After a year in the studio, the buzzed-about Grand Rapids singer releases “Everything We Already Knew” at Billy’s Lounge Saturday and SpeakEZ Lounge next week. Get a sneak preview here. (Video, podcast)
Hannah Rose Graves has the sort of voice that can stop listeners dead in their tracks.
And “Blue Jay Blues,” the opening song on her debut album with guitarist Justin Wierenga, explodes with a real blues fury that stands with the best young vocalists of that genre.
But that’s just a small piece of the intriguing, resplendent musical puzzle that Graves and Wierenga have assembled after more than a year of work on “Everything We Already Knew” at Matt Ten Clay’s Amber Lit Audio in Grand Rapids.
Rooted as always in soul, Graves stretches masterfully into pop, rock, folk, blues, country, R&B and funk with a boost from Wierenga’s tasteful guitar work, even bringing in rapper David Haddad for a guest spot on “Losing Innocence.”
After the arduous “learning process” that came with completing the much-anticipated album – filled with moments where “everything clicked” and moments “that were disastrous” – it’s an impressive, 13-track affair that showcases the joyful vocal intensity that’s long marked the 24-year-old singer’s live shows.
“Her passion is just intense,” says Wierenga, Graves’ longtime accompanist who split songwriting duties on the new album. “She’s an amazing performer every time; she pours her soul into it. It’s an absolute joy playing with her. It’s phenomenal to watch the passion come out of her every night.”
Pianist Dutcher Snedeker, who played on three album tracks, calls it a sincere “down-to-earth” approach that’s “deeply rooted in blues and soul.”
Whether channeling Etta James, Janis Joplin or Norah Jones, Graves says it’s all about just trying “to connect with people” in the audience. “It’s more of a feeling than anything,” the Rockford native insists.
That emotion-driven feeling permeates every performance, whether Graves is playing with her full band, The GravesTones, or playing as a duo with Wierenga, as she did earlier this week in the studios of News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW) as part of Local Spins Live. Listen to the podcast of the show here and watch a duo performance of the song, “Freight Train Bandit,” below.
Arrival of the album comes after “a long journey” in the studio involving a dozen musicians, many of whom Graves has joined on various stages over the years.
CREATING THE ENERGY OF NEW SONGS AS A WRITING DUO
She met Wierenga, of Shelby, about six years ago at an open-mic night at the former Rendezvous in Grand Rapids. They immediately hit it off – playing for four hours that first night – and began writing songs together.
Wierenga calls it a symbiotic relationship where the duo will “create the energy” necessary to compose a song from Graves’ lyrics or a musical phrase. “We just have the ability to build a song off of it,” he says.
And each song represents a “cross-pollination” of styles, says Wierenga, born of each musician’s diverse influences.
“Ultimately, it comes from a very deep place and it’s very powerful all the music that we do,” says Graves. “So whether it’s folk, blues, funk, country, jazz, whatever it is, it’s got soul.”
On Saturday, the album officially gets released as part of a full band performance at Billy’s Lounge in Eastown. The 9:30 p.m. show will feature Graves, Wierenga, Snedeker, Haddad, drummer Mario Copeland and bassist Jastin Avdek. Admission is $5.
A second CD-release show – adding Craig “Griff” Griffith on harmonica – takes place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids where Graves works as a waitress.
“People know me there as the singing waitress,” Graves says of her “home” at SpeakEZ, where she often sits in with featured acts, including shows assembled by jazz drummer Randy Marsh. “I’ll drop off a tray of drinks then spin around and jump up on stage really quick.”
The new CD will be available for sale at both shows, and also is available online at iTunes, CDBaby.com and Amazon.com. (Graves also will perform as a special guest at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday during the 20th anniversary of Feedback benefit at Founders Brewing Co.)
After that, Graves and Wierenga are hoping to tour behind the new CD in Michigan and beyond, anxious to “see where this album takes us,” says Graves.
“We have a couple of talent searches in Nashville waiting for this and we’ll send it out to a couple different producers,” says Graves. “We’re pretty much open to wherever it takes us, whether that be moving to another state or just touring. I do love Michigan. I love being here, but like I said, we’re going to go where the music takes us.”
Copyright 2014, Spins on Music LLC