Gillian Grassie

Gillian Grassie

 Berlin, Berlin, DEU
SoloFolkAvant-garde

With her harp on her back and her heart on her sleeve, Gillian Grassie has toured across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, converting harp skeptics into devout followers with genre-bending songs that challenge the conventions of her instrument. For fans of Bon Iver, Regina Spektor, and Feist.

Biography

"It's rare to hear a young singer with such control and understated soulfulness, and even more rare to hear a harp provide such a deep percussive groove. I was immediately captivated by her sound," gushed Grammy-winner Marc Cohn when he first heard Gillian Grassie perform. With her harp on her back and her heart on her sleeve, Gillian has toured across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, converting harp skeptics into devout followers with genre-bending songs that challenge the conventions of her instrument and connect with listeners across cultures.

A natural storyteller with a degree in comparative literature, Gillian pulls from a rich bricolage of influences, ranging from the soul and funk she was surrounded by as a child growing up in West Philadelphia, to traditional Celtic music (she debuted at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival at the tender age of 14) and ‘70s Folk she heard from her parents record collection, to the Jazz, contemporary Pop, and Americana that she discovered as a teenager. Although the harp demands attention, it is her expressive voice and sophisticated but accessible songwriting that reels in her listeners – hook, line, and sinker. This trifecta of talents has earned her grants from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation and the US State Department, a slew of awards, and the fervent support of her fans, who crowdfunded Gillian's second album, The Hinterhaus, produced by Todd Sickafoose (Anaïs Mitchell, Andrew Bird), and featuring special guest Janis Ian.

Although she’s sold out listening rooms from Philadelphia to Berlin to Siberia, Gillian delights in bringing the harp to unconventional places. She is equally comfortable performing at a private gala for HRH Prince Albert of Monaco as she is opening for Amanda Palmer in a repurposed barn in rural Germany, or even giving a concert on a moving train car in Mumbai, India. One fan described her show as "an awesome combination of Pippi Longstocking, drinking buddy, and the Mata Hari. Trust me, you never saw anything like this.” For fans of Bon Iver, Regina Spektor, and Feist.

Lyrics

Silken String

Written By: Gillian Grassie

There was a man
he was a tall man
but he never stood up tall
and he hid thick books
behind the cash register at work
to make the time pass better

And the bells clattered when I opened the door
and he picked up his head as I walked in the store
I could see the sweat falling down his face in the heat
like beads on a silken string

I was waiting for a ride
so we chose to pass the time
sharing words and coffee
and as he told me his story
I could feel something funny
like my reason was deserting me

Oh I'm in love with a man from the North country
he's got hair like a bear, it grows wild and free
I can feel myself slipping like a kid with new skis
like beads on a silken string

Nobody knows where the time it goes
so I hope you'll follow me
nobody knows when love will show
inconveniently

my friend drove up
in a black Ford truck
and said, "C'mon - I'm sorry,"
so I turned and said, "Goodbye, sir,"
and, "Thank you for your time, sir,"
he said, "I'll be seeing you later."

Oh I'm in love with a man from the North Country
he's got hair like a bear, it grows wild and free
I can feel myself slipping like a bird on the breeze
like beads on a silken string

Borrowed or Begged

Written By: Gillian Grassie

oh I got these blackened traveler's feet
and I got this broken train-stop sleep
I got miles unfurled in front of me
before I reach my own country

I can't count the places I laid my head
seems most of them were borrowed or begged
and it may have cost half of all I own
but I know the difference between a house and home

oh I dreamed that I was fast asleep
with a pup on either side of me
and a gray cat stretched out at my feet
in a lover's bed in North Philly

Chorus

So I'm riding in this foreign car
sucking fruit I don't know the name of
and this I would give you my love
something sweet and strange upon your tongue

Chorus

Tamlin

Written By: Gillian Grassie

I hate this Halloween party
with its posh freaks and zombies
can't find your face in the parade
I know I don't really belong
but last night you scared me on the phone
and so I came

my swollen tongue is flopping 'round
the inside of my mouth
I hear the clumsy words it's spitting out
I am a chignon come undone
I am a silken stocking run
and I am drunk

Do you ever get that feeling
of being infinite and small
like you're everything and nothing at all?

I could dress you up in white
try to lend you some kind of grace
but the shadows only gather
in the hollows of your face
something 'bout the black light
or the fog machine
maybe it's just the gin
but you look like you're shape-shifting

Do you ever get that feeling
of being infinite and small
like you're everything and nothing at all?
My love has become a burning coal
I am not sure I can hold

I'm losing you to that bitch, Queen Mab
I don't know how to save you
I'm not sure that I can
here, take my coat
you know, it's could outside
I want to go home
c'mon, let's call it a night

You turn and walk into the bathroom
brushing off your nose
when you don't come out, I follow
you're lying there on the hard tiles
I call your name and you don't answer

Do you ever get that feeling
of being infinite and small
like you're everything and nothing at all?
My love has become a burning coal
I am not sure I can hold
My love he's become a glowing coal
and he burns me
and I hold

Back To Your Flat

Written By: Gillian Grassie

Your scent is still on my dress
and my hairs are on your sweater
the ink is still wet
on how this will be remembered
Oh I never knew, no I never knew
and I never could have guessed
that when we laughed our way back to your flat
I might never come back the same

Oh and we laughed our way back to your flat
I may never come back the same

We're propped up on our elbows
belly-down upon your bed
the dicitonary is open
to the word "earnest"
yeah, your English it was pretty good
but you didn't understand

Oh and we laughed our way back to your flat
I may never come back the same...

Oh and I hope that Serendipity,
the traveler's patron saint,
is smiling sweetly on you now
as you bike home in the rain

your scent is still on my dress
and my hairs are on your sweater
tiny souvenirs
of a night to be remembered
'cause I can't be sure
that our paths will ever
chance to cross again

like when we laughed our way back to your flat
I may never come back the same...

The Hinterhaus

Written By: Gillian Grassie

There is a house behind your house
a floor beneath the floorboards
with planks of spruce sanded smooth
and cut to fit the corners
and no one would have noticed
no one could have guessed
that every time they'd come around
they'd been your courtyard guests

When was it that you forgot
who you were and were not
how to feel as you looked out
at all that suffering and pain
so exquisite, so mundane
saw the trigger of a gun
curled like a question mark

I know what it is
to be half transformed
still burdened with the evidence
of what you were before
but all of this forgetting
tell me how it's done
tell me where you keep the memory
of somebody you've loved

There is a house behind this house
curtains upon curtains
oh, but you can come anytime you like
my door is always open

Discography

2013 - The Hinterhaus
2011 - "When The Nights Get Long" (XPN Holiday Single)
2007 - Serpentine
2005 - To An Unwitting Muse (EP)

Set List

Gillian has toured extensively throughout North America, South America, Europe & Asia in a variety of settings and formats, as a solo act, in duo, trio, and full band arrangements, and as a guest collaborator.

In addition to her appearances as a solo singer-songwriting act, Gillian has also given masterclasses on non-traditional uses of the harp, performed at The New York Times Center for TEDxEast, worked with avant garde improv modern dancers in the 2011 Blindspot Festival, collaborated with electro-acoustic composition performances, completed State Department-funded tours of Russia & South America, and spoken at schools about her experiences as an independent musician.

Sample Set:

Saro

Silken String

Back to Your Flat

Marrow

The Hinterhaus

Sweet Manhattan

The Mark

Borrowed or Begged

Quiet Kinda

Tamlin

The Train

Encore: Can't Smile Without You