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Grace Gardner Press Image
Grace Gardner Press Image
Photo by Tim Hrycyshyn
Culture > Entertainment

Unrequited Love Becomes A “Designated Driver” In Grace Gardner’s ‘Peach’

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Grace Gardner’s EP, Peach, released March 3, encapsulates an emotional rollercoaster of anecdotes and fixations of the past. Littered with inside jokes, delicate confessions of unrequited love, and frustrations over the inevitable, Gardner’s first full project demonstrates her growing confessional spark as a singer/songwriter with something to prove.  

Inspired by a town near rural Texas, where she’s from, that grew peaches, the title Peach symbolizes a lot for Gardner: from the sweet “God’s nectar” of her childhood to the negative premonition in recent films to the name of her ex’s cat. Even while taking inspiration from her own life, Gardner finds herself inspired lyrically by other music legends like Lucy Dacus, Taylor Swift, and Allison Ponthier as well. Her sound is best reflected through growing up with 70s and 80s rock, folk roots from her Southern upbringing, and more recently, the jazz sounds from her time in New Orleans. 

In fact, Gardner believes she started to get more intentional with her music after moving to New Orleans. While residing in New Orleans, she frequently saw jazz performers on her block and at local bars performing with the same passion she hoped to exhibit on Peach

“Watching those performers with so much intention is so beautiful, and I was inspired by their intentionality,” says Gardner. 

With collaborators from Austin, New York, and L.A., Gardner had fun getting together with her friends for this project. While being vulnerable and letting go of her initial agency to welcome different schools of thought was difficult, Gardner eventually learned to lean in during the songwriting process.

“It’s so validating to be seen by another person who’s as passionate about songwriting and creating as you,” Gardner said about her songwriting process. “Everyone knows what it feels like to get left, everyone knows what it feels like to lose something.” Being able to share her unique experiences and traumas with others that could understand her emotional creative process was a freeing venture into the unknown.

“Deny Me”, the EP’s first song, demonstrates Gardner’s careful capability of illustrating a narrative through powerful vocals and delicate instrumentals. Gardner attempts to find closure in a relationship through a resigned plea of rejection. The emotional masterpiece highlights Gardner’s core strength as a songwriter, maintaining a careful balance of confession and narrative telling without revealing too many secrets.

Grace Gardner’s video for “Deny Me”

“Deny Me” remains her most intense track, Gardner even admitting that she still tears up while performing it. During her performances, she’ll warn the audience and encourage them to let out their emotions as well: “Let’s cry together.”

The second track, “Parcel”, is a personal favorite and an authentic, vivid example of Gardner’s ambition as an artist. The slow build-up, the subtle drums, and the conversational belts leave for a cinematic experience that leaves you to play the song over and over again. Gardner confesses she wants to go more toward that “alternative realm”, and “Parcel” demonstrates that.

“Parcel was my final screw you to the universe to finally let it go,” says Gardner. And it feels easy for the audience to let it go as well as they scream along with her during performances. 

Grace Gardner press photos
Photo by Tim Hrycyshyn

“Acrobatics” is Gardner’s steadier, more timid track on Peach. Her voice echoes throughout the song, providing depth and emotion and giving a looming effect to the sound. It sounds as if the song is being played in another room, a nostalgic experience filled with curiosity and bitterness. 

Closing Peach with “Designated Driver” reflects Gardner’s unique storytelling through sound and lyrics. The simple guitar and fading back vocals highlight her delivery and truly summarize the whole EP.

“When I play it, it feels like an extension of me,” says Gardner about playing guitar, her favorite instrument to play. This sentiment is noticeable throughout Peach, but made completely obvious in “Designated Driver” where the strum of guitar accompanies her gentle voice without overpowering the sound.

Peach is only the beginning for Gardner as her confidence and narrative abilities continue to grow. And what can we expect from Grace Gardner in the future? While hoping to get an album out in the summer or fall, we can continue to anticipate a more alternative direction and music that showcases her vulnerability and artistic capabilities.

Part-time pop music enthusiast and full-time bookworm, Kiara is a senior hoping to graduate with a bachelor's in ad/pr and sociology. Her passion for the arts, both written and unwritten, has led her to frequent concerts, museums, and even gardens. Kiara hopes that her dedication to both writing and music will begin her media career in the music industry.