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EleanorGrace is "keeping them on their toes"

EleanorGrace sits in IPR's Studio One with her bandmates for a live taping.
Lucius Pham
IPR Studio One
EleanorGraces' debut full length album came out in September.

EleanorGrace, an 18-year-old songwriter from Des Moines, goes in a brand-new direction on her first full-length record.

EleanorGrace didn’t set out to make a record at all, let alone a country record. It just sort of turned out that way.

“The first song that I wrote for the record was ‘Butterflies,’ and I wrote it without the intention of making a record,” said Eleanor, who lives in Des Moines. “I was 14, and I don’t remember why I wrote it. I just remember feeling like a country song was the best way of expressing what I was feeling.”

It was when she was recording at Golden Bear Studios with Bryan Vanderpool that a country album started to take shape.

“I started playing these songs, and he said, ‘You know, this would make a good country song,’” said Eleanor. “I said to him, ‘Well I have this one, and I wrote this one when I was 14,’ and we just kept going. It seemed like country was the thing to do, and now I’m in love with it.”

Together, these songs make up “Dream About A Cowboy,” the first full-length album from the now 18-year-old EleanorGrace. The overall sound of the record is a significant departure from earlier tracks such as “Lighthouse,” Eleanor’s first single that has over a million listens on Spotify. She found inspiration in somewhat unconventional places, especially during the “stay at home” period of the pandemic.

“I got super into the TV show ‘Westworld.’ The first season, where it’s all ‘Westerny,’” she explained. “I started having these black-and-white Western dreams, and I decided to write a song about it. That turned into ‘Dream About A Cowboy,' the album’s title track."

Eleanor also cited the novel “Outlawed,” by author and Iowa Writers Workshop graduate Anna North, as an influence on the record. “Just reading that, and hearing those stories, was super fascinating,” said Eleanor.

Many of the songs on “Dream About A Cowboy” are a combination of storytelling and Eleanor’s own experiences. “The stories are definitely rooted in reality, but the songwriting takes them to a place that’s a little imaginative.”

Eleanor specifically mentions “Butterflies” as a song that basically contains “no truth.”

“It’s an outlet for a lot of 14-year-old anger at the time,” said Eleanor. By contrast, “Outlaw” is based on an actual conversation she had with her mother.

“It makes her cry every time she listens to it,” said Eleanor. “I was sitting outside on our porch with her, and we were having a fairly deep conversation. And I said ‘I want to quit my job and fake my death,’ which is not something that a parent wants to hear, ever. I ended up going to grab my guitar, and wrote ‘Outlaw’ within the next 10 minutes. It’s pretty sad, but I love it.”

Now that “Dream About A Cowboy” is out, EleanorGrace is back to writing more songs and playing shows. And despite all of the references to “going west” on her new record, she’ll be staying in Des Moines this fall, taking classes online from the Berklee College of Music.

“Keepin’ ‘em on their toes,” said Eleanor.

“Dream About A Cowboy” is available now on major streaming services.

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host