"Emotive and powerful voice, with a unique gentleness. A gifted songwriter employing articulate, graceful, and playful lyrics." Indie-Pop artist Graci Phillips life's work is dedicated to music and songwriting. Born to two Nashville singer-songwriters, music and songwriting was a way of family life, and became second-nature for Graci. Encouraged to find her own musical voice, Graci started writing original compositions around the age of ten. By 15, her songs were recorded on a family album, and by 17 she was signed to a production deal with a prominent Nashville producer. The result of this was Graci's freshman album, 'Catastrophe' (2011). Overtime, she refined her sound and her next EP 'Burning House' (2017) featured an authentic singer-songwriter vibe with pop and folk undertones. The six song collection of original compositions spans topics from faded love to young and wild wanderlust with playful and poignant melodies that will keep you humming long after the songs are over. ‘Burning House ‘and ‘Catastrophe', are available for download from all your favorite digital music stores. Currently residing in Nashville, Graci is a full-time musician and fills her time writing, singing, touring, and doing session and commission work.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it. My parents are both singer-songwriters, so growing up our house was always full of music! There were always instruments available, my parents were always writing and having us(my four siblings and I) sing with them. We used to have big parties every weekend where all my parents friends and their families would come over with food and instruments. We'd have a big meal together and everyone would be singing and playing music for hours. I didn't know that most other families didn't do that until I was much older. So, in a lot of ways I don't think I necessarily ever decided, "Yes. This is it. This is the moment I'm deciding to become a musician!" It was more of a natural progression. I don't know how I could have ended up any other way! It was so encouraged in our house. I'm very lucky! I will say though, high school is when I started to get serious about it. We were recording a family album and my parents let me record one of my own songs. The producer we were working with was really impressed and after hearing more of my songs he offered me a production deal--and that's how my first album, Catastrophe, came to be!
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career? Haha, I don't know that I've had anything truly crazy happen! But back in 2012 I was selected to perform at an ASCAP I Create Music Expo showcase in LA in front of thousands of people and I shared the stage with Eric Bazillion! So that is probably one of the coolest things I've done thus far! Oh! And I almost got arrested while filming a music video for the Burning House EP. The video hasn't come out yet, but basically there are some things actually burning in the video and we were filming in a place we didn't exactly have permission to film. It was totally safe, it was a controlled burn and we had all kind of fire extinguishers and stuff around, but someone called the police! So we were just wrapping up filming when we see a fire truck start pulling down the street! I have never moved so quickly in all my life. We grabbed all our props and camera equipment and threw it in our cars as quickly as possible (we had already extinguished the fire since we were done filming) and just pretended we weren't doing anything as the fire truck approached. We basically feigned ignorance and they eventually left, but it was a terrifying couple minutes! So keep your eyes out for the music video that almost got me arrested! ;) It should be coming out in the first half of 2019!
What has been the high point of your music path? Honestly, all of 2018 has felt like a high point! This year I've accomplished so much more than the last five years combined. I celebrated the successful release of Burning House EP, released my first official music video, played at sold out show at the famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, performed for over 50,000 runners at the NYC Marathon, played live for the first time on a radio show, and just completed my 25 Days of Christmas series! This whole year has been a big, beautiful, blur! I can't wait to see what's next!
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like? I am kind of all over the place when it comes to writing! Sometimes the lyrics come first, sometimes the melody or music comes first, sometimes just the idea of the song comes. But when the mood hits I typically find a quiet spot like my studio, back porch, or living room, and just mess around with it until something comes together! Some songs take me 30 minutes to write, while some songs take me years! I go through different seasons. Even though I write weekly for work (I do commissioned work as well as session stuff from home) when it comes to writing for myself it's a little different. I will go weeks, sometimes months without writing. Just soaking up all the goodness around me. Then my creative bucket fills up and when it starts overflowing I'll go through a really prolific season where I'm writing new material almost every day. I used to be terrified that I hadn't written a song in months, but over the years I've really learned to trust myself and how my creativity works. Although I do think it's important to practice your craft regularly, not every song I write has to be "record worthy." Some songs need to be written just for you, and some songs need to be written so that they're out of your brain and you can make space for the really good stuff.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I think one of the biggest differences with the music industry today is that if you want to make it you can't just be an artist anymore. Even as recently as 10 years ago artists didn't have to worry about their "social media presence." Instagram is not even a decade old, but a lot of people would argue that if you're not doing social media right you're probably not positioning yourself for success. Personally, I'm incredibly grateful for social media. I can record a cover in my living room, upload it to any streaming site, and promote it to potential fans all over the world in minutes. That is so revolutionary and it has helped me find my fans in a way that would not have been possible before. The downside is, I have to spend a lot of time curating that social media presence. Figuring out the best hashtags, editing my videos to different times based on each platform, being active and responsive, etc.. Time that I could be spending creating. It definitely has its pro's and con's, but I wonder how much it inhibits my creativity. One of my goals for 2019 is to create good systems for my social media where I feel like it's serving my career, but not running my life! Pray for me. ;)
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
That question is SO hard, because there are so many artists that I admire and that have contributed to my music. I think it would fall somewhere squarely between Paul McCartney and Chris Thile. I distinctly remember the first time I heard The Beatles, it was Martha My Dear, and my little girl mind was absolutely blown. I couldn't get enough of it. I didn't know music could be so whimsical or fun or creative. I adore Paul McCartney and am constantly inspired by his continued creativity and dedication to his craft. When he came to Nashville a couple years ago I basically cried the entire show. Chris Thile has also been incredibly influential in my music. From Nickel Creek, to Goat Rodeo, to his solo work, to Punch Brothers--I am always blown away and inspired by how everything he does feels fresh, and raw, and somehow polished. He is one of my favorite melody writers and lyricists. His ability to convey huge stories in three minute songs is astonishing and something I strive toward. If I was on stage with Paul McCartney or Chris Thile I would probably pee my pants and then pass out.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Well, it's typically just my bandmate, Zach Lee, and I. We play with other musicians every now and then, but for the most part it's just the two of us. Our rehearsals are more laid back! Since it's just the two of us and we're not having to sync up a whole band, we do a lot of solo practice before coming together. Zach is such a wonderful friend and musician, that it's usually fun and doesn't feel like much work. When we're off the road we have weekly practices that usually involve food and beer, Zach's wife will come and hang with us, my husband is usually around, it's very relaxed and fun. And when we're on the road it's practicing our set in green rooms, host homes, and hotels! It makes it easy just having two of us, because we can rehearse almost anywhere!
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
Writing is therapy for me. It's how I process emotions, deal with life's situations, and sort out my feelings. I would say of my released work, "I Don't Cry" from my first album, Catastrophe, has been the hardest to write. It's basically the short story of my high school heart break. It was the first deeply honest song that I had written. I was terrified to play it for anyone. It sat in my notebook for a long time. But then when I let other people hear it, it was like releasing all this pain that I had been holding onto. It was very cathartic. Something about acknowledging your pain, giving it room to breathe, and not trying to hide it really helped me let go of it. I will say, sometimes when I play that song I still get choked up. I can still remember what it all felt like, but it was a song that I needed to write.
What's coming up in the future?
I am so excited about this new year! 2019 for the win! 2018 was a HUGE year for me and I will be riding that wave into 2019! We are getting back in the studio working on two new projects, there are two music videos from Burning House EP in the pipeline, we have some great tour dates lining up, and we have more music cover series in the works! You'll just have to follow me to see! ;)
Tell us where fans can access your music?