Molly Grace Zeytoonian

Molly Grace Zeytoonian Is Making New Music With Plenty of Heart and Soul

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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.

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Molly Grace knew she wanted to be a part of this scene as soon as she heard the music. The positive yet soulful vibe carries more meaning than most trivial pop music on the radio. The jazzy influences are something that attracts people who are true musicians, and not just those who are “trying to make it big.” So as soon as Molly graduated high school (i.e., last year) she headed for the musical Mecca of the country — Nashville — where she enrolled in Belmont University as a commercial voice major. What is a commercial voice major? It’s a music major focusing on singing in all styles but classical. Aspiring jazz, soul, country, rock, and pop musicians can learn how to hone their vocal talents without having to vocalize like an opera singer.

Molly Grace’s dream is to become a musician and make a living doing it. She writes all her own material and performs it, inspired by elements of soul, jazz, funk, and pop. Some people call it Neo-Soul or Retro-Soul, but perhaps it’s best to look to jazz legend Duke Ellington’s definition: “there are two kinds of music, good music, and the other kind.” When she got to Belmont, Molly wrote a song called “Sunday Dinner.” It was an epiphany. “I said, ‘this is me’.” She felt she was finding her voice after the writer’s block of her high school years.

How does she go about writing? “It kind of depends,” she says. “Some say good songwriters write every single day. But I write when inspiration strikes. The chord progression usually comes first. Usually I write about my life.”

Her environment is helpful too: “Belmont University is largely a music school. Some of my best friends are songwriters, so we get to workshop each other’s songs.”

Her first single, now available on all streaming services, is entitled “Here I Am.” “It’s a very empowering song, a fun song. It’s a breakup song but it’s not negative.” Molly’s affirmation that women can be tough as nails and still emotional is sure to resonate with many young female listeners. And even better, she spins it as someone not to worry about, rather than bemoaning unfortunate circumstances. Her positivity is sure to help young people get over issues that they face and in the words of her song, be “on to the next endeavor.”

As for the future, Molly is planning on releasing more music this year, probably another single and then an EP. She also envisions a future for herself in music promotion if she needs a more business-oriented side to her career in order to pay the bills. “I love Nashville, and I enjoy doing the marketing and promo for my own music.”

Just what keeps her going in such a tough business? “People reached out to me and they said ‘your song makes me feel energized.’ Stuff like that makes me happy. There’s a meaning that connects with people….I describe my music as very conversational. And I love that connection…these are songs about my life so it’s like, sharing my experience and having it connect with someone I don’t know.” And as to why she ultimately chose this career: “Writing songs is so helpful with understanding my own feelings. It’s my language. I couldn’t imagine going a week without singing, even if I had a sore throat. I feel the most true and best version of myself when I’m on stage. I feel just true to myself when I’m singing and performing. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Molly Grace is a young lady who simply radiates with positivity. If she succeeds in her aspirations, it will most certainly be due not only to her jazzy compositions and beautiful voice, but also to her rare ability to transmit to her audiences that “best feeling in the world” which is at the heart of all great music.

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