By JAY KENNEY
Brianna Grace is singer-songwriter from Middleboro, Mass., who is making a name for herself in the country music scene across New England. She was voted by our readers as runner-up “Country Artist of the Year” and will be opening for Jonathan Edwards at the Cotuit Center for the Arts on July 13th and Scott McCreery (for a second time!) at Indian Ranch in Webster, Mass., on August 10th. We recently caught up with Ms. Grace who was delighted to answer our questions.
Limelight Magazine (LM): You’re in the process of recording your debut album. Can you tell us how it’s going?
Brianna Grace (BG): The process is coming along well! It’s exciting to see something that started with my guitar develop into a full-grown album. The plan is to record the tracks by the end of summer and release the album sometime in the early fall. If things continue at the rate they are going, I’ll get to share many more of my original songs with everyone!
LM: Are you recording the songs solo or with a band?
BG: On the album I will be performing with a wonderfully talented group of musicians. In the future I might include acoustic songs on an album, or even release strictly an acoustic album, but until then anyone interested can listen to my YouTube videos.
LM: How do you select musicians to record with you? Do they have any input on the songs?
BG: I work with my producer to decide which musicians. I’m always open to new ideas that can potentially improve my material – so yes! They can have input if they’d like to throw ideas out there. At the end of the day, however, it’s about what sounds the best and what best represents me and who I am as an artist.
LM: Can you discuss your own personal song-writing process?
BG: More often than not, I tend to write the words before the music or melody. However, sometimes I’ll surprise myself and create the song’s melody before I even have completed lyrics. From the time I was in elementary school, I loved writing poems. When I reached middle school, my enjoyment with poem writing became a love for song-writing thanks to guitar lessons. Now, I write anywhere and everywhere. I always try to keep my songwriting book with me wherever I go, just in case. On the off chance I don’t have my book with me, I will use available notebooks, random pieces of paper, post-it notes, or my phone…you name it in order to jot my ideas down. It doesn’t really matter where I am. If it pops into my head, I write it down, or even hum a melody into the voice recorder on my phone to keep it for future editing. Sometimes an entire song comes easily from one concept—and other times a song could take months to write, having come from different concepts and ideas I’ve had lying around. It’s all up to the moment and the song.
LM: How did you feel about being named runner-up “Country Artist of the Year” at our annual awards show this year?
BG: I honestly feel beyond honored to have received such recognition. I really wasn’t expecting such a humbling nomination! I was taken aback when my name was announced. There are so many other talented artists in this industry, and to be placed amongst so many of those artists was such a fantastic feeling. I can’t thank my fans enough for their love and support. It feels great to know that there are so many people who support me and my music. My fans are truly amazing and I’m very grateful for that.
LM: You’ve done some appearances on local radio stations. Do you like promoting your music on the radio?
BG: I love radio appearances! It’s definitely a different type of performance and experience. I am not usually in front of many people—just a handful at most are actually sitting or standing near you. But playing on the radio has the potential for many people listening. You never really know exactly how many, or WHO could be listening. I think that’s what’s even more exciting about it. Knowing that there’s the potential that what seems like such an intimate and simple performance can in reality reach and impact a huge amount of people. And you never know what that could lead to.
LM: What do you enjoy most about performing live on stage?
BG: It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing. Live performances are exciting, invigorating. It’s a chance to connect with your fans on a more personal level than just pressing play on a stereo. It’s raw and unpredictable. Plus, being able to see and hear the reactions from the crowd is an adventure within itself. Live performances push me to put forth my absolute best—to give well beyond 100 percent during every second of the show. Part of that is because I know that the people in front of me took the time out of their life to come and support me, so I want to thank them the best way that I can and make it worth it. Performing is like being in a different world. I know everyone says that, but I have to agree. It just seems natural and I go into some kind of zone. When I perform, I am completely comfortable with who I am—with the steps that I take and the things that I say. I believe in the things I sing about. I sing about things that I can connect to (and that hopefully the audience can as well)—whether that means it is about something I went through or something I saw someone I love endure. If I believe in it, I’ll put my all into it.
LM: You opened for Scott McCreery at Indian Ranch last July. What was that experience like?
BG: That experience was, for lack of a better word, surreal. It was more than I thought it would be, and after it was over left me wanting more as well. The venue seats a couple thousand people, making it the biggest audience I have performed in front of in New England. The calibers of response from audience members at this specific show definitely reminded me why I do what I do and why I want this so much.
LM: You were recently involved with a recording of “Dirty Water” to support the One Fund Boston. How did you get involved and what was it like working with so many talented musicians?
BG: This project was somewhat of a spur of the moment thing. My friend Dave DeLuca from the Highway Ghosts contacted me asking if I wanted to be a part of this project that the band Girls Guns and Glory was putting together. Obviously, I jumped at the chance. There were about 40 of us packed into producer Sean McLaughlin’s studio. It was one of the most memorable moments of my career to date. Seeing so many musicians from New England all come and work together for one cause was awe inspiring. There was so much talent in one place that day and it truly shows how the many diverse members of the music community can unite and create something worthy of a noble cause. (Purchase their version of “Dirty Water” at www.onesession.bandcamp.com).
LM: Why did you decide to pursue a career in music and focus on country music?
BG: Music has always been a terrific outlet for me, and has helped me through many of life’s ups and downs. The power that music has for people is also inspirational. Music, even one simple song, is something that can create a movement, a memory, an emotion, and in general just bring people together during good times, or even bad (such as the “Dirty Water” project). Music is such a huge part of my life and it’s what I love to do, so it only made sense to have it be my career as well. As far why I chose to focus on country music? I guess it more so chose me. I grew up with it. From the time I was four years old, I would ride around in my Dad’s truck blasting George Straight or Martina McBride. I love all kinds of music, but country is what I always go back to. It’s the most natural for me.
LM: Who are some of your biggest influences?
BG: To start, of course, I admire fellow artists who I have grown up listening to such as George Straight, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Shania Twain, Faith Hill…the list goes on. But I believe that many more musicians have made an impact as well. I have learned so much from working with all different types of musicians and artists from different levels and genres. The influence that goes the furthest back in my life, though, is my Mom. She has always had a passion for music and performing and that was instilled in me at an extremely early age (as in, banging on pots and pans as a drum set and running around with a toy microphone once I realized my vocal chords could do more than just talking!).
LM: What sets you apart from other local musicians?
BG: The amount of talented musicians in this world, even in this community alone, is remarkable. Being able to be a part of all of it is an honor. When it comes to making a name for one self, recognition takes time and is based upon multiple things. The experience you give the audience has to be a memorable one. Sure, I sing and play guitar. Yes, I write my own material. But I also really put effort into the live performances and the experience that my audience has during the show. One night at a gig someone actually made a comment to me about how I, in a sense, even became part of the audience because of my persona on stage (and on the dance floor with them), and how fun they thought it was. That stuck with me. I also try to personally speak with audience members when I can. My songs and style take a classic genre and add a modern twist to it, which appeals to music lovers of more than just one preference, as well as age groups. And at the end of the day, I love what I do. Music is my passion, and my determination and drive to also have it be my lifetime career is at an ultimate high.
LM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
BG: There’s not much else to say, except thank you for giving me such an opportunity, and thank you to my fans, friends, and family for such wonderful and continuous support. Without any of you, I wouldn’t be able to have any of this or do what I do.
(This story was taken from the summer 2013 issue of Limelight Magazine).