Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Brian Thorn at The Magic Shop in NYC during CMJ weekend 2011
I know the answer here and it's that, yes, Grace Woodroofe is a real person. She is, by all definitions, a real person. She is of the real and actual world. She likely has to eat a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner or her stomach will start cussing at her. She likely has a distaste or fear for death. She probably has bills to pay - the truest sign that you're of this world and an honest to goodness real person. She is able to wear out the soles of shoes, proving that she is of actual, tangible weight so as to put pressure and friction upon the treads of those shoes and hence scraping them subtly with each bashful step she takes. We saw her inhale and exhale, proving that she requires oxygen to breathe and stay alive, just like all the rest of us do. It's hard to believe all of this though, when listening to the songs that she writes and the way that she sings them. She's either heavenly or of some composition that we don't have the science for, an entirely new phenomenon that can be interpreted only as lightning in a bottle or a smoke monster or something. We are all grossly ragged and illiterate compared to her. We're unfeeling, hideous looking, and incomprehensible next to her. Her words and the way that they magnificently arrange and then discharge themselves from her mouth make anything that we could ever come up with sound like a driveled vomit, an unfortunate excretion. Oh, bother, she's just incredible and she makes us feel bad about ourselves.
Woodroofe is like getting one of the great fiction writers of all time - a Flannery O'Conner or a Hemingway - writing the kinds of songs that Nick Cave or Johnny Cash wrote or that Nico sang, but having them all seem like wishes granted. You go into each one not thinking that you're in the mood to be brought down right now, but then she gets going and you realize that there's a lot of sadness here, but there's also just as much guidance and potential sunshine after the rain. You're never sure if she's going to be able to outdo herself with the next song and then she doubles it. She has a way of blowing us away with every line she extends. These are extraordinary songs full of expert storytelling that goes beyond anything that anyone could rightfully expect about someone who - while gaining some great acclaim as a young songwriter in her native Australia - is a completely new voice and totally unknown. She creates these melancholy worlds that we're okay with living in because if there's any pain, it's there for a reason and there's a story to it. It's not sadness only for sadness' sake.
Woodroofe's songs are painstakingly graphic and individual, for instance when she sings about the tragedy of one woman's life, stuck at the diner, when she was supposed to be so much more than that. She sings, "I tell my daughter than I'm method acting/That all the coffee's why my hand's shaking/I never thought it would turn out like this/ I never thought I'd be a middle-aged waitress," and it's one of the most heartbreaking pieces of narrative you'll ever hear - an shameful woman, fabricating a tall tale to explain her lot in life to the child she loves. She makes these stories and her presence so lasting, so invigorating that we have a difficult time thinking she's anything like the rest of us simpletons.
Grace Woodroofe Official Site