Within the span of two months, Nashville singer-songwriter, Anna Graceman, experienced two traumatic events that changed her life. In one moment, Graceman, eating in a restaurant, witnessed people firing automatic weapons in the streets – towards her. Weeks later, Graceman was carjacked, pushed toward bushes as someone stole her car. While situations like these would leave anyone shaken, Graceman made it her duty to turn those moments into music, as difficult as it was. In so doing, the versatile singer sees life differently now. She sees more clearly the oversaturation of guns in the country and the fear and violence that too-often propel society. All of this and more are highlighted in Graceman’s new music video for the song, “Night Follows,” out today.
“Songwriting usually comes very naturally to me,” Graceman says. “But I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t write about [the carjacking]. I couldn’t come up with anything that reflected my feelings. But when I finally landed on the idea for ‘Night Follows,” I was so relieved.”
Graceman, who said it took about a year to compose “Night Follows,” says she couldn’t understand why the violent situations happened to her. It’s only natural to look for a reason, she says. But in lieu of one, she made it her mission to write songs based on those experiences. In part to combat the PTSD and in part to tell her story and relate to others who may also be in her shoes. Graceman says people told her to keep these experiences quiet for fear of looking like “damaged goods.” A worry she tossed off, confidently.
“I am a survivor of an experience that was very traumatic and very much affected my life,” she says.
In May, the songwriter released her latest LP, The Way The Night Behaves. One of the standouts on the energetic 14-track record is the track, “Autumn Day.” Where “Night Follows” is about the carjacking, “Autumn Day” is about the street shooting.
“Almost every single day I have a moment where I have to collect myself and tell myself I’m okay,” Graceman says. “It feels really important to talk about PTSD and mental health. Everybody can understand on a certain level how it feels to have anxiety, to fear something out of your control.”
Graceman says she can’t go to the movies or watch fireworks like she used to because of the sounds and often (unannounced) use of gun violence in most mainstream films. She feels big bouts of empathy for those who have experienced school shootings, mass shootings. She sees too many guns in video games.
“My heart aches,” she says. “There is so much going on in the world right now, so much violence and so much hate. I don’t really understand it. Why can’t we look at things differently than violence?”
Despite – or perhaps as a result of – the recent difficult experiences, Graceman is strong-willed and stalwart, both in her music and in her general comportment. She stands tall when she meets people, shakes hands with deserved authority. But this might be expected from someone who made her first national television appearance on Ellen at 9-years-old, as Graceman did. The artist has also appeared on America’s Got Talent and Songland, to name a couple other prominent stages.
“I learned a lot about how to hold myself in my music,” she says. “I wouldn’t say I grew up fast but I understood quickly that adults will see you differently if you’re confident in yourself. You don’t have to brag but if you’re confident in your abilities, people will respond to you that way. Even if a lot of eyes are on you, the most important thing is to feel good about yourself.”
Graceman, who began singing at 18-months, before she could talk, was influenced early by songs. Her father, a classic rock fan, and mother, who loved Motown, played records constantly and Graceman picked up on a variety of influences, from Aretha Franklin to Anne Wilson. She grew up in Juneau, Alaska, and the cold winters and rainy summers pushed Graceman to be indoors. This, however, proved to be the Ace up her sleeve. At home, she worked on her craft.
“We didn’t have TV, didn’t have phones as an option,” she says. “So I just spent a lot of time focused on writing and playing piano and singing.”
Now, in Nashville, Graceman is growing as an artist. She is writing for herself and for other people’s projects. She is placing songs in prominent spots and watching the fruits of her labor grow, evolve and prove worthy to her peers. Nevertheless, Graceman, at times, wonders why she survived those two traumatic events, why was she able to walk away? But she always comes around to the same answer: to make music and to share it with the world.
“Music connects us to others and connects us to what we feel,” Graceman says. “I think it’s beautiful that there’s a song for everything that I feel. We all don’t have the same experiences, but we all feel the same things.”