“I want to be a voice for others who have or are going through the same thing.” It’s been a while – far too long – since Australian music heard from Grace Woodroofe, but she’s been through a lot over the last several years. 

Working under the name R.W. Grace, she was once one of the country’s most promising singer-songwriters in the 2010s, a graceful performer with resoundingly raw lyricism, a sort of Antipodean Fiona Apple.

The late Heath Ledger had been a massive fan; blues icon Ben Harper loved her sound; the New York Times favourably wrote about her music.

Behind the scenes, though, everything was not going so well: Woodroofe was in the midst of a toxic long-term relationship, one that suffocated her private life and stifled her artistic career.

That’s why she’s abandoned the R.W. Grace moniker, with its traumatic connotations, to reclaim her agency and name. So, meet Grace Woodroofe in 2023: strong, resilient, empowered, and ready to become the renowned singer-songwriter she always deserved to be.

Woodroofe just released her comeback single, the aptly-titled ‘Beginning’, and it’s a plaintive ode to doing one’s best to keep a relationship intact, no matter what it takes.

The hushed indie folk track is profoundly vulnerable, lyrically natural, and makes you sincerely thrilled that Woodroofe is back doing what she loves; the music world has lost too many wonderful women to mediocre men.

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To celebrate her welcome return, Tone Deaf conducted a fascinating Q&A with Woodroofe, which turned out to be as pleasingly candid as her songwriting.

Grace Woodroofe’s ‘Beginning’ is out now. 

First of all, welcome back! How does it feel to be releasing music again after such a lengthy absence?

Thank you! It feels terrifying and exhilarating yet somehow still natural. I’ve been sitting on a lot of music for a few years and was always waiting for the timing to feel right to start releasing. That feeling, I realise, just never comes. I finally pushed myself to make the decision to get it out and I can just run on that momentum again now. The heart behind the album is the real pusher though – I have to share this story.

Were you anxious about the reception from fans after being away so long? Was there any temptation to ‘play it safe’ on your comeback single?

I think my audience is so understanding and have always known that when I am ready, I will come back. They also know that I sing my truth and that’s what connects us, so there was never a question about ‘playing it safe.’ They connect to my honesty.

Tell us what ‘Beginning’ is about. 

‘Beginning’ portrays the denial I experienced as a toxic relationship came to an end. I was trying with all my might to keep us together. Keeping the blinders on, I believed in the good that resurfaced despite all the hurt. More specifically, the look in his eyes that made me forget it.

Which artists influenced the making of ‘Beginning’?

I listened to a lot of ’60s girl groups while writing this album like The Dreamliners, The Shangri-Las and The Ronettes. There’s always a hint of unease in the lyrics despite the absolute “love you to the ends of the Earth” style songs. That collision is so interesting to me and I like to play with recurring motifs throughout the songs that are hinting something dark to come.

How was it recording with Xavier Dunn? 

Working with Xavier is so joyous and inspiring. He is truly a master producer/writer/performer and has an infinite amount of ideas to work with. He’s also extremely positive and supportive, so I always love going over to work with him. I know I will always leave with a killer track.

What do you hope fans get out of the song? Hope? Solace?

I hope the project takes listeners on a journey and that ‘Beginning’ itself conveys a particular tenderness and vulnerability. I hope others that have lived through similar relationships can experience some type of catharsis and feel understood.

So you’re going as your own name rather than R.W. Grace – was there any particular reason behind this choice?

This folds into the larger story around the album but in short, the time of R.W. Grace was poisoned for me. Although those songs are absolutely written from my deepest hearts and guts, I was a broken woman. A toxic relationship influenced how I felt about being a ‘singer-songwriter.’ My partner ridiculed them in front of me, so I changed who I was. On this new album, I am reclaiming my agency, my name.

Without prying too much, were there any main reasons for your absence from music? Issues with the wider industry? 

It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable sharing this but I’m finally in a place where I’m strong enough to talk about it. I went through an emotionally abusive relationship that reached its head when my R.W, Grace EP came out. Essentially, I was stripped back of everything that made me, me and I became a shell of a human. Those that have been through a relationship like this know it’s such a gradual breakdown of your psyche that you don’t even realise it’s happening.

By the end, I was cancelling tours, saying no to amazing opportunities, cutting my friends and family out of my life. I definitely damaged the working relationships in my life as I was trying with absolutely everything I had to make the one with him work. With this new project and returning to my full name, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again. This is liberating and terrifying at the same time but it’s part of my story and I feel the need to honour my experience. Most importantly, I want to be a voice for others who have or are going through the same thing.

Coming back in 2023, do you feel stronger as an artist? More assured?

The industry has changed a lot since I released my first album and EP but I kind of enjoy being ignorant to elements of those changes now. As a younger musician starting out, I think I was too eager to please and follow the markers of success than honour what I wanted as an artist. The experience I’ve gained over the years has definitely solidified my confidence in what I want to do now and I realise a lot of what I relied on other people to do, I can do myself. It’s severely daunting a lot of the time but ultimately more rewarding.

Is ‘Beginning’ part of a full album? Will we hear more new music from you in 2023?

Absolutely. I am finalising the album as we speak and will continue to release songs until it’s ready. ‘Beginning’ is a small piece of the overall narrative. The album will follow a story and sonically resemble my experience over the last several years. I’ve been writing and working on it for some time now and feel like I’m ready to let it out into the world.

How was it returning to live performing this year? How did the supporting slot with Ben Harper come about?

I’m incredibly lucky to call Ben a longtime friend and mentor. He produced my debut album Always Want and took me on the road when I was starting out touring. Recently, I had been sending him the new demos for feedback and he happened to be coming to Australia around the same time I was set to release the first single. It lined up perfectly and was such a rejuvenating welcome back into live shows. It was exactly the experience I needed – affirmation that this was my path and that all my hard work paid off.

And do you have any more tour dates coming up?

I will be playing headline shows over the next few months throughout the country. I want to play live as much as possible as I feel that is the biggest connector for me with audiences. It’s also by far the most rewarding experience for me; feeling the energy in a room, feeding off the lights and sound. In the latter half of the year I have an international support tour in the works…

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