BOSTON — The Armenians and the Irish perhaps don’t have all that much in common. But what comes to mind when either nationality is mentioned is a long history of culture and struggle, and a love for music and singing.
So it’s no surprise to meet an Armenian-Irish-American girl with the musical magic of both peoples and an inclination for the jazz, blues, soul, funk, pop, and rock’n’roll of her birthplace, the US.
Molly Grace Zeytoonian, who goes by the stage name Molly Grace, is a talented singer-songwriter new to the music scene – in fact, she’s only a freshman in college – whose fresh, optimistic tunes and beautiful, soulful voice is sure to catch some attention.
Born and raised in Lexington, Mass., to Armen and Mary Zeytoonian, Molly Grace comes from a family in love with music. Her Irish-American maternal grandfather, Billy Bennis, was a rock’n’roll and doo wop musician in the 1950s and an original member of the band Dickie Doo and The Don’ts. Her paternal grandfather, the late Carl Zeytoonian, was a longtime pillar of the Armenian community as a deacon and in his early years as an oud player and singer with the Orientales Band out of Watertown in the 1950s. Great-Uncle Joe Zeytoonian is an active oudist to this day in South Florida, who, along with his wife, dancer Myriam Eli, has collaborated with the likes of Shakira. Well, with a lineage like that, a music career is almost inevitable.
Molly says her mother sang all the time in the house and she herself always gravitated to music, listening to everything from Armenian music to Country; from Heavy Metal to the Spice Girls. Molly, who has always loved singing, notes that she was blessed to grow up in Lexington, whose public schools have a great arts program. Throughout middle and high school, she participated in choir, an a capella ensemble, musical theatre, improv troupe, and many other musical and performance opportunities. But her love has always been singing. At the age of 10, her parents bought her a guitar and she taught herself to play and started writing her own songs. By high school she was already on her musical journey and knew what she wanted to do in life. But like many young artists she experienced writer’s block. That’s when she started listening to a host of artists which Molly describes as “retro soul” or “neo-soul,” a sort of jazz/funk fusion genre.
The artists that inspired Molly were just barely older than her, and as she says “a lot of them aren’t huge, but they have devoted fan bases.” Artists like Sammy Rae & The Friends, and the bands Lake Street Dive and Lawrence may be unknown to many readers. However, what these artists have in common is that they are very young, seem unconcerned with the traditional music industry and huge commercial success, are influenced by every American roots genre you can imagine, from jazz to country, play their own instruments, write their own songs, and are fronted by mostly female singers who pattern their style after the vocalizations of Soul music.