Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grace Woods: On the busines of creating

Equal parts jazz singer and pop stylist, vocalist/musician Grace Woods has found a way to keep the passion of creation going while maintaining a quality that can be all too rare in an artist: realism. About to debut a new CD at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall and pick up her MBA, the California native, whose been compared to Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor, discussed business as community and what fans can expect at the show on December 3.

DC How
did you begin performing? When did you say, 'OK, I'm going to really do this'?


GW It started building when I graduated college.
I had made a lot of safe decisions in my life and switched focuses numerous times. I'd gone from wanting a degree in acting to wanting to be an Olympian water polo player to wanting to be a teacher. The common thread through the years was songwriting and performance. I did it regardless of time, future or money. In the quarter-life crisis I experienced after graduating college I asked myself what I would want to spend all my hours doing if I was not worried about security. The answer was undoubtedly music, the best channel for me to be loving and of service to myself and others.


DC You grew up in the Bay Area, moved a way and came back — Can you say how living here may (or may not) influence your sound? Who do you count as influences or mentors?


GW My sound is extremely Northern California in my mind. As fantastic as Southern California is, a lot of my songs have the sentiment of fighting many aspects of Southern California culture. The Bay Area seems to value originality and embrace an edgier side. My musical mentors are far removed—Stevie Nicks, Pat Benatar, Annie Lennox, Jewel's early years, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Fleetwood Mac, Anna Netrebko.... the list goes on. It was only after touring for a while that I was told I sounded like the following people, so I have since become aware and began to appreciate them: Ben Folds Five, Regina Spektor, and Fiona Apple. I also love Tegan and Sara's rawness, the energy of Mates of State and the dynamic of Muse.


DC You’ve been balancing your music out with earning a business degree! How do you see these complimenting one another?


GW They have always been fused in my mind. I think music and business are both art forms. I think those who disagree simply haven't engaged in or ever enjoyed business. I see business as a way to create community, to show people a good time and talk to them about what they are looking for in life. Business is the reason big artists are able to keep making music. Many don't want to admit this, but the separation of business from passion is merely the cutting off of one's self from doing that passion for a living. I see no conflict between them; just a partnering. That said, I've spent a lot more time songwriting at the piano than in my textbooks lately.


DC You've a new Cd coming? How has this process compared with your other recording projects?


GW This CD, which is a 6-song project called "A Good Day in Red Paper," is a transitional piece. It closes the door on a period of my life when I was pulled in multiple directions. It starts to move away from the Broadway elements of the previous project, but it keeps Hemingway's ideas about "writing heard and clear about what hurts." Despite bittersweet lyrics, the rhythms and chords are pretty upbeat throughout. It's a nice way to round off 3.5 years with the trio.


DC Do you have any surprises planned for the show @ GAMH? What can we expect?


GW Lets see. I doubt that people are expecting to hear as many brand new songs as we are going to play. I've been writing so much and gigging so little that there is so much new stuff to put out there on top of the CD's highlights! Alex Karweit will be guesting throughout our set and Dogman Joe will also be making an appearance.