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The WDVX Blue Plate Special – 6/25 – Grace Pettis

June 25 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

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“Grace has a melodic way of writing that not only stays in your head but reads what’s sitting in your soul. She writes what I’ve always wanted to say.” — Ruthie Foster (Grammy®-nominated blues artist)

Grace Pettis‘ much-anticipated sophomore MPress Records release, Down To The Letter, captures the Nashville-based (formerly Austin-based) singer-songwriter at the peak of her songwriting powers. Chronicling the end of a marriage and the reclamation of self after betrayal, codependency, and loss with heartbreaking detail, the lyrics deftly toe the line between personal pain and universal catharsis.

Mary Bragg — who also produced Pettis’ debut album on MPress, 2021’s Working Woman — was Pettis’ first choice for Down to the Letter as well, in spite of their second album calling for a markedly different approach. “I knew this album would be challenging,” says Pettis. “I was too close to these songs and the subject matter to be all that objective with things like song and production choices. But I was in good hands with Mary.”

Bragg and Pettis, along with good friend Josh Kaler (Frances Cone, Heather Nova), who contributes the majority of the electric and acoustic guitars on the album as well as pedal steel, make up the musical heart of the project. The three of them tracked much of the album in five days while holed up at musician/producer Jon Estes’ home studio in Nashville, when Jon and his family were out of town. While Grace played and sang and Mary contributed back-up vocals and acoustic guitar, Josh did the engineering until it was his turn to play something. Then Mary took over the engineering while he laid down his guitar parts.

Pettis reveals: “It was a very different process from the way Mary and I made our last record together. We recorded Working Woman at Sound Emporium, which is this big, beautiful, historic studio in Nashville. We brought in a raucous rock and roll band and we tracked it live, for the most part.” But Bragg’s instinct for Down to the Letter was ro record the project somewhere more familiar and intimate in a cozy and personal atmosphere. “It was just the three of us working on it for days,” Grace explains: “That was smart, because it was the kind of safe and supportive environment I needed, where I was among friends and could be emotionally vulnerable with in the way I needed to be, to get the vocals we wanted to get.” She concedes that she cried in her car after some of those days in the studio, so cathartic was the experience for her. “Mary was so great about allowing me to be human, while also encouraging me to make the best art possible.”

Grounded by Pettis’ vocals and acoustic guitar along with notable contributions from Bragg and Kaler on acoustic and pedal steel guitar, respectively, the album also features Owen Biddle and Jordan Perlson on electric bass and drums. Jon Estes contributed upright bass, cello, piano, and B-3 and Will Hawley added horns to “Joy.” With final overdubs at Bragg’s own project studio, they were able to achieve both the aching intimacy of ballads like “Horses” and “Sobering Up,” and the pull-no-punches attitude of tracks like “Rain” and “I Didn’t Break This.”

On the last day of tracking, the studio was full to the brim with Pettis’ Nashville musician friends, supporting the tender “Joy,” and exuberant “I Take Care of Me Now” as a makeshift choir and then with gang vocals. Guest vocals from Mary Bragg, Robby Hecht, and Emily Scott Robinson round out this collection of twelve original songs, two of which are co-writes (“When Nobody’s Watching” – Gary Nicholson; “The Year of Losing Things” – Tom Prasada-Rao).

A year-round touring artist equally at home on a big festival stage as in a listening room in Ireland, Grace Pettis has also been a member of Austin-based trio Nobody’s Girl with Rebecca Loebe and BettySoo since 2017, releasing their first EP in 2018 and full-length studio album in 2021 to critical acclaim. And while those musical friendships remain a big part of her landscape and have helped ground and inspire her along the way, this record is all about one woman’s journey through tough times, coming out on the other side all the more herself – vulnerable but triumphant, bruised but in possession of her own, solitary strength.

Produced by Mary Bragg (Natalie Price), mixed by Jon Estes (Robyn Hitchcock, Dolly Parton), and mastered by John McLaggan (Parachute Mastering), the album showcases Pettis’ rich voice, perhaps one of the most dynamic and agile of her generation.


June 25
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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301 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902 United States
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