Football player meets singer/songwriter, that’s Chicagoan Sami Grisafe. A recipient of the Chicago Music Award for Best Rock Entertainer, Grisafe is also a leading athlete with the U.S. Women’s National Football Team. She spoke with Our Town about her new album and the parallels between sports and music.
Our Town How would you describe your music?
Sami Grisafe Provoc rock: provoking, provocative rock music. Bruno Mars meets Janis Joplin.
OT What’s your writing process like?
SG I usually think of a concept (or as I call it, a "thesis statement") for a song and then noodle around on my uke until I find a chord, a "thesis chord" that I feel matches my statement and then build a story around those two pillars of the song. Usually the subject matter of my songs come from first hand experiences in my life; a relationship, a memory, something I’m struggling with. However, I’m beginning to write more from an empathetic place lately. I’ll hear a story and think “that needs to be heard – there’s power for change in that” and I’ll find parallels in my own life to make sure I’m giving the song the true emotion it deserves.
OT What are the parallels between sports and music?
SG There are so many, but I guess the biggest parallel is that you have to be 100% present and in tune with your team or band to make great things happen. Each requires every individual to contribute and react to each other. Nothing is predictable and honesty and integrity mean everything.
AE What’s your favorite song off the new album and why?
SG This is difficult, because each song is special to me for different reasons. Because it's summer in Chicago and I wrote the song, “Hooky (in Chicago)” about all the great things to do in Chicago during the summer, it’s one of my favorites to play right now. It’s a fun, upbeat tune and I love the reaction I get from the audience every time I perform it. Especially in Chicago, people request it a lot and know the lyrics so it’s fun to have them singing along. It's a fun bonus that it's getting more recognition because it was featured on an episode of "Easy Abby," a new web-series based in Chicago that has accrued over 9 million views so far!
OT If I know nothing about football, what’s the one key thing I should understand?
SG It is a game of effort and trust. This is what makes it great. Imagine each team is a group of people made up of all different sizes and skill sets. They have to work individually as well as collectively to achieve their goal. That's life and that's why I believe football is the greatest sport on earth!
OT What’s your favorite Chicago venue?
SG I have yet to play there, but I really like both Lincoln Hall and Park West. I have a huge place in my heart for Lonie Walker’s Underground Wonder Bar, she gave me my first gig in the city. Of the venues I've played, Double Door has amazing history, Martyr's has killer sound, The Hideout has one of the coolest vibes I've ever experienced, the Metro is such an iconic Chicago staple and the Cubby Bear has been really good to me this past year. City Winery has an innovative approach at the live music experience, combining food, wine and entertainment.
OT What are the best and worst parts of being a musician based in Chicago?
SG Best parts are: there is a ton of history and the artistic community, in general, is extremely supportive. Everybody just wants to create the best art they can and so there is a great deal of collaboration and respect. The hardest part: because Chicagoans party hard, it can be difficult at shows sometimes to get an audience to give you an initial listen. Unless it's a song they recognize, they might write a new band off, before giving them a chance.
OT When you’re performing, who is your ideal audience member?
SG I love watching an audience member lose themselves in the music. Someone who listens and let's the music transport them away from their self-awareness. That's magical for me!
Sami Grisafe will play a Benefit Concert for The March on Springfield for Marriage Equality on September 9 at City Winery.