Music Rags: Music of the heart with Dirty Grace

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Island-based gypsy folk artists Dirty Grace came together in a natural, easy way. Vocalist/guitarist Betty Supple recalls the origins of the group. “Marley (Daemon) and I were both in a group in Victoria called the SeaStars that did vocal improvisation and beatboxing. We both were interested in continuing on after that kind of stopped. We just spoke the same musical language so we started playing together.”

The band didn’t stay a duo for long as the two ladies quickly found the third member of their musical tribe. “Shortly thereafter we met Jesse Thom and he started drumming for us. He’s a really amazing vocalist, musician and songwriter. We couldn’t just have him on the drums solely anymore. He makes amazing music. So it became a trio of all of us writing and bringing songs to each other.”

The band functions a supremely democratic mini-collective, where each member can trade off their instruments when needed—the trio employs guitars, mandolin, accordion, piano and various vocal tricks—and where each member has equal input as they craft their rootsy, psychedelic folk music. Their songs are evocative, dragging emotions out into the open, exposing them to the harsh light of day in an effort to get in closer communion with the people and world around them.

“When you’re a musician you have this privilege where you craft these songs from a really vulnerable place and then you share them, and that vulnerability seems to make people feel like it’s safe to communicate to you about their own inner world, maybe in a way they wouldn’t with, I don’t know, football players or something. I find there’s this kind of intimacy that’s presumed before you encounter one another,” says Jesse Thom explaining the true rewards that come along with being able to perform music. “We get to connect to people on this level that’s deeper than the normal scripts we operate on from our day-to-day. That, to me, is so nourishing to be able to touch into our personal experience and touch into each other.”

Despite the easy forming and the vast spiritual rewards that come with their music, their first album, Snow in the Fire from 2012, almost didn’t materialize. Supple remembers the rocky times with vivid clarity. “We had almost broken up right before the end. Jesse suggested he wasn’t in the band anymore. We hadn’t seen each other in six months. Marley and I were thinking let’s just make a record and then we’ll break up, maybe, because we’d been together so long we should at least have some kind of record of it.”

But the dissolution of the band was not to be, as the group was brought together by beautifully tragic circumstances in an unlikely place. “We went to a meditation retreat and we had some pretty powerful experiences there. We sang together for this beautiful woman that we met, Michelle. She was dying of cervical cancer and asked us to sing for her and we did. That was a really amazing experience for us to harmonize and do something that we could for this woman that was on her way out. That inspired Jesse to hop back in,” says Supple.

As they gear up for a new album and a spring/summer tour, Dirty Grace remains a band that strives to bring an honest, genuine experience to the live setting. “We try to create a space that’s, for lack of a better word, sacred, where people can feel safe to connect to the music in a way that allows them to explore their own vulnerability,” says Thom. “If I go to my own show I can expect to be allowed to cry, laugh, express. We try to create a very free, safe space, where we’re trying our best to give something really honest.”

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