Before anything else, you’ll notice Addison’s Grace’s voice. Crystal clear, sweet and stunning, it’s a voice that feels like hearing an old friend, even on the very first listen. These days, singing the eleven tracks that make up their debut album, Diving Lessons, the 22-year-old artist is incredibly confident, self-assured and poised, able to move from silly self-deprecation to traumatic topics in the span of a single verse. But as a kid, booked into dance classes, theater groups and choir by a single mom looking to keep her children entertained after school, Addison was painfully shy and quiet, barely whispering into the microphone, even during solos.
Until one day, around age 12 or 13, they found their voice—Addison had a solo and stepped to the mic with power. Their mother remembers it like they “had a voice for the first time,” and from then on, music was their sole focus. “I think for the longest time I was quiet and shy because I’m autistic,” Addison, who uses he/they pronouns, explained. “I was such a shy kid and I had a really hard time fitting in. I made this connection when I was first getting into my teen years, that music was supposed to be therapeutic, and you were supposed to be able to express yourself. I learned that I was allowed to be loud.”
In high school, Addison was the only member of their all-girls choir with a pixie cut—an image that just about sums up their musical experience growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah. Addison remembers their short hair was always “really frowned upon,” but didn’t connect the dots between this small rebellion and a larger conversation about gender until much later. “It was through the difficulty of me not fitting in as a kid and not being able to make a lot of friends, that I was able to shift into music,” Addison said. “And that became my voice instead.” Now on the verge of releasing their debut full-length as an openly queer, transmasc artist working with the same management as one of their biggest influences, Cavetown, it seems Addison’s 3.8 million followers on TikTok proved more prescient than teenage choir cliques.
But TikTok was never much of a musical outlet for Addison, it was more a place to showcase his personality and sense of humor, which were relatable enough that they earned him millions of followers. Instead, it was Instagram where Addison faithfully released cover songs, and even early originals recorded in a friend of a friend’s basement. Just by chance, Addison wore a Cavetown hoodie in one of these early clips, and was spotted by the artist’s manager, who was quickly moved by this young artist’s striking vocal presence and tender, wise lyrics. Signing Addison and bringing Cavetown’s Robin Skinner on board to help produce and record their full-length, working with him in London was a highlight for this project.
“I love being in the room whenever something is being produced, and I demand it now,” Addison said. “I want to be there for the majority of production, and it’s important to me. I want to sit and watch what they’re doing to my song, and give weird ideas. I spent two weeks in London with Cavetown to get most of the album recorded and produced. It was so fun working with him, because it was like working with a really good friend. It didn’t feel like working; it felt like having fun and drinking tea.” Previously, Skinner had only collaborated with Addison on the early single “Sugar Rush,” so establishing a larger collaboration between them was a big part of the sonic fabric of Diving Lessons.
As the follow-up to Addison’s first two EPs—Immaturing and Things That Are Bad for Me, both released in 2022—and as their first full-length album, Diving Lessons showcases exponential growth for the songwriter. Both vocally and lyrically, Addison is one of the strongest members of a new generation of artists who blur the lines between bedroom pop, indie rock, emo, and folk, all without ever fitting into one of these categories. This post-internet, genre-bending space can be a chaotic shuffle when not handled correctly, but Addison brings structure and vibrancy to their sound, creating a record that unfolds like a multi-act play, complete with characters, spectacle, and plenty of drama.
With a narrative arc that tells a story from start to finish, Diving Lessons is at turns intimate, funny and gut-wrenching, filled with universal feelings that Addison believes could be felt by the twin characters of “nobody” and “anybody” who appear as protagonist and antagonist across the record. Opener “FISH” is a poignant prelude about feeling underwater, literally and figuratively, and an introduction to the airy and melodic sound of the record. Along with other standout tracks like “Pessimistic” “SLIME!” and “White Lie,” this opening song vaults into huge crescendos and gigantic, building choruses, establishing the emotional height Addison’s writing reaches between more subdued verses. “I’m not Taylor, I’m not Phoebe / I’ll write this song, it’ll have no meaning / But I’ll still find a way to cry to it,” he writes on “Pessimistic” battling symptoms of anxiety and depression while dreaming of a brighter mindset against the backdrop of an upbeat pop framework.
On an album that traces a familiar narrative of naive innocence, traumatic disruption, anger, sadness, acceptance, and finally healing, “SLIME!” erupts as a mid-anger and sadness moment, with the twin adages “thank God that therapy is working,” and “I’ve been feeling like slime,” and both ring true in this fuzzed-out, heavier tune that ends with a near-screaming vocal. Working within that same emotional tenor, “White Lie” is a kiss-off to chameleons who morph into whatever is necessary to connect in the moment, but render that connection useless with their endless facades. Other, devastating reflections like “Strawberry” and “bath” come early in the record, before it rounds out with the tongue-in-cheek “I Miss You(r Dog),” an all too relatable anthem about pining for an ex’s pet without missing them in the least.
Diving Lessons is a huge step forward for Addison, someone who has experienced the power music has to heal and empower firsthand, and they hope it will have the same effect for listeners. Instead of insisting that trauma makes you stronger, or that there’s beauty in brokenness, this record is about the strength it takes to swim to the edge, even if there’s no relief in the lesson. “This entire album is about healing, and going through something really hard as a teenager, and having to grow through it,” Addison said. “I named it Diving Lessons because when you hit the water, it hurts and it sucks, and you’re overstimulated and it’s hard, and you have to swim to the edge. That’s how this album feels to me.”