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“I thought a lot about what to call this album. I tossed around a lot of different titles, pulled from lines I liked or themes the record seemed to have. But in the end, it really had to be called Working Woman because the album, like the song, is not subtle. It’s about recognizing and honoring the work that women do in every space in our society. It’s about claiming our own power and place in the world. This record is about the work women do and valuing that work,” says Grace Pettis, explaining the title of her new debut album for MPress Records, Working Woman.
Produced by lauded singer-songwriter Mary Bragg, and mixed by 2x Grammy® award winner Shani Gandhi (Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical), the record features an all-female/non-binary band. The rest of the album credits are female/non-binary as well: co-writers, engineers, photographer, and graphic designer included. Guest contributions come from Indigo Girls (“Landon”), Ruthie Foster (“Pick Me Up”), Dar Williams (“Any Kind of Girl”), The Watson Twins (“Never Get It Back”), Gina Chavez (“Mean Something”) and Mary Bragg (“Paper Boat”).
Grace epitomizes the term singer/songwriter. As a singer, her voice is both powerful and beautiful, and she uses it like a fine arts painter to color and craft her songs. American Songwriter Magazine wrote “As a decorated songwriter, Pettis blurs the lines between country, Americana and folk. Her soulful delivery of calculated lyric lines helps her tell stories for all generations.” Her songs have been recorded by many esteemed artists, including Sara Hickman and Ruthie Foster. Grace explains, “The songs that ring the truest often come from my own feelings and memories. People need upbeat songs they can dance to, but they need sad songs, too. Hard songs. The songs that are the hardest and most painful to write seem to be the most healing. I write from wherever I happen to be. If I’m happy, I write a happy song. If I’m sad, I write a sad song. If the world is on fire, so are my songs.”
Asked about her conscious choice to work with an all-female/non-binary creative team for Working Woman, Grace explains, “As a feminist, I can’t complain that the industry is unfair to women if I’m not actively working on whatever level I’m at to change it for others. I don’t feel the need to cloak my own feminism in metaphors anymore or sidle up to it with a wink so I don’t offend anyone. Here in the US, women make up something like 22% of chart-topping artists, across all genres. We are 2% of the producers credited on those charts, and just about 12% of the songwriters. Less than 1% of chart-topping songs are written without men. Meaning, we are literally not hearing women. The fact is, women like me work our tails off. We have to, to carve out our place in the world. It’s past time to recognize and honor women’s contributions. This is our time and we will make the rules. We are not asking for respect anymore. Now, we are demanding it.”
From an early age, Grace was encouraged to speak her mind and to express herself musically. Words and music were the family heirlooms she inherited from her parents, a traveling songwriter (Pierce Pettis) and poetry scholar (Dr. Margaret Mills Harper), who were divorced by the time she was a small child. As a result of that separation, she was raised in two very different parts of the “Deep South”: the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, and the backwoods of Mentone, Alabama. Grace’s musical influences run the gamut of Southern sounds: from mountain music and gospel to country and folk to R&B and hip hop. Pierce was on the road a lot, and the albums he left for her to listen to while he was touring the country and sending paychecks home were both a way to be closer to him and a driving influence in her writing from an early age. She was writing songs as soon as she could talk and enlisting help from her mom to get them down on paper by the time she was five.
An award-winning singer-songwriter from Austin via Alabama, this isn’t Pettis’ first rodeo. For Grace, who has been characterized as “a little bit folk, a little bit country/Americana, and a whole lot of soul,” 2020 had many silver linings. She signed with MPress Records, released three critically acclaimed singles – “Landon”, White Noise”, and “Drop Another Pin” (with “Landon” landing at #10 on The Bluegrass Situation’s year-end “The Women Who Wrote Our 2020 Soundtrack”), and recorded Working Woman in Nashville.
Grace is the winner of many of the nation’s most prestigious songwriting contests, including NPR’s Mountain Stage New Song Contest, and has received grants from the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation. Her highly acclaimed independently released records, Grace Pettis (2009) and Two Birds (2012) (both produced by Billy Crockett and recorded at Blue Rock Studio) and the acoustic EP, Blue Star in a Red Sky (2018) (written and recorded with her longtime guitar player Calloway Ritch), have garnered praise from top-notch magazines, newspapers, and radio. She also holds down duties as a member (along with Rebecca Loebe and BettySoo) of the Americana/folk-pop trio Nobody’s Girl.