One of Buffalo’s hardest working and most talented musicians is singer/songwriter Grace Stumberg. Learn a bit about her, the bands she plays with and where you can find her work.
Fred Whitehead - When did you start playing music?
Grace Stumberg - I started in 7th Grade by teaching myself guitar out of a box called "Quick Start Guitar Kit." I was singing since I could open my mouth.
F.W. - What got you interested in music?
G.S. - I just loved the way music made me feel. I wanted to create it and feel those feelings! Also make those sounds.
F.W. - Was guitar always your instrument of choice?
G.S. - Guitar was always my instrument of choice. I didn't learn that I preferred voice until much later.
F.W. - When was that?
G.S. - About ten years ago.
F.W. - What was your first time playing live?
G.S. - My first show was for a small scholarship competition. I sang “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine in front of an auditorium of people at Sweet Home High School. I lost to a yodeler, but I won in overcoming stage fright!
F.W. – Sweet Home? That's my alma mater. I don't remember many yodelers though. When you started out, who would you say influenced you the most when it came to songwriting?
G.S. – I wanted to make songs that people could relate to and be inspired by, which is why I always loved Sheryl Crow. So melodic and meaningful, except for the radio pop hits. [laughing]
F.W. - For me, early on, it was John Prine, Townes Van Zandt, Dylan. I heard Jason Isbell for the first time when he released “Southeastern” a few years back, and —on that album— he's the closest thing to a poet/songwriter that I've heard in a while. I've always had the opinion that the closer a songwriter was to being a poet, the more I found myself drawn to their work. How do you feel about it?
G.S. - Dylan is exceptional when it comes to music. His poetry and sarcasm and clever lyrics always inspired me. I love good lyrics that make you think.
F.W. - Whether writing a song or listening to others, it was always the lyrics that I focused on first and the music after. Is it the same in your case?
G.S. - I always focus on words first. In fact most of my songs start out as just journal entries and then transform themselves into lyrical form and by the end, the music is set to it, already ringing in my head.
F.W. - What is your songwriting method like? What I mean is, do you typically come up with the lyrics first, the music, or both at the same time?
G.S. - Lyrics mostly always, always come first.
F.W. - They are two completely different dynamics, so this may not be a fair question, but, which do you enjoy more, playing solo or in a band situation?
G.S. - I enjoy playing solo because it is more intimate and there's more room to "breathe," if you will. However, I also love getting up there with a band and rocking the heck out!!!!
F.W. - Small venues or big?
G.S. - I prefer smaller venues. Such as Babeville’s 9th Ward. That is my favorite place to perform by far.
F.W. - Any particular reason?
G.S. - I like small venues because they are more intimate, I like to be close to the people!
F.W. - When did you form The Grace Stumberg band?
G.S. – I formed The Grace Stumberg Band in about... 2013, as many venues were reaching out demanding a full band sound.
F.W. - You just released a new album. Can you say a little about it?
G.S. - The album is self-titled and was released March 11th, 2017. It is extremely raw. No auto tune, only a few mics were used, and is themed along the lines of "loss."
F.W. - How is the response so far?
G.S. - The response is incredible. Many people have remarked that this album is deeply moving, spiritual and wholesome.
F.W. - How many albums do you have out?
G.S. - I have four albums out, the first three are band based and the last is mostly all acoustic.
F.W. - Studio work, though tiring and frustrating at times, can be a blast. Where did you record it?
G.S. - I recorded this album in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.
F.W. - Who did you work with on it?
G.S. - I worked with Dirk Powell and Grace Lougen.
F.W. - How hands-on were you with the production?
G.S. - There wasn't much production needed because I wanted the songs to stand up on their own. Dirk Powell did lend his talents on banjo, some guitar and mandolin throughout. Grace Lougen also contributed to the guitar tracks.
F.W. - There is such an amazing amount of different styles of music available for daily consumption now. Do you try to introduce many different sounds into your work?
G.S. - My latest work was super organic and raw. I wanted the voice and guitar sounds to be untouched and just exist in a natural state as instruments. So much of today’s music tends to be over cluttered with computer sounds. However, I am an not discrediting that those things sound cool or work for certain styles of music. I just like to keep it simple and natural.
F.W. - You are on the road quite a bit working with Joan Baez. Seems like a pretty cool gig. How has the experience been for you?
G.S. - The experience working for Joan has been incredible. I grew up quickly on the road and have learned and seen things that have changed my life permanently. I've also had the privilege of meeting some stars along the way such as Robert Plant, The Indigo Girls, Snoop Dogg and more.
F.W. - Have any of the musicians you've met, the ones that have been in the business for a long time, given you any advice?
G.S. - The only advice I was given is that if you're going to succeed you're going to because of your natural talent, the rest is up to the universe.
F.W. - You also get the chance to sing with Joan from time to time, is that right?
G.S. - I've been singing with Joan consistently each tour for about three years now. I mostly think of it as singing with my friend that just happens to be a legend.
F.W. - Buffalo has a pretty tight musical community, at least from what I've seen and experienced. What other bands or musicians have you worked with?
G.S. - I love working with bands! I love collaborating and having a crossover between listeners and followers. Some bands I have worked with are Dirty Smile, Freight Train, Tina Williams, Sara Elizabeth and many more.
F.W. – Collaboration may not exactly include writing songs with someone else. Do you do much writing with any other local singer/songwriters?
G.S. - I haven't written with anyone in years. Writing with someone is a very intimate relationship that’s hard to find.
F.W. - Where can folks find your albums?
G.S. - I have all albums on itunes, my latest release is self-titled and called "Grace." I am also on Spotify, and Apple Music!
F.W. - What are your plans for the rest of the summer?
G.S. - For the rest of the summer I will be going on a brief tour with Joan Baez, The Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter. It's called “The 4 Voices Tour.” I will be working backstage and tech-ing. After that I have so many exciting shows that I can't list just one. But they can be found at www.gracestumberg.com on the "Shows Page." I encourage all readers to check it out!
F.W. - Hey! You stole my line! So, I encourage all readers to check it out!
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