“Music Was My Destiny Card” How Lady Gaga Brought Grace Gaustad Fulfilment

The pop star writers for Clash...

Lady Gaga’s impact on pop culture is incalculable. Arguably one of this century’s defining music icons, the sheer breadth of her work – from future-facing pop to jazz torch songs via her award-winning acting abilities – out-paces virtually all of her peers.

Indeed, it’s the enduring influence of Lady Gaga on other artists that perhaps makes her so pivotal. Grace Gaustad is living evidence of this – the American star fell completely in love with Gaga’s work, and it became a lens for her to view the world through.

Becoming an empowered, influential artist in her own right, Grace Gaustad never forgot the impact Lady Gaga had on her. So, a recent full circle moment brought the singer an enormous deal of personal fulfilment – when this one-time Little Monster earned a co-sign from the Queen herself.

Writing for Clash, Grace Gaustad reflects on the enduring influence that Lady Gaga – the person, and the musician – has had on her life.

It was an early evening in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. My dad had just picked me up from a friend’s house and we were listening to the radio in the car while driving home. All of a sudden, the most intriguing synth melody I had ever heard, accompanied by a chant ‘ma ma ma ma’ caught my attention like nothing ever before. I immediately asked my dad to turn up the radio as loud as it could go, and it was in that three minutes and 57 seconds that I fell in love with pop music through a song called ‘Poker Face.’ As soon as I got back home, I raced to my mom’s computer and went to YouTube. I was desperate to know what magical creature could have written a song that made me feel alive in a way I had never felt before. I’ll never forget the moment I saw a miraculous being arise from the pool dressed in leather and sequins, accompanied by two gigantic great Danes. She was majestic and her name was Lady Gaga. 

Fast forward a few years and I had studied every song and music video Gaga had released. I performed the ‘Bad Romance’ choreography in my bedroom daily. I had memorised every song word for word, and I must have watched the HBO ‘Monster Ball’ special 500 times to the point of memorising her entire set list and all of the dance moves in between. It goes without saying that between the years of 2008-2013, Gaga changed pop culture forever. She redefined artistry and secured her place among the greatest artists of all time. Gaga became the ultimate icon and role model to so many people, including me. She gave me a place to feel safe as a child who never felt like they belonged anywhere. She welcomed all of the misfit toys into her world as ‘little monsters’ and that was one of the first places I ever felt at home aside from my own music.

“Music Was My Destiny Card” How Lady Gaga Brought Grace Gaustad Fulfilment

I began playing piano at five years old and was writing my own music by six. I began recording all of my own songs at age nine and by age 10, I was spending hours after school writing songs, playing piano, dancing, and practicing my craft. Gaga remained a massive inspiration to me as a young artist trying to find their own voice in a chaotic world.

As time progressed, it became even more apparent that music was my destiny card, and that being said, it was time to take things to the next level. A producer I was working with when I was 13 introduced me to none other than Don Lawrence; a prestigious vocal coach who worked with everyone from vocal powerhouses Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion, to rock legends like Mick Jagger and Bono. He also happened to be the guy who began working with Lady Gaga at age thirteen, the same age I was the day I walked into his studio. I was beyond nervous knowing I was about to sing for the man who guided Lady Gaga into superstardom. I walked into Don’s studio trembling and chose to sing him ‘Speechless’, which to this day is one of my favourite Gaga records. After I finished singing, there was a long moment of silence and Don looked up at me and said ‘You’re good. You’re not great, but you’re good, so I’ll take you.’ 

I spent the next three years religiously working with Don multiple times per week and practicing for hours in between those lessons. Each week I would play him new songs I was working on and he would criticize each and every one of them, sometimes bringing me to tears. I know that sounds harsh, but the best coaches are the ones that push you the hardest. He used to always tell me ‘I push you because I know there is greatness inside of you. We just have to find it.’

Eventually after years of lessons and ridicule, I played Don a song called ‘Jupiter’ on the guitar. We shared that same moment of silence we had back at my first lesson. I looked at him puzzled wondering what he could possibly be thinking. A huge smile came across his face and he said ‘You did it baby. You’re great! If you want it, a huge music career is waiting for you.’ From that moment on, I worked harder than I had ever worked before. I stayed up night after night writing and conceptualising my first album ‘BLKBX: wht r u hding.’ and shortly after, my sophomore album ‘PILLBX: whts ur fantasy’.

I shared a song titled ‘GAGA’ which is the second track off of PILLBX with Don. ‘GAGA’ is a tribute to the woman who shaped so much of who I am today as an artist and person. I asked Don if he would share the track with Gaga herself, and he did. A few weeks later, I found myself talking on the phone with the person I idolised since childhood. She loved the song ‘GAGA’ and shared a few of her other favourite songs off my album with me. We spoke as two artists and Gaga offered her friendship and mentorship to me. There’s an old saying about never meeting your idols because they will always disappoint you, but Gaga could not have been more magical. She is a beautiful soul inside and out and gave me advice that I will hold onto for the rest of my life. I feel so lucky to call her not only an inspiration but now a mentor and friend.

When the song ‘GAGA’ finally released on June 16th, Mother Monster herself reposted the song on all her social media. I began hysterically crying knowing that 10 year old me who watched the ‘Telephone’ music video ten thousand times would never believe her reality.

In closing, I hope that my music can be a safe space for the millions of kids suffering in silence because they feel different and feel as if they don’t belong anywhere. I’m here to tell you that for anyone who ever felt different for any reason, you are safe here.

‘GAGA’ is out now. Lady Gaga plays Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on July 29th and 30th.

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