Emerging from the white water rapids of independent music like an old soul, is blues songwriter Grace Woodroofe. In a relatively short time, she’s been able to channel some of the most classic and substantial influences into finding the substance within to make her own raw and real music. There’s that bit about collaborating with her Ben Harper on her debut album Always Want, but what’s more impressive than that is how she’s able to communicate experiences, that may not even be her own, in a way that makes you sit upright. What’s even more impressive is how she’s been able to channel the roots of music as an art, and really rip it out. Below Grace answers some questions on where this passion came from, her music’s strongest connection, and her upcoming album.
Kelly Knapp: How did you get started making music?
Grace Woodroofe: My Dad taught me how to play guitar when I was 13 after an introduction to the Beatles took hold of my entire being and energies. The first song I learnt was "Something" and from there I devoured the entire Beatles catalogue, which then lead on to the Beach Boys, then Neil Young, then Bob Dylan etc.. My love of music was purely an appreciation until at 15 I began an education in the blues. Female artists like Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan and Aretha Franklin particularly resonated with me and a new fire was struck within my body with a want to express myself as honestly and rawly as they had. It was such a new experience for me being so emotionally charged and excited by something so real. I began writing songs from this point on and the first two I completed went up on a national radio website where I was "discovered."
KK: Was there a particular moment in time where you knew this is what you had to be doing?
GW: I've always been very passionate about the things that interest me as well as extremely head strong with a firm belief in the goals I want to accomplish. When I was in high school the only thing I cared about or could concentrate on was music. Walking between classes I was always quickly blasting my current obsession through my secret headphones and all I wanted to do at the end of the day was race home to play guitar. It was all consuming for years, so when I started creating my own music and I got "the" phone call to pursue it on an entirely new level - I took it as sign it was the right thing for me and have never looked back since.
KK: Do you remember the first song you wrote?
GW: It was called "Temporary Tattoo" and it was about likening a boy to that exactly...even though I hadn't even had a boyfriend before.
KK: What was the inspiration behind “Battles”?
GW: When I was living in Los Angeles at 19, I lived up the road from a really cool 24 hour diner called Fred 62. Over time I got to know the waitstaff and regular customers. I loved sitting there for hours and just watching, observing, drinking coffee. I became enamoured with a waitress who was obviously getting older and coming to terms with the fact that the reason she moved to LA - to become an actress - was disappearing and she would end up a waitress for the rest of her life. I took on the persona of this waitress in "Battles" and detailed the daily struggles and disappointments I thought she experienced.
KK: What about your music do you think is the strongest connection for people?
GW: I've always believed that the lyrics I write need to be the most important ingredient in communicating the feeling behind the songs. They are so so so important to me in revealing the tone and emotions. Second is the way I express those lyrics through performance - again, so important in depicting feeling. Since I started writing songs at 15, I was really adamant I wanted to be honest and raw, to never fake anything and be unrelenting in the description of my story. I think my audiences really appreciate that.
KK: Congrats on being featured in the April 2012 issue of Nylon Magazine as a Hugo Boss muse! – Who are your muses?
GW: Patti Smith.
KK: What is your guilty pleasure on the road?
GW: I love collecting little trinkets on tour to remind me of different cities and experiences - things like charm bracelets and rings, little statuettes or stickers.
KK: How do you discover new music?
GW: Mostly from my friends playing records in their houses. Particularly on Sunday mornings while making pancakes. That always seems to be a sensory overload, like the first time I heard Blonde Redhead.
KK: And what’s on the horizon for you?
GW: I'm deep in the trenches of writing my sophomore record. It's actually been quite a draining experience. I've delved into a new level of hyper-awareness where I've really been able to seep deep into my mind and analyze my characteristics, reasonings and behaviours. I'm at a really interesting point in my life. When I'm finished writing and demoing, I hope to record the album within the next few months. Then tour, tour, tour...