Grace Pettis was drawn to songwriting at an early age. Although her father, acclaimed songwriter Pierce Pettis, didn’t pressure her to be a songwriter like he was, the apple certainly didn’t fall far from the tree. Grace says “I can’t actually remember a time before I was writing songs. It’s just something I’ve always done.”
With this organic beginning as a writer, Grace’s decision to pursue songwriting and performing as a vocation was more a natural progression than a single decisive moment. “I spend so much of my time writing songs,” she says, “that for me the question wasn’t ‘Do I want to do this for a living?’ but it was ‘How can I spend the maximum amount of time doing this?’
Grace certainly maximized her efforts in “doing this,” going on to win some of the nation’s most prestigious songwriting contests, including NPR’s Mountain Stage New Song Contest, and receiving grants from the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation. Her songs have been recorded by other esteemed artists, including Sara Hickman and Ruthie Foster. Her independent releases, Grace Pettis (2009), Two Birds (2012), and the acoustic EP Blue Star in a Red Sky (2018), have garnered extensive praise in the music media. She also holds down duties as a member (along with Rebecca Loebe and BettySoo) of the Americana/folk-pop trio Nobody’s Girl.
“The songs that ring the truest often come from my own feelings and memories,” Grace explains. “People need upbeat songs they can dance to, but they need sad songs, too. Hard songs. The songs that are the hardest and most painful to write seem to be the most healing. I write from wherever I happen to be. If I’m happy, I write a happy song. If I’m sad, I write a sad song. If the world is on fire, so are my songs.”
Recently, one issue that had been smoldering for Grace for a while finally caught fire. After chatting with Mary Bragg about the struggle of women to achieve greater representation in the music world (beyond just lending a female voice to music created and recorded mostly by men) an idea that had been percolating in her mind — to create an album with a completely female production team — finally came to fruition. The result was her new release, Working Woman.
Produced by Mary Bragg, and mixed by Grammy® award winner Shani Ghandi, the record also features an all-female band, along with female co-writers, engineers, and even the photographer and graphic designer. Guest contributions come from the Indigo Girls (“Landon”), Ruthie Foster (“Pick Me Up”), Dar Williams (“Any Kind of Girl”), The Watson Twins (“Never Get It Back”), Gina Chavez (“Mean Something”) and Mary Bragg (“Paper Boat”). You can sample all of the new album’s tracks, as well as her previous releases, at Grace’s website.
By Dan Walsh