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Up-And-Coming Aotearoa Artists: Gracie Moller

In this Rolling Stone AU/NZ series, we get to know Gracie Moller, a rising New Zealand artist looking to impress in 2023 and beyond

Gracie Moller

Nicole Busch

Gracie Moller is a fledgling pop star from Tāmaki Makaurau with a seriously impressive back story. 

The 21-year-old artist signed a record deal with Universal Music New Zealand at the tender age of 13, thanks in part to her musical upbringing in a family where her dad, Buzz Moller, was the frontman of Auckland indie favourites Voom.

But Moller’s 2023 run of releases has proven that her music stands out all on its own. The singer-songwriter’s debut single, “mess for you”, caught the eye of UK indie rockers Only the Poets, and soon she was being whisked on a whirlwind tour supporting the band across the UK and Europe, performing in front of thousands of people every night.

Sandwiched between that support slot and her very first headline show in Amsterdam, Moller shared her debut EP, didn’t peak at 17, yet another exciting milestone in her musical journey.

Recalling the pure pop songwriting of Australia’s Gretta Ray, and, yes, a certain Taylor Swift, Moller’s music is a blend of nostalgia, self-reflection, and raw emotions, making each song a sweet encapsulation of her innermost feelings. 

Now based in London, Moller is already writing and recording new material, but Rolling Stone AU/NZ managed to catch up with her after the release of her debut EP to learn more about her and her music.

Gracie Moller’s debut EP didn’t peak at 17 is out now via LAB Records.

Rolling Stone AU/NZ: How did music influence you in your early life?

Gracie Moller: I grew up in a very musical family, my dad is a singer-songwriter and taught songwriting at a university here in Auckland. My favourite thing in the world was getting to skip school and sit in on his lectures. I would sit at the back very studiously taking notes as a little 11 year old. I signed a development deal with a NZ major label when I was 13 years old. I remember at the time thinking it was funny that I’d signed my first record deal before I’d had my first kiss. That in itself explains my adolescence a lot.

I was very tunnel visioned as a teenager and didn’t really have many friends except my closest few. I’d go to the music room at school at breaktime and write songs instead of hanging out with people. I loved it so much I didn’t really care! Maybe I should’ve spent more time with kids my age instead of being in recording sessions and meetings and boardrooms with old men for most of my teenage years, but hey.

What artists influenced you growing up?

I am the biggest Swiftie ever – like most young female writers now I feel like so much of my songwriting style developed from devouring her discography and watching endless interviews of her. Speak Now and Red were revolutionary for me. Lana Del Rey is another one for sure, she was always so out there with her lyrics and that was really fascinating to me. “Born to Die” is a masterpiece and changed my brain chemistry. 

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What are some career highlights so far?

A career highlight for me would be playing my first ever sold out headline show in Amsterdam last week! The fans that came were the sweetest and it was so shocking to hear that some of them had traveled for four hours on the train to come and see me! It’s wild and I love them so much. 

What kind of personality traits and values do you believe it takes to succeed in the music industry?

Being an artist is really hard and to get anywhere you need to constantly ask for help and bring in people that are great at what they do and can give you advice. So I would say a personality trait/value that you need to succeed is to be really appreciative and kind to the people that are helping you. Reminding yourself to be grateful all the time is really important, even when things are crazy!

You also need to be really resilient and be prepared to work 17-20 hour days, every day! Film endless TikToks, practice for hours, take meetings, do press, stay on top of emails, squeeze in as many recording sessions as you can, stay on top of your vocal health, and then work another part-time job to fund it all if you need to. Oh, also write songs every day! 

How would you describe your music to a potential fan?

My music is really female-gazey, and nostalgic. I’m always living some romantic fantasy in my head and my music reflects that, it’s also very self-deprecating at times. I’m a person that’s always worrying and spiraling, and finding a strong title or concept is a way of streamlining my messy thoughts and feelings. I write predominantly about relationships and how I feel about myself in relationships. Doesn’t have to be romantic! Although it usually is.

It’s such a great feeling having all this sadness, or anger, or whatever the emotion is, and tying it up in a cute little three-minute pop song, with a little pretty bow-like title as a catchphrase for your most recent turmoil. I recently went through a breakup, and over the three days after it happened I wrote ten full songs. It was the only thing that made me feel better and the only way I could stop myself from crying. I said to my mum at the time, “I have no idea how people that aren’t songwriters go through breakups!” Seriously, how do people do it! I don’t understand.

What are your goals for 2023 and beyond?

2023 has been an amazing year for me. I released my first single in March and then went on a tour straight after, opening for Only the Poets in Europe and the UK! It was a whirlwind and I’ve just put out my debut EP, which is crazy. I’m in London at the moment writing and working on my next project. I’m so proud of this EP, but I seriously cannot wait to start releasing new songs next year. It’s the best stuff I’ve ever written. 

How did your European tour with Only the Poets go? Any particular highlights?

Playing my first ever show to 2000 people in Cologne was unbelievable and terrifying. I was so nervous but their fans were amazing! Everyone showed up early to see me, the room was packed and they had all learnt the lyrics to my songs before coming. I was so lucky to play that tour. A highlight for me would definitely be The Melkweg Max in Amsterdam – there was a fan project to make me little pink love hearts and wave them around during my song “mess for you” and it was so crazy to see from onstage. Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London was incredible too, it’s a venue with so much history and I can’t believe I get to say I’ve played it. 

Tell us about didn’t peak at 17. That title is quite self-explanatory!

didn’t peak at 17 is about feeling angry and resentful at a past friendship. When you’re 17 you’re old enough to go to parties, drive, and do things unsupervised, but most people that age aren’t really having to pay their power bill or work to put a roof over their head yet, so being 17 is this funny sweet spot where you get to live in this little fantasy world. I wrote the song after watching Mean Girls in lockdown when I was 19 years old. The song was also inspired by my life when I was 17 and trying to fit in with people that I didn’t really fit in with. It was a weird time that I look back on and cringe at.

When me and my friends were 17 we spent a lot of time with people that partied a lot and had a lot of drama. We always ended up in these big houses at 2am with pools and no adults, and it felt like an unhinged teen series like Euphoria a lot of the time. I wanted to write a song about being glad I wasn’t the cool girl at that age, because now I’m older and my values have changed, and I don’t care much for those things anymore. I don’t actually have a “toxic ex best friend,” the character in this song is very much based on the archetype of a ‘mean girl’ that peaks in high school.

What themes did you explore on the EP?

This EP is all about relationships. There are two narratives going at the same time – letting go of old relationships in “wasn’t gonna last forever” and “didn’t peak at 17”, and entering new relationships in “mess for you” and “make it right”. Entering into a new relationship when you have been hurt in the past by others, and even the person you’re entering a relationship with, is always going to bring up a lot of negative feelings about yourself and this “I can’t believe they’ve chosen me” feeling. This is really clear in “make it right” and especially “mess for you”. I used to think of “mess for you” as a happy love song, but now I think it’s quite a sad song.

You shouldn’t feel fluttery and thrown all over the place emotionally by someone even after you finally get together, you should feel calm and like you’re equals. As a 19 year old who’d never been in love before, I didn’t know that. It’s nice now the EP is finally out to have that perspective on it. “didn’t peak at 17” and “wasn’t gonna last forever” are more confident songs, they’re less floaty and more grounded in their message. Knowing when something isn’t right and moving on, feeling regret, anger, all of it.

This EP is about how I viewed myself at the time, the things I was trying to let go of, and the things I was trying to bring into my life. I really felt in those last months of being 19 that I had one foot in girlhood and the other foot in adulthood. It was a very transformational period for me where I felt like I’d finally found my voice as a writer.