She's moved some 25 different times over her life, from Harrison, Ark. (her birthplace) to Baltimore to rural Missouri, sometimes just apartment to apartment. She considers herself a Midwesterner and St. Louis has come to feel like home.
Grace got her official start in radio at KSLU at St. Louis University in the mid 2000s. She started working part time at KDHX as Assistant Music Director in 2006 and then became Music Director (and Events Coordinator), before stepping down last year to pursue a Masters in Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.
This Thursday evening, 7-9 p.m. Central, Grace will host her final episode of Nomadic Reverie. She's moving to New York this winter to pursue a practicum and independent study, working with the Henry Street Settlement House and the Abrons Art Center, a non-profit focused on experimental arts education.
And though she's leaving radio (for now) she's begun work on a blog which will in time podcast her ongoing musical discoveries: Nomadic Reverie.
"One of the reasons I connect so strongly to music is that I did ballet for 14 years," she says, following up our interview by e-mail. "Though I no longer dance (except when I'm alone in the house!), I still very much feel music in my body. I think my selections are very much influenced by sounds that awaken my desire to dance. Although the words and melodies are not my own, I still feel that I can express myself -- but now the result is on the radio instead of the stage."
Roy Kasten: When did you first discover music, in a real sense?
Grace: My parents were both into music. My dad would go to drums circles. (Laughs) One of my very first memories is of him taking me to a jazz club, when I was toddlerish age. My mom had really good taste in music. She exposed me to classical. When I was young, I was annoyed by the large amounts of Irish music she played. I complained that Neil Young sounded like Kermit the Frog. And I said I would never like Robyn Hitchcock.
That's amazing that you even had an opinion about him.
But I do like Robyn Hitchcock!
Did you come around to Irish music?
Not so much deliberate listening, but I find myself listening to a lot of traditional British folk.
I've noticed that in your show.
I think that comes from my background. My family is very into their Irish heritage. There's been a lot of reference to old Irish culture. But it's more British folk where I hear the similarity; it's more up my alley. I just find the vocals to be so unique.
Was there radio around?
My mother's primary listening choice was always public radio. So there was a lot of classical music going on. But in elementary school I was very into hip hop and R&B. Of course in middle school, you had to have the alt rock radio station. I guess here people did the Point, that kind of thing. But the thing that got me into radio was the discovery of KCOU in Columbia, which is the Mizzou college station. I had some friends from Jeff. City who were involved in running the station. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I said I'm going to do that. And I did!
And I've always been obsessive about making mixes. I see doing a radio show as being similar.
Do you remember a really special mixtape?
I think the ones you receive are the most special.
But what about one you gave to someone?
Probably the most amazing ones I've done have been in later years. I made one incredible one in 2007. I sewed a cover for it and made an insert. The presentation of the product was equally important. Musically I try to combine unexpected things that go together.
What about a mixtape you received?
There were 2 really significant tapes. The first one was my sophomore year in high school; it introduced me to the Velvet Underground and the Faces. It had some R.E.M. on there. It had this combination of things that were contemporary and older, things that were relevant to my life as a child. There was a splash of indie rock and of course at the time there was the emo craze. Not like emo is now. The other tape was connected to a relationship and just had an emotional significance.
One of the things I like about your show is your commentary on the songs. You can't do that on a mixtape.
OK, so you've even done liner notes on mixtapes.
I think the best mix I've ever done, it didn't have commentary per se, but I made this 24-page booklet, spent forever on it. I used collaged imagery to tell the story of the mix. I think I've become more visually oriented as time has gone along.
I may never make another mixtape again.
It's the gift exchange. This will sound platitudinous, but it makes you feel good to give things to others. That’s one of the great things about music and recording and technology. It allows us to give things to others.
I don't think the artists I play would care much, but I admit I download a lot of music. I justify that by saying I'll buy the vinyl or the cassette of the music.
So you're into vinyl.
Yes, in my move I'm getting rid of all my CDs, except for the ones with handmade artwork or mixes. In the last couple of years I've started purchasing cassettes again because I have a cassette player in my car. It's a low budget way for artists who are just getting started to put out music. It feels really cool when you're getting 1 of a 100 tapes.
What are your hobbies outside of music?
I think it's all work outside of music! I still do knitting but it takes me a long time. I really like cooking when I get a chance. I find myself doing it at the end of the semester when funds are running short. I'm looking forward to doing more cooking at the end of classes. I like photography a lot. I was Photo Editor of my paper at college, and Copy Editor, that was fun. I never considered myself an artist per se. Last year, Chris King asked me to take part in his Poetry Scores auction. I thought essay writer that was weird, that people would see my photography as art.
What do you shoot?
I really like people pictures. I think I'm pretty good at kind of being unassuming enough, sort of like a photojournalist, being quiet and having people get used to me taking pictures constantly. I have this opposition to photographs of pieces of art or touristy spots. I like thinking about it as your perspective on something that someone wouldn't see that way otherwise.
How has KDHX changed your musical world?
It's certainly broadened it. It's one thing to do a show, do your thing, and listen every now and then when you're in car. But as Music Director, I got to know every show really well. I got exposed to every genre we have. It's incredible. I take a lot of pride in KDHX. Not just because of how special and unique the station is, but I think we have an impact on individuals. That's what it's about for me.