Written By Kelly Holm
At age 11, singer-songwriter, Anna Graceman dazzled a national audience as a finalist on the sixth season of “America’s Got Talent.” Now, nine years later, she’s soon to capture an international one: she claimed victory on a recent episode of “Songland,” and her original song “Gold” will be recorded by Bebe Rexha and used by NBC in promotion of the Tokyo Olympics.
“I learned that even the most successful artists and songwriters that I idolize and look up to are still human beings,” she says of her experience appearing on the show. “At one point they were in a similar place [to the one] that I’m in now.”
And in the future, she’ll surely be in a similar position to where they are now. In late May, just before her “Songland” episode aired, Graceman dropped her third studio album, The Way The Night Behaves.
“This album actually started off as a bunch of singles. I’d challenged myself to release a song and video every month for the year of 2019,” she shares. “Twelve of these songs were previously released, some of them were written three [or] four years ago.”
Graceman says every song on the record was inspired by deeply-felt emotions and personal experiences. Her favorite tracks include “Fragile” and “Night Follows,” the latter of which had its video premiere on June 24.
“It was actually really challenging for me to write ‘Night Follows.’ Even with the experience I’d gone through, all the emotions I felt and plenty of inspiration, it took me about a year to write about it,” Graceman said. “[The video’s visual effects] were inspired by the process of experiencing and dealing with trauma. There are shots that represent the ‘before perspective’ of things being positive and without fear. Then there are visuals that represent being surrounded by darkness.”
The video took about three hours to shoot, with 90 minutes of filming taking place between two days. Its chilly aesthetic is as majestic as the Alaskan landscape Graceman hails from.
“The most important shot… is when I’m standing in the dark, trying to shine through it,” Graceman says. “The sparkly dress represents the stars and being resilient in the midst of darkness.”
The message of durability that “Night Follows” conveys is one Graceman takes to heart while she contends with an industry that she contends with an industry that doesn’t always take young women like her seriously.
“I’m less than five feet tall… people tend to doubt my abilities at first glance, but the music speaks for itself,” she says. “It’s actually really fun to surprise people when I start singing.”
As her star-studded childhood of appearing on Ellen and competing on AGT suggests, Graceman’s been a performer for a hot minute. Even before that, however, she was a writer.
“I was in the first grade and had recently discovered in school that I loved to write stories. I’d been playing piano for a couple of years at that point and soon realized that I could combine my love for writing and my love for music,” she said. “Once I discovered music, there was no stopping me.”
Graceman penned her first song, “So I Cried,” at age six, inspired by a family member’s grief for a lost loved one. By nine, she was performing at her hometown folk festival, and pleading with Ellen’s audience about the need to save the Earth through her original tune “Paradise.”
Along the way, she’s been inspired by artistic influences ranging from Maya Angelou to Adele. Lately, she’s been taking part in a lot of Zoom songwriting sessions, and hopes to collaborate with Greg Scott.
“It’s definitely not the same as being in the room together, but I think we’ve all gotten more used to it,” she said with a laugh. “Greg and I have talked about [collaborating]. Hoping to write with him soon.”
And even though Graceman’s already released a 14-track record into the world this year, she’ll have even more music to share with her fans before 2020’s over.
“They are some songs that I’ve been holding onto for a long time, so I can’t wait to share them with the world,” she says. “I’m vulnerable in my music because I want to connect… my ultimate goal is to continue writing for the rest of my life.”
Follow Anna Graceman
Watch the official video for “Night Follows“