When Grace McCune starting performing professionally, there were moments when she felt nervous. For island audiences who have watched her perform over the years this may be a surprise, as McCune never seems to skip a beat, but rather seems as comfortable on stage as most of us feel when sitting on the couch. That performer was born out of not only a love of the music, but of an ideal for a greater purpose.
“What gave me the most strength when I got nervous was if I could do it, it might inspire and get someone else to follow their creative goal,” McCune said. “If we share it we can give strength to each other. The things that are most beautiful in life come from art – from the ability to express.”
It’s with that premise that McCune embarked on a journey of singing and songwriting – sharing all the important moments of her life with the sounds of her hands meeting ebony and ivory.
Her recent album “From the Direct Box of the Soul” is a compilation of three years of writing and mixes everything from classical to rock to jazz influences.
Her CD release concert is Saturday, Feb. 2, 7 p.m. at the Rosario Music Room. The show will be a mix of showcasing the CD, live performance and multimedia content. There will be a meet and greet hour in the lounge at Rosario from 6-7 p.m. The event is hosted by Jake Perrine and McCune will be joined by local musicians Martin Lund, Carolyn Cruso and violinist Joel Gamble.
“Something like this should not be possible in a community this size with a population of this size,” said Perrine, who is the sound engineer and co-producer of the CD. “It’s a true testimony of the magic of the place … a woman of her talent and all the musicians are a testament to this place.”
The CD features Lund on clarinet/accordion, Cruso on flute/hammer dulcimer, Armando Nunes on bass, Andrew Moore on drums, Bruce Harvie on guitar and mandolin, Anita Orne on saw, Alfred Bentley on tenor sax and Mathew “Wally” Wallrath on tuba.
“It was like having a dream team,” McCune said. “The fact that I could hand-pick my favorite musicians on the island was amazing.”
Through the process of recording the CD, McCune watched and listened as the songs transformed as other musicians brought their unique flair.
“To see the music come alive under someone else’s hands was very exciting,” she said. “The moment you add new instruments you change the sonic value of the song.”
She compares working with other musicians to adding spices to a pasta dish – it only enriches and brings out the already delicious flavors.
And McCune adds her own flair of vocals and piano. She is the type of musician who sits down on the piano bench and seems to instantly meld with the instrument.
“The ability of someone to play at the level she does and sing at that level … at the same time is really unusual and rare,” said Perrine.
“It’s unique. I have never heard anything like it,” added Gamble, who brings his seven-string electric violin to the CD. “She has a lot of energy, sounds a lot like Tori Amos but on the other hand there are a lot of other influences ranging from U2 to all over the map.”
Gamble has been playing the violin for the last 31 years and plays in a band as well as performing as a soloist in Seattle.
“There is a lot of passion when she performs – it gives me chills,” said Gamble. “She is probably my favorite person to play music with.”
McCune’s songwriting is deeply personal and explores her triumphs, struggles, heartbreak, love and loss. For her, sharing that part of herself with an audience is just part of the process.
“Anytime you share music it’s deeply personal, whether you wrote the song or whether you are interpreting another piece,” McCune said.
She has been teaching private lessons on the island for four years, directing choirs for more than three years and has been involved in a myriad of Orcas Center productions as well as solo performance work.
Her recordings consist of two studio albums titled “Grace” and “Enchantment.”
“As a musician you are constantly finding that creative spark that gets you up in the morning and keeps you inspired through that daily walk,” said McCune. “The moment you are done and reach a certain level you’ve always wanted to reach, the next morning you wake up and ask what’s next? The creative process never ends.”
And that is what she loves about it – the music never dies, but morphs and changes in an endless ribbon of exploration.