Grace Cummings rises with “Storm Queen”
At home in Melbourne, Grace Cummings stares out the window at the magpie eating all the fruit from her fig trees. At night, the bats will come and finish the rest. Captivated by scenes from nature, as well as her own humanistic perceptions and memories, Cummings wrote her second album queen of storms.
Partially informed by living a long confinement in Australia and Cummings’ own natural transcendence since his indie-folk debut in 2019 Anse du Refuge, also released by King Gizzard’s Flightless Records, queen of storms returns through the power of life and the ever-present divinity of nature and something beyond.
I have just discovered paradise / Where man is nothing / And the air is something growls Cummings on the cathartic opening anthem “Heaven,” repeating Amen and Ave Maria to his affirmations and revelations There is no God / There is no queen through the meditative renewal of “Always New Days Always”. Cummings’ baroque vocals melt around the more austere, piano-led “Dreams” vocals You miss your mother while you dream…is there any shelter, when you’re here all alonewhile “Up In Flames” offers a more thought-provoking expansive statement: take your precious mind and let it out.
Alternating between delicacy and melodrama, all elements of Cummings’ nature and personality surface around the softer piano and “Two Little Birds”, the expansive “Storm Queen” and the dramatic outing of “Fly A Kite “… Go fly a kite / Tie your troubles to the tail.
The writing of the songs, with the exception of one Shelter code-era of the track “Up In Flames”, Cummings recorded most of the songs on queen of storms in three takes or less, lending intimacy to each of its 11 stories.
Now embarking on an international tour, the Australian artist spoke to the American songwriter about making queen of stormsthe correlation between God and nature, and why songwriting makes her obsessed.
American Songwriter: Describe the formation of Storm Queen from the time of Refuge Cove? Were these older songs or a flurry of new ones?
Grace Cummings: The oldest song on the record is “Up In Flames”, which I actually wrote on the last day of recording. Shelter code and I did not put. All other songs I wrote in the one or two months before recording queen of storms– some of them in the previous weeks. I think with the coronavirus and the confinement, as soon as I knew I was going to the studio. I felt like I wanted to do something, so a lot of them showed up just before check-in.
AS: It sounds like some of the songs from queen of storms have been colored by COVID in a certain way, and are just going through that.
CG: I don’t want to pay attention to COVID. It’s not like a COVID lockdown album, but it’s inevitably colored with the moods of going through this because that’s what was happening. There’s a lot of being alone and a lot of things that happen in your own life in relationships that fall apart or get rocky when you’re in a really important situation like that, a situation that you can’t get over. escape.
AS: Is there a common thread between the 11 songs from “Heaven” to “Fly A Kite”?
CG: When I write something, I don’t really think about something like that. But when I was sitting listening to the record a million times, like you do when you’re mixing and mastering and all that, I noticed things popping up in all the songs, and I was kind of surprised by mine through line, if you will. A lot of it is about nature, its beauty and its terrifying ups and downs. There is a lot of talk about God too. I think maybe it’s a way for me to talk about something that’s bigger than me that I don’t understand, and the label you call that is God. It’s not necessarily something that I believe in, but I think it’s also something that’s also in nature. I talk about things in nature that have a kind of divinity to them, and that often comes back to me.
AS: How do songs come to you these days, and has that changed for you over the last few years?
CG: I think they always came to me the same way. It sounds cliche, but they kind of come to you. I don’t think I can sit there and try to drop something and write a song. It is there or it is not. For me, it usually comes all of a sudden or it won’t happen and I’ll move on. It’s kind of like a little manic episode when I write in general.
AS: Do you feel the music first, the lyrics, or is it a bit of both?
CG: Both. I think they both inform each other, so if I write something, without me, I explain what’s going on in the song with the language. I think I would like it to remind someone of the feelings that language has just with the sound of music. They come at the same time because I try to make the music sound like the words I write.
AS: How did it go until sequencing?
CG: I’m really one of those people who put these songs together in a very particular way. A lot of care has been taken in the sequencing of the album. I don’t know if it’s true for my own album, but it’s true for the others where the first song should make you want to listen to the rest of the album. The last one should make you want to put the album back. In the middle there have to be waves, so you don’t get so electrocuted by some kind of thing and you can stay there and be ready for the next song, and not be so weighed down by everything in one place. In saying that, I’m not stupid. I’m aware of the world we live in, and it’s also good to release songs and listen to what you want. I do things for both types of people.
AS: Now that queen of storms came out, what kind of songs do you feel attracted to now?
CG: I’m kind of in a kind of magic phase. Everything I write seems a little magical, not because they are magical. It’s like a theme for a movie or something. I write different things. I am in a different place. I feel like I’ve made extreme changes in myself over the past two years, so naturally the songs are going to be different because I’m different.
AS: How is it to be back on tour (currently with Viagara Boys and Ezra Furman in the US and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in Europe)?
CG: I’m ready to move on. I was looking forward to doing things again. Where I live in Melbourne, we have had the longest lockdown in the world. I just want to keep doing what I want to do, and I think I want to go further and expand and be with more people and play with more people and just go crazy.
AS: Looks like we’ll be seeing more collaborations with Grace Cummings in the future.
CG: I would love. I think it’s time for me to stop doing things myself and work with other people. We never know. I could just be sitting where I’m sitting now, watching the magpie stalk the figs from my tree. He’s so big and he sings a nice song in the morning, but he eats my figs. I have three by this window and it’s fig season. Then, at night, I hear the bats eating them.
AS: It’s the whole circle of nature and what a perfect transition to Queen of storms. How do you hope this album will reach listeners?
CG: When I listen to music, I can be really moved by it. It’s kind of like it was written just for me. It doesn’t matter what I think of the songs and what they are about. I hope just one person in the whole world will maybe think it was written just for them and they will somehow connect to it and have something with it what to establish a connection in this way. It’s more than I could ever hope for.
Photo: Gil Gilmour / Tribune PR