There’s a certain mesmerizing quality to 'In Bloom', the full-length debut from Swedish singer/songwriter GRANT. With her captivating vocals, the 23-year-old artist delivers every lyric with both a larger-than-life urgency and uncompromising intimacy, drawing the listener further and further into her own private universe. Set against a backdrop of sumptuously textured alt-pop, 'In Bloom' finds GRANT wholly embodying whatever mood she’s conjuring: lovestruck, vengeful, heavy-hearted, triumphant. The result is an album that subtly transports you into a more enchanted state of mind, then returns you to the outside world with a deeper understanding of your own emotional truth.
'In Bloom' features her sublimely devastating debut single 'Waterline.' The track arrived in 2017 and quickly earned acclaim for its elegant intensity and candid depiction of choosing survival over suicide. "When I wrote that song I’d been feeling bad for a long time, and I realized I had to make a choice," says GRANT. "I decided that even though I was probably going to feel bad many more times in my life, I wasn’t going to let it drown me—I was going to choose to live."
Throughout 'In Bloom', GRANT maintains a deliberate vulnerability, a willful sensitivity that speaks to the quiet power in softness. But while each song is rooted in raw emotion, the album unfolds in lyrics showing a poet’s attention to detail and knack for unexpected turn-of-phrase. And whether the mood is ecstatic or stormy, outrageous or fragile, GRANT endlessly proves her skill at sculpting melodies as exquisite as a tune from some centuries-old music box.
Though its title nods to GRANT’s growth as an artist, 'In Bloom' also documents her coming-of-age in a grander sense. On the album-opening 'Lighthouse,' with its bombastic horns and slinky groove, she offers a snapshot of some wild adventures at a warehouse party, channeling all the dizzy elation in losing your head on a Saturday night. More darkly charged and spiked with spaghetti-western guitar tones, 'Gone' takes on a bluesy ferocity as GRANT recounts a falling-out with a friend and lays down a perfectly plainspoken confession ("A fucked mind can act so dumb"). Written soon after the U.S. presidential election, 'Gravity’s Rainbow' begins in torchy despair but builds into a beautifully defiant epic ("We’re in love, fuck the war"). And on 'Lightyears,' GRANT pays homage to her father (a farmer she describes as "a very down-to-earth, full-of-love person who just wants to take care of everyone around him"), infusing the soul-stirring track with flashes of easy wisdom ("Ambition is graceful when handled right").
At the heart of 'In Bloom' are a handful of songs that capture the starry-eyed thrill of new romance. "I fell in love and didn’t want to write about being sad anymore," says GRANT of single 'Catcher in the Rye,' a sweetly uptempo track built on plush beats and lust-crazed lyrics. "I wanted to write about being so happy without making it into some cheesy love song—and even if it is some cheesy love song, I don’t care: it’s honest." Another moment of sheer romanticism, 'Shimmer' opens with brightly ethereal effects that soon give way to GRANT’s gorgeously strange balladry ("Like orchids in the rain/I eat the honey from your voice/Your skin is shimmering/It looks better when you wear no clothes"). "For that one I wanted to write about how beautiful my boyfriend is, and I wanted to use a word that’s not very manly, like shimmer, to describe how a person’s skin looks after sex," she points out.
But for the synth-laced 'Body Electric,' with its schoolgirl sing-song and sampled fireworks, GRANT twists the love-story narrative to focus entirely on herself ("If my self-love intimidates a grown-up man/I’ll use my hand, goddamn"). "With 'Body Electric,' I was interested in the idea of discovering my sexuality and pleasing myself, but in a way that was playful," she says. "It also came from trying to get myself to like my body—trying to make the song sound beautiful, so that I could feel beautiful."
Through the years, that balance of dreamy sincerity and cheeky playfulness has emerged as an essential element of GRANT’s songwriting. Born Alma Caroline Cederlöf, she grew up on a farm in the countryside outside Stockholm, spending much of her childhood among the horses, "singing and imagining the different possibilities of life." At age nine she joined an after-school music program, and soon fell in love with performing. "There was a small gathering for all the parents to come see what their kids had been up to, and it was the first time that a whole room went quiet and actually listened to me," she recalls. "It was the most empowering feeling I’d ever experienced, especially being a shy kid in a very loud family."
In high school GRANT attended music school full-time, and dedicated herself to studying jazz singing. "I have a family friend who’s a jazz singer and gave me lessons sometimes," she says. "It opened the door to the most amazing music I’d ever heard, singers like Billie Holiday—their voices and their storytelling went right through me, straight to my heart." Along with mastering the jazz phrasing that still informs her music today, GRANT also explored pop music for the first time, having mostly grown up on artists from the ’90s alternative music scene (PJ Harvey, Tricky, Björk and Nirvana). All those eclectic inspirations coalesced when, at the end of high school, she began to envision a career as a singer/songwriter. "When I graduated, I decided I wanted to make music and I wasn’t going to let anyone write my songs for me," she says. "But I also felt a little bit lost, and I had to figure out what I really wanted to do as an artist."
Instead of continuing her musical education, GRANT took a year off, writing a song a day and experimenting with different genres. Thanks to a connection from her vocal coach, her demos caught the attention of Peter Kvint, who took GRANT under his wing and helped her to sharpen her songwriting skills. Around that time, she also traded her given name for a moniker inspired by Cary Grant ("I wanted a name that had some masculinity about it, since I’m a very tender, girly person," she explains). Once she’d dreamed up her singular sound, GRANT posted a single called 'Wicked' to SoundCloud, emailed the link to countless music blogs, and soon gained major buzz for the song’s moody and magnetic take on soul-pop. By spring 2017, she’d landed her deal with Sony Music Sweden, releasing 'Waterline' that October. In February she made waves with her spellbinding performance of the song at the Swedish Grammy Awards—a show-stealing moment centered on her now-signature, preternaturally still stage presence. "I think I’ve always been inspired by Edith Piaf, how she just stood and talked with her hands and sang from her heart, and everyone listened," GRANT notes.
In reflecting on the making of In Bloom, GRANT reveals that the album’s soul-baring quality has much to do with the purposeful seclusion in her writing practice. "I could never write lyrics in a session," she says. "I’m usually at home in my tub where I can’t run away. It’s mostly about trying to find the feeling that’s standing out the strongest in the middle of the emotional hurricane." But despite the solitude of that process, each song on In Bloom is undeniably outward-reaching in its purpose. "I love how writing music lets you go deeper into yourself, and how that’s actually your job," says GRANT. "It’s like being your own psychiatrist, or writing a diary for everyone to read. I’d love for people to listen to this album and know that they can feel lots of emotions and not worry about being too much. I’d love for them to feel some power in that."