Breaking: Gracie Abrams mentioned that as a child, she used to pretend she was writing with Taylor Swift, and now their song collaboration titled ‘Us’ has become a reality.

The 24-year-old rising star, who has already toured with both Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift, says writing her new album was like “splatter-painting on the walls.”

Taylor Swift and Gracie Abrams' Friendship Timeline Through the Years | Us  Weekly

Many artists mine their darkest moments for inspiration, but on her new, semi-charmed sophomore album, Gracie Abrams is looking towards the light — and laughing at her own expense.

This upbeat perspective is somewhat of a 180 for the 24-year-old singer-songwriter, who has built her budding indie empire on sad-girl bedroom pop and acoustic confessionals. Her first string of singles and EPs, which she began releasing in 2019, featured relatively simple numbers in which she whisper-sang about longing and loneliness. These themes carried over onto her 2023 debut record, Good Riddance, and though its follow-up, The Secret of Us, isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, its overall vibe could be described as the sonic equivalent of a wry, wide smile.

Abrams acknowledges that the album “could not be more different” from its predecessor. “If Good Riddance was working in a tiny little ball, The Secret of Us was splatter-painting on the walls,” she tells Entertainment Weekly.

Much of that erratic sensibility was aided and abetted by Audrey Hobert, Abrams’ childhood pal–turned-collaborator. The two used to sit side by side on the school bus and press PLAY on their favorite albums at the same time, listening in tandem through their respective headphones. Now, they are roommates in their early 20s. Abrams and Hobert co-wrote most of the songs on The Secret of Us at home, often spontaneously.

“We’d just start talking s— together on the couch, and I’d have my instruments all around, and we’d just pick up and play and kind of just do it all at once,” Abrams recalls. “It feels like this tornado of a moment and then you’ve got a song.”

Not taking it all so seriously freed something in them. “We’re shouting the most outrageous versions of lyrics at each other and then seeing what actually, realistically lands,” she says. “And often whatever makes us laugh the most is what ended up going in the songs, because there’s this overarching theme of laughing at myself through these different relationships and through these tougher feelings… We were able to just make it funny for ourselves.”

Taylor Swift tour opener Gracie Abrams confirms her star status on  Australian tour | Daily Telegraph

In addition to her co-songwriting credits, Hobert directed the music video for the LP’s lead single, the delightful and self-deprecating “Risk.” Perhaps of greater interest to Abrams’ longtime fans, though, is the album’s closer, “Close to You.” The highly anticipated track started as a snippet on Abrams’ Instagram in 2017, and while listeners have been clamoring for it to get a full studio treatment, even requesting it at live shows, Abrams has kept “Close to You” close to her chest — until now.

“​​I wrote it seven years ago, and it didn’t feel remotely aligned with the kind of music that I wanted to be making,” she says, calling it a “more extroverted song” when she “really wasn’t outwardly that way.” But she’s glad she held on to it, and thinks that it found its home on The Secret of Us, a record she also considers “deeply extroverted,” mostly because she crafted it with close friends.

“[It’s] the kind of album that I’ve always wanted to make, and I feel proud of it because of how much fun we had making it,” she says. “It shifted the tone entirely, I think, with my writing personally. It was just pure fun — so very different than the kind of isolated, quiet, sadder writing process of Good Riddance.”

Looking at Abrams’ recent coups, it’s easy to understand why she’s been riding high. After snagging a spot as the opening act on Olivia Rodrigo’s 2022 tour, she released her debut album to widespread acclaim from critics and industry titans alike (Billie Eilish, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lorde, to name a few). But the Best New Artist Grammy nominee’s real breakthrough came with her coveted supporting slot on Taylor Swift’s record-breaking Eras Tour. Swift even included her in her surprise-songs set in Cincinnati when the pair performed a duet of Abrams’ “I Miss You, I’m Sorry,” a track from her 2020 EP, Minors, that she reinvents on The Secret of Us.

Abrams admits that it’s hard to pick just one, but the most memorable pinch-me moment in her young career has been getting to write a song with Swift. The Secret of Us track “Us” features Swift in a rare supporting role; for Abrams, the collaboration was a dream come true. Like countless Gen Z and millennial women, she grew up with Swift’s music as her girlhood gospel.

“When I was little, I used to pretend that [writing with Swift] was happening, like imaginary-friend-style in my head,” she says. “[The fact] we have something tangible that we made together that I personally f—ing love so much is beyond me.”

Abrams is set to rejoin Swift for another leg of the Eras Tour starting in October. This time, they’ll both have fresh material to perform live. But while Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department is mostly somber and subdued, much of Abrams’ new music is amped-up and energetic.

“I think knowing that we had more Eras dates this year, that was also a real driving force behind wanting to make something that just had the chance to explode a bit more for the audience,” she says. “I really wanted to make them feel more electrified by my set.”

Abrams wrote much of her new record while touring, at home between shows with Hobert, or in studio sessions with producer Aaron Dessner of the National, who has had a hand in almost every Swift record and re-release since 2020’s folklore. Dessner is now a dear friend to Abrams too, following their previous collaboration on Good Riddance, helping make The Secret of Us a labor of love on every level.

“I already got the greatest gift with this album, which was… realizing that it’s possible to have this good of a time when you’re making stuff, versus needing to feel anxious or tortured over someone to write a song that matters to you,” she says. “It’s like, no, you can totally be let down in a relationship and then laugh about it with your friend and make something.”

The Secret of Us is out June 21.

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