At just 21 years old, Grace Stumberg is already establishing herself among singer-songwriter circles in Western New York. Beyond her substantial skills – show-stopping voice, justified confidence alone with a guitar, and songs that suggest that the senior at Villa Maria College has her act together a lot more than most at her age – Grace is earning standout status by understanding the meaning of being a Good Neighbor.
This Thursday at the Sportsmens Tavern (326 Amherst St., 874-7734), Grace will take the stage with a full band to celebrate a second run of her debut album, “To Whom it May Concern,” complete with a couple re-recorded cuts, and is supporting the Food Bank of Western New York by donating $3 from each $13 ticket. Souvenir tickets as seen only at the Sportsmens are available in advance at the bar or at showtime at the door if there are any left.
It’s not her first time supporting the Food Bank – she did so at her first CD release and through many tunes4food concerts over the past couple years. Further, she’s considered the unofficial “valedictorian” of the Music in Action program run in connection with Music is Art, in which she’s learned and has shared the ins and outs of the music business to high school students considering it as a career.
We caught Grace in-between classes to talk shop.
You’ve been on the Buffalo music scene for a couple years now – how has the scene welcomed and influenced you?
The music scene in Buffalo has been has been a huge influence on my musical career. I grew up listening to artists on a national level such as Sheryl Crow, Led Zeppelin and Bonnie Raitt. These artists influenced me for the longest time…until I came to know the Buffalo music scene! Once I started attending Dee Adams’ open mic at The Sportsmens Tavern, I came to know a great group of local talent. I was influenced by the music of Dee Adams, Gretchen Schulz, Davey O, Noa Bursie, Free Henry! and more. I realized that there is so much talent in this city, and it is such a warm and welcoming scene, “where everyone knows everyone.” Musicians in Buffalo are gracious enough to lend you their stage and sometimes even give you the guitar off of their back; just to hear your song. I love this city’s music scene and I will continue to support all my fellow musicians as they have supported me.
Your songs aren’t all introspective, there’s plenty of social commentary – how does the city itself inspire your music?
Growing up in this city, I’ve noticed a lot of people sacrifice what they really want to do for what they have to do to be able afford a house and a car. With the loss of jobs in this city I became frustrated resulting in a song of mine entitled, “Happier Side.” I’ve realized after quite some time that it’s not just Buffalo that has issues with electing leaders, sacrificing dreams for day jobs, and taxation – it’s everyday life for a lot of people in this country. That is what I strive for most in songwriting – tapping into real life everyday situations ranging from love to politics. Buffalo has helped realize that this transfers into a larger scale.
Any plans to relocate to another scene?
As of right now, I have no plans to relocate anywhere. I am in my last year of school at Villa Maria College. But after that, I’ll go wherever the music takes me. Music is all about sharing and communicating, so I’m going to try my hardest to do that, even if it means leaving home. I’ve never been one to stay in one place, but I do know that eventually, wherever this career takes me, I will always come back home!
What’s your outlook on America’s Got Talent going into your callback audition?
Oh boy…I’m scared they’re going to steal my soul! Haha. No, I am very excited for this audition and to possibly be able to participate in the show. I hope to open some more windows of opportunity by going to this audition and see where this road takes me. I am conscious of who I am as a musician and a person, and with that in mind, I’m going to see what America Got Talent has in store to help spread the music!
What inspires you to support community causes at your performances?
It’s the simple idea of helping those who are in need. I believe in music for a good cause. I can’t tell you where exactly it comes from, but I feel like music exists to serve and communicate with others. When I write a song, or hold an event, I often ask myself the question “What good is this doing others?” After that, I try and craft the event or song into an enjoyable and selfless experience for others that need it. For example, on Thursday at the Sportsmens Tavern, people have the chance to donate money to the Food Bank of Western New York, to keep people from going hungry. People will be gathering to hear music for a good cause. That is what I strive for.
Care to share a hint of the surprises in store for the show?
It’s going to be a rockin’ full band show with Diana Nowak on drums, David Riffel on keys, and Brian De Jesus on bass! Last but not least, I’m going to call an extremely talented “guest” musician on stage to do a few songs with the band! It also happens to be a birthday celebration for this “guest” musician, so there will be CAKE! Haha.
About Seamus Gallivan and The Good Neighborhood: The Good Neighborhood is a Buffalo-based company that pairs performers
with common causes to create Gatherings for the Common Good.