To say that Australian-born artist Grace Sewell – known simply as ‘Grace’ – has had a busy year would only be telling part of her story. Widely known for her smash remake of Leslie Gore’s feminist classic, “You Don’t Own Me”, she’s been active in writing and performing music since the age of 14.
Raised in a family of performers, the 19-year-old descends from grandparents who once served as openers for the Bee Gees, and grew up with an older brother – Conrad Sewell – who’s had his own massive success in music with a number one hit in 2015. Speaking to Grace over the phone, she also fondly describes her mother’s role in her creative upbringing. “My mom was always very artsy – always painting, or writing books – and that rubbed off on me. I’ve always loved music and she had really great taste in music. So, I was always around soul music growing up, listening to artists like Etta James, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin.”
Just five years after beginning her own artistic endeavors, Grace landed in a studio recording with legendary producer, Quincy Jones. Jones, who first heard her music through a management connection, signed on and suggested that they work together on the very song he produced with Gore in 1963. So, what was it like to work with him?
“Quincy is a perfectionist. There was that fine line of keeping it classic and keeping all those iconic moments from the original, but also being able to let another producer come in – Parker [Ighile] – to help create a fresh sound and take on it. Quincy was the key element in making sure it was still done in a tasteful way.”
Ighile, with whom she’d recorded her 2015 EP, Memo, furthered the fresh take on the song by connecting her with G-Eazy. A fan of his work, Grace describes clicking with G immediately following a joint listen of the track. He was into it and asked to write a verse. “It was kind of a cool juxtaposition to have a male rapper on what essentially is a female empowerment record. And, I knew he’d bring in a different audience, because he’d add a hip hop element.”
Following Gore’s passing in February 2015, Jones encouraged Grace to release the by-then minted track as a tribute to the late performer. When asked if she felt any pressure or responsibility to carry the song’s message to a new generation of young women, Grace replies, “Not pressure, really. For me, the biggest thing when talking to young women and youth in general is: don’t set limitations to your goals and what you want out of life.”
The discussion takes us back to her family, and the impact her brother’s success has had on her own endeavors. “He was already playing shows, and in the studio, and writing his own stuff. And, I was like, ‘This isn’t that far away. I can get there. My brother – somebody I’m so close to – is already living it and doing it.’ It was a massive encouragement to have him around and guide me in the right direction. I was never scared because it never seemed that far away.”
“You Don’t Own Me” continues to carry momentum following a key placement in one of the summer’s most-discussed blockbusters, Suicide Squad. With the acclaimed release of her debut album, FMA, in July, the rest of 2016 will see the performer out promoting it. “The music is out now, so I just want people to hear it! We’re gonna get out and play as many shows as we can.”
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Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad
Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was
Using his life experiences growing up in downtown Toronto as a source of inspiration, Langston Francis is on his grind as a young artist discovering himself and the world of music around him. We caught up with Francis on the heels of his debut single release to talk about his foray into music, early influences and his direction as an artist. G—You are still in high school. Do you find it hard to juggle your new music career with school? Langston Francis—It’s challenging. For example, I had two exams in one day, then a show at night and I was feeling under the weather. I have school every day, so it definitely gets hard to juggle things sometimes, but it’s sort of something I just have to take in stride. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I have. G—Can you tell us a little about your first single, “FCKD IT UP”? LF—I wrote the song and beat when I was 14. At the time, the song had a certain meaning to me. We ended up finishing the song about 12 months later, after that it took on a whole new meaning. As I grow up and change