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A Dirty Dozen with GRACE WOMACK – August 2021

| 17 August 2021 | Reply

Photo credit: Jacqueline Justice

According to a recent press release: “Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter Grace Womack is set to release her debut EP, Yellow Cowboy Hat, on August 13, 2021. A 20-year-old rising junior (majoring in English and Government) at the University of Texas, Womack showcases her broad range and vocal dexterity through nimble, lyrical narratives about what interests her: friendship, love, confusion, forgiveness, and how lives become intertwined and grow apart. “I often end up writing about what I don’t know—how nothing is certain, and how confusing it is to be alive sometimes. I write what feels real,” she says. A performer since the age of 9, Womack was born and raised in Houston, Texas, where she developed an early love for musical theater that eventually distilled into a love for writing and performing her own songs. Inspired by everything from her dad’s dreams of writing novels, to classic artists ranging from The Beatles to Linda Ronstadt, to the work of idiosyncratic pop artists like Wisconsin drummer-turned-singer Sammy Rae, Womack is a genuine writer at heart. Her soothing anthems are rich in visual imagery and metaphor, exploring the range of human experience in candid and elegant detail.” We get Grace to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

There’s a lot of little tidbits about small details from my life that maybe only a few people would catch. I reference The Beatles as “four wise men” in “Oblivion,” my underage, 20-year-old status in “Yellow Cowboy Hat” when I talk about the ‘X’ written on my hand, etc. I think “Miss Tennessee” is probably wrought with the most “hidden nuggets,” as there’s a lot of double or maybe triple meaning in that one. It might take listeners a few times through to really get the sentiment.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I was 9 years old and doing gymnastics at my local cheer gym, and my mom got an email about a musical they were auditioning for down in the teensy little performing arts center at the end of the gym. It was a 10-and-up production of “Bye Bye Birdie,” and, after convincing the director that I was a particularly mature 9-year-old, my parents sat me down and told me it was okay if I didn’t get in. I went in and sang two Carrie Underwood songs (“Cowboy Casanova” and “Undo It,” if you were wondering), which is highly embarrassing in retrospect, but it landed me a speaking part with a vocal solo. Ever since then, I’ve known that singing was the hobby that would finally stick after years of breaking my fingers as a goalie and getting made fun of for my obnoxious smile on the cheer team. I kept doing musical theatre for about 10 years before I realized that maybe I just liked the singing part, and wanted to ditch the whole acting and dancing thing. I started writing songs in high school and honestly didn’t have that realization moment until about a year ago, when I realized that my songs weren’t only well-received by my mom and dad, but that they also had the potential to go beyond that. I’ve always had a passion for singing and performing, but only recently have I started to figure out what those passions might look like for me as I get older and work towards a career.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

There are definitely quite a few. My dad used to sing “I’ve Just Seen a Face” by The Beatles every night to me during my earliest, colicky years, and I’d like to think that gave me a taste for the classics. I’ve always been inspired by good lyrics specifically, so that tends to guide my taste more than anything else. A song could have one lyric that just really stands out as particularly moving or well-constructed or unique, and it’ll immediately get saved to a playlist. The song “Tomorrow” by Shakey Graves is one I heard for the first time when I was 14 and have been playing on repeat ever since because of his insanely good lyrics. As for instrumentation, “Baby Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts” by Lake Street Dive (along with practically their entire discography) and “Denim Jacket” by Sammy Rae have been super influential on my taste, and I find myself searching their “fans also like” sections for new music all the time.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I think it would have to be Sara Bareilles. She’s been a part of my musical journey from “Love Song” and “Gravity,” to “Waitress,” all the way up to her more current releases. I’m fairly certain “Sara Bareilles karaoke” is my most frequent YouTube search. I admire her talent so much, and she would certainly understand the musical theatre side of me as well. I think her most recent album Amidst the Chaos is truly a perfect record and has the capacity to move me in ways that most music just doesn’t. Her lyrical ability is unmatched in my eyes, and she seems like a very down-to-earth, authentic performer and human being. Honorable mentions to Paul McCartney, FINNEAS, and Lake Street Dive.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

I love love love to be outside. I’m not much of a hiker or anything like that but just going to public parks and beaches or really anywhere out in the sun is my favorite recharging activity. I would literally swim every day if I lived in a place where the weather allowed that. If the UV index is 8 or higher I can almost guarantee I’m outside and in some kind of body of water.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I think I would describe it as somewhere between funky, vintage soul and modern singer/songwriter pop. (How many genres can I fit into one sentence?) It feels very genre-bending to me so it can be hard to put a finger on exactly how I would describe it. I write the music I love to hear, so usually that’s lyric-focused songs with some sort of funky twist to them. I also think that my songs are very different from one to the next, so there’s a lot to listen to and explore between all of those genres. I’ve yet to receive a cringey comparison, but every time I release a new song and get a new “you sound like ____” comment, I’m just a little bit scared that it’ll be the first.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Because of quarantine, I haven’t been able to put together a real functioning band, but it’s definitely in the works! Whenever it does come together, I’ll definitely be the one cooking, but I’m sure they’ll get tired of my three pasta recipes I make on rotation real fast.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Recently Lennon Stella came into the store I work at, and it took everything in me not to freak out. I’m such a massive fan of her most recent album and secretly hoped it would come on in the store while she was in there.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part of being a musician for me, so far, is the unbiased people who seem to really genuinely like my music. I’ve grown up with a lot of praise and encouragement from those around me, which I obviously appreciate greatly and it shaped me so much as a kid and teenager, but there’s something about hearing that same praise from someone who has no vested interest in you whatsoever and has no reason not to be straight with you. Knowing that my music resonates with people I’ve never met really provides such a unique validation. If I wasn’t a musician, my dream job would probably be a criminal investigator or forensic behavioral specialist. I’m sure that sounds a bit off the beaten path, but the criminology world has always fascinated me, even before Spencer Reid from the BAU graced all of our screens. I majored in it in college for a while and loved every bit of it. I have such a tendency to investigate everything from my own feelings and beliefs to strange workplace situations to seemingly paranormal activity, and obviously criminal investigation goes hand in hand with that. Understanding criminals and their psychology is just insanely interesting to me and I would love to be a part of that world.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

This is a hard one. I think I would want an interviewer to ask me what my day to day looks like as a young artist starting out in the music industry and navigating all these new challenges. Before I finally took the dive and started doing the work, I truly had no idea what my life would look like or what things would be part of my routine. My days can be pretty crazy or extremely slow and boring depending on so many factors, but recently, if I’m not working a 10-hour shift at my retail job on the weekends, I’m organizing emails, figuring out the back-ends of all kinds of music related websites, learning how to use Illustrator so I can design merch, and meeting with various members of my team. Feels so weird to say “my team,” ha ha.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I would love to go back to being a senior in high school and pick my current career path right off the bat. I’m actually a little bit happy I didn’t though, because those soprano ukulele songs I was writing back then probably wouldn’t even have a chance at charting on Billboard or iTunes, but I do sometimes feel like I missed out on a couple years of focusing on music. I ended up finding my way in the end, though, so I don’t beat myself up too hard about it.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Hands down it would be Rubber Soul by The Beatles. I just would absolutely love to be a fly on the wall and watch those guys put music together. I think it would be so inspiring and funny and fascinating. The Beatles have always been special to me, and this particular album truly has no skips in my eyes. I remember being on a road trip with my family, googling which Beatle wrote what song and whose idea it was and what was it about and any other detail we could find. “I’m Looking Through You” is always my dad’s answer to “What’s your favorite Beatles song?” growing up, so I think this album just holds a special place in my heart. And if all that is too deep, just listen through “In My Life” one time, and that’ll explain it in and of itself.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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