Grace Weber is a Brooklyn based singer/ songwriter. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin she gracefully combines her grounded family roots with her big city ambitions. She was a YoungArts Foundation finalist and a 2006 Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She is a graduate of the New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and has a degree in music business and music performance with a minor in studio art. Her latest record, ‘The Refinery’ placed number five on the iTunes singer/ songwriter charts. In the midst of her busy schedule, we met up in Williamsburg to discuss music, inspiration, and ‘what’s next’ for Grace Weber.
Did your parents or family members influence your musical path in any way, and if so, how?
Yeah. My mom, grew up with nine siblings, and my grandpa made all of them learn an instrument growing up, so when I was growing up, my aunts and uncles were all pretty musical, so you know, Christmases and Thanksgivings we would all sing around the piano and put on little musicals and all my cousins were really into art, so my whole family was really musical. My grandpa was really a huge influence on my, always encouraging me to sing and always being there to accompany me for different things. So, it definitely had a huge influence on me. I don’t even remember not having music in my life, it just surrounded me.
So, for your new album, where did the title ‘The Refinery’ come from?
‘The Refinery’ was a name that we used to toss around with the band a few years ago, because my drummer used to call things that were soulful, “oily” I guess, it was like dirty and funky. So, we used to call the band ‘The Refinery,’ and so that name was always in my head. I liked the way it sounded, I liked the idea of dirty things being soulful, because it’s authentic, real, gritty, but then, when it got time to name my record I felt like my sound had gone through a refinement, from the first album to the second album, but not a clean refinement, it was kind of like the opposite. My first record was pretty clean, and sort of gentle sounding. I didn’t really take too many risks on that record and this record was much more vulnerable and raw, and I didn’t want to be perfect on the record, I wanted to be human. So, it was almost as if my refinement was a gritty process. I needed to be really human to find out who I am as an artist.
What is your favourite song on your new record?
I don’t know! My favourite song switches everyday, or every show I guess. Whichever one is the most fun to sing live. I mean lately, it’s been As Long As I Wander has been a really fun song because I get the audience to sing along.
What was the inspiration behind As Long As I Wander?
I mean that song is about my generation. You know millennial’s wanting to change the world and wanting to do something really big with their lives but sort of not really knowing what path to take. Kind of wandering, before really settling down. You know, I think the millennial generation kind of gets the rap of you know, not having the jobs that we’re going to sustain our whole lives, because we want to do really big things, but we’re still trying to figure out what the path is.
Which artists are your biggest inspirations?
I am inspired by a lot of powerful female vocalists. So, I grew up listening to India Arie, Etta James, and Eva Cassidy. But, I’m also inspired by songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Bon Iver is just a huge inspiration for me from an artistic standpoint. And then some of my biggest inspiration were actually some of the people in my gospel choir….those people inspired me so much, just getting to watch these performers just be so soulful, and people in my gospel choir just being so unafraid to let their voices be free. So that really impacted me as a growing musician.
Who (musically or non) would you like to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with Allen Stone. I just think it would be really fun to sing with him….Oh, I’ve been wanting to work with a rapper in some capacity….So I was thinking of pitching it to Macklemore, or someone more of a hip hop artist. So that’s on my mind. You should check out Eminem did a remix of a Dido song, and so that’s kind of my inspiration for that field.
On the day your album came out, you made it to #5 on the iTunes singer/songwriter charts, which is incredible, what did that feel like for you?
So, the real cool thing about it is that yeah, I got between James Taylor and Ed Sheeran. It’s like so cool to see your record, you know as an independent artist, to be like I can be in the same league as those musicians.
You travel often, and have been traveling more because of your album release, but do you always want to be based in New York?
Yes. But, my ideal situation would be to be in New York, LA, and have the home base in Wisconsin. But I love traveling. I love living in New York but then traveling to LA a lot. I love being on the road. I love seeing new cities, so, for the next five years of my life, I’d like to be touring as much as I can. But then at sometime in my life, having a house in Wisconsin, getting back to nature is really important to me, being with my family, but then spending a lot of time in New York and LA.
Do you have plans of going international?
Yes. Absolutely. I want to tour the world. I mean, ideally, you know if you could have more of a career in Europe and Asia, that would be amazing. So yeah, if I could travel the world, yes, I would love to do that.
Do you ever doubt yourself during your process?
Yes. All the time. I mean, it’s so hard not to compare yourself to others, but it’s the ultimate no-no as an artist, because you really are on your own, individualized path. You know, your process is so unique to you, but any time I start comparing myself to others, or looking at where other people are in their path, I feel like should I be farther along? Should I be touring more? Should I be getting this type of gig? There’s just no benefit to doing that, but I fall into that pattern and when I get to that place…I think I do doubt myself. But I think ideally, I want to stop doing that. I think it’s normal….I think just to be a healthier person, if you can just really find happiness within the moment…I mean there are days where I just feel so intensely grateful for what I get to do, you know I’ll play a show that just fills me with so much joy, and passion for life, and I’ll just get up on stage and just say thank you to the universe, because it’s like, I can’t believe I get to do that. And I think that the more I live in that space, the more good things happen, and the more I feel like I’m doing things I’m supposed to be doing.
You have a band, but you are an individual artist. Do you ever want to have a permanent band?
I get different people based on what they’re doing, but if I did get a permanent band those guys would be it. I love my band… I kicked around the idea of being Grace Weber and the somethings for a while, but the reason I decided to have more of a rotating band and be flexible was because all of the players in my band are so talented and a lot of them have their own careers, and so the idea of trying to contain this group of such talented musicians feels selfish, and so I try to just be really open to rotating people in and out and not stressing anybody out during the process…But it’s also really fun to have a bunch of really talented musicians play the music, because you get a different sound for a second, and it’s kind of refreshing to me.
What is next for Grace Weber?
We have this plan to get to a point, where we’re going to try and sell out the Bowery Ballroom. So, our idea is to get enough fans where A) we start touring 200 days out of the year, and how do we get to that point. And we just did Rockwood II, and sold that out to 180 people, now how do we get to 500 people….A lot of it is just getting your name and face in a lot of places. And then a lot of it is just crossing your fingers and just hoping that a lot of random stuff happens. It’s just waiting, and being open and being patient.
Go see Grace Weber at the Mondrian Soho Hotel on November 7th!