Band of the Day

2012.03.21

Grace Woodroofe

Astoundingly intimate songs by a young singer with a voice of pure jazz and smoke
With my spine curled I stand up tall, see the innocence and watch it fall.
lyrics from I’ve Handled Myself Wrong

Grace Woodroofe is a blues/folk singer from Perth, Australia. At the age of 16, she entered two demo recordings to Australian radio station Triple J's Unearthed competition. Woodroofe got her big break when fellow Perth, Australia native Heath Ledger, who was involved with artist collective The Masses, heard one of her demos and flew her out to Los Angeles in 2007 to develop her sound and establish her as an artist. She returned to Perth to complete her studies, but came back to California in the fall of 2008 to record her debut album with producer Ben Harper. Two of the album’s tracks, “I’ve Handled Myself Wrong” and “H.,” were self-released through her own Hurricane Mabel Records in March 2010. Woodroofe is currently signed to Australian record label Modular, known for artists like Cut Copy and The Avalanches, which released her debut album Always Want in 2011.

A native of Perth, Australia -the world's most remote major city- Grace Woodroofe managed to get herself flown to Los Angeles at age 16 by fellow Perth-native Heath Ledger and work with some of the music industry's top producers and songwriters, including Ben Harper. Listen to her voice and you'll understand – it's steeped in blues and jazz, smoke and coal, mournful but full of life. It's the perfect instrument for the kind of noir dramatics that filmmakers love, so maybe her breakthrough in L.A. is fitting. Her debut didn't arrive until years later in late 2011, but it was worth the wait. The nine-track album is darkly moving, stalking from midnight jazz to rock and roll to exquisitely beautiful ditties, all tied together by that voice. The closest pop culture parallel to Woodroofe is undoubtedly 90s alterna-songstress Fiona Apple, but Woodroofe is (for the most part) less angry than Apple, and much more intimate, her throaty coos gives you the impression that she's performing in a 15 capacity club lit only by candle. Woodroofe rocks out, but she's best on intimate confession mode. Album opener “I've Handled Myself Wrong” is all delicate parts –quietly picked acoustic guitar, skeletal jazz drums, warm, languid bass- and Woodroofe's vocals, rising in jazzy flourishes and settling into heartbreaking sighs. By the time she sings the chorus of “I know I'm not the only one/I know I've handled myself wrong” you're pretty sure a downpour of black rose petals is imminent. “H.” is another minimal beauty with finger picked acoustic guitar and Woodroofe's voice taking center stage. The effect is pretty heart-wrenching when she exhales lines like, “but I would give everything to smell your cigarettes burning/because your words were passive when you spoke.” Woodroofe isn't a one-trick pony, however, “Bear” takes a page out of the Australian rock tradition with its energetic drums and heavily distorted guitars. Her voice is surprisingly suited to rock, bringing out the gravel and smoke sides to her voice and out powering the guitar and drum. Grace Woodroofe's debut is remarkably well realized for such a young artist, we hope there'll be many more albums of this quality coming from Woodroofe.