First Look Friday: Introducing The Passionate, Authentically Cool Grace Weber [Interview]
Allow us to put you on to singer-songwriter, Grace Weber, a talented artist who knows how to move you and your body with soulful grooves and real AF lyrics.
I stumbled across Grace Weber on Soundcloud back in November when a friend told me to listen to “More Than Friends”. And while I thought it was promising, it wasn’t until a trusted source of mine put me on that she was not only the future, but she had a pretty solid road to becoming a gift to audiophiles everywhere. I dove into her page, playing tracks multiple times, and when I heard that she was hitting the road with Lil’ Chano from 79th—better known as Chance the Rapper—for his Lollapalooza South America appearance, I wanted to make sure that Okayplayer audiophiles knew about this wonderful singer-songwriter before it was too late.
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As an artist able to relate and work with other creatives, Grace Weber presents herself as a real one whose authenticity has opened doors to greater successes. A Grammy Award-winning recording artist, this Milwaukee original has had her fair share of OMG moments, but none could possibly compare to when she decided to give back to the youth in her native city with The Music Lab, Inc. non-profit organization. Determined to build a community through music, Grace’s program offers a free music education, career prep, and an open mic performance program to high school-aged youth of all backgrounds.
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It just goes to show that music is truly one of the greatest things in existence on God’s green earth.
With a new project in the works, Grace has brought in her friends from The Social Experiment to help craft and get her ideas out. Produced by Nate Fox, Nico Segal, and Peter Cottontale — Grace’s upcoming effort is one to keep ears and eyes on. And to help, we’ve been blessed to share with you all not one, but two exclusive tracks — “space jam” and “so solitary” — which you can play below. So, without any further ado, Okayplayer allow us to introduce you to Grace Weber, an honest voice with a heartfelt message of truth, love and real AF lyrics. We talk with her about the obstacles she overcame to get to this point, how she prepares to engage with her first love—live performing, and who she would want to collaborate with in the future. Enjoy!
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that those in music game are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?
Grace Weber: I hope people are seeing authenticity and hearing a real and honest love of music. I want to connect with people, person-to-person, and I think the only way to do really that is to be as real as possible with my music. I also think people might be hearing how much love, energy, and care we put into the music. Nate Fox, Nico Segal, Peter Cottontale, Binta, and I really poured our heart and soul into these songs and really took the time and space to find the album’s—and ultimately my—sound. I spent a year writing and recording the album and really taking care at every step to make sure I was honestly and effectively communicating these stories and emotions and moods throughout each song and within the way the whole album weaves together. I think people can hear when you put love into a project and I think that love is what ultimately resonates with the listener… and when it’s authentic it becomes a ripple effect.
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
GW: Gospel music is my most cherished influence. I grew up singing in a gospel choir and the way I learned to use my voice and connect with people in the church through music helped me lay the foundation for who I am as a singer, performer, and an artist. There’s an incredible freedom, and at the same time, a crazy technical aspect to gospel music and singing. It’s an incredible music education in skill, emotion and heart. Beyond gospel, I am also a big fan of R&B, soul, jazz, and folk music. Boyz II Men was my first concert when I was seven. I used to listen to Mariah Carey’s runs, slow them down on my discman (shoutout CDs) over and over again until I could nail them. Whitney Houston, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Eva Cassidy and Celine Dion were also some of my vocal idols growing up. As a songwriter and lyricist, Joni Mitchell and Frank Ocean are huge influences on me, and I spend a lot of time studying how they craft songs and learning from the places they go outside the box and change the rules. I love studying artists who push music forward, who aren’t afraid to be different, and I use the inspiration provided by these musical groundbreakers to push myself to go outside my own comfort zones and keep crafting and honing on the uniqueness of who I am. My musical influences have helped me find the courage to find and be my truest self.
OKP: Can you talk about how your life was while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?
GW: I went through some hard times in college with my first toe-dip into the music industry and it broke my spirit for a little bit. I had to learn to find self-confidence again and really go through a journey to find what self-love really means. I used to be really, really sensitive to what people thought of me and I always wanted to please everyone, I would be so scared to let anyone down. But when I met my manager, Binta, in 2015, it was the first time I met someone in the industry who could really see me for who I was, who saw that little light still burning inside of a really scared girl, and went through the process of helping me uncover myself again so I could find that self-confidence to be the artist I’d always wanted to be. It was a really important process of “artist development,” in that Binta took the time and gave me the space to find myself and really fall in love with music and singing again without any pressure or expectation. It allowed me to let down some walls I had built up because I finally felt like I had a teammate who I could depend on and who actually knew and understood me for who I am, and am capable of becoming. I felt like I didn’t have to protect myself anymore because I knew she had my back. I’m so grateful to her for that, and I now feel this newfound freedom of self-acceptance and love and I feel ready and excited to share that with people through music and interviews and shows, all of it. I’m not scared to let anyone down anymore I’m just excited to be there for and with others.
OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racist occurring almost on a daily basis around the globe — how can your music help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?
GW: Music is the most powerful form of communication; it can be used for the greatest good. It is a catalyst, that in its purest state, when shared, loved and appreciated, serves to bring people of so many different backgrounds together, if we let it. I am a white woman who grew up in Wisconsin—because of music, a shared love of music, and our common humanity—some of the people closest to me in the world come from a different background, other artists with whom I work, members of my band, producers, and my manager, with whom I also work creatively. Binta, my manager, is a black woman raised on the east coast and from the south; our shared love and understanding of music as a means of expression, our mutual goals have made her more than a manager or creative collaborator. Music has helped me not only deal with the pain of my own existence, it has opened my heart, mind and soul to the very real pain and suffering of people in my life, some of whom have been directly targeted by racism, some of whom I see experience the burden of it, carrying it with them daily in their lives—there is a reason why soul music, which came from black people before it came from anyone else is so evocative of the human spirit, it comes from the very deep hurts, pains and tragedies of being a black person in a racist society—it also tho, is an expression of the great joy in overcoming that pain, of resilience, and heart and endurance and love… these are my sisters, my brothers, and I carry and experience that pain with them, which motivates me to use music not only as a source of healing in a general way, but to call attention to issues affecting black and brown people, those who are most likely to be discriminated against.
Music as a healer is so powerful because it can help us process emotions and trauma that sometimes words alone can’t reach. Binta and I talk a lot about the role of the artist as a healer, and an as advocate, and honestly the responsibility of just being human to stand beside your fellow person and just be there for them. I wrote a song called “Just Love” after the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings, the song fell out of me as reaction to how horrible the state of our country is in as relates to race, police brutality, and gun violence. I recorded “Just Love” the night of the immigration ban in January 2017 because I couldn’t stand seeing people try to explain away blatantly racist reasons for the ban, or politicians talking about how we would fix all these issues someday. I’ve seen how the freedom songs of the sixties and seventies, how the power of Motown and now hip-hop have helped people to come together, to bring us back to one another. My hope is that more of us—through music—can learn to walk together, side-by-side, sisters and brothers, united. I hope music continues to play a role in opening people’s hearts and minds, towards a mentality of love and justice for all people.
OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you’ve overcome in your career thus far?