Artist: Grace Morrison
Hometown: Wareham, Massachusetts
Latest Album: Maybe Modern
What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?
There are so many! I remember the very first time I was onstage with my guitar. I was 13, and had been playing for maybe six months. I had a seafoam green electric guitar (because that’s what Billie Joe from Green Day played) and I played “Who Will Save Your Soul” by Jewel. I recall the terror before I began, and then this “hard to put your finger on” zen that came over me as I got into the song and was blinded by the lights. That moment is what got me hooked. Shortly after I remember performing in a local coffeeshop and James Spader walked in (I only knew that he was famous because people told me) and threw $20 in the tip bucket. I still have it. Then there was my little stint singing backup for Eddie Money. He had a cup of water on stage during rehearsals, and my guitar pick flew from my fingers directly into his cup of water. I may have been a tiny bit nervous he’d notice and get mad at me… he did not notice.
But most recently, I felt completely elevated at my album release show. Since 2020 I’ve played exclusively solo after years playing in bands. When we recorded my new record, the drummer John Chipman suggested we hold the album release show in Austin at the Saxon Pub. I’d been sick so I was pretty concerned about my voice before we started playing. But then I started strumming “Broken Things.” And Rich Brotherton started playing guitar. And I swear, when the chorus hit and the full band came in it was like being high. I hadn’t had that feeling playing music in a LONG time. Every worry went away. All that existed was that moment in that song. It was like my favorite lyric from Walt Wilkins’ “Trains I Missed” — “the moments I find myself right where I’m supposed to be.” Performing for me is like a constant search for THAT feeling.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc. — inform your music?
READING!!!! I was having a conversation with my publicist Rachel about what we’d do with a million dollars. She was thinking about adventures. I just said, “There are SO MANY books I want to read.” It’s possible she thought I was kidding, or that that was a bit but it’s the truth. There isn’t much I love more than reading. I’ve probably read every book on King Henry VIII because I’m a nerd (my motto is “revel in your nerditude.” I’ve got shirts that say it!). Reading not only gives me any adventure I could want, but it helps my brain quiet. It’s after reading that I write my best music whether it’s due to the quiet it gives my mind, or the inspiration of a feeling or story. And for me it’s the best way to find words. I think words or phrases or ideas I’ve read get buried in my brain, and I view songwriting like being a coal miner. I go into my creative mind with my little hard hat and see what I can chisel out.
Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?
I’m a cranberry grower and brown-thumbed gardener. Harvest, in late fall, is the most exhausting thing I can think of. I love those bone-tired days. We harvest as a family, and we’re all out on the bogs picking up bags and putting them down for hours. There’s something about manual labor that can get you out of your own way. So often you’ll go to write a song and because you expect perfection from yourself it’s hard to get a word on the page — you’re judging things before they get started. The monotony of harvest doesn’t allow that critical part of your mind to exist. It’s too busy picking cranberries. I’ve written some good songs during those harvest days. I think Willie Nelson has a similar opinion on writing while you drive. My brown-thumbed gardening is similar. I say brown-thumbed because I cannot for the life of me get lupine to grow. It’s the flower I want so apparently the flower I can’t have. But I love getting my fingers in the dirt. Digging holes and planting bulbs. I always find myself singing while planting — “Garden Song” and “Waters of March” mostly. It bring me back to the simple joy of songs.
How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?
I can’t think of a song I’ve written where I’m hiding behind a character. Music has always been the one realm in which I’m not afraid to be myself. I spent most of my life being timid, never ever telling people what I really thought or felt, with the exception of music. I think it saved me. We all need a place to say “no, that doesn’t work for me” or “you really hurt me when you did xyz” or “you are the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen” or “I’m better without you” so thank God for song. I HAVE done the opposite. Since, as mentioned, I am a nerd — I worked at a Renaissance Faire. And I got into character. Like really into character. It was there that I started thinking about writing modern songs about ancient things. I wrote an album of songs about King Henry VIII and the women in his life. And I very definitely allowed myself to sing as the ghost of Anne Boleyn.
Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?
Easy. A charcuterie board and Lori McKenna. My friend started a new business in 2020 – “Taylor Made by Taylor” custom charcuterie boards. The excitement of her delivering a board was one of the things that got us through the pandemic. And something about eating charcuterie makes me feel classy. Much like listening to Lori McKenna. I’ve written with her, and she’s such a classy, down to earth, genius songwriter. I get lost in every one of her songs. You’d probably need a martini or glass of wine in this dream listening scenario I’m imagining. And her song “Old Men Young Women” would have to be included. And this one time I wouldn’t put an ice cube in my wine. Because, you know, I’m trying to be classy.
Photo Credit: Cindy Ko