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GRACE FARRISS & ASH LEE IN CONVERSATION

Grace Farriss recently shared her impressive debut single, All The People, a funky fireball of a track with a powerful and timely message.

Boasting a rich musical pedigree, it’s no surprise that explosive newcomer Grace Farriss is sure to impress and set tongues wagging. Her impressive debut single, All The People, is a funky fireball of a track with a powerful and timely message – to celebrate the interconnection between the diverse cultures that shape the world.

In a nutshell, Grace Farriss is a poet, singer, songwriter, composer, producer, painter, artist, author and environmentalist. Born into an artistic and musical family and the daughter of rock and roll royalty, Grace grew up in the United Kingdom and Australia, her parents Shelley Farriss, a lead theatre actor and yoga teacher and Andrew Farriss, a farmer and the main composer and songwriter for INXS.  




Ash: Hi Grace, thank you for speaking with me – I have a lot of questions for you today and have been looking forward to the opportunity to interview you as I love your debut single All The People and I believe we may have a lot in common. Before I ask you my first question, let me tell you a little bit about myself.

As a child and teenager, I spent a lot of time travelling around the world with my family and so I grew up amongst many different cultures. I have a degree in Art (humanities) with a double major in Fine Art and Art & Design, a postgraduate degree in Education and I have PhD candidacy however I do not believe that I will pursue this. I currently work as the manager for Around The Sound, I’m a writer, photographer, and I am a visual artist with an eclectic assortment of traditional skills.

I specialise in traditional printmaking, book binding, restoration, metalwork, jewellery, material culture, pottery and painting. Many of the traditional skills that I have acquired fall into the category of “lost skills” or “endangered skills” and I teach these skills to others when approached to do so. The conceptual ideas that I explore through my artistic practice relate to connectedness, memories, identity, sense of place, storytelling, and language. I live on a large property in “the hills” in Perth, WA. I am surrounded by natural bush and largely self sufficient with rain water tanks, vegetable gardens and fruit trees.

I am not a religious person although I am a spiritual person and if asked to describe my spirituality, I would say that I believe that I am a part of the earth and the earth is a part of me. I consider myself to be very lucky to have been afforded the opportunity to have formed lasting friendships with people from all parts of the world and the thing that I value the most in life is the connectedness that has resulted from these. 

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So, there we are…this is the response I would provide if asked to describe myself to someone who does not know me or whom I’ve never met and I’m interested to know, how would you respond to such a question?

Grace: Hello Ash and what a beautiful way to meet you. Thank you so much for having me and I am very much looking forward to speaking  with you today. 

I grew up surrounded by music, arts, painting, living in very beautiful architecture and living among and admiring very beautiful paintings my entire life. Some of which were created by Andy Warhol, Warwick Fuller, Pro Hart, well known classical painters and many others I grew up looking up at in our homes. I also ride horses, swim in the ocean a lot and grew up in the countryside on a 4000 acre working farm in a homestead that is almost 175 years old. Which I believe provided a lot of magic I can not express in words. We used to collect acorns from a 150 year old oak tree that I grew up with that would drop every year and I would use them as currency with my siblings.

I grew up gardening a lot with my mother and father. I spend a lot of time outside or gardening. We lived in England, where my brother and sister were born and we moved back to my birth country in Australia when I was young although I have many family members in England. We lived next to a castle when I was a little girl and I remember very fondly running through the never ending staircases and the echoes of my voice could be heard to the very tops of these beautiful high ceilings.

I believe I am a natural person and I feel most at home in the natural world. I am very creative, I wrote around 2000 songs by the time I was about 20 years of age and counting. Classical music is my favourite music.  My favourite forms of art I practice all of the time are poetry, writing, music, painting, embroidery, knitting, drawing and gardening. I am most inspired by nature and feel the most connected when I am out in fresh air and among the elements. 



Ash: I believe that there is only one true universal language. Not everyone can read it or write it but we all recognise it. It speaks to every single one of us and when heard, it has the ability to unite people and so, for me, this is the most relevant language in existence – It is music. The language of music is powerful and it has the propensity to be the cross-cultural medium that helps us unite on a global scale because let’s face it; there are global issues that need the attention of everyone, that require a united front in order for the resolutions to be achievable and right now, there is simply not a platform upon we can stand together so… why not let music be that platform…or at least one of the vehicles that delivers us to it. Would you agree with this and what is your opinion about the universality of music?

Grace: I believe that music can balance one or bring someone back to who they really are. I believe all of art does this. I believe music is very much a universal language. I believe music has the power to influence us all much more than we realise and in a positive way. I believe there is light and dark in all senses,  languages and art forms. If music is used or created or to uplift our spirits and time here. It is one of the many godly and spiritual artforms.

Sometimes when I write, I am a writer, lyricist  and composer first and foremost. At times I can feel that I may be connecting to something godly or to god or to a tree or a moment in my emotional or spiritual journey that is purely just me. I believe music can provide solace for so many. This is where “All The People” came from for me I believe. It came to me so quickly that I can only believe it was a message from me to me or a message from earth or a higher power, but I knew the song was not just for my listening, it is a song for others to listen to as well. I knew this straight away. The message was so grand and so powerful and when I go to play it or sing it I instantly feel connected to the world at large. This is what is so special about my song “All The People” from my album ‘Grace’. 



Ash: I would like to ask everyone to hit the pause button for a moment, to stop whatever it is they’re doing and spend some time thinking about connectedness – what is it that joins them or links them to the people, the groups, the objects, the ideologies, the corporations, the countries, and the ground upon which they stand – to ask themselves; What kinds of connectedness have I fostered? Can you elaborate on how your own life experiences relate to this question and the significance of them upon your creative decisions as a musician?

Grace: As a writer I am always reflecting on these larger, worldly and more introspective questions although I actually think following your own path is the key to happiness if you want to live a beautiful and joyful life. When I reflect back on my years of songwriting and making music or art or painting. These are some of the most rich and fully realised moments in my life.  I felt as though time seemed to calm down during these periods of time in my life.

I do feel our society at large does follow a path or a pace to live life that they do not even realize they are in, in this era. I also think it is in our nature as mankind to want to stick together and if the majority is doing something as a collective then it is in mankind’s nature to do the same to feel they belong or have a sense of community. I choose to not live this way, and it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. I choose my friends wisely and I surround myself with people who I feel truly connected to. Although meeting strangers is one of the most interesting and richest aspects of life that I love so much and it is a true joy. Although only I can know what makes me feel truly connected to who I truly am. 

Ash: Sometimes songwriter’s take liberties with the language or lyrics that they write in order to make a rhythm and rhyme work, the power of lyrics can alter the listener’s response to the tune being played… How does this song writing process work for you? Do you begin with melodies and then write lyrics that fit the emotive quality or tonality of the sound or do you begin with lyrics and add the melodic content to fit the message or contextual meaning behind the lyrics?

Grace: I began to write lyrics as early as 8 years of age and by the time I was 12 I was writing  poetry fluently and it was just something that came to me out of nowhere and very naturally. It would just flow out of me. This is around the time when I received my first nylon string guitar as a gift from my parents. Equally though I would create melodies of my own at an even younger age and so I think both came to me very naturally very early on.



When I was 15 I wrote what I call my first ever song or composition. After that it became like a new world to me and addictive. I would just write and write and write. My friends at “Pymble Ladies College” which is the school I attended in High school would ask “where are you Grace and what are you doing?” I would respond with I would not even know where to begin to tell you. Although in my mind I was thinking “Opieland”? “The LoganStones”? Which were some of the first songs I ever wrote and a make believe world in each that I had created and I had actually made these words up, which at the time I thought was sort of nerdy and bizarre, but now I am so proud of this and these are some of my greatest writings I believe. 

As I get older I most often place the lyrics on top of an already formed song structure or composition or groove or feel I have written. Although some songs will come to me all at once and those are the songs I believe have a godly and spiritual message or quality. Some of the songs I wrote like “I Love You”, “Women of The World” and “All The People” to name a few within an hour period and everything came all at once, the music, the lyrics, everything. These three songs are on my album ‘Grace’.  

I believe it feels right to sit at a piano or a guitar and to let it flow out or to be with your own voice and then naturally and beautifully melodies and  rhythms come fluidly to me. I believe this is the most connected and natural way music is made.



Ash: You describe yourself as a poet, songwriter, composer, producer, painter, artist, author and environmentalist; can you describe for me what the creative processes involve for you, in these areas? Do you find that they interweave and inform/influence the development of your contextual ideas for multiple projects or is there separation between the scope of each medium?

Grace: I find each art form and each medium or expression offers different emotional experiences at different moments in time. I find painting to be far more straightforward visually in what I might be feeling in that moment. But I believe the visual in music comes through for me very quickly as well but is interpreted through sound and comes from behind to the front, if that makes any sense at all.

The natural world inspires me greatly and on a higher level than anything else. I find my human emotions, healings and expressions that come through from my relationships with other people and most of all with myself or experiences are far more dense and introspective and natural world provides almost a newer and  clearer version of the present moment and so when I write, paint, or songwrite among nature these come out usually in their purest forms.

All of what I thought I needed to think about to amend or to heal goes away completely without thought. I find all of these art worlds interconnect beautifully and each medium and practice has its very unique and own world to live in and dream to and brings about a different side to you. I find for instance when I am writing words, lyrics, stories or poems I am far more in my head and heart. When I am painting I am far more in my body, heart and mind.  When I am arranging music I am in my mind, body, heart and spirit, I felt this so deeply whilst recording my album ‘Grace’. 

Ash: You have an impressive list of exceptionally talented artists that you are collaborating with, how did you build relationships with these artists?

Grace: When I came up with and conceptualized my album ‘Grace’. I already had a very strict and focused view point  of what I could hear in my head for each and every song, for the arrangements and structures of each song  and for the album as a whole. I wrote everything on my album ‘Grace’. I had also written some of the songs around 10 to 15 years prior before choosing to put them on my album ‘Grace’. So I felt as though no one could not possibly know how to bring these songs to life but me, without a window into my soul, I had so clearly in my head every arrangement and every composition. Although every one of the musicians that I spoke to in length and in detail about each song alongside my conscience Tony Buchen for the recording process, brought each and every song to life in the way I heard it almost exactly.

There were a few moments where I worked and worked and worked on making some of the tracks just right. Although everyone  involved in the production of my album ‘Grace’ were all there to support my vision and to accomplish to bring the songs to life  in the way I intended. These musicians are some of my greatest friends now. The ability to hear someone’s expression and intentions and to know exactly what they are thinking and feeling and wanting from a piece of music is the genius of  great musicians. From the spark of inspiration to writing the song to writing the music, the arrangements, the compositions and structures for the songs and the album as a whole I knew what needed to happen entering the studio and commencing the recording process and being so intently focused on what I was doing and then coming out the other side a more realised, more aware, more awake human being, was one of the most spiritually altering and amazing experiences of my life. That I will remember and be incredibly proud of forever. 



Ash: When I listen to ‘All The People’ I am reminded of bands like Parliament, Roundabout, and Stevie Wonder…who would you describe as being influential upon your euphonious Sound and your attitude towards life? (doesn’t necessarily have to include only musicians).



Grace: I am mostly inspired by classical music and I listen to a lot of this kind of music as well as American Indian, Nordic, Irish, Aboriginal, old hymns, and African indigenous music. I do not actually listen to much music outside of my own. Although when I do I get very into it and the music can stay with me for a long time. I tend to listen to the same song about a 100 times just to see if there’s anything else I can unfold. I love doing this, it is like a bottle of wine. It just gets better the more time goes by and the more you listen to it, it becomes richer and deeper, I find this especially with good music. If I am honest I find inspiration absolutely everywhere.

I think parts of African tribal music like “Ladysmith Black Mambazo” which I used to listen to groups or music like this a lot when I was a child  and still listen to a lot, which I feel may have influenced the groove and feel for this song. The message really came through out of nowhere. I really sat down one morning and it came out within about an hour period. The arrangement came soon afterward and I was inspired by some Motown music as well as jazz, funk and disco sounds at the time. The groove and feel came through so strongly for me on “All The People ” and the message of “All The People” I think stemmed from my own growing awareness and acknowledgment of the state of the world and mankind. In all of mankind’s  glory as well as our amazing mysteries. 



Ash: Earlier, I stated that “The language of music is powerful and it has the propensity to be the cross-cultural medium that helps us unite on a global scale” and I believe that it’s propensity to do so is further enabled through the use of visual storytelling. Semiotics is fundamental to the manner in which people interpret signs and symbols, there is certain degree of universality with these however for many people, their exposure to the aesthetic signifiers and symbols used by cultures separate to their own is, sadly, limited and I am interested in knowing; will you be releasing any music videos that feature footage and if so, how do you think you’ll make decisions relating to your use of film as a mode of visual storytelling?

Grace: I love music videos that I have seen of others. I love film. I think it is such an amazing and beautiful way to tell a story. I had planned to release a music video  for my song “All The People” of people all over the world and it had been edited and ready to go, but something told me I needed to leave this up for interpretation for the listener, because I feel the music will enable the listener to dream and visualise whatever they may want to. This is what I wanted people to feel free to do whilst listening to “All The People”. I am looking forward to doing artistic lyric videos as well as applying the visual of the song as a nice addition. For me though it is all about the music. One thing I am really into is artwork. I currently have about 10 commissions taking place all over the world by world renowned painters, drawers and embroiderers. Some of which are, my good friend “Emma Ferrer Hepburn who is ”Audrey Hepburn‘s” Granddaughter and “The Rutongo Arts Embroideries Women” from Rwanda in Africa.




Ash: Can you remember the first time music ever had an emotional affect on you? Can you name the song and artist and describe the emotional effects it had upon you at the time? Does it still influence you now in the same manner?

Grace: Yes, I am certain these would be hymns or lullabies my mother and father would sing to me or that I learnt in school. “Silent Night” by “Joseph Mohr” because of its slow build and tonality and the very defined and purposeful chord changes and the overall peaceful feeling that carries throughout the entire song. “Amazing Grace” by “John Newton” because of its lyrical meaning and simplicity and the very deep build up throughout the song , there is a dark  and a light feeling throughout the entire song which has this beautiful balance of the most important and necessary parts of life which is the essential meaning of grace.



The orchestral version of Jules Massenet “Meditation from Thais” because of its flow and emotive journey that you do not expect, it is such an emotive song that will give me goosebumps forever. “Four Seasons” By “Vivaldi because you can apply it directly to your life in such a grand and earthly way to dream about the future but still being so present and in the moment, as well as enabling you to reflect and be in the present all at once. These are just to name a few. The emotions that come up for me are grand and so incredibly intimate all at once and these songs can immediately bring me back to this in the most amazing way.  



Ash: I think the album artwork for your release is beautiful, please tell me that it’s one of your paintings?

Grace: I contemplated creating a painting of my own for this. Although I wanted a particular feeling in the art. One that encompassed a much grander aspect of life. I felt the renaissance and classical periods of art worked well as I love this era in painting.  It was by one of my dearest friends and incredibly gifted painter, jeweller, drawer and all around amazing human being “Billy Clare Reitzenstein”. I wanted for when people heard my song “All The People” for them to see the painting and not just think of where they are in their own time and to instantly be transported to other times and worlds to maybe then think about what kind of impact they are having on the world around them. Although I love it when people make their own minds up about the music and how it uplifts  them into a positive moment in their life and if art can help to bring this to life then I think this is a very positive expression. 

Ash: As a musician and a person, what would you like your legacy to be?

Grace: I do not particularly like the idea of a legacy. Although if I have to say something I would say that to be a good person and to  love myself and the ones I love the most the best way I can, and to be kind. 

Ash: What’s the most useful advice you’ve ever received?  (Doesn’t have to be music/career related)

Grace: “Always be true to you” and “Dreams don’t work unless you do”. I am sure there are many more. 

Ash: Can you name and share a surprising, basic and embarrassing gap in your knowledge?

Grace: I would say there are too many to count. So for starters there is a gap in my knowledge about knowing where the gap is in my knowledge. I am still mastering boiling eggs accurately and timing it for the perfect yolk consistency. 

Ash: What emotional life skill would you be good at teaching someone else?

Grace: I think I am very good at being there for people and giving kindness and love wherever and whenever  I can. 

Ash: Of the people you spend time with, who brings out your best qualities?

Grace: My partner, my family and closest friends. Because they know me the most and we share a common understanding of each other and a deep knowing of one another. So I know how they feel most days and visa versa. Or I can gauge if they need me more here or there. I know this is the meaning of life and the people that support you and love you for who you are and find it easy to uplift you and bring the best out in you whether it be through companionship, comedy, exercise, experiences or just spending time with them is life’s ultimate blessing. 

Ash: If you could interview any living person, who would you choose, why would you choose them, and why?

Grace: Perhaps Sir David Attenborough, to find out what he has seen in his lifetime and  the relationships between other species and  animals throughout his life and what he has witnessed and found to know what other species may know that can also be found or related to in our human experience.



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