“Music for me is a language like no other; it is my channel of authenticity. I know I'd only be telling half the truth without it..”
- Tracy Grammer
Born in Homestead, Florida and raised in southern California, Grammer comes from a musical family. Cousin Leo Fortin played double trumpets in Lawrence Welk’s band, while her grandmothers and mother played keyboards and accordion. But it was her guitar-playing father who was her first true inspiration.
“When Dad used to get out his lap steel and electric guitars, we’d invite the neighborhood kids over and sing country songs. I’d sit across from my dad and read the music upside-down so I could turn the pages for him. I developed an ear for harmony early on and hardly ever sang the melody,” she muses, “and it drove my little brother crazy.”
At the age of nine, Grammer began choral and classical violin studies and led regional and school orchestras until she left home for the University of California, Berkeley. Once there, she gave up music while earning an English literature degree and serving as an administrator and graphic designer for the University.
During a semester off, Grammer’s father introduced her to Curtis Coleman, formerly of the New Christy Minstrels. Coleman invited her to perform with him at local pub and coffeehouse shows. Grammer had recorded a few songs in tourist booths at San Francisco’s Pier 39, but getting up on stage with Coleman was pivotal. “Performing revived a part of me that felt like it had been dormant for eternities,” says Grammer. “I had abandoned music for several years and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.” That fall, she took up the guitar, dusted off her violin, and began in earnest to hone her craft.
Grammer returned to school and co-founded the pop band Juicy in the mid-1990’s with friend David Noble. Grammer discovered talents for mixing and arranging, and a love for recording, when the band went into the studio to put together its first and only demo. “I was so new to recording that I expected to take a passive, watch-and-learn role, but before I knew it, I was twiddling knobs and directing edits that significantly improved the songs. It was an insanely creative time, and I was fascinated and fearless, and the guys supported me one hundred per cent. That made all the difference.”
Grammer saw Dave Carter perform at a songwriter showcase in February 1996, just weeks after she moved to Portland, Oregon. “Here were stories that could stand alone as poetry, sung with compassion, intelligence, and a hint of Texas twang. Dave’s entire presentation felt like home to me. I knew instantly that I was in the presence of greatness; I knew I had received my calling in life.” They met on the way out the door, and within weeks were working up material with a band. They began touring in late 1997 and during the summer of 1998, recorded their first album, WHEN I GO, in the kitchen of Grammer’s apartment. [See The Dave & Tracy Story for more.]
Folk music authority Andrew Calhoun of Waterbug Records comments: “No one sings Dave Carter’s songs better than Tracy. He chose her to be the voice of his songs. His vision, their vision, was that they shared something they both saw. She is half the reason why they were great.”
Grammer is currently touring in support of FLOWER OF AVALON (Signature Sounds 2005), her much anticipated solo debut. In January 2006, that album showed up on "Best of" lists and listener polls around the country, and was the
#1 most-played album on folk radio across the United States for 2005. We call this a triumph -- a testament to the enduring appeal of Carter's songwriting, and a sign of good things to come for Grammer as she continues on her solo career.
Flower of Avalon includes nine previously-unreleased songs by the late Dave Carter and one traditional tune, re-worked by Oregon professor Wm. Jolliff. Multi-tasking masterfully as co-producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, Grammer digs deep into the spirit of Carter's poetic verses and haunting melodies to color each song with textures and flourishes that blur the boundaries of categorization. Paired with Grammer’s voice -- emotive, warm and versatile -- the songs on Flower of Avalon are nothing less than visionary. Mary Chapin Carpenter sings harmony on three cuts and wrote the liner notes for the record. Carpenter writes, “Tracy’s continuing quest to make sure that the world remembers Dave Carter marks a new beginning of artistry for her. We are lucky that she is so brave, generous and gifted.” Flower of Avalon is produced by Grammer and John Jennings (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Indigo Girls).
Tracy Grammer tours internationally with songwriter/multi-instrumentalist
Jim Henry (Deb Talan, Mark Erelli, The Burns Sisters). With acoustic and electric guitars, beautifully matched voices, dobro, mandolin and violin, this duo shares original songs, instrumentals, and pays homage to Carter and other stellar writers while charting a brand new course for themselves in the musical landscape. Grammer says, "I’ll keep on singing, and I’ll keep on telling my story, however that evolves. Working with Dave Carter was the first step on what I hope is going to be a long and fruitful road for me: the endless quest for authenticity through music.”