More than a decade after first emerging, protest singer, LGBTQ+ activist, comedy audiences favourite and folk star Grace Petrie stands out as one the most important songwriters working in the UK today.
Exploding onto the folk scene in 2010 with the low-fi acoustic guitar/vocal release Tell Me a Story, Petrie quickly attracted attention with her polemical folk anthems, acerbic lyricism and open-hearted performance style. Support slots for the likes of Billy Bragg and Emmy The Great soon followed, with The Guardian declaring her “a powerful new songwriting voice”.
The 2010s were spent relentlessly touring and, responding to the evermore dramatic political landscape. Petrie released five DIY albums of protest music in seven years. As a support act for similarly subversive voices in stand-up, including Robin Ince, Josie Long and Jeremy Hardy among many others, Petrie became just as celebrated in comedy as in music, honing a stage presence characterised by wit and warmth that sits beautifully in both worlds.
Gigging everywhere from the Latitude Comedy Stage to the main stage of Vancouver Folk Festival, from Radio 4’s The Now Show to 6Music’s Tom Robinson Show, she picked up an army of supporters from the punk, folk, DIY and stand-up scenes along the way, and by 2018 Petrie’s audience numbered enough that a crowd-funding campaign for her first studio-produced album Queer As Folk smashed its £10K target in 24hrs.
But it was the 2018 release of the album ‘Queer As Folk’ which catapulted Petrie from cult status to mainstream attention. Both in production and songwriting, the record was a clear graduation, with rave reviews across the press calling it ‘probably the most intelligently crafted album you’ll hear this year’ **** (R2) and commenting, ‘she’s the urgent, pulsing, compassionate talent this world desperately needs’ (The Observer). Lead single ‘Black Tie’, a tender reflection on growing up queer and framed as a tear-jerking letter to her teenage self about the happier future that lies ahead, has deservedly become an anthem for queer audiences of all ages, with close to 175K views on Youtube and over 775K streams on Spotify alone. Off the success of Black Tie, Petrie was embraced by cultural heavyweights: The Guilty Feminist podcast adopted her as a regular musical guest, the legendary Jo Whiley hosted her for a live BBC Radio 2 session, Emmy-winning Hannah Gadsby requested her as a support in Europe and Frank Turner invited her to open his 12-date UK arena tour. The New Yorker gave a glowing live review that hailed Black Tie as ‘a new gay anthem’. UK festivals from Cambridge Folk Festival to Glastonbury’s prestigious Acoustic Stage recognised her as an artist on the rise and her debut Australian tour in Spring 2020 culminated in sold-out shows in Melbourne and Sydney.
…It was all going so well! Coronavirus reached Sydney just as Petrie’s tour did and, after a mad dash for an early flight home, she spent the next year and a half – the longest period of her adult life – in one place, unable to commune with others through music in the way that was innate to her since childhood. With a planet in crisis, a government hell-bent on ever-harsher anti-immigration legislation and with protest itself on the verge of outlaw, the need for speaking out and for the music of solidarity had never felt more urgent.
From out of this chaos came ‘Connectivity’, an album built from the reflections of what humanity means in a world struggling against division and destruction. Glued to one place for the first time, this is a record made firmly out of Petrie’s comfort zone: slowly, intricately, and over many close-up, painstaking months: with the audience and all its comfort stripped away, and the songwriter that lies beneath the performer exposed. The result was the most honest collection of songs she had ever shared. It is about storms and the rebuilding that follows them, and about how to find a way to carry on the fight for a better tomorrow when every day you are told you’ve already lost. It is Petrie’s most personal, and yet most universal, album to date and took her, for the first time, into the Top 40 of the UK’s Official Albums Chart.
‘An effervescent charm-bomb of a performer’ – The New Yorker
‘The musical soul of her generation’ – Huffington Post
‘Just when you thought that what folk music needs right now is a strident, left-wing female causing a bit of carnage, here’s Grace Petrie.’ **** Mojo
‘With a stand-up’s wit and defiant but cautiously optimistic lyrics, her set prompted tears, fury and joy from this reviewer.’ SonglinesListen on Spotify Book tickets