Grace Cummings: ‘It’s what holds your hand when nothing else does’

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Grace Cummings: ‘It’s what holds your hand when nothing else does’

grace cummings
words by jake fitzpatrick

The Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Grace Cummings talks about her new album Ramona, her upcoming Australian tour and what lies beyond.

Perched on a balcony somewhere in Norway, Grace Cummings appears to be living inside a fairytale. Complete with cobblestone streets and thousand-year-old churches, this fairytale, however, has a few slight differences. In this one, Cummings does not get her happily ever after. 

She does, however, get a critically acclaimed third album, a seven-week jaunt across Europe and an upcoming homecoming tour. Which, to be honest, sounds better to me, and to Cummings too for that matter. 

Grace Cummings Australian Tour

  • July 12 – The Espy, Melbourne
  • July 13 – Meeniyan Town Hall, Meeniyan
  • July 14 – Brunswick Ballroom, Melbourne
  • July 20 – Altar, Hobart
  • July 25 – Crown and Anchor, Adelaide
  • July 26 – Mojos, Fremantle
  • July 27 – Rosemount, Perth
  • Aug 2 – The Zoo, Brisbane
  • Aug 3 – The Great Club, Sydney
  • Aug 17 – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine
  • Aug 29 – Howler, Melbourne

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Currently on the tail end of her European run and living among the chaos that is live touring, Cummings greets me with a big smile written across her face.

 “I’m very tired but loving it,” she tells me. “I think I paid AUD $150 for a piece of fish last night without realising it. With a few boiled potatoes and a piece of salad.” But she doesn’t seem to mind… that much. 

Speaking of the tour, Cummings says, “It’s been really great. I can’t believe anybody’s come and they have. I’m blown away”.

The tour comes in support of her third album, Ramona, a beautifully delicate, yet strong body of work that’s been well received by critics and fans. Upon first listen, you can immediately hear the influences within her voice, names such as Joni Mitchell and Nick Cave. But as you dig a little deeper you realise that Cummings is something quite unique. 

The album was written about a slice of Cummings’ life where turbulence ran wild. “It was a collection of things going on in my life at the time and a very difficult time of my life.”

The album, named after Bob Dylan’s 1964 song, To Ramona, felt at times from the perspective of the Ramona Dylan sings of, a weepy, sorrowful southern girl torn between the country and the city. 

“I was once likened to the character of Ramona, and it made me upset about myself and who I was. I didn’t want to be like that. So loosely, that’s where it came from,” says Cummings.

The album contains many beautiful tracks, from A Precious Thing, where Cummings’ voice contorts into the sounds of tragedy, to Common Man, where Cummings sings about wanting to be a cowboy and obtain freedom. 

But the starkest track from the album is Help Is On It’s Way. “I put [the song] on the end of the album as an antidote. It’s a bit cliche, but the only thing that I can do to make myself feel better is sing. And the only thing you can do is listen. It’s like, if you keep going and find something that holds your hand, let it be heard.”

Such is Cummings’ gift in crafting songs that sound as if she wrote them just for you. Speaking of this power, Cummings offered, “It’s the lyrics. It’s everything. It’s what keeps you company when you’re alone and it’s what holds your hand when you’re not having your hand held by anything else, really”. 

Ramona also offers a markedly different sound and process to Cummings two previous releases. For the first time in her career, she worked with a producer. In this case, it was the acclaimed Jonathan Wilson

“Jonathan’s the best. He didn’t sit there and tell me what to do. I brought all the songs and he has all the stuff and people. And he’s really open and confident. It also meant I could push things to another level. I don’t exactly know how to arrange an orchestra!”

As Cummings wraps up her European tour, she is also readying herself for her many upcoming Australian shows. “I’m excited as we have a lot of gig miles under our belt. Now we know the show very well because we’ve played a shitload of shows. So, I’m excited to be confident and comfortable about it in front of Australian audiences,” she says.

As for what lies around the corner after all of this, not even Cummings fully knows. She’s always writing and trying something new with it.

 “I like to listen to new things and have new influences that add to the tapestry. The only thing you can give the world that it doesn’t already have is you. So that’s what I’m doing.”

You can book tickets to Grace Cummings upcoming Australian tour through the link here