A flower, a night out with friends, the memories of childhood. Once the idea comes, she cannot let it escape. Jotting down her lyrics on pad and paper, she turns to her guitar, her mind racing as her fingers strum with the birth of a new song.
From stages to streets, senior musician Grace Basari has paved a career path of music.
“How I see myself musician wise is just someone who’s trying to get by, trying to be as authentic as possible, and just keep making art,” Basari said. “And my musical journey, wherever it takes me it takes me. The only bridge I have left in my life is the one that leads me to my greatest desire, which is to sing.”
Growing up, Basari was always surrounded by music, having a mother who sings to cousin guitar prodigies. She began to play the piano at the age of five and delved into learning other instruments such as piano, clarinet, and harmonica. Eventually, she discovered her passion for the guitar around age six, now being her main instrument.
“I think my relationship with the guitar is just one of love, curiosity, and knowledge,” Basari said. “I feel with your instrument it’s another extension of you, as corny as that may sound.”
Being immersed in music as a child led up to seventh grade, where Basari became inspired by artists such as Ryan Ross and the Beatles to write her own music. When conceptualizing a song, she takes inspiration in her life such as people and experiences, and incorporates older musical themes from periods such as the ‘50’s.
“I like to think of myself as a writer before a singer, and so I write what comes to me first,” Basari said. “Everywhere I go there’s a bit of creativity in me that will find something anywhere to write about and I’ll just create a song from it..”
Basari’s best writing is when it’s spontaneous and in a place of solitude. Sometimes her ideas come in bursts, and she has to write it down almost immediately so as to not have the idea fade or lose interest.
“When I’m in a place of solitude, a place of quiet, where I can really gather my thoughts. Because sometimes my thoughts are just constantly racing, I’m like ‘oh this is a good idea, oh but this is a better idea.’,” Basari said. “So when I find myself to be at my most creative is when I am in a place of peace. So that could be nature, that could be in my room, that could be at a friend’s house.”
Before the pandemic, Basari would perform gigs at places such as Monkey Nest Coffee, Cherrywood Coffee, and would sometimes street perform in Austin outside on South Congress Avenue. She feels a general rule of thumb for musicians is they feel some sort of adrenaline as they’re playing, but when stepping on stage, that anticipation goes away.
“I’m a very in the moment type of person, so when I’m doing something I just focus on what is happening right then and there,” Basari said. “So whenever I’m singing and playing music I just feel, at least for me, solitude. There’s not even any thinking anymore, I’m just doing what I know how to do.”
Performing at gigs versus street performing, also known as busking, Basari finds it to be two different environments and levels of professionalism. Gigging has a more intricate process with scheduling and advertisements versus grabbing a mic and guitar and busking outside.
“Playing at a gig I feel a little less free as compared to busking because these are either people who paid or willingly came, or are just getting coffee, in the store in the moment. So I feel when it comes to gigging you have to, for me at least, show a little more professionalism, because again you’re promoting yourself as an artist in a more professional manner,” Basari said. “With busking I feel a bit more relaxed because it’s super fun. People are walking and can just stop by, look at you. It promotes you as an artist as well, busking just feels more liberating for me because you’re out with everyone and it’s just more of a vibe. I love doing gigs too but for me it feels a bit more restrictive, even though busking there’s a lot of restrictions to it too.”
While still trying to find her footing, she writes autobiographical songs about past and current experiences. As she plays, Basari’s favorite thing is knowing that listeners can interpret her songs in their own or any way to make it more personal.
“Whenever I make personal songs, whenever it’s out, my interpretation of it is gone and it’s up to the audience’s interpretation of the song. Once I sing it out there and once it reaches an audience, the personal meaning of it for me is still there,” Basari said. “It makes me feel like more of a strong writer to know that my art can be twisted and turned to whatever the listener wants to make it be so it can be more relatable to them.”
In her music career, Basari has faced personal challenges such as self doubt and creative burnout, but believes trusting and reassuring herself is the most important thing.
“Being able to persevere with it is one of the most important things. It takes a lot of discipline to reassure yourself, because you feel so un-reassured with what you’re doing. You feel the lack of confidence is so strong, especially when you’ve been doing music for such a long time,” Basari said. “I think what helps me the most is there was this quote somebody told me one time and they said ‘You’re not a real musician if they haven’t told you your music is garbage’ or insulted you, and that’s something that gave me some footing because there will always be naysayers, there will always be people who have something to say.”
Basari still finds herself working through and finding ways to reassure and build trust with herself, even sometimes having to sit down with herself and telling her thoughts bluntly to shut up.
“Sometimes I don’t even want to work through it. It makes me miserable with what some people can say or what I have to say about myself,” Basari said. “I think I’m my biggest adversary. I think I’m working on befriending myself, trusting myself, and the way I’ve been working on it is someone else’s talent doesn’t deter yours.”
For the future, Basari has a lot of plans, none set in stone yet. However, what she does know is she wants to keep on singing, with plans to go beyond being a local musician, releasing new songs, and getting her name out in the music scene.
“I fell in love with it. It’s something I want to do for the rest of my life,” Basari said. “I’ve talked to a lot of other musicians too, and it’s very relieving to see this is all they’re going to do in their life, because I don’t have a backup plan. This is all I want to do.”