Dream of Desire
With talent, hard work, and a heavy dose of family and faith, The Voice’s Gracee Shriver is staying true to herself as she pursues country music success.
With her deep, slightly raspy voice and a touch of vibrato, Gracee Shriver has been compared to Tanya Tucker and Dolly Parton. But this 17-year-old, who graced the stage as a contestant on The Voice’s 17th season in 2019, has a style all her own. Wearing her trademark silver sparkle turtleneck, leather shorts, and ankle boots, she sang at the blind auditions, igniting the hearts of the audience and judges, even before they turned around. Throughout the season, Gracee would not only capture the hearts of Oklahoma but the attention of the world.
So how does a teenager from Owasso, Oklahoma, whose dream had always been to sing country music onstage, make it to the blind auditions and be a contender on The Voice? With talent, hard work, and a heavy dose of family and faith.
Ever since Gracee was little, she always had a flair for performing. Like many little girls, she would sing and dance, putting on shows for friends and family.
“For as long as I can remember, every family gathering has been full of jam sessions,” Gracee says. It was her family’s love of music that influenced her when she was younger.
Growing up, she loved listening to country music. Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, and Miranda Lambert were her biggest inspirations.
But it wasn’t until she was 9 years old that her mom, Lacey, noticed her daughter had a gift.
“She was coming into her style of singing, and she started performing in front of other people,” says Lacey, who enrolled her daughter in singing and guitar lessons to nurture her talent. “It just took off from there.”
Gracee started writing songs in first grade and loved performing. By 11 years old, Gracee had a standing music gig Friday nights at Trails End BBQ in Owasso. That’s about the time her mom realized Gracee needed more professional training, so they headed to Nashville and started working with Brett Manning. In Nashville, Gracee met songwriters and began making connections.
“We always tried to encourage her because we knew she had a gift. We went to every Opry house, stage, and venue that would let a little girl come in and sing country music,” says Lacey. “Gracee always knew her family would be sitting through every show no matter how long it was, and we would be rooting her on. It’s easier to do something scary when you have a car full of people so excited to support you and help you if your guitar pops a string or you need help with everyday things that come up.”
Gracee remembers the impact one particular music artist had on her during that time in Nashville. After getting through on a call-in show, she got to talk to and then meet April Kry. While Gracee got to meet a lot of amazing and talented people in Nashville who were making music for a living, Kry was the first person she met whose songs she had heard on the radio.
Gracee says going to Nashville opened her eyes as to how much talent there is in that city. “Everyone in their town considers themselves a guitarist or singer, but when they get to Nashville, they realize, ‘I’m not, because the guy who lives on the other side of the street is way better than me,’” she says. “We would laugh about it because it’s insane how much talent is in that town.”
When Gracee was about 14 years old, things took a turn. Suddenly, people were calling her to sing, and they were willing to pay.
Being able to write songs and perform onstage has been Gracee’s dream for as long as she can remember. “I’ve prayed ever since I was little, that I would be able to be a country music singer,” Gracee says. “God has graciously opened so many doors for me, and I can’t thank him enough.”
One of the things she loves about music is that it has the power to touch people through its story.
“Music brings people together. When I write a song, people are getting to hear a little bit about an experience that I’ve gone through,” Gracee says. “I love the feeling of someone being able to relate to my lyrics.”
But Gracee’s journey to The Voice wasn’t always filled with open doors and praise. When she was 11 years old, she wanted her own YouTube channel. As a mother, Lacey wanted to protect her daughter from the ugly comments and haters. But after watching a Taylor Swift video that got 50,000 thumbs-down, Lacey realized helping her daughter navigate through rejection slowly instead of completely shielding her from it, would benefit her daughter in the long run.
“There were countless talent contests I didn’t get close to winning,” says Gracee. “Many people told me I wasn’t good enough to play on certain stages, and I got numerous comments on how my voice wasn’t their favorite. But I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone, and if you pray, God opens doors even if someone tries to close it.”
“This industry is hard, so faith is a big part of emotional success,” says Lacey. “Some things are just too hard to take on yourself, so you just have to give them
Gracee’s faith kept her knocking on doors until the one at The Voice opened. Although The Voice was a dream come true, the audition process was nerve-wracking and sometimes grueling. Because Gracee was a minor, Lacey was required to stay with her at all times. It took months of living in hotels for Gracee to make it through all the rounds to the blind audition. But they endured and reveled in it all.
“When Gracee made it on the stage, I was so nervous and exhausted,” says Lacey. “Her goal was to get a chair turn. When she got on that stage, there were only two spots left.” Lacey never doubted her daughter. If God had taken her this far, he could take her all the way.
“Although it was scary, I told myself that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I was going to make the most of it. When I stepped on the stage, my nerves kind of went away, and I just really focused on the message of the song,” says Gracee.
She sang “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves. “It’s a message about not giving up,” says Gracee. “Everyone goes through rough times when you feel like it can’t get better or you’re just down in the dumps. That song is about making sure you stay strong and continue because there’s always a rainbow ahead and goodness around the corner as long as you can just work through it.”
In the middle of the song, when the last two coaches with a spot open (Kelly Clarkson and Gwen Stefani) both pressed their buttons and turned around, Gracee was relieved.
“All of my hard work had paid off. It felt like a dream, and it still does,” says Gracee, who started on Team Kelly and ended on Team Blake.
Although it was a tiring experience, even for Gracee’s mom, it was full of excitement.
“I would go back to the hotel and lay down and say, ‘Did that just really happen? Did you just hang out with Taylor Swift? Did you just sing with Kelly Clarkson? Did Blake Shelton just say you belong on the radio?’ The list goes on and on,” says Lacey. “Then we would both laugh and sometimes jump up and down and scream. Definitely a senior year that should go down in the books.”
Even though there were many highs on The Voice, Gracee still had to face disappointment, setbacks, and eliminations.
“After the [Voice] shows, I would see grown adults looking at their social media, sitting in the hallway of the hotel crying because they chose to read the ugly things that people sitting on their couch at home chose to post about them,” says Lacey. “I can honestly say Gracee never shed a tear about that.”
That’s because she had learned to deal with rejection early on, and she found encouragement from her family, faith, and new friends.
Instead of getting discouraged over the rejection, Gracee went to her mom. First, they prayed, then they listed all the good things that had already happened. “I always told her that when God is pouring out his blessing, the devil loves to try to come in and steal joy. So, focus on the 1,000 good comments and not the few bad ones,” says Lacey. “When you focus on the good, you forget about the bad.”
Shelton even encouraged Gracee by telling her that on any given day, he could find a thousand comments on social media saying how he shouldn’t have ever made it. “He told her that everyone in the industry gets negative comments,” says Lacey.
Even though Gracee didn’t win The Voice, she says her experience gave her opportunities that she couldn’t get any other way.
“You go to Nashville, and you work super hard, but no one is going to hand you Kelly Clarkson’s number,” says Gracee. “Just having immediate contact with four coaches that already do this for a living and are already such big names, and getting coached by people [in the industry], not just a teacher, but who you want to be when you grow up, gave me that opportunity.”
Aside from the coaching and connections, The Voice gave Gracee exposure to build her platform.
“You have 11 million people watching [The Voice] all over the world, and even though you have a lot of followers on Facebook, you will never reach 11 million people,” says Lacey. “There are so many talented people who can’t get their name out there because they don’t have an avenue to do that.”
Since The Voice, Gracee has been busier than ever with gigs every weekend, including the halftime show at an Oklahoma City Thunder game and doing a show for Shelton and Clarkson in Vegas this summer. Gracee also released her first single a few months ago called “Meant to Be,” and her second single “Game Over” released in March.
Although she plans on making music her full-time career, she believes backup plans are essential. “I am planning to attend Belmont University in Nashville for college to get a degree in music business, but I will continue grinding until I make my dreams a reality.”
Perhaps the most valuable lessons Gracee learned on The Voice is the one she will carry with her for the rest of her life.
“There will always be those people who tell you that you won’t succeed, and you will always have people who are better than you, but that shouldn’t stop you,” says Gracee. “I’ve made it my goal to do what I love, stay true to myself, and not let negativity get in my way. I learned always to be myself. I always compared myself to others when it came to singing because I couldn’t hit the highest notes or do the most runs. After the show, I realized that we are all unique in our own way, and the only way I will make it in the music industry is if I am confident and stay true to myself.”
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