Grace Weber is unexpected, in every sense of the word. At first glance, one would never imagine the power and strength that lies within her.
But as soon as she opens her mouth, an eruption of skill is revealed, prompting dropped jaws and an outburst of praise. With talent as bountiful has her, it’s no wonder she was tapped by Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment to help out on their latest projects, where she earned a Grammy for her work on Chance’s “All We Got” off Coloring Book. Fresh from a South American tour promoting the rapper, Weber has taken no time off, hopping right on tour to support Thirdstory. The songstress is now gearing up to release her debut album, something she is overtly proud of due to its stand-alone nature. “I’m so proud of it because it sounds like me”, she says. Weber sits down and talks about pressure, expectations, and her work with Chance.
The Knockturnal: You have great energy, where does that come from?
Grace Weber: I have to get myself in the right mindset honestly. And there’s some shows where I’m like feeling tired and I don’t take the time to get myself in the right headspace and the show suffers because of it. When I have a show like that, it reminds me that I really need to do the things that get me in the right headspace. So tonight I got in the right headspace and for me a lot of it is like just remembering that we’re all just hanging out together and I drink a beer before I go on stage and I try to be as chill as possible and feel like I’m about to go hang out with a group of friends, and when I can get into that sort of calm, chill, we’re all sharing an experience together and we’re all coming together as a group, I feel like I can tap into that fun, chill energy. It makes it really fun for me.
The Knockturnal: Is that something you’ve had to learn?
Grace Weber: Yeah, totally. Years ago, I used to get so nervous before shows and I would just feel very afraid to connect with people and I was so afraid of being judged I think. I went through this process of deciding that I was going to go out on stage loving myself and liking myself. It’s kinda like when you go to a party and you’re in a good mood to interact with people and the party turns out so much better because you’re like, “That was pretty fun” because I was just not worried about people, I wasn’t feeling insecure, I was feeling confident. I wasn’t worried about people judging me. It’s a little bit of that, going out there and being like, “This is who I am, and if you dig it, cool. And if you don’t, that’s cool too but I’m just gonna be myself.” It’s also realizing that I have a role to play and kinda being like a leader and a host for the room. I like the fact, it feels like a privilege to get to bring people together. It’s sorta like getting excited about that instead of feeling scared about it. And then I also really try to connect with the words in my music. So like for “Through the Fire”, I was having honestly a really shitty day yesterday and the Boston show kinda suffered a little bit from it because I was not connecting to my own music. But tonight I was like, I have to remember to sing the words. On “Through the Fire” I was like, “words so cruel, I’m gonna use it for fuel and we’ll make it through”. And I’ m elated when I’m like, “Now I feel ready to be loved”, I really try to connect with that in the show and then I feel like because I’m actually connecting with the music, everything falls into place because of that.
The Knockturnal: Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself, whether it’s recording music or going out on stage?
Grace Weber: I do and I don’t. I used to put a lot more pressure on myself and I learned that it just doesn’t do any good for anything and any time that I put too much pressure on myself, it’s just not fun. It takes all the fun away from it. So I really have gone through this process over the past couple of years of taking off that pressure and working with The Social Experiment, Nate (Fox), Nico (Segal), Peter (Cottontale) and Binta (Brown). It was the most amazing feeling of meeting a group of people who we all felt like best friends instantly upon meeting. There was this real feeling of acceptance amongst each other and like you couldn’t do anything wrong. There was no judgment. You could just be yourself. I finally felt this freedom of, I don’t have to be anything but myself, and that takes off so much pressure because I don’t have to change myself. So yeah the pressure thing, I definitely still do it. Sometimes I’ll be like, “Oh my god, so and so is the room, I really don’t want to..”, my thing is that I really don’t want to let anyone down who’s like on my team because my band is so important to me and I always feel like, I want to make sure I kill it so that everyone feels like we’re still moving forward and I want the crowd to feel happy and I want the energy to be good, but I realize that the energy will only be good if I put the pressure aside and just walk onto the stage as I am, which is also something I learned on this tour. The greatest thing I learned is if I’m tired or if I’m feeling kinda shitty or whatever, just own that and still walk out onto the stage as myself. Don’t try to change myself, don’t try to be like, “Okay I’m feeling tired but I have to amp myself up or else it won’t be good.” It’s more like, “yeah I’m feeling tired, I’m gonna come with that”. And then I come to the stage with a real energy and then it always flips into like a not tired energy, because I’m coming the stage real, and then I feel like we’re connecting authentically and then it boosts me up. So my thing is like, just be real. Just be yourself, be real.
The Knockturnal: Do you feel like people underestimate you a lot?
Grace Weber: Yeah, I grew up singing in a gospel choir and there was a lot of moments that the choir and I would show up to a church outside of our district, and when I was like 12, 13, 14, I had a solo in the choir. People maybe wouldn’t expect that, especially because I was in a choir that was mostly high school students and I was 12, 13, so I was extra awkward and tiny, and I looked like a mom when I was 12, hardcore, like a tiny mom. I feel like I looked funny, and my choir robe was really big an awkward and would just walk up to the mic and I could see people being like, “Why though?”. It was always fun for me though to show people, I know that you might have a certain expectation but we’re just going to make music together, and it’s about to get fun. I learned at a young age to not get upset with people not knowing what’s gonna happen, maybe even side eyeing you a little bit because they’re not really sure. It’s a natural thing, everyone’s trying to understand like, “Okay, what is about to happen?” My thing is, having the confidence to know it’s gonna be cool once we get past this initial moment of getting to know each other. Again, it’s like meeting people for the first time. Yeah, it’s a little bit awkward in the beginning, we’re just meeting, but we’re gonna be cool by the end of this and just going in with that fun, cool energy.
The Knockturnal: What’s the biggest takeaway you’ve gotten from your work with Chance The Rapper?
Grace Weber: Honestly, one of the coolest things I’ve experienced actually was recently, well two things. One was watching Chance and Peter, Nate, and Nico work on Coloring Book, and everybody who was involved in that and seeing how much heart and soul and love they put into the project. Peter was sleeping at the studio in Chicago for like three months straight in a mattress. They all put everything into that project. So when they won the Grammy, it was so cool to see all these people who really put love into the project getting rewarded for that. It reminded me that how important it is to, A, surround yourself with people who are like family in your unit and collaborate with people who are your true friends. And also how important it is for there to be a feeling of love around a project and feeling like everybody who’s involved cares so much. I think listeners can hear that they can hear that there’s love in the project. I also got to tour with Chance at the beginning of this month in South America. I was actually subbing for Thirdstory, who normally tours with him but they’re on their own tour, so I went in replace of them and it was an incredible experience of feeling what it’s like to sing in front of, there were 150,000 people in Sao Paulo. It was this really amazing thing to see how Chance and the crew handles that type of energy coming at you on stage and experience what it’s like to tour with a group of 30 people. It actually prepared me for this tour in a really cool way, because it showed me this next level of performance and audience vibe, so when I came into this tour, I felt even more comfortable because I had gone through that.
The Knockturnal: How has what you learned from working on Coloring Book gone into your own projects?
Grace Weber: I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned from working with The Social Experiment guys, with Nate, Nico, and Peter was that at the end of the day, music is supposed to be fun, and it’s supposed to be creative. Nate, Nico, and Peter made me feel like a kid again like I could create with this feeling of self-expression that I haven’t felt since I was in the gospel choir. The first day that I walked into the studio when we started working on my project, I was sitting on the coach, and [Nate Fox] just walked over to me and just gave me the microphone and was like, “if you feel inspired, just start singing”, which was the most liberating thing for somebody to say to me. “If you feel inspired, just sing.” That was the only directive, it wasn’t like, “Okay, you need to get yourself into the right headspace to make this successful.” I’ve gone into sessions previous to that where it was like, people would be like, “So do you have a budget for radio for this?”, before we even made the song, they put all this weird pressure. Like no? I guess now we’re making a radio song. With Nate, Nico, and Peter, it was like, let’s just make music. And then once we do that, let’s decide what we’re gonna do with it after that. It was a beautiful process of coming back into the creative process of playing and feeling like there were no rules and having fun, and I think that’s why people resonate with Chance and all them too because you can see they’re having fun and you can see they’re paving their own path. Working with them, it was super important for all of us, we had a family dinner that night and they said, “We’re so excited you picked up to work on your project with because our intention is to make a project for you that sounds like you can nobody else. So it was a very beautiful experience of the ultimate expression of being myself as an artist.
The Knockturnal: What can we expect from this project, what’s the overall vibe?
Grace Weber: It’s super soulful, there’s R&B vibes and Hip Hop vibes and gospel, and there’s other things that I feel like for the most part, I’m so proud of it because it sounds like me. I hope people will listen to it and be like, “Okay, this is something I haven’t heard before because it sounds like this chick”, versus, “Oh this is another version of so and so.” This is a new thing, which is my own lane. I’m really excited.