Why X Factor's Grace Davies has taken four years to release Roots

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat music reporter

Published
Image source, Emma-Jane Photography

Four years ago, Grace Davies sang her original song at an X Factor audition.

The track - Roots - got her noticed by the judges, she became one of the stars of the 2017 series and made it all the way to the final, where she came runner-up.

But the 24-year-old from Blackburn has only now released the song that made her famous.

"It's been four years in the making," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"It feels like a massive weight off my shoulders but also the most exciting thing that's ever happened," she says.

The story of why it's taken so long for Roots to come out is a prime example of the rollercoaster ride some new artists take when they start in the music industry.

Figure caption,
Warning: Third party content may contain adverts

After her series of X Factor, Grace was signed to Simon Cowell's music label Syco, where she had a deal to release an album.

"They never said when it would come out. I was kind of held back for many years," she says.

Her first official single - Invisible - was released in January 2020, but coronavirus and the first national lockdown delayed subsequent career plans.

When she released her first EP in June 2020, Syco effectively shut down and left her with an uncertain future.

Image source, Emma-Jane Photography
Image caption,
Grace says she's worked hard on Roots to keep the song authentic but strip out the X Factor 'cheesiness'.

Grace says that moment was "probably the most devastating thing" that had ever happened to her because it "felt like the end of my career".

"I just got a lot of rubbish thrown at me, but it's OK. I've been so patient over the past four years and it's been frustrating at times," she says.

At the end of 2020, after three years of living by herself in London, she decided to move back into her parents' house in Lancashire.

"I got myself into quite a dark hole in London. I couldn't do the job as I wanted and it felt crushing. I knew I needed to get out for the sake of my mental health."

After moving back, she set up a home studio and "it's only been up since then".

Image source, Naomi Kane
Image caption,
Grace says the ups and downs of the last four years have made her a stronger person.

The whole experience has culminated - finally - in the release of her signature track, Roots, which she originally wrote in about 40 minutes.

"It's a really bittersweet song for me because I wrote it about leaving home, moving to London to do music full time and suddenly I'm back in my hometown."

Despite the struggles to get her song out into the world, she thinks it's made her a "stronger person".

Grace was involved in the production of the song too, for which she's got a credit. "I wouldn't have had that four years ago," she says.

"I've grown so much as an artist, but also as a person and I appreciate the small things so much more now."

She also says there's been a lot of tears since the release of the song: "I'm such a crier, with every emotion the first thing that comes out my body is tears."

Four years since that first audition, Grace has no regrets about her X Factor experience.

"I wouldn't have the platform I now have," she says. "I've had so many opportunities and experiences that I never ever dreamt of having. I also got to sing my own songs.

"Having four years grinding, working really hard and being frustrated has just made it all the better now."

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays - or listen back here.

More on this story