Grace Pettis,
The TVD First Date

“I just recently (as in a few weeks ago) purchased my own big girl record player. Not one in a little hipster suitcase that sounds like garbage but a decent starter Audio-Technica turntable. The next thing I need to do is upgrade my speakers because I’m just listening through slightly better than average desktop computer speakers.”

“A few years ago, I inherited my grandmother Bobby’s soundsystem—a tower of tape decks, 5-disc CD player, radio, and turntable on top. It came with a good quality record player, but it broke during the move from Florida to Texas. I kept meaning to get it fixed and just never did. It would have been too expensive; it wouldn’t have been worth it. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to throw that soundsystem away for a long time because it had been hers. She loved records, especially opera singers. She was legally blind the last time she upgraded her own soundsystem so the buttons had fuzzy stickers on them so she could feel her way to “play,” “pause,” “skip,” and “select input.”

Now that I have my own turntable, I’ve slowly started purchasing albums. I’ve got the new Indigo Girls record, Look Long, and I’ve preordered Amythyst Kiah’s and Allison Russell’s forthcoming LPs. I got a “best of” collection of Townes Van Zandt, a Rosanne Cash record, and a few local Austin albums made in the eighties and nineties by bands I’ve never heard of. I haven’t listened to the Austin bands yet but I’m excited to. I love the idea of getting to discover music made on that kind of a small scale, in my own backyard, not reissued or available anywhere else but in the bargain bin at the local record store. It’s kind of like having a time machine to the Austin of yesteryear.

As you would guess, I have an early copy of the new Nobody’s Girl album (Nobody’s Girl is my band with BettySoo and Rebecca Loebe) that doesn’t come out until July. And a few days ago I got the test pressing of my own LP for Working Woman. It’s the first time my own music has been pressed to vinyl. It was a trip to hear the record that way.

Something about those sound waves being bigger; I’m not exactly sure of the science, but an album sounds warmer and fills up the room like hot water fills a bathtub. It’s just a completely different, richer listening experience than Spotify through earbuds. I can appreciate the value of quantity; it’s nice to have millions of songs at my fingertips. But nothing beats the quality of vinyl for listening to music, except maybe being a foot away from somebody playing in your living room or next to you at a campfire.

The other thing I am loving about records: listening to an album on vinyl requires commitment. On Spotify or in your iTunes library, you can skip around. You can shuffle. You can stop a song halfway through to take a phone call and then just pick it back up again. But vinyl was meant to be listened to in one sitting. You put the album on the turntable and you settle in. It requires an attention span adjustment and the discipline of being in the moment. It’s an act of love. I think about my grandmother, listening with her eyes closed, completely surrendering to the sounds of Renée Fleming. I wish she was around to hear my record. But I think she would have been proud.”
Grace Pettis

Grace Pettis’ full-length release Working Woman is in stores now. The vinyl edition arrives on August 1, 2021 via MPress Records. Preorder the LP here.

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PHOTO: NICOLA GELL

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