“I didn’t think anything was going to come from it. I was just doing it for fun and never, in a million years would have thought I would be doing this!”
Known globally as Oublaire, 21-year-old Grace Ward has stacked up millions of streams on her music and had more than 200,000 TikTok followers.
Her TikTok success began in September 2020, in the heart of the pandemic. “Initially I just wanted to create a platform for myself that was kind of separate from me,” she said.
“I decided to make a stage name and Oublaire came to mind, and I thought ‘that was the one!’”
Through Tiktok, Spotify and YouTube, the US-based musician has had her music reach all corners of the globe and within the last month take off on her musical journey through a number of successful singles.
Originally from the city of Marietta, in the southern US state of Georgia, Grace moved to the capital, Atlanta, while studying literature, media and communications at Georgia Institute of Technology.
When her music suddenly became successful, she started looking to delay her graduation so that she could complete a music technology minor.
Grace’s interest in music started young. She started playing guitar in sixth grade and picked up many new instruments along the way, including ukulele and piano, as well as developing her vocal skills.
She grew up surrounded by music – her dad Chris loved music and was in bands himself.
“I got to see him perform live a lot, growing up, and that was always a really big inspiration for me,” she said. “I was always like, ‘dad please teach me how to do this’ and he would always say yes and I guess, it kind of just went from there.”
“But I think it’s because I had that drive at the very beginning, from what he was doing, that it was like, this is for me.”
Making use of TikTok’s reach meant that in the space of one year Grace’s music was reaching a global audience, from Mexico to England.
“I remember my first post I was in a bit of an inspiration drought and I was dog-sitting for someone and I was just sitting in their house for a week with nothing to do. I thought no, I’m going to figure something out, so I put something out which was a parody to Heather by Conan Gray and I just think that’s so funny,” she says.
“I started watching anime when the pandemic hit and I felt there were so many characters that I could relate to and expand upon to reach people, with their feelings towards character arcs, so I started writing.
“I didn’t expect that to go over well, and then it did. I was so surprised and it just kept going. At the time, I was recording voice memos and posting those. It’s been absolutely insane.”
What she was doing struck a chord.
“Being able to connect with so many people, I get comments sometimes that are like, ‘love from Brazil’ and that’s so interesting. I’m so thankful for social media that we’re able to actually connect. Like here we are right now, you’re in Australia, I’m in Atlanta, that’s amazing.”
It was such a positive response, Grace took the leap into a new field of writing with her music and her account.
“It was certainly an adjustment to switch to doing more original stuff, and actually having my face on the [TikTok] page but It was really cool to see how people related to it,” Grace said.
This realisation is what brought about her first distributed song, Halloween.
“That song is like my child. That was the first one that I really set out to finish, and it’s almost been a year since its release. I actually remember writing that in one of my classes and I had the tune in my head the whole time.
“Halloween is my favourite day of the year, every single lyric in that entire song is literally my favourite thing. I have a Halloween shrine right over here. I’m obsessed with it.”
Grace has released a number of singles since, however, things escalated very quickly when her most recent song History hates lovers started taking the internet by storm. It was included in TikTok trends, video edits and covers.
“This song was very fun to write as it was a collation of ideas of what people call a relationship.”
History hates lovers focuses on the dismissal of LGBTQ+ people and couples in history and how it still occurs today.
The week before moving out of her old house, Grace decided to post a snippet of the song to the platform and didn’t think more of it, with her focus on moving.
Unknown to her, the reaction was exponentially building, with more than 14,000 videos featuring the song and reaching more than 25 million collective views.
“I don’t even know how to react, like I never saw this kind of thing taking off. The way that TikTok works, is like if something is going well, you need to hop on it straight away and that creates issues. So I tried to lengthen the recording and release date, because I didn’t want to rush it.
“It was so exciting – I just found out about this recording studio at Georgia Tech only three days before I recorded this song. I was sitting in one of my classes, doing some research about practice rooms, when I found out about this place and I was like, oh my gosh, I have to figure out how to get here right now. When I got there, I actually did the vocals, and mixing, by myself and my dad played the guitar for it.”
“So I put it out there and I expected the hype to have died down. But then it did well. And I literally cried. It’s been so overwhelming and really, really awesome.”
In the first few days of her song being released, it surpassed 250,000 streams.
It was so surprising, especially right at the beginning. It’s been incredible and crazy.
“Like I’m seeing new trends being started with it and it was very, very overwhelming.”
Grace also wanted to spread hope to others with her platform and songs.
“I knew I wanted to advocate for something with this new song and I was not going to put this out and not try help others. I wanted to do something close to home so that’s why I picked Lost-n-Found.” The Atlanta-based not-for-profit organisation fights for ending youth homelessness in the LGBTQ+ community.
Grace has often discussed the group with her followers, hoping people can give what they can to help those in need.
“I just think that’s really important, especially, in Atlanta, because there’s just such a diverse group of people. It was also really interesting to see the comments of people talking about their positive experiences with the charity and how people were donating their furniture when they are moving or giving their loose change – it all helps.”
However, no artist is without a few bumps in the road and, for Grace, trying to keep up with her own expectations to create content, on occasions, caused her to struggle with writer’s block.
“At the time I was doing classes and video edits and I had a friend Mads Buckley” – a fellow musician on TikTok – “and she said, ‘remember to take a break, you’re doing great but take time for you’, and that’s some of the best advice I think I’ve received.”
This advice permitted her to place more emphasis on each piece of content and in turn, put more effort into each individual song.
Oublaire’s ambitions now travel even further, with new music on the horizon.
“Before my most recent song, I mainly did acoustic stuff of the singer-songwriter vibe, but with this one, I had drums and an electric guitar which was all new to me. I’ve been working on a few songs that are more upbeat and a little bit rockier,” she said.
“There’s a band called The Sundays. I really like the vibe they have going for them. At one time my Dad was playing them in the car. And then after I was like, all right, well I want to make a song that kind of sounds like that. And I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that’s going to be one of my next few releases. So I’m definitely looking for a little bit rockier and a little bit more complex music.”
Additionally, she’s looking at the possibility of music videos to accompany her new songs, something that resonated through Grace’s love of acting.
“In high school, I did a lot of acting, I was actually my drama club president, it’s what I had my heart set on then. I was even Sandy in Grease. I miss acting. It was always so much fun.
I think that’s also why I picked up TikTok because, at a certain point, I thought it would be fun to be a little bit more theatrical with my songs
With a number of singles released over the past year, the idea of an album or collection is an eager dream.
“I sure hope so! I have a ton of songs that I’m working on and hopefully, I would like to do an EP before I graduate.”
“I’ve tried to release stuff every month and it’s been somewhat of an issue, just because of time constraints, but right now I’m in a good place with the availability of the studio right there.
“I have like three or four songs that I know I really want to get recorded, so hopefully, fingers crossed for an EP soon.”