Let’s be honest: at some point, we’ve all yearned for a personal soundtrack to our everyday lives. To be able to capture the crescendos and lulls of a musical piece, attaching them to the scenarios unfolding before our eyes.
When a melody perfectly aligns with a specific memory, we embark on a theatrical voyage that makes the mundane world around us a little better. For Australian singer-songwriter Yorke (a.k.a Grace Hughes), the pursuit of musical alchemy isn’t a pipe dream – it’s her artistic mission.
Seated together at the Pig ‘N’ Whistle tavern in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, Yorke shares her motivations behind weaving a cinematic layer into her tunes.
“When you watch something and the song really hits you, I think that’s so important and it creates this world around you,” she says. “I think cinematic music is able to capture a moment and I love to be able to do that with my music.”
Though the 25-year-old pop artist grew up in Byron Bay, her musical persona draws inspiration from the vibrant streets of New York where its cinematic ambience has become her ultimate muse.
While the visual drawcard of the Big Apple has long been a prominent element in the wider musical landscape, Yorke adds a personal flair to her storytelling method. Her recent EP, Ten Feet Tall, serves as tangible proof of the direction she envisions for her music.
“Each song has a moment in time, so it starts in the thick of a breakup,” she says. “Then it flows into coming out of that and acceptance, and your own personal issues. Then coming into feeling yourself and falling back in love. I really wanted to do a rollercoaster journey like that.”
Yorke intertwines emotional lyricism with visual narratives, beckoning listeners into what she dubs the “Yorke Cinematic Universe”, where every note paints a vivid scene. Such a form of storytelling is fueled by Yorke’s admiration for Taylor Swift, and she opens up about how the masterful lyricist has influenced her own songwriting choices.
“I think words [are] so important,” she says. “I’m a huge Swiftie, so I’ve been brought up with the mother of words. Being able to take listeners on a journey, I think, is one of the most powerful things about music.”
Yorke delves into the creative process behind the music video for her track next life, a collaborative project she produced and her boyfriend directed.
The cinematic elements injected into the video transcends conventional music video styles, allowing them to depict an elaborate story while forging a narrative arc between the songs in her EP.
“We really wanted to encapsulate the five stages of grief in the story,” Yorke says. “There’s a lot of easter eggs in there as well that relate to the ‘honeymoon’ video and ‘i’ll keep driving’ and all the other songs.
“We wanted to be able to tell a story within a story, so you’re watching it as if it’s a TV show. You’re able to get lost in what’s happening, but also, the music is telling another story as well. So, it’s sort of like two stories on their own journey, and then they meet up in the end.”
Yorke’s venture into finding a signature approach to music began early on in her career, prompted by a desire to build herself a distinctive identity and standout amongst an industry saturated with people named Grace.
“In that process of figuring out the name and what I wanted it to stand for, I came to the conclusion that this is what I want it to look like,” she says. “It’s been a long journey of being able to put the pieces together and finding the right team to fulfill the vision, but now that it’s there, I can’t imagine it ever being any other way. I think the visuals are such a strong part of the music.”
Although Yorke’s signature mode of self-expression lies in visual storytelling, her melodic compositions are interwoven with a profound and recurring theme – the coming-of-age journey.
“I love coming-of-age films, and obviously I think my music is like coming-of-age,” she says, emphasising her inspiration isn’t rooted in a single movie. “I take it all in, in little parts but nothing specific. I try to keep it all related to me or other stories I’ve heard from friends.”
When prodded about her all-time favourite coming-of-age film, Yorke chuckles as if she’s trapped in a conundrum.
“I think my coming-of-age film is Harry Potter, but that’s not really like a traditional coming-of-age,” she says. “For me it was, because I sort of grew up with that.”
Yorke is caught in another dilemma as she combs through her discography, deciding which song she would handpick for a movie soundtrack if given the opportunity.
“I feel like ‘ten feet tall’ would be a great closing song for the Barbie movie,” she says.
This feature has been published as part of The Music Writer’s Lab initiative, developed between MusicNT and Australia Council for The Arts. For more information, visit www.themusicwriterslab.com.
Header photo credit: Bruce Baker