The challenges of being an up-and-coming artist are numerous: arranging gigs and cutting records while trying to support oneself is no easy task. Throw parenting into the mix, and you might find yourself watching an artist’s sanity slip away. Luckily for Amanda Grace, positivity goes a long way, and she’s got plenty to spare.
The mother of two from Winona, Minnesota, debuted on the music scene in 2009 with her album of children’s songs, Trains, Cars & A Trip To Mars. Though she has experienced success in what she calls the “kindie” genre (Grace recently opened for Koo Koo Kanga Roo at a children’s show at the regionally-renowned Lark Toys), she has lately been at work on her alternative music, including her 2012 release Embrace and her upcoming five-track release Keeping Hearts, which she has funded through Kickstarter.
Juggling two musical identities hasn’t been easy, however. “I was concerned people would not understand what I wanted to do with Embrace and that I would be put in a box as a ‘kindie’ artist,” said Grace. Adding to her musical diversity, one of her new tracks, titled “Running Down the Sun,” was written for an upcoming documentary about Sarah Hunter, an area mother who battled her substance abuse through athletic training.
The musical balancing act involves her personal life as a mother as well, Grace said. “Because I’m also a mom, I have two kids which are my inspiration and also my challenge to balance, and also to take care of myself […] and having personal time to write.”
The inspiration she gets from her children can easily be heard in her whimsical children’s songs, such as “Candy Planet.” Grace was all smiles as she retold the incident that gave her the idea: her son, enamored with the idea of free candy on Halloween, was standing on a “rocket ship” he built from his assorted toys while screaming to the ceiling, “I’m going to Candy Planet! Mom, are you coming with me?”
“I feel like I have to be an example for other little girls growing up and my own daughter,” says Grace. “Being a woman and being assertive is a fine line between being assertive and having people see you as aggressive.”
Grace remains firmly optimistic that her personality and music will speak for themselves. “I’m 33 and I feel like this is a good year,” she said. “I have no plans to be anyone but me and plan to write whatever comes to me in whatever genre that may be. I hope I can break out of the ‘children’s artist only’ box and believe that over time, I will show others that I love variety—just like them.”
Amanda Grace will release Keeping Hearts with a performance at Ed’s No Name Bar in Winona on June 12, including music from her group Wildflower.
Paul Schmitt is a literature major at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. He’s inspired by bass lines, metafiction, and lengthy mealtime conversation.