There’s no doubt in Grace Greenan’s mind that she was born to make music.
She was a toddler when she first started songwriting — something that came as a surprise to her parents. She recalls serenading them with her melancholy lyrics at just three years old, prancing down the stairs with an umbrella in hand.
“It was always a thing in the family… ‘Grace has another song, and it’s sad again,’” Greenan joked. “As I grew older, I never really grew out of that.”
The Buffalo-based singer-songwriter has since released two full-length albums of original music, with more on the way. She’s taken her music to stages across the city like the Town Ballroom and Jack Rabbit, and to recording studios in Los Angeles, where she worked on her upcoming album.
Music is her profession, a coping mechanism and a natural impulse — something within her she can’t ignore.
“[Songwriting] is kind of something that I always felt like I was born to do,” Greenan said. “And something, quite honestly, I couldn’t stop doing if I wanted to.”
Greenan says she has always used songwriting as a form of therapy, a vehicle to understand herself. She explores this intense relationship to music on her song “Cautious.”
“Music is one love who’s really been true/And I cannot trust myself to do anything else,” she sings on the track. “Giving up isn’t an option/I don’t need to cut my losses.”
Though she’s always been prolific, writing music every day (“I think my record is, like, 15 songs in one day,” she said), it took a lot of courage to start performing and sharing her music with others.
She was 12 years old when she first performed a solo in front of an audience. Her guitar teacher insisted that she take the stage in front of her entire school. Greenan remembers it as an incredibly nerve-racking but rewarding experience.
“I didn’t really have any friends. Like, they were bound to make fun of me,” Greenan explained. “I was completely shaking in my boots the entire time. But something happened when I stepped off stage, and I was just like, ‘I want to do that for the rest of my life.’”
She hasn’t stopped performing since. Greenan joined show choir in high school, and then directed the acapella group at Canisius College, where she initially applied as a pre-dental student.
“I don’t know why I decided to do that,” Greenan said. “But about a week into school, I was like, ‘I gotta go for music.’”
Greenan continued to write her own music while pursuing her music technology degree, but it took a little convincing to actually record it. She credits a close friend with finally getting her into the studio.
“He said, ‘I’ve heard your songs. You need to record this. I booked you a studio session… be there next week,’” Greenan recalled. “No one [else] in my life has ever done this with me.”
From that initial studio session, Greenan’s debut album, “Emerald City,” was born. It’s full of dark, confident pop songs like “Guessin’,” a collaboration with local rapper Pr0 Social, and quieter, jazz-inflected cuts like “Belong.”
Greenan took a step in a different direction with her next album, “Eden,” a concept record inspired by her relationship with religion. Each song on the album takes a different story from the Bible and retells it from a woman’s perspective.
“Eden” came naturally for Greenan, who grew up attending Catholic school and drawing inspiration from liturgical music.
“I felt like I was being asked to make the album, which sounds, you know, weird,” Greenan said. “But it’s true. I just felt like I had to.”
The album is a unique exploration of Catholicism through the eyes of Biblical figures like Eve, who inspired the dark synthpop track of the same name.
“Growing up, religion was a very, very large part of my life. There are things in religion that I completely like,” Greenan said. “But I also think there’s some things about the church that specifically exclude women and that specifically cause a lot of pain… I wanted to take the idea of women not having certain hierarchy roles in religion and just talk about it.”
“Eden” was released in 2021, and Greenan has not slowed down since then. Her newest single, “Fed-Ex,” is set to be released Dec. 30.
Right now, she’s juggling her ever-growing musical career with her day job: teaching music at the very high school where her musical talent was cultivated.
“I love saying that I get the best of both worlds, pretending like I’m either Hannah Montana or Jack Black,” Greenan joked. “My students… they’ve inspired me so much.”
Five years from now, Greenan hopes to be writing music with some of her biggest inspirations like Demi Lovato, Gracie Abrams and Lewis Capaldi — and maybe even winning a Grammy or two.
But her biggest accomplishment thus far is the connection she’s made with her fans. There’s one instance in particular that she’ll never forget.
“I had a literal fan come up to me at a show and actually cry to me,” Greenan recalled, shedding a few tears. “It was quite literally something I never thought would happen. I’ve been that fan for somebody else before, so knowing what that means was just a lot for me. It’s the coolest thing that has ever happened to me.”
Meret Kelsey is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meret Kelsey is an assistant arts editor at The Spectrum.