We caught up with Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Grace Morrison while she was on tour in Arizona. Grace is our first finalist in this year’s LEAF Festival Singer-Songwriter Competition, which will take place at the May 12-15 LEAF Retreat in Black Mountain, NC.
NewSong Music: How have the last couple of years affected your approach to songwriting?
Grace: I try to write at least one song per week. Prior to the pandemic I was a music teacher and performing three nights a week. In 2020, I started looking at songwriting as my full time job. In 2020, I was booked all year — I was going to be on tour with Shawn Mullins. Now, half the venues I was booked at no longer exist.
[While working on my latest album, Daughter, Grammy-winner] Lori McKenna invited me over and we wrote my first co-write, [the song “Just Loving You”]. That especially made a songwriting career feel accessible.
What was your journey to songwriting?
The truth is, when I started writing, I loved [the pop-band] Hanson. I just wanted to meet Hanson. My dad was like, “You should write country music. You should write country or blues.” He said it to me so many times that I was like, “No!”
As I’m getting older I see how ignorant it was to dismiss a whole genre. I’m seeing so many things it can be. To me, Americana and country are telling the stories of people. It may be less about the musical contours than it is about having a clear story that anyone can relate to. [These days] I’m spending time co-writing in Nashville.
What topics are you writing about lately?
Recently it’s been songs about personal struggles. Someone close to me has been struggling with an eating disorder. I wrote a song for that person and when I shared it, it resonated with so many people. Every time I perform it, I talk about mental health issues.
How has your approach to storytelling evolved?
Early on, I listened to Tori Amos and the Lilith Fair artists. Their songs were poetic. I thought, ‘Whatever comes out of my mouth, that will be my song.’
A few years back, I was working at a Renaissance fair when I had this epiphany: “I could actually be telling the stories about historic figures that I love.” I’ve always been in love with history. So I wrote something from the perspective of a Titanic survivor. And I have five songs about King Henry VIII and his wives.
The past couple of years have been about me writing stories from my own life. That’s where the magic is.