Grace Corsi Opens Up about Her Debut Album ‘Downriver’

Indie/folk singer-songwriter Grace Corsi unveils her poetic debut album, Downriver, a collection of a dozen tracks revealing her gift for arrangement and acoustic instrumentation, as well as her graceful, expressive voice.

“‘Downriver’ is a collection of letters to my past and future selves,” she explains. “It’s full of inner conflict while also brimming with self-compassion, curiosity, and wonder about the world. While the songs might seem opposing — old and new, contemplative and angsty, sensitive and brash — they represent the big feelings that can hit us all at once. The songs embrace the messy, beautiful complexity of life on this little planet, the multiplicity in us all.”

Corsi’s artistry is firmly intertwined with her deep-rooted connection to the natural environment, hailing from the landscapes of Seattle, allowing her passions to exist alongside each other from the outset. Undertaking degrees in Jazz Voice and Geodesign at University, she soon received ASCAP’s Herb Alpert Young Composer Award and the Phoebe Jacobs prize, owed to her contemplative and cutting-edge compositional style. Think Joni Mitchell and Madison Cunningham: playfully cross-genre, precisely welcoming of soundscapes from jazz harmony to folk melody, to naturistic imagery and carefully curated lyrics.

Guitar Girl Magazine spoke with Grace Corsi to find out more about her musical background and dive deeper into her creative process.

What three things can’t you live without?

Deep friendships, exploring new places (with my awkward-cute rescue dog), and my morning cup of tea.

What inspired your debut album, Downriver?

This album has been a long time coming – I’ve written so many songs and wanted to give a few of them some light in the world. As both a musician and urban planner, I also embarked on this album-making process as a commitment to myself, a way to integrate a more dedicated creative routine into my life. Making this record has been one of the most fulfilling and joyful experiences! The songs themselves are both old and new, and represent many different selves – curious child, angsty teen, young adult, wise protector, deep empath.

What’s your songwriting process? Melody first, or lyrics?

It really goes both ways! The most important part of my songwriting process is making space to stay curious and observant about the world, noticing the tiny things that become fuel for songs. Living in this state of curiosity and wonder helps open the channel to receive new musical ideas. Sometimes it’s in the form of lyrics, melodies, chord progressions, or even an abstract concept or phrase. Once an idea comes to me, I keep playing/singing it until something ‘sticky’ emerges – a piece of a song I can anchor in and build off. Then, I try to understand more about what the song means – what is the core conflict or message? What feeling am I trying to communicate? Sometimes a song takes an hour to finish, and sometimes it needs months.

Your background is across jazz, indie, and lots of different genres of composition. Do you think this makes you a better all-round artist?

Definitely – having a diverse musical background has helped me add more colors and tools into my musical vocabulary to break the bounds of traditional folk and pop. While I’d categorize my sound as more folk/indie, jazz elements like unconventional chord progressions, time shifts, and cinematic arrangements all show up in my music. I love music that surprises me and write what I hear without considering genre. Having a jazz and composition background also empowers me to compose parts for other instruments. I composed all the string quartet parts for my record, for example! My folk roots ground my music; I draw accessible storytelling, honest lyrics, and vivid imagery from the folk tradition.

What do you hope your listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?

My music expresses a full range of emotions – even in sadness or angst, my songs are always moving towards hope, play, and wonder. Many of my songs emphasize healing, self-compassion, and embracing the hard things as a way to grow. I hope that listeners can connect with that message and find more compassion and grace for themselves in their personal journeys.

Grace Corsi
Grace Corsi

What kind of guitar, pedals, and amp are you presently using?

When I write, I am more of an acoustic girl! I like being able to curl up in an armchair with my guitar and let the ideas flow. My favorite acoustic guitars recently have been my Orangewood guitar (it maintains my weird tunings so well!) and Gibson Hummingbird acoustic. But I am easy to please – it’s more about the process for me than the guitar.

You’ve played all over the U.S. and in Europe, where do you feel is your musical home?

As both a musician and urban planner, I don’t have just one home. I am deeply impacted by the places I’m in and love that different places bring out different parts of myself. My record explores my relationship to place. There are songs about and/or written in Vienna, Paris, Seattle, London, Los Angeles, and the Cascades to name a few.

‘Home’ to me also means where my community is. I am so grateful for the welcoming, nurturing community of folks in Los Angeles (where I have lived for the past 8 years) and am excited to continue building community as I move to New York at the end of March.

Which musicians/vocalists influenced you the most?

My biggest influence is Joni Mitchell. I grew up falling asleep to Blue and Ladies of the Canyon in the backseat of my family’s 1994 Volvo Station Wagon, and those albums underscored some of the best times in my childhood. I love that while Joni moved through multiple genres in her career, she always maintained authentic storytelling. She wasn’t afraid to break musical boundaries.

The first jazz song I fell in love with was ‘Autumn in New York’ performed by Ella and Louie. I still return to old jazz records as a ‘home’ when I am feeling overwhelmed, when it’s raining (jazz sounds better in the rain!), and when I want coziness.

Which artists are you listening to right now?

I have recently been listening non-stop to Molly Parden’s newest record, Sacramented. It’s the perfect blend of honest indie folk with compelling arrangements and relatable imagery. I have also been enjoying Waxahatchee, Emma Frank, Madison Cunningham, quinnie, and Valley Queen this past month.

What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? New music? Videos?

I am really excited to release this record so I can keep making new music! I plan to release a video for my song ‘Hotel Mattress,’ and continue writing songs to work towards my next project.

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