Grace Askew is a Memphis-based singer-songwriter. She is a soulful artist and an outstanding live performer. I first met Grace when we were attending Loyola University New Orleans. Grace recently discussed her favorite songwriters, being a contestant on The Voice and her lyrical inspiration. For more info on Grace Askew, check out her website http://www.graceaskew.com/
Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
I grew up with very artistic, encouraging (non-musician) parents and an older sister who was very active in the theater and opera world.
What was your first musical memory?
I remember spending hours upon hours locked in my room dancing and lip synching to whatever cassette’s I could get my hands on, but I was particularly fond of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”
What was the first album you bought?
Who are some of your favorite songwriters and why?
I favor Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams type of Southern Gothic, dark writing styles because I’ve always been attracted to what lies beneath the surface…the unseen, between-the-cracks depths of life. Their perspectives on the outside world have greatly impacted the confidence I have in my own strange, unique way of looking at things. They make it OK to not make sense sometimes, but to also be completely 100% raw with the truth — YES!
How old were you when you wrote your first song?
Hard to say, because I was writing poems and little stories long before I picked up a guitar at 13…but I suppose 13.
What’s your creative approach when songwriting?
My “creative approach” is never the same…when it hits me, I just try to seize the moment and immediately write it down or record a voice memo..otherwise, it pretty easily slips through your fingers.
How often do you find yourself writing a song?
Every night before I fall asleep, or right when I wake up, I’ll be hit with an idea. It can be quite frustrating at times. My subconscious likes those hours best, because I’m half asleep and still fuzzy-headed in dreams. It’s like my subconscious senses a green light to slink to the surface and make it’s presence known in a more comfortably vulnerable and open environment.
What inspires you lyrically?
Whatever makes me most alive inspires me…after all, that’s what we ALL should be sharing with each other. The world needs more people who are alive and ignited in their passions.
Your latest album is Scaredy Cat. What was the first song written for Scaredy Cat?
“Cinnamon” was a song I had gone back to and re-hashed time and time again for over 6 years, until one day I set it to slide guitar and I just knew the song had finally found its rightful home.
How did the song “Bad Habit” come together?
It’s pretty straight forward…I kept going back to a certain relationship over and over again, even though I knew that he was just a drug to me, so to speak..he was just a “Bad Habit”.
You are an very soulful vocalist. How do you approach covers to make them your own?
I don’t listen to the songs I end up covering very many times beforehand, so it doesn’t effect my approach. I simply like to learn the basic structure, and then I take it back to the drawing board – my guitar – and begin feeling through it myself to find my voice within the song.
You tour a ton. What have been some of your strangest moments on the road?
Deeeeeep, deep, South West Texas. So weird. It by far has been my favorite touring stops to date. Specifically: Marfa, Terlingua, Alpine.
What did you enjoy most about your time in NOLA?
Re-discovering my love for Memphis. Frenchman Street late-nights. Long walks in Audubon Park.
You put on an amazing live show. How do you create your set lists?
I like to make sure there is a good balance of up and down tempo songs, dispersed in proper measurements throughout the show. I want to take my audience on a roller coaster of the entire spectrum of emotion.
What do you feel are the biggest things you learned from being on The Voice?
Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. The Voice was an incredible lesson on courage and confidence and a part of my journey that I will never deny. I had all of the power within me already to be a truly unique, great talent and The Voice pulled that out of me and put it right in my face…on a national level.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Questioning my art and my uniqueness is a struggle every artist deals with I think. Yes, everything has already been done…but never with MY voice..or with YOUR voice. The money isn’t always great either, but I’ve recently made a promise to myself to not allow my music and financial state to be mutually exclusive. That is how creativity gets murdered.
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
A belief that I hold really dear to my spirit is that I am warrior, already completely equipped and empowered with everything I need to battle any dark forces that come my way. We are ALL warriors.
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
Give it your best, even on your worst day because the world NEEDS to experience the gifts that only you can offer.