“to listen is to fall long and hard into a well of wonders” – Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
“Grace’s bright, clear voice reflects simple beauty and subtle wisdom, traits shared by all memorable singers from Billie Holiday to Emmylou Harris.” – LA Weekly
Kathleen Grace grew up in the Wild West, its vistas etching an impression that would stay with the Tucson, AZ native as she traveled to the winding hills of Los Angeles. From there, Grace has forged a remarkable career that has sent her around the globe, playing for a worldwide audience whose diversity reflects her own eclectic musical tastes. Her latest album, No Place To Fall, is a sun-drenched landscape of music rooted in her desert upbringing and elegant country spirit. Recorded at Carriage House Studios and produced by Sheldon Gomberg (Ryan Adams, Ben Harper, Lucinda Williams), No Place To Fall is the undeniable evolution of Grace as a naturally exquisite singer and songwriter, whose soulful instincts are skillfully honed by her prior experience in jazz and blues. Grace has appeared at venues as varied as her music, including The Montreux Jazz Festival, The Kennedy Center for the Arts and the South by Southwest music festival.
Building on the sound she established with the release of No Place to Fall, Grace is now deep into writing for the next record letting the rambling paths and big sky of her Mt Washington home inspire new music. Collaboration is a centerpiece of her upcoming projects. The vocal trio featured on the Tom Wait’s cover of “Briar and the Rose” from No Place To Fall has blossomed into a group of it’s own, Dear Lemon Trees. The girl group features Grace, Leslie Stevens and Jamie Drake and released its debut EP, “Gravity,” in early 2017. And Grace’s iconic sci-fi co-write with pianist Josh Nelson “How You Loved Me On Mars” has become an unexpected hit. Their writing and performance continues on his new LA project “The Sky Remains,” out later this year. Grace embraces her own eclecticism with her latest video series titled “KG sings with people she likes,” highlighting special live performances with artists from both the Americana and jazz worlds. For the last ten years, Grace has been a member of the jazz faculty at the Flora L. Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.
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With material old and new, Grace charts a personal journey of family on the record. “I’m On Fire” evokes the moody textures of Alison Krauss and Joni Mitchell, the lyrics playing upon the imagery of a burning desert campground to convey what she says is “the feeling of taking on someone you love’s pain and agony” with barely contained tension. The country waltz “Fine Young Woman,” on the other hand, is a heartbreaking biographical take on the artist’s mother, ruing the loss of youth in contrast with the embrace of family: “For my life, it is not my own now/my babies are counting on m/ my life it is not my now, a mother can never be free.” The album’s haunting closing track “Goodbye” finds Grace meditating on abandonment, dissecting the love and pain behind the act: “My time has brought me to my knees/I’m begging you, please, let me go, let me leave/Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.”
Her exquisite choice of covers often explores the same terrain. The opening title track, a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place to Fall,” appears in loving tribute to the singer’s husband. “No one talks about love the way Townes does in that song,” says Kathleen. Greg Leisz’s majestic pedal steel glides behind the melancholy exploration of a long-term romance: “If I had no place to fall/And I needed to/Could I count on you/To lay me down?” Grace’s take on Phoenix country-punk heroes Meat Puppets’ “Plateau” involved a total makeover, with the artist re-voicing and restructuring the tune’s psychedelic depiction of her home state. “For me, even though the lyrics are oblique, that song perfectly captures the surreal angst of Arizona life,” she says.
Grace proudly demonstrates her versatility with a deliciously honky-tonk take on Tin Pan Alley standard “Blame It On My Youth,” and a steel guitar-tinged remake of Duke Ellington’s classic “Mood Indigo.” And, in one of the album’s most delicate moments, Grace and co. deliver a gospel-influenced performance of Tom Waits’ “The Briar and the Rose,” featuring the artist in three-part harmony with special guests Jamie Drake and Leslie Stevens – all singing into the same microphone.
Grace has performed around the world, including the Montreux Jazz Festival, an official SXSW showcase, and festivals in Europe, South America and Asia. She is also a passionate music educator and has hosted masterclasses and workshops on many of her tours. She is currently on the faculty of her alma mater, The Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.