Grace Love is singing in her car as she drives to one of the last rehearsals for her first theatrical production, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Soul, this Saturday at the Vera Project. From the other end of the line, I hear her struggling with the phone pairing device in her car and cursing technology between notes, which is no surprise for someone whose last album (with her band the True Loves) was recorded directly to tape. After a minute or so, the device kicks on, and Love opens up about putting her life on stage.
“Like 10 years ago, it started as a journal entry, and then it progressed from there,” she says. “It had characters and everything, but now it’s this one-woman show of me telling a little part of my life after my mom had passed, and kind of diving head-first into music.”
After conducting an open call on social media in November, and receiving offers from musicians in her circle to donate their time, she put together an extended monologue of a show that will be bolstered by a full choir and backing band.
The music included in the play is material she wrote at some of her darkest times, before moving to Seattle, before forming the True Loves, before she was being asked to perform at this year’s Sasquatch! music festival. “Way back when I was strugglin’,” she says—sings actually.
The play follows the arc of Love’s life through her twenties. When Love’s mother, Nadine, died of a heart attack at age 48, she left a 20-year old Grace in a state of turmoil. Love found herself having to deal with personal issues, from her bisexuality, to her religious upbringing, to addiction, without the support she had relied on. She decided to leave Tacoma, where she had spent much of her life, and headed east, eventually landing in New York. After falling on hard times, she wound up homeless, and began to put her struggles on paper.
Love may be the subject of her own play, but the night is all about the memory of her late mother. Now on the edge of 30, Love hopes to put the money from ticket sales toward the start-up costs for her own restaurant, a soul food joint she plans to grace with her mother’s name. Her hope is to employ at-risk youth and give them skills they can use to not only survive, but thrive in the arts community with the help of her venture’s nonprofit branch, Nadine’s House.
She also hopes her story of loss, personal discovery, and triumph, is one others can find strength in, but she says there is also a cathartic element to the performance.
“Yeah, [people can] definitely relate to [it], but then it was also kind of selfish for me because I was like so ready to let go of this,” she says. “It’s kind of a crutch in the sense of emotionally not letting me be honest with myself . . . and I think I can just tell this story and I get to let it go. I get to release myself from this energy that literally held me back for such a long time. It kind of made it hard for me to be honest with myself and blocked a lot of blessings—I don’t want to say blessings because I’m not a religious person—but yeah, it blocked a lot of blessings because I was too wrapped up in what people thought about me, and not what I thought about myself.”