16-year-old singer-songwriter, guitarist and philanthropist GracieSchram already has an impressive list of musical accomplishments. Not only did she work in Nashville with Grammy-award winning producer Charlie Peacock on her recently-released first album, i am me, but this Blue Valley North High School student performs regularly in Kansas City and nationally, including singing "God Bless America" for Royals, Chiefs and Sporting KC events -- in addition to making superb music videos, and recording CDs to benefit underprivileged children in Haiti and Africa (and raising more than $30,000 for the cause in the process). Gracie was kind enough to answer some questions about her work and creative life for Listen Local. You can check out i am me from the Johnson County Library catalog.
Introduce yourself. Where do you live and go to school? What does a typical day look like for you?
Hello! My name is Gracie Schram. I’m 16 years old and I go to Blue Valley North High School. A typical day is actually kind of tough to describe because a lot of my days look different. Some days I’m sitting in class learning about calculus and physics, while other days I’m performing in front of thousands of people. I am still trying to figure out how to balance being a high school student and a traveling musician. My brain is always racing and I often have to remind myself to take a second and just breathe. I won’t lie, what I do is sometimes really hard. I miss out on a lot of the things a “normal” high school student would experience and I am away from my friends and family pretty frequently. It’s also a ton of work to travel, go to school, and pursue a music career all at the same time. I spend lots of time talking to teachers, coming in early to take tests, and spending late nights preparing for upcoming shows. It can be stressful and overwhelming, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have to meet incredible people, travel to new places, and perform all over the country. I feel really lucky that I get to do what I love.
Describe your creative process. What tools do you use? How do you break through creative blocks?
Creativity is something that is ongoing for me. I’m constantly writing down new ideas and if you ask anyone in my family I’m also ALWAYS singing. When I sit down to write a song I usually start with some kind of idea. I find if I know where I’m going with the song it’s a lot easier to finish as opposed to wandering around for an idea to land on. I spend a lot of time in Nashville and I do tons of co-writing there. Typically I’m a fairly fast writer. I’ll sit down in a room with another writer, I’ll share my idea, we’ll get to work and usually 2 hours later we will have a song. It’s the most magical process to go into a co-write with just an idea and come out with piece of art, a song. I think for me what stops creative blocks is just keeping my eyes open. Paying attention to situations in my life, listening to stories, people watching, and even reading billboards as I’m driving on the highway. You never know what could spark an idea. I also keep an ongoing list of song titles, lyrics ideas, and hooky melodies to go back to if I feel like I’m out of ideas.
Tell us about the process with making your first album, i am me. What lessons have you learned that you’ll take to future projects?
I had the honor of working with Grammy award winning producer, Charlie Peacock on my debut studio album, i am me. Charlie has produced some of my all-time favorite artists like, The Civil Wars, Switchfoot and Kris Allen. I recorded i am me in Nashville at Charlie’s studio, The Art House. His studio is in an old church and as you walk up it feels like you’re entering into Narnia. You walk down this curvy path through his garden with twinkle lights hanging above you. It’s magical to say the least. It easily set the tone for my creativity and I instantly knew I was recording at the right place. On the first day in the studio, I expected us to sit down and talk about how the process of recording would go. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Charlie’s first question was, “What are we singing today?” I was caught off guard and it felt like my eyes bugged out of my head, but I quickly realized I needed to take the lead. The first song that came to my mind was “Wallflower” and it became the first track on i am me. By allowing me to lead, I grew and learned so much as an artist during this process. Recording with Charlie was much different than any recording process I have experienced. He allowed for me to sing my vocals and then he built the songs around them. Throughout the entire process I felt as if Charlie and I were on the same page with every aspect of creating this piece of art and he allowed for my fingerprints to be all over the album. My album, i am me, is the first thing I have done musically that I am extremely proud of. I’m so grateful to Charlie for creating this album with me and it was an adventure I will never forget.
How do you see the library as helping foster creativity -- your own as well as in the community?
The library is no doubt a place filled with immense creativity. Just think of every story written inside each book. During my high school career I have really enjoyed my English classes. Reading novels like Les Miserables and The Great Gatsby, having not only brought inspiration to my songwriting but they have also caused me to become a deep thinker. I know I have learned so much from literature and the library is a place where everyone can do the same.
Who or what inspires you the most?
From a musical standpoint, the artist that has inspired me the most is Ingrid Michaelson—her voice and her style of writing has been something that I’ve admired and studied ever since I was little. I own every one of her records, and I’m not ashamed to say I know all the words to every song. Back in October she came to KC for a show, and I opened for her. I got to talk with her and I sang the encore with her. It was a dream come true—a total bucket list moment.
Eleanor and Park By Rainbow Rowell
Pride and Prejudice By Jane Austen
The Fault in Our Stars By John Green
Les Miserables By Victor Hugo
The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald