Having spent a lifetime steeped in diverse musical traditions, Leela and Ellie Grace have created a soaring sound and bright presence all their own. Leela and Ellie are singers, multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, and percussive dancers who grew up traveling across North America performing with their parents as The Grace Family. As young women, they flew the nest of the family band and continued making a name for themselves around the country as a duo, in addition to offering solo appearances and touring with nationally-known bands. Leela (banjo, guitar) and Ellie (mandolin, guitar, fiddle, ukulele) have been acclaimed by audiences and fellow musicians alike for their powerful voices, close sisterly harmonies, warm stage presence, and driving old-time instrumentals.
Leela and Ellie’s music has a strong grounding in traditional American and Old-time string band styles, but crosses over into the contemporary folk realm, including their own compelling original songs. They recorded three albums with the Grace Family (in addition to doing studio work with other musicians) and have released two recordings as a duo. The sisters have performed at prestigious venues across the United States and Canada, ranging from the Winnipeg Folk Festival to the Lincoln Center in New York City to the Summer Solstice Festival in Los Angeles to the National Women’s Music Festival in Madison.
In 2003, they released their self-titled debut duo CD, which was acclaimed by folk critics and fans and received widespread radio play on folk radio stations across the country. In his review in Sing Out! Rich Warren said, “Leela and Ellie Grace soar off this disc like a breath of fresh air in the smoky atmosphere of singer-songwriters. This lively recording, exquisitely produced by Pete Sutherland, is truly a joy to behold. . . If you’re hesitant to take a chance on new artists, rest assured this CD will leave you in a state of grace.”
2006 saw Ellie relocating to the musical mecca of Asheville, North Carolina and touring with the Dirk Powell Band. 2007 was spent recording a new duo CD in the midst of a move to Portland, Oregon by Leela. Leela and Ellie released their highly-anticipated new CD, Where the Waters Run, at the beginning of 2008 and continued meeting in Portland, Oregon, Asheville, North Carolina, and everywhere in between to make beautiful music together in the following years.
Between 2007 and 2015, Leela built a thriving community of hundreds and hundreds of harmony singers, banjo players, and cloggers in Portland, OR through her celebrated teaching. She continued performing across the country as a solo artist, with Ellie, and in collaboration with many wonderful Northwestern musicians. While continuing to tour with Leela, Ellie formed the all-female, old-time trio Blue Eyed Girl and began a fruitful songwriting partnership with writer Brian Claflin. In 2013, she left her teaching, music and dance collaborations, and beloved community in the mountains of North Carolina when she was accepted into the prestigious Master of Fine Arts in Dance program at Smith College in Northampton, MA. While joyfully pursuing her studies, Ellie spent two years sharing her passion for percussive and social dance as a Teaching Fellow in the Five College Dance Department. In 2015, Ellie received her MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography and went on to teach at Mount Holyoke College as a Visiting Artist in Dance in 2016.
A recipe for Leela and Ellie Grace:
2 cups of spine-tingling, sister harmonies
1 cup of sweet songwriting
½ cup of groovin’ old-time instruments
¼ cup of rockin’, high energy
2 tablespoons of percussive dance
1 teaspoon of quirky humor
A dash of Midwestern charm
Heart to taste