With a brand new single, upcoming shows this weekend and a soon-to-be-released EP, Grace Theisen is poised for a breakout year with her “upbeat” music. The profile and video at Local Spins.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEOS, INCLUDING ‘A CHANGE IS GONNA COME’
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
When Grace Theisen answers the phone, her voice is warm and inviting.
It’s winter in Michigan, but at the time of our interview, things outside are void of snow — more akin to the winters Theisen experienced when she lived in Nashville from 2015 until 2018.
“I fell into a little bit of, you know, a winter slump, and then the sun has come out. So I went for a walk. I was actually just listening back to our band practice voice memos and took some notes on those,” she says over the phone.
“I’ve actually really missed the winters here.”
Theisen, who now resides in Kalamazoo where she grew up, is in the final stretch of releasing a new Americana-hued record. Following a trickle of singles, she’s prepping to drop her EP, “Dance With The Shadows,” on March 25.
Last week, she released the single, “Down to the River,” with an accompanying music video. Listen to the song and watch the video here. And to help commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, scroll down to watch her perform a rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”
VIDEO: Grace Theisen, “Down to the River”
An earlier single, “Brightest at Night,” grapples with Theisen’s deconstruction of faith, while “Down to the River” is “an anthem and an ode” of gratitude for her faith-based upbringing. The folk-rock song resonates with bluesy, gospel underpinnings.
As Theisen put it in a description of her music on Soundcloud: “I grew up on bluegrass and blues music so that is where I pull most of my inspiration from. Don’t get me wrong: I love pop, hip hop and R&B/soul as well, so to me the best challenge in songwriting is to mix it up and pull from all different decades and genres.”
‘WHAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU PLAY MUSIC BECAUSE YOU WANT TO’
Although she spent three years in the music city, Theisen wasn’t focused on music. In fact, she’d shelved her craft of songwriting and performing to run a non-profit — Songs Against Slavery, which raised money and awareness in the battle against sex trafficking through benefit concerts and musician partnerships.
She quickly found herself burned out. After departing Nashville, Theisen spent six months living in Costa Rica, a “turning point” where music slowly found its way back to her — to the point where she won the “Best New Artist of 2021” contest hosted by the Cari Cole Music Co. based in New York.
“I remember an artist in Nashville told me that it doesn’t really matter if you do music full time or not. What matters is that you play music because you want to,” Theisen says.
“It actually has nothing to do with wanting to be known or famous. But everything to do with the fact that it feeds my soul. I also see how it feeds other people.”
Theisen and her band have a host of upcoming performances, including a show at Bell’s Back Room in Kalamazoo with WOOTS and Carrie & the McFerrinheits on Friday (Jan. 21). The show begins at 7 p.m. and requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. Tickets are $10 in advance. Get information and tickets at bellsbeer.com.
On Sunday (Jan. 23), Theisen and her band celebrate release of “Down To The River” with a live-stream show at Grand Rapids’ Dogtown Studio. The event will benefit “A Cure for Marley & GM1” which is raising funds for a 4-year-old girl from Battle Creek who has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called GM1 gangliosidosis. Theisen and her band will play new songs from the upcoming record. The event is sponsored by the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center in Augusta.
While concocting “Dance With The Shadows” over the last two years, Theisen hired celebrity vocal coach Cari Cole and recruited the Nashville-based label AGD Entertainment to promote the release.
The album was recorded at Social Recording Co. in Jackson County with producer Jake Rye, and features Noah Martis on backing vocals and guitar, Rye on bass and drums, and Theisen on lead vocals.
“It has felt really exciting. I’ve been with it for two years. It’s been done for two years. So I’m sort of at the place where I’m ready for it to be out,” says Theisen, who attended Gull Lake High School and graduated from Hope College after double-majoring in psychology and women’s studies.
“This music has felt really exciting because it’s much more upbeat. I’m writing it for a full-band experience, which is new for me. Music makes my heart come alive like nothing else.”
VIDEO: Grace Theisen, “A Change is Gonna Come”
Copyright 2022, Spins on Music LLC