Hannah Rose Graves, lead singer and founder of Grand Rapids-based band Hannah Rose and the GravesTones, has been singing since she could speak. Whether she exercised her talent in choir or theater, Graves has always sought opportunities to sing.
From the way she enthusiastically associates it with oxygen, it’s obvious that music is more than a passion for her. “I never feel more myself than when I’m singing,” she said. “I wasn’t always very good, like when I was little, but I was always singing. My parents said they knew I was sick when I wasn’t singing,” she continued. “It’s just who I am.”
Music has always been a quintessential piece of Graves’ family life. She grew up listening to Johnny Cash and other icons at home, but it was her best friend Jay who pushed her to pursue her passion for music.
“One day he sat me down on the piano––and I think this was a catalyst moment for me as a singer-songwriter––he just told me to shut up,” Graves laughed. “He said ‘I’m going to play this random piano part and you’re going to make something up.’”
Graves lost Jay when she was 18, but his support lives on in her life. “He said ‘Just sing from your heart; sing from your soul,’” Graves said. “’That’s what people want to hear.’ Then people can connect with it,” she continued. “I feel it, so then they feel it.”
Losing Jay was a traumatic blow, but Graves didn’t give up her devotion to singing. After traveling the east coast to clear her head and discover her sound, she returned to her native Michigan to start Hannah Rose and the GravesTones. “I met up with some of the best musicians that I knew,” she said. “The GravesTones is not one particular group of people. It’s meant to be a collective of musicians.”
And that collective tackles every instrument from the electric guitar to the saxophone. The band’s music is rich, flavorful and offers a truly unique sound. Where does that sound come from?
“A lot of my songs––I say they come from the sky,” Graves said. “They come from my head and then they’re out on the paper. The melodies are there, and everything’s already there,” she continued. “It just depends on the day and the idea and what inspires me.”
The band’s sound is savory yet sweet, with a double scoop of soul. Its latest album, “Awake in a Dream,” synthesizes upbeat melodies and bluesy lyrics, taking listeners on a six-track journey that Graves described as exploring both the highs and lows of life.
Some of the tracks are proud and expressive declarations of passion, while others are somber and reflective ballads telling woeful tales of love lost. “It’s just the hilarity and misery of life basically,” she said. “Feeling like you’re stuck in a nightmare or a magical daydream. A beautiful, unreal, surreal daydream.”
Hannah Rose and the GravesTones will be performing “Awake in a Dream” at Founders on Dec. 28 at 9:30 p.m.
*Photos courtesy of Hannah Rose Graves