Grace Weber

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"Gospel music was really important to me growing up," she explains. "It's the reason I love singing." In fact, it was a gospel choir that set Weber on her remarkable journey from the suburbs of Milwaukee to the national spotlight, performing on some of the world's most revered stages and on television in front of millions.

"I have no memory of not singing," says Weber, who grew up listening to everything form Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn to Aretha Franklin and India.Arie. "It was always a part of my life. I sang in different concert and classical music choirs growing up, and they were fantastic, but when I was twelve I joined a gospel choir in the inner city, and that was when I discovered the amazing soul scene in Milwaukee."

Tutored in the music through total immersion, Weber developed her smoldering, soulful voice into a singular powerhouse that belied her young age, earning a spot performing on the famed "Showtime At The Apollo" in Harlem by the time she was in her early teens. At 17, she was selected out of 7,000 applicants to become a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and at the age of 18 found herself performing at historic venues like The Kennedy Center and the Ziegfeld Theater. Weber was invited to meet the President, appeared on The Today Show, and in 2010, after relocating from Milwaukee to NYC, a performance of "Natural Woman" she'd uploaded to YouTube won her the chance of a lifetime to perform on the final season of Oprah.

Her new album, 'The Refinery,' blends smoky, retro, rootsy soul with elements of modern rock and electronic percussion across its eleven original tracks. "When I was touring with my band from Milwaukee to SXSW, we were talking about things that are soulful and describing them as 'oily,'" explains Weber. "For something to be really soulful and deep, it has to be dirty and gritty and real. Anytime we heard something soulful we'd say it's oily, just dripping with soul and raw and dirty and nasty. Then we passed this huge refinery and said that the most soulful thing would be a refinery.

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