INTERVIEW: Indie Folk Outfit The Good Graces

Hi there, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Pretty good, and thanks!

Can you talk to us more about your song “Crickets”?

I wrote “Crickets” late last summer. I had been dealing with some conflict with someone really close to me, and it was really wearing on me. I had had problems articulating how I really felt about it; what I felt like it had done to me. I was sort of stewing over it, and the song just kinda came out; once I started it, it was pretty quick. And I did feel like it did a pretty good job of capturing those conflicting feelings and emotions.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

You want details, I like it! LOL. Yes. 😉

Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the track “Snow Angels”?

“Snow Angels”  was written by my good friend Wyatt Espalin, and I loved the song from the moment I first heard it. I was asked to perform a song for his annual birthday show at Crimson Moon in Dahlonega (north of Atlanta) and I decided to do that one, but make it sound more like a Good Graces song. I slowed it down, finger picked it, made it a lot sadder. When it came time to pick the songs for the album, I wanted it to reflect my headspace and experiences from the past year, and the song just made sense. I’m so glad I got to include it.

How was the recording and writing process?

I tried to stay true to the feel of that live performance; it felt really good to strip it back but wanted it to also have a rootsy instrumentation, so we added things like mandolin and banjo. We recorded the rhythm section live (we did for the entire record) and then went back in and added those additional instruments. In the end, we focused a lot on the vocals. Wyatt’s song is so sad and nostalgic, and I wanted to make sure I preserved that. We especially had a good time layering the harmony vocals at the very end … that’s one of my favorite parts of the record!

How did the process of putting together your new album Prose & Consciousness differ from your previous releases?

It was very different. For “Set Your Sights,” my last record, I think we recorded a total of 24 songs. So we went in with way more than we could fit on the album, and then picked the songs we thought were the best to finish and mix. It kept it really organic — I didn’t really know what the record was going to be until I was like a year into it. But it also made it a bit more stressful (and a lot more time consuming) than it probably needed to be. With this one, I knew I wanted to work quicker and more efficiently. And I knew I wanted to record the majority of the tracks in one place, and then mix the album there too (which was also different from the last record, which I’m super proud of, but did end up being pretty hodge-podge). So really, I approached it in an almost opposite way compared to the last album, and all my previous albums, really. I settled on about 14 songs to start with and gave a few the boot along the way. But I was a lot more cognizant, from the very beginning, of what the end product would be. I remember coming up with the title really early on, and not changing it — for my last album I must have gone through 20 titles! I also made a concerted effort to not include a single breakup song, which was also really different for me, because I’ve written a lot of them! But that helped inform the “aboutness” of the album, and I think it kept it a little more focused than some of the previous ones.

What role does Atlanta play in your music?

Aww, I love this question, as I really love Atlanta! I would probably have never started the Good Graces had I not moved to Atlanta. I was a drummer for a couple of Atlanta-based singer-songwriters, Jeff Evans and Mary O. Harrison, and I just loved their songs. So I think that, in combination with going through a divorce just prior to the move, and finally seeing an old acoustic guitar for sale (really cheap) at a flea market all sort of collided in a way that the universe said “YOU NEED TO WRITE SONGS.” But the Atlanta influence was huge. I wrote an Atlanta ditty a few years ago (“State of Atlanta,”) sort of as a joke, but also because I love it so much it just felt like I needed to express that love in song.

What aspect of your life/lives did you get to explore on your LP Prose & Consciousness?

Ha – I’m a Gemini, so “lives” is very accurate. And wow, such a big question. I think I definitely explored the idea of being conflicted, feeling pulled in different directions. Balancing art and things I “want” to do with things I “need” to do comes out for sure. I’m smack dab in mid-life, and I’m childless, by choice, but that choice hasn’t necessarily been easy. There’s a song about that. So it’s pretty personal stuff, all around. I also finally took a serious look at my own mental health issues — anxiety, specifically — around the time of Anthony Bourdain’s death. That comes out in the record, too. I want to think I look at things about myself through a pretty critical lens but that in the end I give myself a break and say “this is me, flaws and all.”

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I was pretty focused on family over the past year or so — watching my Dad’s declining health made me want to capture parts of him through the record (“His Name Was the Color That I Loved” is partly about him, and I also used a little snippet of his voice after the song “Wants + Needs” which was inspired by a real situation of cancelling a show to go back home and help take care of him). So there’s a good bit of family stuff on the album … I also like to think about our place in the universe, well maybe “like to” isn’t the right way to put it, but I sometimes find myself thinking about it, and feeling really small, but at the same time really connected to others. That comes out in the “Blood Orange Moon Shot” tune. I think the easy answer is I find inspiration everywhere. But particularly in nature and the people close to me.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes! I’m doing a small tour through NC after the album release, in November. But really want to hit it hard next year. Plans are in the works for a tour with my friend Annette Wasilik, a really great songwriter and guitar player from around the DC area. I also want to get back to the southwest in the fall of next year. And plan to do as much regional stuff as possible.

What else is happening next in The Good Graces’ world?

Our album release show is at Eddie’s Attic on Nov 14, so I’ll soon be super focused on the full-band practices for that. We haven’t had a full band tGG show since last August, and it’s also our first time headlining Eddie’s so I’m super excited. I’ve also recently started a monthly(ish) women’s in-the-round that I do here in Atlanta at Red Light Cafe. Each show features 3-4 women songwriters and we give a portion of the proceeds to a non-profit that works for or benefits women.

Listen here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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