by Reggie Edwards
Growing up in Milwaukee, Grace Weber has been singing for literally as long as she can remember. When she was seven, she would set up all her stuffed animals in the basement, tape a flashlight to a pole so it would shine on her and set up her karaoke machine.
There she was, singing to her stuffed animals in this little stadium she had set up. She knew she wanted to be a singer…no matter what.
Fast forward a few years and she starts doing some national anthems, singing in choirs, and at 12 years old, singing in the Central City Youth Gospel Choir in Milwaukee. This is where she learned she wanted soul music to be part of her sound.
It wasn’t until she met an unlikely icon who gave her some important advice. Richard Marx told her along the way that there were a lot of young girls like her who wanted to be famous singers but that if she incorporated songwriting into her repertoire it would set her apart. She took that advice and ran with it.
Met Richard Marx along the way who told her songwriting would set her apart, so she took that and ran with it. She went home and wrote her first song. From then on her self-view changed from a singer to a singer-songwriter.
Fast forward again and Weber now has her debut album, Hope and Heart, in stores and the future is looking very bright for the 23-year-old singer-songwriter.
“We worked on this album last spring and winter and set the release date for September 13 so we could do a lot of build up and promotion,” Weber says. “We worked on the record with Mark Mangini (Joss Stone, Dream Theater and more), who is a Grammy Award-winning producer and artist and I had such a good time working with him on the album. He worked with a lot of artists I look up to so to have him help me with this album was the perfect combination for what I wanted to do.
One would think that since she has spent time in the studio with other artists, the process would match her expectations. The truth is much to the contrary though.
“I’ve recorded a few other albums before with other bands and in the past we’ve done the albums faster, mainly because we didn’t have the time, because on one hand we wanted to get in, get it done and get it out there and kinda see what happens. This time around we had the time to really sit with songs, sit with the mixes, sit with the tracks and really develop the sound for the first two months and spend a lot of time building up the promotion before getting it out there so it was this long process of really finding my sound and vibe instead of instead of just, you know, ‘hey let’s write 12 songs and just when we get to the twelve song lets go in and record the album and then let’s just put it on the website and then we’ll figure everything out afterwards.’
“This is definitely a more thought-out process; it gave me that chance to really figure out who I really wanted to be as an artist and I wouldn’t have traded that time in for anything because it was a really cool process to go through.”
Even though this is her first year or so in the limelight, she is no stranger to being in the spotlight and is very comfortable with it. In fact, if you look at the year she’s had, you would never expect her to have just released her debut.
“It’s been an incredible year/year-and-a-half. I’ve been pursuing this singer-songwriter since I was 18, I’m 23 now. But this last year has been a year that’s really kicked it up to a professional level where I feel I’ve really arrived as an artist in this playing field.
“Oprah was ridiculous. It took me awhile after the show to fully accept that had happened, like ‘did I really just hug Oprah Winfrey? Like, I’m not sure if that was just a dream.’ That kicked off everything onto a big level for me because my fan base blew up, the buzz in my hometown, in Milwaukee, took off to a whole other level. I was able to meet people like my manager, Mike Mangini, the producer, through the experience of having that on my resume.
“From there, the most incredible performance experience I’ve had so far this year would have to be performing in Paris for the 9/11 Commemoration because not only was it such an amazing thing to be a part of, you know, another country paying such a beautiful tribute to America and being one of the only American artists there, I felt really honored to be a part of it. I was able to sing my original song “Leave the Light On” with a 50-piece Parisian orchestra right in front of the Eiffel Tower.
“In between they actually built these two 10-story replicas of the Trade Centers. One tower was covered in this fabric that had all the names of the victims on it and the other was covered in fabric that had messages of hope from around the world, one of them said “The French will never forget.”
Though she may not lean from every experience, Weber says each performance, especially the big ones teach her how to relax more.
“With every performance I do I learn something, I think at the time I may not know what that is but as I look back over the last four or five years of performing, every performance allows me to be more relaxed,” Weber says. “Especially the bigger performances, once I get that under my belt…I still don’t know what I’ve learned specifically from each performance but I feel like I’ve grown a lot as an artist to the point where now I feel like no matter what, I want to be enjoying the journey because I feel like at times you can get really stressed out to where it’s like ‘okay, I just have to get to this point and if I get to this point I’ll know that I’ve, quote-unquote, made it.
“But until I get there I have to put my nose to the grindstone and do everything I can to make it.’ I’ve had that attitude a few times and I realize when I’m like that I’m not appreciating what I’m doing in that moment, I’m not appreciating the performances along the way and I realize ‘making it’ is such a relative term. Who really knows that that means? Especially today as an artist.
“If I’m not enjoying every performance I do then I shouldn’t be doing this so I think I’ve definitely learned to enjoy the journey more and I feel super lucky that I’ve gotten to perform where I have and if I get to keep performing at cool places that would be amazing and if not then I will always be grateful I got to do those things.”