Gillian Grassie (say: Jillian Grass-y) is a contemporary harpist/singer-songwirter whose signature brand of alt/pop has been described as “music that is sure to haunt you like a reassuring and melodious ghost." [Origivation] Her distinctive vocal approach, paired with a remarkable ability for storytelling, makes her first full-length effort, Serpentine, "a treat" [Philadelphia Citypaper].
Her clever songwriting is supported by extensive classical training in both harp and voice. Gillian's interpretations of traditional Scottish harp repertoire earned her first place prizes in five competitions and an invitation to perform at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival in 2001. In her youth, she sang with both national and regional ACDA honors choirs in such prestigious venues as Heinz Hall, Symphony Hall, and The National Cathedral.
Gillian first began to hone her unique sound while living abroad in Switzerland during her sophomore year of high school. Granted a respite from the intensive solo instruction she had been receiving in the States, and inspired by the poetry of Philip Larkin she encountered in a British Literature course, Gillian began crafting songs. Pulling from her love of Joni Mitchell, Ani Difranco, Bjork, Dar Williams, John Mayer, and James Taylor, she began to blend and play with sounds and patterns not traditionally applied to the harp.
Upon returning to the states, Gillian graduated high school early and jumped into Philadelphia’s open mic circuit, quickly becoming a local favorite. Her debut, independent EP To An Unwitting Muse, released in June 2005, sold out of its original pressing and helped her cross over onto radio territory, receiving airplay on WXPN, and making the top ten in Q102's "Have a Great Gig" contest. Her first full-length effort, Serpentine, was released in October 2007, and has received rave reviews, praised as “an album that belongs on every critic’s best of list not only for the year, but also the decade,” [Music For America].
Gillian Grassie was born on May 30th, 1986 and is a Philadelphia native. She is currently an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College, where she studies Comparative Literature.
Philadelphia Citypaper says:
"For pop fans with a craving for something a little different, Serpentine is a treat."
"Her wordy, imaginative tunes are all about growing up, whether confronting destructive behavior (the trip-hop-tinged "Tell Me") or accepting a lover's silence ("No Answer")."
"Subtly evoking the government's shameful responses to Iraq and Katrina, the folky "Sweet Metallic" casts America as a teenager who makes you proud and exasperates you at the same time."
Origivation Magazine reviews Serpentine:
"[Grassie] seems to have one thing most of her contemporaries lack, the ability to turn seemingly insignificant events, such as throwing up at a party, into songs worthy of everyone’s attention. Her lethal combination of melody, introspection and deeply personal lyrics places her high in the running for first in the “next big thing” category.
The record starts pretty much where it ends, with Grassie letting us into her world through lighter-than-air yet epic changes and hooks that would snag the biggest snob, I’m proof positive of that I suppose. She seems to bill herself as a harpist on the record’s cover, which is certainly accurate, but I think the real story here is the ability to tell a story that people actually want to hear through music that is sure to haunt you like a reassuring and melodious ghost. The pieces all fit together and I can honestly say I don’t have one really bad thing to say about this record. Everything, right down to the song lengths, is perfect.”
Music for America reviews Serpentine:
“Grassie’s brand of eclectic pop is her own, and she would sound as comfortable in a large 5000-seat venue as she might in a small cafe.”
“...while her music and passionate lyrics can be accessible to a wide audience, it's her approach […] and the way her lyrics come off more like poetry than the standard pop song that makes her stand-out from the rest.”
“...she makes [the harp] sound like any string instrument that has been a part of pop and rock for the last 50 years.”
“Upon hearing such songs as "Sweet Metallic", "So Funny", and "The Train", one can hear shades of Tori Amos, Regina Spektor, and Joni Mitchell.”
“Grassie isn't just a casual artist hoping for casual fans, [her music is] something meant to be heard and absorbed.”
“…she can sing songs about the skepticism of love and the destruction of ones personal space [...] and still make it sound (bitter)sweet.”
“The sonics on this album sound great, with everything from horn and string sections to a stand-up bass and a Mellotron creating an audio picture that makes it sound as warm as the cover art suggests.”
“[Serpentine is] an album that belongs on every critic's best of list not only for the year, but for the decade.”