Go east, budding music stars

Go east, budding music stars

Dave Matthews’ place behind the bar at Miller’s is not the only draw for musicians to Charlottesville. In 2003, rocker Zaba Grace (www.zabagrace.com) moved here from Toledo, Ohio, to work with sometime DMB engineer Chris Kress

Grace credits Debbie Gibson as an influence. “I dreamed when I was 12 of putting something together that sounded really good. It [Grace’s new CD, My Own Skin] came out better than I dreamed.”

Zaba Grace is moving to South Carolina on the wings of the many things her career owes to the Charlottesville music scene.

The singer had recorded some of her material in college and sent it to Kress, who works all over, but mainly at his own PMD Studio. Although those recordings were raw, Kress told Grace that he had heard enough, especially in her songwriting, to want to work with her. Grace says, “I tried for nearly a year in Toledo to find someone to help me develop into the artist I believed I could be. I just never found anyone in Toledo, and when I found Chris, I just knew it was something that would make me better.”

Once in town, Kress set Grace up with several local heavyweights to collaborate on songwriting; Lance Brenner, Shannon Mier and Andy Waldeck all made writing contributions to the tunes on her CD. Grace says that recording took place in fits and starts, and took about two years. Along the way, they hired some of the best musicians in town to play, including Waldeck, Brenner, Jenn Rhubright, Brian Jones, and Joe Lawlor.

The CD sounds nothing like Debbie Gibson, and a lot more like Liz Phair. “I worked really hard to become a better singer.”

Musicians who work with Kress know that he is good to work with and that he turns out a very quality product. My Own Skin got a rave on CD Baby. “We get about 100 new albums a day (about 100,000 total) and yours is one of the best I’ve ever heard.” That praise from the online distributor has kept Grace’s disc on CD Baby’s Top 40 since July, resulting in healthy indie sales.

With help from drummer Stuart Gunter, who knows many musicians in town, Grace put together a band around Navel’s Wally Worsley on guitar. Though things are going as planned, Grace has decided to leave Charlottesville and relocate to Greenville, South Carolina, of all places. “I want to move somewhere warmer.” (Note to self: Make no major life decisions in mid-February).

Grace certainly plans to maintain her musical life south of the border. “I will say that I don’t regret moving here.  The beginning of my dream has come true; I have made a great record I will always be proud of that most people I know never thought I could do.”


Local label Record Theory celebrated its first anniversary on February 24.  To celebrate, the label will offer The Stabones’ (www.stabones.com) album Liver Let Die for free download until March 2.  Also, The Stabones will be play their 100th show with Record Theory labelmates Fire At Will at the Outback Lodge on March 29.


If you missed the documentary film Live… From The Hook (www.livefromthehook.com) about rock bands based around UVA and Easters, an expanded version of the film will be shown at 7:30pm, Friday, March 2 at The Satellite Ballroom. The screening will be a fundraiser to try and finish the project. Tickets are sold in three tiers. Forty-dollar tix get you a seat with your musical heroes in the best seats in the house during the film screening, a reserved table during the Alligator performance that follows, as well as a complimentary Live… From the Hook sneak preview DVD. Twenty-five dollars gets reserved seating in a preferred section, and $15 gets you a general admission seat, and the effervescent gratitude of bandleader and movie star Bob Girard (www.boggirard.com).

See Johnny Sportcoat and the Casuals and much more at a screening of Live… From the Hook on Friday.

As Girard puts it, “I meet people from all over who come up to me and tell me what a difference I’ve made in their lives. How my singing has inspired them to try it themselves in the privacy of their own homes, when the ‘family’ is ‘away.’ How my songwriting has inspired them to travel to Europe and get run over by a bus themselves so that their own personal muse could awaken inside them and hold forth with an outpouring of heartfelt lyrics not heard since John Lennon wrote that song about my mother. How my uncanny ability to capture the essence of my own zeitgeist and eauclairewisconsin on film has prompted them to follow their dreams and become famous actors or producers or stockholders in Disney or Universal. Or General Electric. And now, with this limited time offer we will bring that opportunity back to you!”

Soon, very soon, I will turn this entire column over to Girard.

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