Canal St chats to Grace Petrie
Grace Petrie is not your usual singer songwriter. Describing herself a political protest singer with songs that are ‘kind of contemporary indie folk music’, Petrie not only has a growing music fan base, but has become a firm fixture in the comedy world too. First supporting comedian Josie Long on tour in 2012 and since going on to tour with comedians Francesca Martinez, Robin Ince, Jeremy Hardy and Jonny & the Baptists. All this plus appearances on Radio 4’s The Now Show. Not bad for political folk singer. So just how does a singer songwriter end up making waves in the comedy world?
“It was funny because it was kind of an accidental thing with me, comedy. I sort of drifted into it but now I have almost as many comedy fans as I have music fans. I’ve got a foot in both camps which is quite nice.
For a long time talking about politics in music was a bit of a no-go area. It seemed to me there was this impression that if you were talking about politics at all, you were being really divisive and you should just shut up and sing love songs instead. With comedy, you’re almost expected to talk about politics. It’s much more expected that you should have some kind of satirical take on what’s going on around you.”
With gigs in both the music and comedy worlds, has this had an effect on how Grace approaches her shows?
“My style of music has really been influenced by the comedy tours I’ve done definitely. The first time I played a comedy show I was really intimidated by how quiet the audience were. I was used to playing pub gigs where it was very much your responsibility as the act to go out and win the crowd over. Whereas in comedy nobody talks because they’re waiting for the punchlines! When I first did a comedy show they introduced me, I went out and they clapped but then it was just complete silence. You could hear a pin drop and I was completely not used to it at all.
I’ve learnt to tell jokes between songs to break the ice a bit and that’s become really integral to what I do, and now I find I talk as much as I sing. The intros have just got longer and longer, and kind of turned into little routines if their own.”
It seems to be working as Petrie heads out again with Josie Long and Johnny & the Baptists to tour another leg of their successful show Lefty Scum in 2018. But for now, Grace is preparing to visit us again in Manchester this December for a special festive show Lefty Christmas (can you see the theme here?). The event itself promises ‘mistletoe and wine, and radical leftwing folk music to warm your winter hearts’. So how does Grace feel about returning to our great city?
“I always find that Manchester is such a great place for radical politics, I’ve had really good gigs here in the past. I was at The Dancehouse recently and it was one of the best gigs on the tour. I always have that experience in Manchester. You probably think I say this to everyone but I really love Manchester, it’s got a really cool vibe about it.”
Petrie’s music is firmly inspired by the political world around her, from her perspective as a young gay woman in the world. How important is it for her to be visible in a world where LGBT women are still vastly underrepresented in the media?
"When I was growing up I was really lacking in visible, especially butch or masculine presenting, lesbian role models. That’s something that all these years later is not actually that much better. Even when we have LGBT figures in the media, it’s a very kind of limited type of woman that we’re seeing. As somebody who dresses in quite a masculine way I think it's really really important to show younger LGBT kids that there is definitely more than one way to be. You don’t have to look like the people on TV.
That’s something that’s quite important to me. I really hate using words like 'role model’ because I’m just an idiot, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I think it’s pretty important. I know if when I was younger I’d have seen someone like me on stage I would have found that really helpful. So it’s quite important to me now that I am on stage, to make a big deal of looking like this unapologetically.”
Grace may be bashful about her influence as a role model but her visibility is clearly having an impact:
“I have had emails from young lesbians who’ve said that seeing a gig of mine has made it click in their head and things like that. They’re the most treasured accolades you could possibly have as an artist trying to do what I’m trying to do.”
By Hayley-Jane Sims for Canal St Online
Grace Petrie’s Lefty Christmas is Tuesday 12th Dec at The Night And Day Cafe, 16 Oldham St. Manchester. M1 1JN.
Doors: 8.00pm. Tickets: £10.00 Venue: 0161 236 1822Read More