it was on a day I lacked inspiration and wanted to create something different from the rest of the album, a more ‘B side’ track. I think every album should have one of those, though, that keeps it interesting. It’s the same story for ‘Boxes,’ my favorite song on the record; it’s more ‘rock’ than the ‘soft indie’ music I was making. I wanted to make sure everything still fit together, including standout tracks the listener may not expect.”

A room in the desert
Move through whatever
Is it bad I cry most days?
Human projector
Heartache collector
Kinda like my cry most days
Gonna have to hold me back
Little nymphomaniac
Blame my only zodiac
Life feels like a paperback

Trial and error really do work when it comes to music creation, and the more she wrote and recorded, the more GRAE chiseled away at the artistry we hear in full today.

Whiplash introduces a more confident version of myself,” she says. “I had been through enough mistakes in the past to see where I was going wrong, and I could fix it this time around. I deep-dived into my influences, and how I wanted the album to sound, I no longer felt so lost and confused. I think it captures my artistry beautifully because it’s authentic to what I wanted. Everything you hear came from me and my ideas. That should be a given, but sometimes, like my first project, New Girl‘ I let other people take the lead, the producers, etc. when I was unsure what I was doing or what I wanted. Whiplash is the product of the confidence I gained where I could say, “This is what I want, these are my influences, these are my ideas, let’s go.” It’s a significant project for me, as someone so confused about what I wanted in the past. I can listen to Whiplash and feel the certainty of ‘Yeah, this is it. This is what I’ve been searching for all these years.'”

“I may be going in circles when I say this,” she doubles down, “but the difference between this project and previous ones is the fact I knew what I wanted. The producer who created my first EP, New Girl, took more control of the project. He brought in his influences and whatnot. I was down to experiment at the time because I was only 19 and had no idea what I was doing, but looking back, it wasn’t really what I now would’ve gone for; that’s okay, though, because it’s all about the growth process. My EP Permanent Maniac was when I had a slightly better understanding of what I wanted my sound to be. I got connected with Connor Seidel, Derek Hoffman and Willa Milner. They are now the primary team I work with, and it’s been an unbelievable journey thus far. Derek and Connor allowed me to experiment with everything I wanted to, which resulted in a more refined sound. Although, Permanent Maniac was still a bit all over the place. You had songs like ‘2725’ and ‘Permanent Maniac’ that were the New Wave Soft Indie vibe. Then you had ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Ex Lovers’ that were the Indie Pop vibe. Those songs were almost too ‘pop’ for me (which might seem crazy because they’re still pretty ‘indie’), but they were good songs, so I let them be on the EP.”

“I’ve had a lot of identity crises throughout the past three years making music professionally, and it’s always been tough for me to box myself into a genre. When creating Whiplash, I shed many tears and still had moments of doubt and anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes creating art can have a lot of pressure. But when the project started coming together, I remember feeling a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s been an incredible journey of self-discovery.”

GRAE © Gemma Warren
GRAE © Gemma Warren

There’s something particularly special about feeling an artist’s vision expressed so confidently and self-assuredly in song. GRAE has always carried a certain swagger about her work, but Whiplash steps it up another five or ten notches; there’s no denying the artist’s energy, her passion, or the sheer gravitational pull of her songwriting.

With all the chaos and creative juices flowing through it, the album’s name sounds, at least retrospectively, like a no-brainer.

“The title ‘Whiplash’ came to be because the album takes you on a journey of ups and downs,” GRAE explains. “Some songs are like ‘I love you‘ and the next is ‘I hate you,’ ‘I want to forget you,’ back to ‘You’re amazing, I love you‘ again. It’s all over the place, and so was I back then. I was experiencing relationships that confused me, and I didn’t know how I felt. After listening through the album a few times, my manager, Laurie, and I thought ‘Whiplash’ made sense as the title. When the listeners think they have my emotions figured out, it’s like ‘Bam!‘ I’m right back to where I started, and you don’t really know what’s going on.”

She may keep us guessing emotionally, but from a musical perspective Whiplash is impressively as diverse as it is cohesive: A vast exploration of the indie/alternative real, all with a bit of new wave-meets-pop flare. Album opener “Boxes” sets the perfect scene with its immediacy – the high energy of electric guitars coalescing with GRAE’s soaring, achingly evocative vocal lines.

It’s an instant and easy highlight not just for listeners, but for the artist as well.

New room in another house
Same feelings, different city
I kept the boxes with my old t-shirts
Yeah, I swear, they still fit
One record at a time
I rip ’em off the wall
Don’t need thеm anymore
But I’m still holding on
A little too hard
So sentimental, let it all go down the drain
(Nostalgia knows me well, nostalgia knows me so)
So sentimental, I don’t wanna regret it, no
(Nostalgia knows me so)
But I’m not that kid anymore
Yeah, I’m not that kid, no
– “Boxes,” GRAE

“‘Boxes’ is my favorite track off the record,” GRAE admits. “Nostalgia hits me like a ton of bricks, so that track was healing to create. I also love the production a lot and would love to make more songs like that in the future. ‘Spinning’ is also a special one because it’s super inspired by The Cure and it’s also about my Dad! Which automatically makes it amazing!” she chuckles.

As a lyrically forward artist, GRAE shares a few of her personal favorite lines from the album:

  • From ‘Boxes’: “‘One poster at a time, I’ll take them off the wall, don’t need them anymore, but I’m still holding on, a little too hard.’ Despite being a straightforward line, it holds a lot of significance. I’ve always had posters on my walls from the artists I’ve admired since I can remember. Three artists hold such importance to me, Michael Jackson (my first ever obsession), Prince (I can’t even describe how much I love him) and Robert Smith from The Cure (who has inspired a lot of the songs you hear on Whiplash) I thought I’d have their posters on my wall forever. That I’d never change, I’d always be ‘that kid.’ The whole song honestly means a lot to me, but that line, in particular, stands out.”
  • From ‘Spinning’: “‘Failed math, failed it twice, but we laughed it off.’ I wrote this song for my Dad, and it touches on the time we spent together after my Mom passed away. He has always been my biggest supporter and best friend. He knew I wanted to pursue music from a young age and did everything he could to make that dream come true for me. Even laughing off the times I failed math in high school because he knew I wouldn’t need it to be a musician!”
  • From ‘Room In The Desert’: ‘Is it bad I cry most days?‘ Those lyrics ring very true to me. I am a very emotionally charged human and cry a lot.”

Whiplash is the kind of album we can sing to, dance to, laugh to, and cry to.

Grae delivers an unforgettably heartwarming, invigorating experience while spilling her soul in eleven enchanting songs that capture the volatility, the uncertainty, the excitement, and the pure, raw adrenaline of our twenties.

Whether it’s the implosion of “Grenade,” the tender caress of “Forget You,” the warm pulse of “No Lovey Dovey,” the intimate confession of “Don’t Know How to Girlfriend” or the infatuation that courses through “Outta This World,” Whiplash does absolutely right by its name.

GRAE © Gemma Warren
GRAE © Gemma Warren

“This album explores falling in love and losing love. I think that’s one of the most relatable things in the world,” GRAE shares. “So I hope my music can be there for them as a friend if they need something to lean on. I use music as a form of therapy when I create it and listen to it, so If any of my listeners need something to get them through the day, I always hope my music can do that for them.”

“I’ve taken away a lot from creating this project, the number one thing being to always listen to myself and what I want to make. To stay true to my influences and create music authentic to that. With that said, I hope my listeners can understand my journey. It may seem weird I went from a project like New Girl to Whiplash as the genres are so different, but it’s been a self-discovery process, like I always say. So I hope they like the music I’m creating now as much as I do!”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside GRAE’s Whiplash with Atwood Magazine as she goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her debut album!

— —

:: stream/purchase GRAE here ::
Stream: ‘Whiplash’ – GRAE

:: Inside Whiplash ::

Whiplash - GRAE

— —


‘Boxes’ is a coming-of-age track about coming to terms with letting things go and growing up.


‘Spinning’ is a song I wrote for my Dad. After my Mom passed away, he and I were the only ones left in the house, along with my dog Missy. This song is significant because it touches on the time we spent together during that time. My Dad has always been my best friend and greatest supporter, so I wanted to honor that in a song.


‘Soft’ is about the beginning stages of a relationship and falling in love.


‘Grenade’ is about feeling not okay, but feeling secure around your partner to the point where even if things blow up, you know they’ve always got you.

Forget You

‘Forget You’ was written about a toxic relationship I romanticized. I wrote this song as a goodbye to that person.

No Lovey Dovey

‘No Lovey Dovey’ Is about this person I dated who didn’t like to be called any cute nicknames. They got weirded out whenever I called them ‘baby’ and stuff, haha. That relationship is now over.

Outta This World

‘Outta This World’ is about coming across someone you’re super fascinated by and chasing after them so you can get to know more about them.

Room in the Desert

‘Room In The Desert’ was written on a day I lacked inspiration. I decided to write a song that sounded cool instead of making the most sense.

Like You

‘Like You’ is about navigating a relationship when you don’t even like yourself. I was with someone at the time and felt so overwhelmed because I didn’t know how to take care of them and myself at the same time.

How Very Dare You

I laugh aloud when I think about this song. I was on and off with this person for years, and they stood me up the last time we ever tried to make plans. I traveled somewhere to be with them, and they didn’t show up. It was a disaster. Anyways, they decided to hit me up after six months of not hearing back from them, saying they had lost my address and wanted to send me a letter confessing their feelings and what happened. LOL! No thanks.

Don’t Know How to Girlfriend

I went into the session and mentioned to Connor and Willa that ‘I don’t know how to girlfriend,’ and I felt pretty stressed about my then relationship. Willa was like, ‘that’s a great song idea.’ and we ended up writing a track about it.

— —

:: stream/purchase GRAE here ::

— — — —

Whiplash - GRAE

Connect to GRAE on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © Gemma Warren

:: Stream GRAE ::

More from Mitch Mosk
Premiere: Age.Sex.Location’s Intimate “Cinnamon Girl” Evokes the Sweet Taste of Connection
Authentic, dynamic, and full of passion, Age.Sex.Location's intimate "Cinnamon Girl" captures the...
Read More