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Rapid City native Rowan Grace shoots for stardom on 'The Voice'

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Rowan Grace

This interview posted above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

Rapid City native Rowan Grace is making her way forward on the hit TV show The Voice.

During her blind audition, 16-year-old Grace sang Olivia Rodrigo's "traitor." The performance wowed judges and earned her a spot on Gwen Stefani's team.

Grace comes from a musical family and was just nine years old when she did her first public performance. Since then, she's performed at open mic nights, sung alongside bands, and written her own original music. Now she's on The Voice and has a shot to make it big.

Grace is moving forward after winning the competition's Battle Round. She is now scheduled to compete during The Voice's "Knockout Round."

The Voice airs Monday and Tuesday nights on NBC.

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Rowan Grace:
(Singing)

Lori Walsh:
That is the sound of Rowan Grace singing Olivia Rodriguez's, Trader on NBC's the Voice and the sound of at least two chairs getting turned around there. The 16 year old from Rapid City wowed judges and would earn herself a spot on Gwen Stefani's team. Well, Rowan comes from a musical South Dakota family. She was just nine years old when she did her first public performance. Since then, she has performed at Open Mic Nights. She's sung alongside bands. She's written her own original music. Now she's on The Voice and has a shot to make it big. Rowan Grace, welcome to In the Moment. Thanks for being here.

Rowan Grace:
Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

Lori Walsh:
This is such an exciting moment for South Dakotans to watch as well because very quickly after Gwen Stefani and John Legend turned their chairs around, John says, "Where are you from?" And you say, "Rapid City." They say, "We don't get many South Dakotans on this show." Tell me a little bit about that part of the performance where they just acknowledge your sense of place and where you're from.

Rowan Grace:
Yeah, it was really cool to acknowledge where I'm from. I grew up in the music scene around here in Rapid and that made me who I am today as a musician. And so I think it's really awesome that they highlighted that because that's a big part of where I came from. And where I got all my musical influences and that kind of stuff.

Lori Walsh:
So for you, so listeners are clear this, the production has gone on beyond what we have seen and you're not allowed to give us any hints or tips. So we'll just talk about you get to choose between Gwen and John and what made you go with Gwen Stefani?

Rowan Grace:
It was really a tough decision, to be honest. When they were both talking to me, I was like, "What am I going to do right now?" But I think Gwen just really connected with me the most. She told me that she lived my dream and she is still currently living my dream. And she knows what it feels like to feel that passion and that fire as a young female artist. And I feel like I just really connected with that. And that part really made me drawn to her and she just seemed really dedicated and that she would be really dedicated to me. So ultimately I had to go with her. But it was a tough decision.

Lori Walsh:
Yeah, Camila loved you too. You got three out of the four chairs there. For folks who don't know how the show works, the judges can't see Rowan as she's singing and then they push a button and spin their chairs around. And then they get to watch and Rowan gets to pick who she wants to work with. And then there's a series of challenges that come after that. You've played at the Cave Collective, you've done music videos, you've been doing this for quite some time, but you're really at this transition where you're growing up not only as a person but as an artist. How is some of that work in Rapid City sort of still influencing you? The music scene there and creating you as the artist that you are becoming?

Rowan Grace:
So I started off in Rapid doing national anthems everywhere. I did them at Rush games and different baseball games and just a bunch of places, wherever they would take me to be honest. And that started putting myself out there in terms of performance because I hadn't had a lot of performance under my belt. Then of course I got into musicals and theater like that. And so theater helped me learn some of that stage presence and that performance aspect of it. But I think when I was 12, I started writing songs and I remember when I was 13 or 12, I performed my first original song for the very first time for in front of other people at an open mic. And from that point on, a lot of people liked what they were hearing and it was really encouraging as a young almost teenager to be like, "Oh, you like my music? Okay, I'm going to keep doing it."

And then I continued to write from there on. And then last year I was in a band and I performed all around Rapid, all summer and had a bunch of different places, different bars, different venues and stuff like that. And that was super amazing too. The music scene was super welcoming to my band who had just, it moved to the top really quick and it was really exciting and I was performing every weekend. And I feel like the music scene here has been super helpful to me as my growth and super accepting to me. Which I've been very grateful for because I think it helped me step into my own artist and become my own person. And become confident in the things that I was performing and writing and all of that stuff.

Lori Walsh:
Yeah. You won't forget us.

Rowan Grace:
No, I will not.

Lori Walsh:
So as I'm watching The Voice I'm hearing, I'm not nervous, I'm excited for you. But I don't have the nerves that you have because you're there, your parents are there, your grandmother's there, everybody's pins and needles. But I hear what they're saying. They're saying things about your tone being interesting and how your expression is not normal. They say for someone your age to have the emotional range that you have and the ability to not only control your nerves, but to express emotions vocally. When they're giving you that feedback, do you even hear what they were saying at all? Or do you have to go back and watch later?

Rowan Grace:
I honestly, I went back and I was like, "I cannot believe," I think in the moment when they were saying that to me, I was just in utter shock to be honest. Just even that I was on that stage, it was insane. And so the fact that they were saying those kind words to me and they were really meaningful and talking about my voice in such a positive way. And John Legend saying, "I'm not normal." That's the hugest compliment ever.

Lori Walsh:
Exactly, exactly. And that whatever happens next, nobody can take that away from you. That's all sort of baked into your story now. Give us some behind the scenes information that you can tell us. What surprised you about the process of filming this or the battle round, or something that you say, "I did not expect that," that you're allowed to share.

Rowan Grace:
Yeah. So one thing I didn't expect about the battle rounds is that I think when you watch it on TV, you see how they sing together and how it seems pretty even and that kind of stuff. And you kind of think, "Oh, they must just tell them what to sing." But that is so far from the truth. My battle partner and I worked really hard and we were the ones that divided it up evenly. Figured out how we wanted to sing it.

There were people there to guide us and help us, make sure that it was going good, but really it was up to me and her. And that was actually something that I ended up being really proud of. Proud of both of us were doing, because at the time I was 16 and she's 17, and we're both these young artist that were given this task to put together this song to put on this big stage. And it was like a big task, but I think we did really well and made it so we could both showcase our voices evenly. And that it was fair and I was really grateful for that as well.

Lori Walsh:
I thought so too. And there was a friendship there and a mutual support and you're each other's fans and that was really healthy and wonderful to see. So I'm glad to know that behind the scenes that was your doing and Jillian's doing as well. All right, Rowan Grace, we are of course 100% behind you in South Dakota. So we'll be watching The Voice on Monday and Tuesday nights on NBC when you can see that we're going to close the show with Rowan's, Best of me. Rowan Grace, thank you so much for being here with us. We really appreciate your time and care.

Rowan Grace:
Thank You so much for having me.

Lori Walsh:
Good luck.

Rowan Grace:
Thank you.

Lori Walsh:
That is our show for today, we hope that it served you. In the next In the Moment, Michael Flynn's, Holy War. It's a new project between Frontline and the Associated Press. We're also going to talk with Jeremy Hobson about a new national call-in show called The Middle. From all of us at South Dakota Public Broadcasting, I'm Lori Walsh. Thanks for listening. Here's Rowan Grace.

Rowan Grace:
(Singing)

Carl Norquist is a producer and writer for In the Moment. An EMMY-winning producer, Carl previously worked for KTIV News 4 in Sioux City, IA. Carl is a Minnesota native and graduate of Augustana University with majors in Art and English.
Lori Walsh is the host and senior producer of In the Moment.