Grace Morrison

Grace Morrison has spent most of her musical career seeking refuge from the spotlight. Whether it was singing backup for rock icons like Eddie Money and Joey Molland (of the band Badfinger), or trying to blend in with various bandmates, being the center of attention has never been comfortable for her. Fast forward to 2020, and just like for most of us, a lot of time was spent deciding what she really wanted after being told what she couldn’t do - in her case, play music for people.

With the new album, Daughter, Morrison establishes herself as a confident, refreshing voice in country-pop. The 12-song collection is certain to find favor with fans of the storytelling and delivery of Jewel and Lisa Loeb, as well as with those who enjoy singing along with Boyz II Men on their car stereo.

“Thing about this record that keeps making me chuckle is that the idea started as ‘Let’s make a 5 song stripped-down EP….really reinvent myself; but it turned into a fully-produced 15 song too long record, and wound up as 12 country songs.”

While self-awareness and identity is hardly a new topic for a songwriter to explore, Morrison displays an ability to embody a number of characters over the course of Daughter, from that of the title track, to loner, to confidant, to partier, to the restless rambler seeking an escape from small-town life, and finally, to mother. Throughout, country-tinged embellishments provide a perfect balance to Morrison’s crystal clear vocals, with pedal steel courtesy of Austin City Limits Hall of Famer Lloyd Maines (father of Natalie Maines of The Chicks).

“When Philly Folk Fest went virtual, they made the website look like festival grounds. Imagine my delight when Lloyd Maines performed on the same virtual stage I was playing. At this point the plan was still the 5 song EP thing, but in the back of my mind I knew someday I’d want pedal steel on an album and wouldn’t it be neat to have Lloyd play on one of my records someday? So, I wrote him an email not really expecting to hear anything - but he wrote back. And he was excited to play on my record. I suppose the lesson is that you don’t get what you don’t ask for!” laughs Morrison.

But Maines wasn't the only high profile musician who jumped on board to help. Jon Evans, who boasts an impressive list of credits, including Linda Perry, Tori Amos, Paula Cole, Chris Cornell, and Sarah McLachlan, among others) signed up to produce the album and play guitar.

“My first concert was the Tori Amos/Alanis Morrisette 5 ½ weeks tour. I remember sitting there thinking, “Someday I’m going to be onstage with those people.” My favorite thing about this record is that my producer WAS on that stage. He’s Tori’s bass player. Full circle!”

One would be remiss if they didn’t also give the drummer some credit, as Matthias Bossi (John Vanderslice, St. Vincent, Pretty Lights, The Tiger Lillies) puts on a subtle but jaw-dropping show, particularly on the nostalgic, soulful “Alice.”

Morrison tows the line between personal and carefree effortlessly, most evident in the shift from the boy-band inspired “Things You Already Know,” which has the songwriter showing appreciation for her family (“I don’t say it enough … I hope you never doubt that I’m here for the long haul”) and features finger snaps, syncopated guitar, and remarkable backing vocals from American Idol alum Teddy Mathews; to the rocking, edgy “Sloppy,” an ode to nights Morrison spent during her 20s at the local bar, downing three tacos, rice, and a pitcher of margarita for $10. Ah, college.

In stark contrast to the trend in country music that often sees a long list of songwriters contributing to a single track, Morrison is the sole writer to which all the songs on Daughter are attributed, save for the touching “Just Loving You,” which she co-wrote with Grammy winner Lori McKenna. “At 8 months pregnant I drove the 45 minutes to Lori’s house,” she recalls. “The whole car ride I was thinking, ‘play it cool Grace, just be cool.’ And let me tell you, being cool is not in my skill set,” she says, modestly. When McKenna asked what Morrison wanted to write about, she said her initial response was “anything except the baby in my belly,” but that’s naturally where they landed. “Lori helped me put my finger on the idea that the girls needed to know that their new sibling was going to love them no matter what,” Morrison, herself a stepmother to three teenage daughters, says. “That writing session changed a lot of things for me, most notably my writing style. I walked away with a new confidence in my ability to tell human stories. Lori gave me a lot of gifts that day including the springboard for this record.”

A formidable instrumentalist, Morrison capably handles far more than lead vocal duties, rocking out on electric guitar on the pulsing “Put the Bottle Down,” and playing acoustic throughout the album, as well as contributing background vocals, piano, banjo, and synth.

Morrison has won a number of prestigious awards including the Grand Prize of the New England Songwriting Competition and the WPRI Rhode Show Big Break contest where her music video was played on the season finale of American Idol. In 2019, Grace was selected to be an Official Showcase performer at the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (TN), the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance (TX), named a finalist in the Wildflower (TX) Festival performing singer-songwriter contest, and selected to perform in the Emerging Artist Showcase at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (NY). Her sophomore solo album, Reasons, debuted at #2 on the Roots Music Report’s Top 50 Contemporary Country Airplay Chart.

With Daughter now added to her calling card, Morrison is sure to rack up more accolades, but she’s happy to have finally reached a point of self-acceptance, regardless of what may come.

“The album is about stepping into your power. It’s the reason the cover photo is me looking directly into the camera. I want it to convey “Hello world, my name is Grace Morrison!” without apology.”

Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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