Good things are worth waiting for, and Grace Rolland knows this more than most.
Rolland began her music career back in 2010 with the Tucson Americana band Run Boy Run, which won many accolades over the years including multiple appearances on A Prairie Home Companion. But with her solo project, Rising Sun Daughter, Rolland let patience be her guide over half a decade toward this moment, the release of her debut EP, I See Jane.
“Rising Sun Daughter really came in the height of Run Boy Run’s activity,” says Rolland. “There were songs that I was writing that didn’t match the instrumentation we were working with. The treatments had to be different, as well as the energy. It just kind of became my home place, to meditate and write without thinking about application.”
Rising Sun Daughter made its live debut in 2013 and 2014. As Rolland and her new musicians played shows in between Run Boy Run dates, getting comfortable with a new form of personal expression, they carefully laid the groundwork for what would become her record. And as the time came to put the EP together, Rolland knew she would need some collaborative insight.
“I approached a producer from Tucson, Ryan Alfred. He’s a great bass player and a great producer, and has his own project called Sweet Ghosts. He really heard the music and was able to work alongside me. It was a whole different avenue for me as an artist. I’m very comfortable with the live setting and performance. It took a moment for me to conceptualize the difference between live music and the type of opportunities you have on a record.”
Rolland’s history in both Run Boy Run and Rising Sun Daughter’s formative years shows an artist who prioritizes performance. Last month, Run Boy Run played the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix, showcasing top-notch technical chops and performative prowess. But writing a vocal-forward pop hook is another thing entirely, and writing I See Jane challenged Rolland to try a new path.
“For the better part of a year, I was just going down to Tucson to record, to rehearse ... It stretched over almost a whole year since I was also on the road with Run Boy Run. The process also allowed me to put the project in someone else’s hands. The act of trust and collaboration with Ryan allowed it to go beyond where I could get it myself. That has been a huge takeaway for me as an artist.”
Another change for Rolland in the recording process was her own place at the reins. Unlike the band-oriented recording sessions for Run Boy Run, here, studio musicians had been brought in for her vision alone. This drastically changed the flow of capture and creation.
“I found it to be very new,” Rolland says, “to think more broadly in the musical palette of what’s available, when you’re dealing with studio constraints like time and players. I had my backlog of what I had heard and envisioned, but then I wanted to give freedom to re-envision.”
Rolland’s approach to recording runs in opposition to the modern landscape she operates within, where barriers to entry are lower than ever, sometimes at the cost of quality. With her, everything is meticulous. Each bead of sweat on the record is perfectly spent, as is every thought she’s given it over the two years since recording.
“I’ve adjusted myself to knowing the material differently than I did,” Rolland says. “These were very potent love songs and I was dealing with breakups and finding myself as a performer. I shelved the record in part because I thought it was so beautiful and I was so proud of what we did. Especially in that time where I was so immersed in a band project. This was my first project where I had a lot of heart and soul behind, and I didn’t believe I had the personal capacity to release it then.”
But time has passed, and with it comes new opportunity and new appreciation for a great song, amid and beyond its context. “I’m just learning about this now, but I am starting to feel the craftsmanship that we experience,” Rolland says. “Good music is worth something.”
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.