"I always gravitated towards sounds that had a raw ache in them." - Grace Askew

Posted: May 23, 2024
I’m a HUGE Patti fan, mostly because not only was she a rockstar, but she also took motherhood very seriously and took a 9-year hiatus when she had her own.

Photo by: Lucky Seven

Grace Askew is a 6th generation Memphian with over 15 years of touring America under her belt, all completely alone in her F350 diesel truck. Her prolific songwriting skills have made her a Dolly Parton-level creative and have led to not only 8 albums and a slew of singles, but multiple 1st place awards in the John Lennon and International Songwriting contests.

Her performances have included the Hollywood stage of the NBC’s The Voice (team Blake Shelton), PBSs Sun Sessions, and she’s shared the stage with the likes of Marty Stuart, Leon Russell, Lisa Marie Presley, and Colter Wall. Her film and television placements include MTV, Lifetime, and the opening scene of the latest Jason Sudeikis film “South of Heaven”.

Some say she’s a female Ryan Bingham, others say she’s a combo of Stevie Nicks and Loretta Lynn. But one thing is for sure, Grace’s music was best described by Rolling Stone: “raw, real and righteous”.

Guitar Thrills: Hi Grace. Thank you for joining me today. I look forward to getting to know who Grace Askew is, and what is the source of your continued success.

Guitar Thrills: When I reviewed your bio, there was a quote that I found intriguing. It was by the Rolling Stone magazine. Not quite familiar with them. JK. However, it said about Grace Askew, that “you are raw, real and righteous”. 

I often wondered what artists think about quotes made about their playing style. Do you think they were on point in describing you? Also, what does it mean to you to be raw, real, and righteous? 

Grace: Thank you, first of all, for asking me to be included in Guitar Thrills! I am always curious and open to how others interpret and describe my sound, it exemplifies how subjective art is, for sure. Typically I’m compared to male artists, for whatever reason…for example: “she’s like a female version of Tony Joe White” or “she’s a  female version of Tom Waits”.

Guitar Thrills: As I listened to you song “Cactus Lady”. I started to think about a familiar raw sound from a legend Patti Smith. She has a raw talent that is can be distinguished from other artists with a raw talent. I believe you are the same way. Though your genres are different.  

Grace: I’m a HUGE Patti fan, mostly because not only was she a rockstar, but she also took motherhood very seriously and took a 9-year hiatus when she had her own.

Guitar Thrills: Regarding the comparison between you and Patti is that you both have a strong message to send. Do you change up the message that you sing about?  

Grace: The message I focus on certainly changes with whatever season of life I’m in..I like to think my message focus has matured as well - both spiritually and intellectually.

Guitar Thrills: When did you get your start in the music industry? Which genre did you start relating to first? 

Grace: I related initially (at 13) to Joni Mitchell, her poetic style and imagery were captivating to me. Then, I”d say I  mimicked Cat Power for awhile, then Tom Waits. Now I feel like my sound has been “Grace Askew” for awhile.

Guitar Thrills: Who were some of your strongest inspirations?

Grace: Howlin Wolf, Mahalia Jackson and Jeff Buckley.

Guitar Thrills: As I listen to your singing, you have a variation to the country genre. It sounds like there is some blues mixed in. Are you a fan of the blues, and did it have an influence on the development of your singing ability?

Grace: I loved the grit in old-time Gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson. Despite growing up in the “hey day” of pop stars - Britney, Christina, etc. - I always gravitated towards sounds that had a raw ache in them.

GT: I notice that you use a PhonFreq Telephone. When did you start using one and why? How do you sound without it? 

Grace: Since picking up the guitar 24 years ago, the brands that I’ve come to love are Godin and Dean. I also adore my Fender Princeton silverface re-issue. My  GOdin 5th avenue is perfectly dark and swampy with my amp - deliciously gritty. 

Guitar Thrills: You are a guitarist as well. Is there a particular brand that you always turn to as you compose your next hit? Does it change depending upon the environment, example live performances?

Grace: I still play mostly through the Godin 5th avenue, but for writing at home in my studio, I am starting to reach for a vintage Yamaha acoustic from the 70’s.

Guitar Thrills: How long have you been performing as an artist? 

Grace: I’ve been performing for 22 years.

Guitar Thrills: What kind of toll does that take on you? Have you ever thought about giving up? 

Grace: Giving up isn’t even an option when it’s in your blood. Music is a part of me, so “giving up” just isn’t even a consideration. I do believe that woman have seasons in life and men don’t.. with motherhood I’ve found myself not as interested in the spotlight and more into a meaningful, purposeful and intentional walk with my music.

Guitar Thrills: You have a productive career of 15 years or more of touring and releasing hit albums. Have you achieved what you set out to as an artist? If not, is there something that you would have done differently? 

Grace: I’ve been blessed to have lived a very full, wild and adventurous life so far, now I’m in my “slower, softer” era and I still find so much adventure in this kind of life as well. The older you get, the more you really start to appreciate the little things that keep you humble, grounded and purposeful.

Guitar Thrills: What are your next projects that you are working on? Can you provide some insight as to what you will be doing next?

Grace: I’m in the midst of finishing my 9th album, cutting 6 full-band songs at the famed Royal Studios here in Memphis with Boo Mitchell and Luther Dickinson producing. The rest of the record is going to be cut down in Coldwater, Mississippi at  Luther’s dad’s famous studio  Zebra  Ranch. It’s feeling like my first real “coming home” record where I am proudly representing my roots. 

Guitar Thrills: I want to thank you for taking time to chat with me today. I would like to schedule another interview with you. Would you be interested? 

Grace: Sure thing, thank you!

Guitar Thrills: Awesome. I will reach out to you soon and make arranges for a follow up interview. Thanks again. 

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