“Stray” is about the pain and promise of growing up. Both the track and the video mirror VanderWaal’s inner conflict. The stunning visual alternates between scenes of the New York native singer-songwriter walking in the wilderness in a flowing white dress and riding a bicycle blindfolded.
In an interview with Bustle, VanderWaal said “Stray” is about "finding your way through that unsure ground as you grow up and allowing your personality to mature with you.”
The Billboard Women in Music Rising Star Award recipient has been an inspiration to fans and critics alike since winning season 12 of “America’s Got Talent” by performing her own original songs at the tender age of 12.
Now 15, VanderWaal has toured with Imagine Dragons, performed with one of her idols, Jason Mraz, and landed a starring role in an upcoming Disney movie, “Stargirl.” Some might think the pressure of growing up in the spotlight would be overwhelming for someone as young as VanderWaal. She even confessed to feeling “empty” after returning home from months of touring and filming.
She channeled her feelings into the songwriting process and the soul-stirring track “Stray” was born. In it, she sings of songwriting struggles and wanting to get back to a part of herself that feels lost. She explores the dark feelings in the lines “I keep only seeing rain/I will say no/But you keep crawling in my brain/I wanna get lost, run away/In the dark is where I will stray.”
VanderWaal impressively rides a bike while she’s barefoot and blindfolded in the captivating music video, which is directed by Blythe Thomas. The alternating scenes are meant to depict two sides to the young folk singer’s personality and the bike ride is a sort of visual metaphor for navigating the unchartered waters of growing up.
Since winning AGT, VanderWaal has transitioned from being a tween to becoming a teen, who is pushing onward toward young adulthood. Doing all of this under a bright public spotlight must arguably be somewhat daunting. So far, she seems to be handling it all with an incredible amount of poise and wise-beyond-her-years lyrical vision.
She addressed the complexity of maturing in the interview and related it to riding the bike in the music video saying, “It feels like I'm biking blindfolded, growing up and maturing, and obviously, if you're not yourself you're going to crash... growing up and not knowing where I'm going to go or what the next turn is; industry or not, I think it's something everyone faces."
VanderWaal has not yet confirmed when or if another album is on its way. “Stray” is her first release of new material since she dropped the video for “So Much More Than This” last December.
Watch the “Stray” music video above and stay tuned to AXS for more on Grace VanderWaal.