photo by Nicola Gell
Grace Pettis is a singer-songwriter from Austin who has released two DIY albums entitled Two Birds and Blue Star in a Red Sky. She is also a member of Nobody’s Girl with BettySoo and Rebecca Loebe. By phone, she discussed her upcoming solo album, her record deal with MPress, and her upcoming album with Nobody’s Girl.
Americana Highways: How are you occupying yourself during quarantine?
Grace Pettis: We’re selling our house, so we’ve been distracted by that. It’s taken up a lot of our time, which is kind of nice. Just the normal stuff. I’m not playing shows, but the rest of things that I do for my business, I’m still doing. I’m still having meetings with my band, my manager, and my label. Still writing songs and practicing, doing webcast shows. That’s kind of my therapy.
AH: How often are you doing the webcast shows?
GP: I’m doing them once a month on my page. I did one for Americana Highways, which was really cool. I’ve been doing them once a week on my Facebook page with friends.
AH: You’re planning to record a new album next month?
GP: That was/is the plan.
AH: How is it going to be different than other recordings you’ve done?
GP: This is my first album with a label behind me. That means I’ve got a lot of support that I haven’t had with the release part of it, distribution, PR, and all of that great stuff I’ve never been able to afford for my solo records. I put all of my dollars into making records in the past. I’ve never had enough to hire a publicist. It will be really interesting to see what happens. Other than that, just knowing that I might get a megaphone that I haven’t had in the past. I’m being very careful about the songs that I’m picking. There’s a lot of cool stuff that we’re doing. I’m using the platform in an interesting way that I can’t really talk about yet. I want to do it right. If anybody’s going to hear it, I want it to be good.
AH: Do you have most of the songs already picked out?
GP: Yeah. We have 10 tracks picked out. Some of it is autobiographical. That’s a country music tradition. There’s always one or two songs on a country record that tell the writer’s backstory. I’m talking about Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” or Merle Haggard and “Okie from Muskogee” or Loretta Lynn and “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. There’s always that one or two tracks on the record that are autobiographical. I want to do that. It’s sort of a debut record in a way. I hope it’s going to introduce me to some people that haven’t heard me, so I want to have a few songs that are introduction songs. The next part of it is songs about, honestly, I’m writing a lot of songs about my friends. A lot of the songs are about what it’s like to be a woman in America. There’s a lot of different angles to that. I’m trying to write about as many angles as I can find.
AH: Nobody’s Girl has an album coming out too.
GP: It’s kind of a moving target right now, but I think it’s July.
AH: Is that album done?
GP: That album is done. It’s in the can. It was produced by Michael Ramos. It was made by Lucky Hound Music. We finished all of that in January. We’ve been sitting on it. We just released our first single “Kansas.” We’re waiting until summer to release it right. We’ll trickle out a few things – a music video here and there.
AH: How do you feel about the album?
GP: We’re really proud of it. It’s the culmination of a lot of time writing. It’s tough. When we write together, the songs really have to please all three of us. The triple-distilled songwriting process. It can be long, but we always come out of it with stuff that we really love. This is years worth of stealing every moment we could find where we were in the same geographic location and not on tour to write and then whittle that down to 10 songs that we really like. There’s a few songs from our EP that were kind of remixed. There are two covers as well, but the rest is new material.
AH: You mentioned the challenge of the three of you approving a song. Is that difficult to come by?
GP: I wouldn’t say difficult. It’s a fun, enjoyable process most of the time because we all like to geek out about songwriting. It’s our happy place for sure. We can spend five or six hours on a song in one session and then we’ll go back and rewrite it a couple more times after that. We get really intense with it. Sometimes even if it’s a great chorus, it’s not the right chorus and it’s not speaking to everybody. Or one of us is just holding the other two accountable saying we can do better. That happens a lot. When you’re writing alone, there’s a temptation to settle for what pleases you in the moment. You let yourself off the hook sometimes. When you’re writing with two other people who are songwriters you really respect, there’s an accountability that happens that’s really cool. The stuff that I write on my own is much more personal. It’s a totally different process.
AH: How do you think MPress is going to assist you in the recording process?
GP: I didn’t even think that record deals were still a thing. I just didn’t think that was something that existed for people like me in my career path. When that happened, you sort of play back all the things that you think a record deal meant when you were in your early 20s and just starting out. You think it’s going to be this be-all end-all – like the final level of a video game or something. Then you get there and you realize that what it means is actually a lot better than that. It means that you have this team of hard-working committed people who are just as dedicated to your music being heard as you are and are invested in making that happen. It’s a very humbling feeling to be on a conference call with four or five other people all talking about your songs and how they’re going to market them and how they’re going to position you. It’s feeling like you’re a part of a team. Everybody at MPress has so much experience. They’ve been at this for a while, and they have these incredible artists on their roster – they’re just hard-working talented people that work there. I’m benefiting from all of this experience and talent. I’ve been a one-woman operation for the better part of a decade with some exceptions. I’ve had some booking agents and management here and there. I’ve got a great manager now – Fabian Perez. I’ve never had a label team for my solo stuff. It’s a totally new experience for me, and it’s pretty cool.
AH: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
GP: I don’t know. I’ve always kind of wanted to be a truck driver. (laughs) That’s kind of what I do as a musician anyway. I drive around the country. But I’d get paid better and drive a bigger rig. I love being alone and listening to audiobooks in the car. That’s one of my favorite things. I remember being in high school and having career day. There was a truck driver that came in. We would rotate through different classrooms and listen to people talk about their jobs. At first I was blowing it off. Then the guy starts talking about how he doesn’t have a boss. His view is the whole world, and every time he wants, he can just pull over and get junk food. I was like “This is the perfect job.” I always kind of wanted to do that. I also really love sushi, so part of me would want to be a sushi chef. I don’t think I’d be good at it. I think I would just want to do it for access to the sushi. I don’t think I’d actually be good at it. Those are the two jobs I’ve thought about before.
Grace Pettis’s newest single “Landon” is available now on streaming platforms. For more information about her and her upcoming projects, visit her website.