Photo credit Nicola Gell

Video Feature & Web-Exclusive Interview

Video:  “White Noise”



Grace Pettis is an award-winning singer-songwriter from Austin via Alabama. She’s been characterized as “a little bit folk, a little bit country/Americana and a whole lot of soul.” She, along with her renowned singer-songwriter father Pierce Pettis, will be featured at the Blue Rock aLive! Cool Nights 2020 virtual concert series this Thursday, December 10. The series is “for the songs, for the artists, for all of us.” You can buy a Season Pass for only $105—and have a seat in the house by sending in your headshot. They will place the large headshot on a seat, so you will literally be sitting in the room.

Blue Rock’s innovation, quality and creativity is evidenced in concerts produced with broadcast quality audio-video from their renowned Texas room—streamed straight to you. Individual tickets can also be purchased for $25:

Grace Pettis recently released “Drop Another Pin”—a visually lyrical song with an infectious groove and a radio-ready vibe. You can’t help but smile and sing-along as you are moved by the story she weaves across the map. We featured that video in September on

In between recording her forthcoming debut album for MPress Records and hosting/playing on a multitude of virtual concerts, she has been actively advocating for racial justice. The powerful song “White Noise” was recently released, with all proceeds donated to Color of Change, an organization devoted to racial equality. Along with Rebecca Loebe and BettySoo, Pettis is also a member of the Americana/folk-pop trio Nobody’s Girl.

We talked with Grace Pettis about her passion for songwriting, the intricate way she weaves a story, what inspires her creative process and what keeps her honest and hopeful in these unique times.

Photo credit Nicola Gell


with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

Tell us about a song you’ll play at Blue Rock’s Cool Nights 2020.
I released “White Noise” this summer as a stand-alone single on MPress Records. All proceeds from sales go to Color of Change, the largest online racial justice organization in the country. As a white person, I believe that saying “black lives matter” is the very minimum that I can personally do to confront the realities of racism. “All lives” can’t and won’t matter in this country until Black lives matter.

Why it so difficult for so many to say “Black Lives Matter”?
I watched this summer as that simple baseline request that we recognize (that a black life “matters”) was met with misunderstanding, fear and hostility. This song is my own way of saying: a “black life matters.” I wrote it for Breonna Taylor and her family, and for other victims of racist brutality. It’s also an attempt to explain the concept to my white friends and family who may still not understand it.

Photo credit Nicola Gell

Why did you write “White Noise”?
I wrote it because the message of Black Lives Matter has been co-opted by the “white noise” that works to drown out black voices in black spaces. I don’t want to add to that noise. I’m so grateful to my label (MPress Records) and the musicians/creatives involved with producing and releasing this song. They gave their time and talents to help me point this arrow back around. It was important to me that this song be released apart from the machine of my own career. This song is just a starting pistol for me—personally. There’s so much more I want to do to help bend the arc (that MLK talked about) toward justice. Color of Change is one organization doing that work. If the song moves you, please consider donating to them. You can learn more about their work at

How did the idea of the powerfully moving “Drop Another Pin” come to you?
As a kid, we moved from place to place every few years and back and forth between divorced parents’ homes. Both parents are nomadic, so while growing up I traveled to a lot of places. I’ve chosen a nomadic profession myself. So maybe change is comforting to me. (Laughs) At some point in my adult life, I came to the realization that the main constant in my life has been movement. That’s where “Drop Another Pin” came from—trying to make sense of that incessant motion and trying to find a fixed point in the center of myself, in the moment, wherever I happen to be. []

What did you learn about yourself while recording this new album?
It’s the first album I’ve ever made exclusively with women and non-binary folks. It was a conscious choice that started as a thought experiment and became a statement. I thought I was making the statement for other people—for all the women and non cis men in my industry who go underrepresented, underpaid and unseen. Turns out, it was for me too.

Photo credit Nicola Gell

Grace Pettis writes visually lyrical songs with an infectious groove and a radio-ready vibe. You can’t help but be moved by the stories she weaves.

Did you notice a difference in your approach in the studio?
When I walked into the studio that first day and settled into playing and working with these incredible Nashville badasses, I realized this was going to be the first solo album I’d ever made where I wasn’t the only girl musician in the room. Even when recording with my all-female trio, Nobody’s Girl (with BettySoo and Rebecca Loebe), we’re outnumbered. That’s the industry standard. Most of us are completely unaware of it. We’re just fish swimming in water—we don’t see the water, at all. Being in a majority female session, as opposed to majority male session, allowed me for the first time to feel like just another musician in the studio. It was incredible. I was able to fill my own shoes a little better. I felt more confident as a vocalist, songwriter, bandleader and artist.

Who originally inspired you to write songs?
My Dad, Pierce Pettis. I grew up with his music. As a kid, I thought he was the best songwriter in the world. I still do. I thought, “Well, if he can do it—maybe I can too.” I wanted to at least try.

What songwriting tip would you like to offer?
My Dad said “save everything. When you’re starting out, you think your songs are terrible—save them anyway. Fill up notebooks. Write it all down. You’ll be a better songwriter years from now, and you can go back and mine those notebooks for inspiration. You can re-write those terrible songs and salvage whatever was working. Craft can be learned but inspiration is like gold. Save every single song idea you have.” I tell this to teenage songwriters. We feel things more intensely at that age than we ever will again. Nothing hurts like that first heartbreak. We can reanimate those feelings years down the line when we actually know how to do them justice—if we save the idea. So never throw anything away.

Photo credit Nicola Gell

What instruments/equipment can you not live without?
I need a guitar in my hands to write a song. Sometimes, I’ll get an idea when I’m away from my guitar. But even then, I’m imagining the chords and itching to get home with guitar in hand to finish the song. I have a Moonstone guitar. It’s a gorgeous instrument. More importantly, it’s my instrument. There’s nothing like playing my own guitar. There’s no place like home.

What other tools do you use?
I use voice memos for songwriting ideas and Evernote to save lyric ideas. Save your ideas in the cloud, so if you lose your phone you won’t lose years of ideas. It’s happened to me before and it’s tragic. I also use a Focusrite Audio Interface, combined with a Yamaha Mixer and an AKG Condenser Mic—for making demos, my live webcasts and recording podcasts. My USB 3.0 Lightning Hub is indispensable—because my MacBook Air only has two USB ports. It’s a small, silly thing, but it’s a lifesaver.

Any other essentials?
My manager recently got me a deal with Fender amps. I love their little Mustang LT25 amp, combined with a (borrowed) Epiphone electric guitar. I bought a great drafting chair from Amazon—a desk chair with wheels. I can change the height and it can go pretty high, plus the arms fold back, which is important for playing guitar. A good desk chair can change your whole life—happy back, happy life. (Laughs)

Photo credit Nicola Gell

Any accessories?
I use Elixir strings. I love Kyser capos. I picked up my first Kyser capo at Camp NashBill from Bill Nash, who has MS. Late at night, when I was stumbling around the Kerrville Folk Festival campfires (an incredible community of songwriters), looking for Camp Nashville—I stumbled onto Camp NashBill. Bill plays with Kyser capos—the shortcut ones which cover three strings in the middle. I combine it with a regular Kyser and it gets all these wonderful sounds. It was my first experience. I like the way those capos feel.

What is the best advice someone has given you?
A while back I was complaining about something—some career hurdle or why I felt stuck. My very kind, always supportive, sweet-to-the-core mother uncharacteristically cut me off and said, “Grace. You have to be unstoppable.” That really hit home. She wasn’t diminishing the struggle or making light of it. She was pointing out the obvious: There’s always going to be something in my way. Everybody has hurdles. I’ve had my share and I’ve also had many fewer than others. I can’t let that stop me from pursuing what I want out of life. Moments come and go. I have to seize the moment I’m in and not let anything (even a pandemic or the voices in my own head) keep me from reaching my own potential. It’s a privilege to have the opportunities I have. I can’t waste them.

Photo credit Nicola Gell

Do you have “pinch me” moment?
I once opened for Jimmy Webb. That was a pivotal moment. He was unbelievably nice and signed my songwriting notebook.

In this unique socio-political time, how do you remain hopeful?
I’ve been writing a lot more socially-conscious songs lately—a natural byproduct of being more aware. Plenty of other artists are focusing on writing exclusively happy, positive, uplifting songs. Songs you can dance to. Songs that make you smile—that’s important too. I’m not that kind of songwriter, but I respect that calling. 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. They’re fairly candid that way. Not always toe-tappers, but I come by them honestly.

Where can new fans get more info and stay updated?

Instagram: @gracepettis

Twitter: @gracepettis

Photo credit Nicola Gell

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