Hannah Grae On Pop Punk Influences & ‘It Could’ve Been You’ | Breakout

Photo: Megan Winstone

‘Hell Is A Teenage Girl’. That is the evocative sentence that Hannah Grae chose to highlight the themes and ideas heard in her debut EP. Taken from the cult classic movie ‘Jennifer’s Body’, the 21 year old Welsh star knew there was no other turn of phrase that could better sum up the release and its title track.

“I had basically just left school when I wrote that project and I had so many stories and a lot of anger and bitterness to get out. Because I had a pretty tough experience and never really got the chance to get closure or I guess get revenge. And so my way of doing that was writing ‘Hell Is A Teenage Girl’.”

Channeling the tougher memories of those formative years into the music, she found a new community among her fans, full of kids who could relate to exactly the sentiment she was putting across.

“That was really special for me. Because when I was at school, I didn’t really have an outlet or anything that told me that other people were going through the same thing. There wasn’t really any kind of music or anything explaining that kind of experience. So it made me feel really proud. It’s just special that other people could relate.”

Grae first came to wider public attention thanks to a series of cover versions and original tracks recorded in her bedroom and posted to TikTok and YouTube. However, as she explains, the pop punk sound that has been such an influence on her was not something she was initially even aware of.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t really realise that music existed out of TV and film. I just always thought that music had to be in some kind of musical or movie or something. So I just grew up on Hannah Montana and Disney, which now that I’m looking back, a lot of those songs have strong pop punk references anyway. So when I took these songs to my producer, he showed me a whole world of music that I didn’t even know existed. When he showed me Green Day or Bowling For Soup or something, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is so nostalgic’ and he was really confused. That kind of experience helped me realise that I didn’t have to limit myself when I was writing music and I just wanted that to show in my covers as well.”

Single ‘Well I Hope You’re Happy’ perfectly blends together her pop sensibilities with a classic pop punk sound firmly rooted in the mid 2000s, easily channeling the likes of The All-American Rejects or Boys Like Girls but with flourishes of acoustic guitar thrown into the mix.

“Oh, that one was a special one because it was the first song I ever wrote for that project. I wrote it on the first day that my producer Rob Brinkman and I met, we just spoke for hours and hours about my life.  I was confused about how that worked anyway, the writing sessions and stuff. So I wasn’t really expecting to get a song that day and neither was he. But when I saw the drum kit and all the electric guitars, I was like, oh, no, this is so cool. Let’s just write something. And we wrote it in about half an hour. I just felt so excited about music that day.” 

“I made a big mood board, it’s actually a big whiteboard that I’ve got up in my flat now” she continues. “It’s like a Disney map, just of the entire project, because I saw it so visually. I’ve written quite a few songs with him now, even into my next project.”

Latest release, ‘It Could’ve Been You’, leans even further into a pop rock sound, an energetic break up track built for the live stage. With spiky guitars bringing the teenage angst of the lyrics to life, it is a prime example of Hannah’s story-led working process.

“It’s forever changing, but I tend to like bringing in a concept. I struggle if I haven’t got an idea of what I’m writing about. So I usually just bring an idea to the studio. And then we just listened to so much music. That’s the main thing that hasn’t changed. We just listen to so much music and then kind of see where it goes from there.”

Hannah Grae’s latest single 'It Could’ve Been You’ is out now.

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