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Grace Petrie "Expect singalongs, politics, rants and a few jokes" at the Leadmill

The folk singer-songwriter is performing at the Leadmill in September. She talks to Now Then about the importance of the venue and becoming politicised in Sheffield as a student.

Grace Petrie

Singer-songwriter Grace Petrie's music is passionate, political and playful. Ahead of her Leadmill gig on 25 September, she speaks to Now Then about Sheffield, supporting Hannah Gadsby and writing political folk music.

How does it feel to be performing again after lockdown?

It’s amazing to be back on the road again, particularly this spring tour - it really feels like things are getting back to normal and audiences are starting to look forward to celebrating live music again

Your music is very tied into your politics and at the moment there are so many political issues vying for attention. Does writing and performing political songs help you to process the chaos? Or is it more that your music is a way to influence listeners?

Definitely process the chaos. I think Martyn Joseph says the guitar is a cheap therapist and I think that sums it up for me too. I’m not sure that I’m trying actively to influence people, but if I can bring a new perspective to people, or a political viewpoint they hadn’t considered before then I think that’s a worthwhile thing to try and do.

I think if I was charting my success on persuading people to share my politics though I would probably give up, because in the years I’ve been active Britain has got much more right wing. The hope is that folks who come to shows can feel a bit less alone in their ideas and hopes for making society better, and maybe be given a bit of a boost to keep going.

Your album Connectivity hit number 37 in the charts last year. How did that feel?

It was incredible, and even more so for the fact that the listeners really got on board. We weren’t really aiming for the chart, it was a pipe dream really for an independent artist with virtually no marketing to make it but when I saw the midweek figures for the release week I could see that if everyone got behind the attempt then we’d be in with a shot, so I put out a call on social media asking folks to buy it in time for the chart counting and the response was absolutely breathtaking. It just would not have been possible without such a supportive, engaged fan base that I’m unspeakably lucky to have.

Grace Petrie

You supported Hannah Gadsby in London and she has an enormous and passionate fanbase. How was that experience?

Hannah is a total hero of mine, and they say you shouldn’t meet your heroes but in this case she was everything I hoped and more. Watching her perform every night was a total joy, she is such a master story crafter and just has you hanging on her every word throughout the performance.

Her audience were so generous to me as well and really got on board, which is great because often people find musicians opening up for comics to be quite a weird setup, but they were all really gorgeous to me.

You’re playing at the Leadmill and have spoken out about its impending closure. What are your thoughts about the importance of the Leadmill as a Sheffield venue?

Leadmill is so legendary. Both from living in Sheffield and attending as a punter, and touring through playing there many times in different lineups. I was gutted when I heard the news. More and more in Britain we’re facing these types of attacks on our venues and it really needs serious engagement from audiences to get behind these places.

So much with this type of development it’s a case of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’ - the Music Venues Trust are a fantastic organisation doing some brilliant work on campaigns to protect our venues from similar fates and I really encourage anyone who loves music to look into how they can get behind them.

You lived in Sheffield for a while. How did the city influence your music?

I loved living in Sheffield and met some fantastic people there- I really regret that I wasn’t as much of a folk musician when I lived there because I didn’t make the most of the amazing folk scene there. But I got a lot of material from living there, it was where I got politicised as a student and when I first started writing protest songs.

What can people expect at the Leadmill gig?

A good time, hopefully! It’s the last show of a month-long tour, and in particular this show has been rescheduled some four or five times due to Covid so it’s long overdue for me to be back in Sheffield. I always get an amazing audience there and I’m really looking forward to being back. Expect singalongs, politics, rants and a few jokes, and hopefully a great final show to end the tour on.

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