Friday, November 30, 2007

Gypsy cowgirl in our midst

Express Staff Writer

Sheryll Rae Grace performs during the Kick Ash Bash in downtown Ketchum on Saturday, Sept. 29. Photo by Dana DuGan

In urban areas, coffee shops abound with guitar-playing singers who don't have the chops or the contacts to try for a bigger venue. This area is so small that even if someone had those visions, there are few places for them to try out an act, or learn to get comfortable with an audience.

Well, at least it's been that way for a number of years. Now, however, several smaller venues are bucking the prevailing trend of turning music space into dining space.

Among those are the Trail Creek Pub, which has just changed its name to Papa's Hideway, and the Wicked Spud and Fresshies in Hailey. One Ketchum restaurant, Il Naso, has adopted rather than fazed out live music.

These spots have turned into opportunities for young or new bands, mostly trios or solo acts. One of these solo acts attracting attention is Sheryll Mae Grace, 21, of Hailey. She plays at Il Naso once a week and from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight, Nov. 30, at Papa's Hideaway. On Friday, Dec. 7 she will play at the Coffee Grinder in Ketchum.

Sheryll Mae Grace is originally from the Philippines, grew up in Los Angeles and then Hawaii. Her mother and sister moved to the valley five years ago.

She began playing the piano at a young age, took up guitar at age 13 and went to college at 15.

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"I really started playing in the valley," she said. "The Strega (a defunct Ketchum Tea House and Bistro) crowd knew me, but no one else knew who I was. I just played because I really liked to. I didn't think it was going to be a career. Now I think it's a possibility. That scares me a little. But to be able to do something that I love—that'd be fantastic."

She plays an acoustic Johnson guitar, which she traded three other guitars to get, and later whimsically painted with Sharpees and nail polish while she was on the road.

"I didn't like it at first but I changed to lighter strings one step above classical and now I love it."

Her road trip was fortuitous. She spent six months in Mexico City where she took guitar lessons, thus giving her unique folk sound a touch of Spanish flair. Her voice has a jazzy sound somewhat like early Alicia Keyes or Corrine Mae Bailey. Despite those comparisons, the whole effect is very original.

She also ended up in New York City for a spell to attend the opening of the independent film, "A Slow Dissolve," in which she appears. The film is awaiting notice regarding entry into the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

As well, she has just finished recording her second CD. The first, she said, was slightly more rock n' roll, while this has a simpler sound. Called "Mariposa," it was recorded in her home, with musician Aaron Baker.

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