For as long as musician and previous Mercury Bay Area School student, Gemma Louden (who uses the pronouns “they/them”), could remember, singing and performing has been a part of their life. From beginning piano lessons at the age of 10 to playing guitar at 12, and now having picked up drums, bass and MIDI keyboard too, Gemma has progressed to become a multi-instrumental recording artist that goes by the name “grim!”
However, it was only at the age of 15 that grim! began to consider the performing arts as a potential career. “It was around the time that I found how helpful songwriting was for me to process and put my feelings into perspective that I started taking my music seriously and considering it as a career option,” they say. Since then, they have finished school and have gone on to study a degree in commercial music performance at the Wellington campus of Massey University.
Now the multi-genre pop, rock and country artist is set to release their first ever single, named “birthday”, this week in preparation of their first EP release, “bones” which will debut on 1 December. In total, grim! plans to release four singles over the next four months.
As someone who writes self-acclaimed “music for crying”, grim! says that the overarching theme of both “birthday” and “bones” is a breakup, touching on several issues, including toxic relationships and mental illness. With storytelling lyrics supported by strings, piano and sub-bass, grim! conveys in “birthday” their own personal experience of past relationships and hopes that others who have had similar experiences feel “understood or find solace in the fact that they’re not alone”.
“I created ‘birthday’ with the idea of the story being set at a birthday party where drinking is involved and an ex-partner only wanting something from you when they’re intoxicated,” says grim! “I’ve found writing and producing the song to be very therapeutic, especially listening to the song after recording it, and decided it should be my debut single to set the tone for the rest of my soon-to-be released music.”
The debut single holds additional sentimental value as it will be the first ever project on which grim! worked with their younger sister, Brooke, who wrote the bridge for the single and is also interested in pursuing a career in music.
Despite being Wellington based, grim! is recording their music in Mercury Bay after their mother, Anne, reached out to Dave Rhodes Productions. “I’m really thankful to my Mum for giving me that nudge in taking the next step with my music,” they say. “If she hadn't gone ahead and got in contact with Dave Rhodes, [who has a recording studio in Whitianga], I probably wouldn’t have done it myself. I always struggled with thinking I’m not ready yet, which is why a few of the songs being recorded now were actually written three to five years ago. But I’m really happy I took my Mum’s advice when she told me I was ready.”
In terms of their future in the music industry, grim! has a lot to look forward to with their first professional live show also in sight. However, they are most excited about others hearing what they have to share and “hopefully providing a sense of comfort for [their listeners] in their own experiences.”
Pictured is musician and former Mercury Bay Area School student, Gemma Louden/“grim!”, as captured by photographer, Patrick Gibson.