Grace Pettis Discusses the Influences of Community on ‘Basic Folk’

As a card-carrying member of the South Austin scene, Grace Pettis has amassed bragging rights to spare. She is the winner of many of the nation’s most prestigious songwriting contests, including NPR’s Mountain Stage New Song Contest and the Kerrville Folk Festival. She has also received grants from the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation. Grace’s songs have been recorded by other esteemed artists, including Sara Hickman and Ruthie Foster and she added to her songwriting accomplishments in 2019 by signing a publishing deal with BMG. 

And on this episode of Basic Folk, Grace Pettis is leaning in. As the founder of Nobody’s Girl (with Rebecca Loebe and Betty Soo) and daughter of beloved songwriter Pierce Pettis, Grace Pettis was raised in a “homogeneous community steeped in a traditional Christian faith.” This led to some questionable decisions as a young person, including not reacting in a loving way when her best friend, Landon, came out to her as a gay man.

Fortunately, that frame of mind and that action do not define her. Through contemplation, information gathering and soul-searching, Grace landed in a different place. She realized how she had done Landon wrong and also knew she could only express it through song, which is how her new song “Landon” came about.

Grace relates to and prefers brave songwriters and this new song certainly is brave. And interestingly, even though her dad is a successful musician, Pettis’ parents did not want their children to pursue music. That all changed after Grace attempted to teach herself on a self-purchased cheap guitar. Her mom, seeing her daughter struggle, finally let Grace play her fancy Martin guitar. Eventually, her dad let her use one of his guitars and things began falling into place. She moved to Austin and started playing open mics and attending Kerrville Folk Festival. She even won the New Folk Award at Kerrville in 2011 (something her dad ALSO won in 1987).

Grace is very open and honest in conversation with Howes. She addresses questions ranging from how she is actively being anti-racist to her Star Trek podcast (“Troubadours on Trek”).

Basic Folk is a podcast with honest conversations between musicians and Cindy Howes, a well-versed public radio host and music curator. Howes approaches interviews with warmth, humor and insightful questions. This podcast fosters the folk community and showcases a genre that is often misunderstood.

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