How Songland Contestant Anna Graceman Turned Viral Videos into Songwriting Success

Anna Graceman wrote her first song, “So I Cried,” at age six, after a family member told her about someone in their life who passed away. “I didn’t really understand at all,” she remembers. “But I could tell they were really upset and missed this person, and I felt all this sadness. I couldn’t imagine losing someone I cared about so much.”

She began posting videos of herself performing her songs on Youtube just so that family members could stay on top of what she was doing. Then, unexpectedly, a video of nine-year-old Graceman performing “Paradise” — a song she wrote about natural scenes from her hometown of Juneau, Alaska and the need to take care of the Earth — went viral, and she ended up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “I don’t think I really understood how exciting it was,” she recalls.  “I think about some of the things that I did when I was younger and I think I was just completely unaware of how exciting they were – sometimes I wish those things had happened when I was older so I could enjoy them!”

For some, appearing on Ellen would be the pinnacle of accomplishment, but for Graceman, it was only the beginning. She continued writing songs and performing them on YouTube, channeling powerhouse vocal performers like Adele and singing emphatically about a range of emotions despite her young age — in a 2012 performance of her song “Broken Hearted” she admitted that she herself had never had her heart broken or even thought about having a relationship. Buoyed by the popularity of the show-stopping performances that landed her in the top ten finalists of America’s Got Talent Season Six, Graceman released her first first album at age 12, via her own label, Another Girl Records, and performed at residencies in Las Vegas over the next few years.

At sixteen, she released Rebel Days, a record made in collaboration with her sisters; over the next few years she performed at festivals both alone and with her siblings, all while her YouTube videos – most of which are now non-exclusively licensed by Disney – amassed millions of views. She took a break from performing to focus on songwriting for others, participating in “She Is The Music,” an all-female writing camp focused on writing songs for Mary J. Blige. “She’s hugely influential in the music industry, being a female and being successful and so accomplished, so that was definitely a highlight for me,” Graceman says, who noting that even the engineers and producers who participated in the program were women.

In other words, Graceman is an example of a performer who is wise, talented, and driven beyond her years. Honing her prolific songcraft and stunning vocal ability throughout her childhood has landed Graceman where she is today, on the threshold of turning twenty. She recently returned to television to appear on NBC’s Songland, (a reality show where songwriters perform songs to artists who could potentially sing them); a version of the song she pitched to Bebe Rexha on last Monday’s episode was combined with elements of a song from fellow contestant Greg Scott to become that episode’s winner. “Most of time when you’re pitching a song to an artist it goes through an email, and maybe you hear back from the manager, but usually you’re not in front of them singing the song to them,” Graceman says. “It was a huge honor but extremely nerve-racking because you’re not only hearing what she loved about it, but what she didn’t love.”

Just three days prior, on May 29, Graceman released The Way the Night Behaves, her first solo album since 2012. The new album shares many elements in common with her early work, including a powerful voice and universal themes like love and loss, this time based on her own experience. She even sings another ode to her hometown, a soulful track about Alaska’s rare sunny days called “Sunny Point Drive.” But while it contains hints of the star who grew up on YouTube, The Way the Night Behaves also shows how much Graceman has evolved as both a singer and a songwriter. “Through that process of learning to write for different projects, I grew,” she says. “It’s really been able to affect my own writing in a positive way, and it’s different because I’ve just grown a lot as a person.”

The album was born from a project Graceman began in early 2019 to release a new song on Youtube every month. She had 12 singles by the end of the year, then added a few more songs to complete the album. Her voice demonstrates impressive range, as do the songs themselves, from the upbeat, celebratory “Good Things” and the catchy, rhythmic “Man on the Moon” to the deep and vulnerable “Fragile” and the slow but inspiring “Keep on Moving On.”

In the near future, she’s got new videos coming out for several songs on The Way the Night Behaves. She is also working on a release she hopes will be out later this year. “I wrote the songs three years ago and have been holding onto them, waiting for the perfect time to share them with the world,” she says. It’s not surprising that there are even more songs up her sleeve, and there will undoubtedly be many more as she matures even further as an artist.

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