There’s only so much an aspiring musician can create when sequestered with the spinning, secondhand influence of their artistic heroes. Eventually, experience, struggle and invention intervene to produce something entirely personal and, at times, original.
In the case of South Buffalo native Grace Stumberg, this metamorphosis happened while in the literal shadow of one of these heroes.
The guitarist will reveal her first solo effort, “Grace” as part of an intimate album release show at 8 p.m. March 11 inside the 9th Ward at Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.).
The acoustic material is not only a stark departure from the Sportsmen’s Tavern-suitable blues blast of her eponymously named full-band gig. It’s a deeply personal product of searing heartbreak — and crafted amid the singer/songwriter’s five-year personal assistant and performance gig with folk icon Joan Baez.
Most can only dream of emotional and artistic growth while sidling a generational voice. Stumberg’s lived it, and “Grace” is its result.
The musician took some time amid Baez’s current touring hiatus to discuss her new album, the influence of her longtime boss and her enthusiasm about finally being home.
Question: Is there a central theme to “Grace”?
Answer: The central theme surrounding the album is about dealing with loss. There are many phases you go through while dealing with it. [The album] didn't need to be acoustic, but during the time of writing, that's what spoke most. [Just] me, my guitar and the lyrics. I wanted to create something minimalist and organic.
Q: Was there anything in particular that inspired this direction?
A: To be quite honest, and it may sound cheesy, but ask Adele. I had my heart utterly and completely broken. I fell into a really dark depression for a year or so, and in those times, people say "just get over it already, you'll be OK." But unless you can find that shred of hope in yourself — which takes time — it’s very hard to deal with. So I turned to writing. Some of these songs are extremely uplifting because that's what I needed to push out in order to feel better and become myself again.
Q: Would you term this as a drastic shift from the material on your Grace Stumberg Band's "Live! At the Studio Cafe," or is it simply the next step in a linear artistic direction?
A: This new album is extremely different than the 'Studio Cafe' album. All my previous albums have been recorded with bands and rocking guitar. That's what I was creating at that time. When my life shifted and I was broken in a way that really opened me up, I started creating an entirely new piece of music, which led to this album.
Q: Has being around a folk icon like Baez changed you as a performer and songwriter?
A: I have definitely changed as a performer. I am more confident on stage, and I’m no longer scared about not having my guitar to hide behind while I'm singing. The downtime in lonely hotel rooms with Joan’s guitar led to some of the songs you will hear on this new album. Singing with her has also led to an infatuation with singing harmonies on everything, which you’ll hear a lot on the album.
Q: What's the next move for you as either bandleader or solo artist?
A: My next big project I would like to achieve is setting up an acoustic tour of the UK/Ireland. I am unsure at the moment of how much touring I will be doing with Joan, as she’s taking a hiatus. After five years of doing this, it’s quite the change to be back home. However, I also look forward to being here for a little while and seeing what I can shake up at some of these awesome new concert series in Buffalo—whether that be rocking out on stage with the full band or singing intimately in a room.
Who: Grace Stumberg
When: 8 p.m. March 11
Where: 9th Ward at Babeville, 341 Delaware Ave.