Grace Weber tells us her New York City playlist |

Music | The Music Mix

Grace Weber made us a playlist celebrating New York City

Grace Weber

(Shervin Lainez)

Musician and Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Grace Weber has operated out of New York for several years now, first attending school at New York University before settling into Brooklyn. Her soul-infused sound comes from a life of performing, including time in a children’s gospel choir in her adolescence, but the influence of her new home has made a clear impact on her work.

Weber’s first album Hope & Heart debuted the artist high on the singer/songwriter and heatseeker Billboard charts in 2011, and the musician is currently preparing for her sophomore release, The Refinery, to arrive on Oct. 7. Weber has given fans a peek at what’s to come with the album’s first single, “Perfect Stranger.”

Before The Refinery arrives, Weber will perform on Sept. 8 for HELLO Harlem, a charity supporting the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem. In keeping with the New York roots Weber has planted, she created a playlist for EW full of artists who capture the highs and lows of the city she now calls home.

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Donny Hathaway — “We’re Still Friends (Live at the Bitter End)”
“I couldn’t make a playlist about New York without including a Donny Hathaway, live from the Bitter End track, so I thought we’d kick it off this way. The Bitter End is an institution for musicians in the city and I feel so lucky to have played the historical venue myself. The Bitter End was my hang when I was in college going to NYU. I used to spend nights sitting at the bar at the Bitter End, hanging with the owner and bartenders and watching new and old bands play on the legendary stage. I had my first real New York show at The Bitter End and it was such a magical room to play. I like to picture myself in the room listening to Donny Hathaway and just imagining how the room must have felt as he drenched it in soul with his utterly beautiful, deep sound and emotional voice.”

Streets of Laredo — “Girlfriend”
“One of my favorite things about my neighborhood in Brooklyn is that almost all the baristas are musicians. I met the lead singer of Streets of Laredo last week while he was making me a latte at my favorite coffee shop, St. Balmain. He wrote ‘Girlfriend’ when he first moved to New York from New Zealand. “I’m trying to pay rent” is probably the most universal song lyric about New York that has ever existed.”

Emily King — “Georgia”
“I think every young musician living in New York has a musical crush on Emily King. Born and raised in New York, Emily is one of those artists that I imagine New York is so proud to have birthed and watched grow up in the musical community of the city. Being a hard core fan girl myself, it’s been so inspiring to watch her career blossom over the years and keep falling in love with every song she puts out. A month back Emily opened for Sara Bareilles at The Theater at MSG and it was so cool to see her kill it on that huge stage in her hometown. I also heard this new song of hers there called “Good Friend” and I’m crossing my fingers it’s her next single.”

Lucius — “Two of Us on the Run”
“Lucius is another one of those bands that I think the New York musical community is really proud of. I’ve watched their career grow out of their home base in Brooklyn over the past few years. From the moment I saw their live show for the first time, I knew their success was going to be undeniable. I love this song of theirs because it tells the story of the dream a lot of young people have when they move to New York. This dream that you’ll go to New York and make something of yourself, create something that your family will be proud of and you’ll get to say hey mom, “I made it!” I love that the tone of the song is hopeful and sadly heartbreaking at the same time. It’s a mood I think a lot of us feel in our twenties, this question of “what will I become?” ringing with a haunting tone in our bones. But if we listen to Lucius, we just need to “keep one foot in front of the other,” because, ‘there’s no race, only the runner.’”

Ella Fitzgerald — “Manhattan”
“This song idealizes the romance of Manhattan for me. This is the soundtrack playing in my head on those days where I’m absolutely in love with New York. Those perfect Spring days where I can’t fathom why I ever wanted to live somewhere other than New York, as I walk through Central Park or down Broadway with huge eyes and all my dreams on my sleeve. Manhattan has the unique power to enchant its visitors with an old-world magic that Ella Fitzgerald captures so well in this song. It reminds me of the joy I’ve felt listening to a saxophone player in Washington Square Park, watching actors and actresses living their dreams on the Broadway stage, or having a glass of wine on MacDougal street in the West Village, hearing 5 different languages at once, and feeling so lucky that I’m living in this enchanting and magnetic city where anything is possible.”

Stevie Wonder — “Living for the City”
“Stevie Wonder captures a less idealized version of New York and tells a story of the grind, hustle, and sometimes darkness this city can put you through. When Stevie wrote this song in 1973, he was one of the first soul singers to directly and openly talk about racism in a song. He tells the story of a young black man coming up from poverty in the south, trying to make it in New York and ultimately getting wrongfully arrested and sent to prison. It’s a painful portrayal of the truth about the corrupt and racist way our justice system operated in the 1970’s and unfortunately how it still does today as we are seeing in Ferguson and across so many towns in America. My heart breaks when you hear the young man in the song getting off the bus with his bags and his dreams and stepping foot into the city. You hear the sounds of the cabs whizzing by and he says, “Wow, New York, just how I pictured it. Skyscrapers and everything!” You can hear the awe and excitement in his voice about the magic he might experience in this city, only to then listen as his life changes in one instant as he gets tricked into holding drugs and is quickly arrested by the cops. “I’m just walking across the street, what did I do?” Stevie captures the rough and hard truth of the underbelly, the grind, and unfairness of this city and this country in the lyrics and driving groove on this song.”

Jon Batiste and Stay Human — “Lonely Cry in Manhattan”
“Jon Batiste!! Jon Batiste is an artist that New York and I have fallen head over heels for in the past few years, from his years at Juilliard to playing at Rockwood Music Hall to selling out Webster Hall back in April, his live show can only be described as transformative. I had the honor of singing with Jon at his Webster Hall show and being on that stage with him truly changed the way I look at sharing the live music experience with my audience. Jon knows how to treat an audience of 1,000 as if there’s only 1 person in the room, and each individual audience member is THAT one person. He listens to the audience and improvises based on what the show needs. His musicianship is technically skilled and emotionally free at the same time. That balance keeps you on your toes and leaves you wondering “what’s he gonna do next,” while always knowing that whatever it is, it will be incredible. I love this little musical interlude on his record, Social Music. “Lonely Cry in Manhattan” is a sweet and simple tribute to New York.”

Billy Holiday — “Autumn in New York”
“I can hardly believe that Autumn is right around the corner. I’m ready to feel the bliss of fall in New York and get into that perfect sweater weather. …right before the leaves get soggy and gross and soon we’re all walking through gray slushy snow :).”

Robbie Gil — “I’m Gonna Make It (Live at Rockwood Music Hall)”
“Rockwood Music Hall has become a home in the city for singer/songwriters and musicians of all kinds over the past 5 years. The venue puts an amazing effort into creating a space that musicians LOVE playing music in and that audiences love discovering and hearing music in. Seems like an obvious goal for any venue, but the care Rockwood has put into their sound and into creating the brand of a no-talking listening room is admirable and deeply appreciated by the musical community. Here’s a live song from the gritty and powerful Robbie Gil, who has been a soulful staple in the New York singer/songwriting scene for years.”

Grace Weber — “Perfect Stranger”
“#shamelessplug. I debated putting one of my own songs on this playlist, but I figured since I wrote this song about meeting strangers on the New York City Subway that it was appropriate to include :). I started writing the lyrics to this song one night when I was coming home on the L train. I was looking at all the people riding the train and I started imagining what it might be like if I became friends with these people. This the first single from my new record The Refinery coming out October 7. The song represents the more pop-leaning side of the record and I can’t wait for people to hear the more rootsy side too when the whole record is released.”

Imogen Heap — “Hide and Seek”
“Last, but not least, is perhaps the most seemingly random song on the playlist, but is one that instantly reminds me of my life in New York the moment I hear it. When I first moved to New York, I used to listen to this song almost every night before I went to bed. I was feeling pretty homesick those first few weeks of living here and for some reason this song was strangely comforting to me. I think it resonated with both the loneliness I was feeling as I tried to make a new home in the city and at the same time, the depth of excitement and curiosity I was feeling about this intense and mysterious place. For me, hearing this song is like smelling that apple pie that immediately brings back a memory of your grandmother clear as day. I hear Hide and Seek and I’m right back in my dorm room, 8 years ago, laying in my bed and wondering what my life in New York would be like.”