Get to know more about Grace Davies and her latest track Illuminate

With her newest song 'Illuminate', Grace Davies is representing the European Athletics Championships, which will be held in June this year!


As the hype for the European Athletics Championships in Rome starts to build up, UK singer-songwriter Grace Davies adds an extra touch to the celebrations with her latest single, “Illuminate”, the official anthem for the event. The track promises to capture the heart-pounding thrill and raw emotion that defines the participating athletics. Grace, a 27-year-old artist from Blackburn, Lancashire, has already left a significant mark with her own music with her deeply personal songwriting, which she showcased during her memorable run on the UK’s X Factor in 2017. Now, it’s time to get to know more about “Illuminate” and Grace herself!

Congratulations on your latest release, ‘Illuminate’ (I absolutely love it by the way!) “Illuminate” is a powerful anthem for the European Athletics Championships. Can you share what inspired you to write this track and the story behind its creation?
Thank you so much, I’m so glad you like it. Honestly I’m not sure this song would have ever been born had it not been for EA reaching out and asking me to do it. It’s so different to my usual style, not just sonically but lyrically too. We were given a really tight brief from EA of what they wanted for the championships – something that had a vulnerable start and ended up in a really energetic state, but also lyrically inspired the athletes and cast light on how tough their journeys are. It’s completely different to anything I’ve released before and anything I will be releasing after, but I think that’s what gives it it’s own moment to shine outside of my usual catalogue. It’s a thing that was made for a thing and whilst I’m super proud to have it in my repertoire, it’s very much it’s own entity. I feel so super lucky to have been able to do something like that and put my “applied songwriting” to the test, whilst representing the voices of thousands of athletes competing this year. It’s really special.

You worked with Ben Lythe and Paul Whalley on this track. How did this collaboration come about, and what was the dynamic like during the songwriting and production process?
So, Ben and Paul have been key collaborators for me in the past year whilst making my album. Paul is my producer who has done everything with me for the past year and a half, and Ben is someone I love writing with and always go to first. We all work so well together, so it was an obvious choice to bring in my “dream team” for this track. EA gave us a load of tracks that they loved and think work well against sports footage, so we had a clear direction sonically. Things like “Runnin’” by Naughty Boy and Beyoncé, ‘Find Me’ by Sigma, so much Rudimental too. There is a clear list of songs that all have this specific drum rhythm which is used so often across sports coverage. So we knew where we wanted to end up production wise, but it was really key to the team from EA for me to collide this with my “classic Grace” vulnerable ballad word, which we managed to achieve at the start of the track. All 3 of us play piano, so I knew we’d end up with something stripped at the start of the track. It was actually Ben who came up with the title Illuminate. We really didn’t know what to do with the chorus and he just said that word and said “I can’t think of any other song with that title” and I straight away came up with the “when it gets dark and you can’t find your way, hold your heart up, Illuminate”. It felt so anthemic but also emotional of just trusting your body to get you through dark times, finding the strength within you to keep pushing through and using that as your guiding light.

That sounds like an amazing collaboration! – As the official championship track, “Illuminate” will play a big role during the European Athletics Championships, how do you feel about having your work associated with such a major event?
Honestly it’s such an honour. I keep laughing because I am the *least* athletic person in the world. Watching F1 on a Sunday with a packet of biscuits is as sporty as I get, so it does feel slightly bizarre to even have my name associated with something I could not possibly fathom taking on myself – but I think that’s what’s really special about it and the song. Two worlds have collided and I get to draw attention to the event via my following – and EA have shone a beautiful spotlight on me and my voice which I am forever thankful for. It’s such a joy and I feel so privileged to have been thought of and that I get to do things like that. It’s going to be *wild* hearing my song on the TV and in the stadium, but it’s such a special piece of history in my life so I’m going to enjoy every minute of being associated with such a prestigious and epic event.

The track was mastered at Abbey Road Studios, a place with a rich history. How did it feel to work in such an iconic studio, and did the environment influence the final sound of the track?
Abbey Road is somewhere I’ve been mastering my music since I was 18. Christian has known me since my music had 1,000 streams and has seen me through every part of my career so it’s really such a joy to go back there and it always gives you a warm fuzzy feeling to be finishing music in such an iconic venue. Mastering really is the very finishing touches of the track, making sure it sounds fat across all different sound systems from stadium speakers to wireless headphones, making it loud and sound consistent – so while there wasn’t much room for the environment and history of Abbey Road to influence the track itself, it’s still a gorgeous sparkly cherry on the top of the cake. We got to take the EA team to the mastering suite and invited GB heptathlete Holly Mills who will be competing this year. That really was such a pleasure.

You mentioned wanting to narrate the athletes’ experiences through good and bad. How do the lyrics of “Illuminate” reflect this narrative?
There are thousands of athletes taking part in the EAC, most of them hoping to qualify for this years Olympics – so it was important for me lyrically to give them something to listen to when they need a little boost, but also represent the large percentage of athletes who don’t have a smooth journey and do get knock backs. It’s not always smooth sailing, and competing in something as big as the EAC, is for some a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a moment where you have to deliver your full potential on the spot or you’re out. It was great for me to draw inspiration from my previous experiences of performing on live TV and knowing if you don’t nail it there & then – you are out. The name of the campaign for EAC is called “Ignite The Fire” – so it was really important for me to get that in there in a powerful way without it being too cheesy. I wanted to say you’ve got that fight & fire within you and you know you do, you’ve just got to find it and activate it and don’t let your nerves get the better of you. I know how that feels!

What do you hope listeners will feel when they hear the song and how do you hope they will remember it?
Honestly I hadn’t even thought about how my own listeners would feel about it on the run up to it. I was so invested in just getting it right for the championships that I sort of forgot how I have my own following waiting for new music – so it was genuinely lovely to see the reaction and how much they’ve embraced something that is so separate to my usual sound. I had a few people message me, saying it was exactly what they needed to hear and is going to help them massively through tough times which is just the best feeling in the world. I was so concentrated on making something for the athletes and the championships that I didn’t realise the general public would listen to it and apply it to their own lives too. It never fails to surprise me how easily lyrics can be interpreted to your own situation – and I think that’s a really, really wonderful thing.

Photo: Naomi Kane
Photo: Naomi Kane

How wonderful! You’ve been on X Factor a few years ago. From then till now, how do you think your music has changed? What lessons have you learned that helped shape the production of “Illuminate”?

Honestly I think I’m just older and wiser and have been through so much that has taught me so much. I sort of forget that I was on the show it was that long ago. I was only 20 and the only thing I had to write about was boys. Now I think my music is drastically different. Without delving too deep, I’ve been through a lot of trauma in my personal life over the past few years which doesn’t involve relationships – and I think that just gives me so much more to say in my music as a now 27 year old and I can use those experiences and apply them to situations like this one. In terms of Illuminate, I guess I have X Factor to thank for the way I was easily able to draw from my experience there and put it into this song.

Did you feel any pressure whilst making the song since it’s for a huge event? How did you deal with that?
I think I always feel pressure. I very much put pressure on myself, at all times, no matter how big the task but I think when I concentrate on how huge the event is – excitement was the more dominant feeling. My main focus as a songwriter was on creating something that felt inspiring and empowering but didn’t feel cheesy. My cheese-omiter is set pretty high so it took me a second to find a way around that.

Over the years, you’ve achieved huge success and have had your music featured on platforms like Netflix and BBC. What have been some personal highlights or defining moments in your career so far?
I mean, hearing my song ‘roots’ in the Big Top 40 was a real moment. I have never felt euphoria like it. From writing it alone in my living room to hearing it played on the biggest radio stations across the country was probably the best moment of my life. But also the little (huge) wins of hearing my music on TV is always so great. I remember watching the ‘I’m A Celeb’ final with my Mum & Dad and my song started playing and we all just looked at each other in silence and burst out laughing. It’s really important for me to have those moments to show my parents that, although being an independent artist is tough and it does take a mental toll, it’s also so so rewarding and I’ve loved sharing those moments with them.

What are your dreams for the future? Or are there any other things that we can expect from you in the near future that you can tell us about?
So… I will be releasing my debut album in the next year, which is quite literally the biggest goal of any artist – so I feel super proud of myself and lucky to be able to do such a thing. I have made the album of my actual dreams and I could not be prouder of it, so whatever happens I know I always have that. My dream for the future is honestly just to be able to keep my head above water enough financially to be able to keep creating music independently – and I’m doing that currently, so I feel like I’ve already had my massive win in life. Anything else is just a gorgeous bonus.

We want to thank Grace so much for her time! We can’t wait for her debut album that will come out later this year. For now, we’ll blast “Illuminate” through our speakers – and you should too, right here:

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.