City Arts: Sex, Love and Soul Food

Over the course of 2015, Grace Love exploded onto the Seattle music scene, leading her band the True Loves from out of the soul-music underground and onto the city’s biggest festival stages. Fresh off the vinyl release of their debut, eponymous album, Love is launching her first musical, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Soul, with two shows at Vera Project this Saturday night. The one-woman show is basically Love’s biography set to music, exploring her journey through homelessness, the loss of her mother Nadine and her early career as a vocalist. Love plans to funnel the proceeds into her ongoing soul-food/community outreach project, Nadine’s Café. We spoke to her over the phone late last week as she ran in between rehearsals.

Have you done something like this one-woman show before?
No, this has been a work in progress for 10 years. It started out as a story and the story developed characters. Then the characters developed a dialogue. It was a stage play and a screenplay and everything in between. For some reason, I couldn’t find the right dedicated minds to donate their time so I put it in the back corner.

What revived the idea?
My trade is cooking; I’ve been in the food and beverage industry for a long time. Recently I decided I wanted to start a food cart. But I really need to make a large amount of money in order to facilitate this dream. Then a light bulb went off: I thought I could revive this musical that I’ve been trying to do for a long time [to raise the funds]. So I thought, fine, I’m going to take these 30 pages and make a one-woman show, with a choir and a backing band.

Do you have previous experience with theatre?
That was my secondary major in college, so yeah. And I was drama kid for four years in high school.

What do you hope to express with it?
It’s a coming of age story. The main part is that I lost my mom—suddenly. I’m just telling people my story, how and why I work the way I work.

Is it scary to put all that personal material out there?
It is, but for me, since I’ve been holding onto it for 10 years I’m excited just to let it go. I’m excited to be like, I don’t have to feel this way anymore. I’m done with feeling this way, you know? And I’ve been so, so so happy, to, every time we work through it, say, “OK, I’m that much closer to just letting this part of my life go.” I’m starting this new chapter of who I am. 

You’re backed by a choir in the show, a group you call the Dirty Dozen. How’d you choose them?
I just posted on Facebook, literally. I just asked if anyone was interested and there were 40 people who [responded.] Then it was all about trying to coordinate. That was back in November. Then there were 12 solid people I could count on showing up every week for the last few months. They’ve been involved and invested and they’re happy to help me raise this money. They work harder than anybody I’ve ever met in my entire life. They’re just a group of characters and we all have too much fun together.

Tell me about Nadine’s Café. You’ve been doing pop-up kitchens for a while, right?
I have had pop-up kitchens for the last year and a half. I was using Pike Place Market’s atrium kitchen and cooking private dinners.

So you decided to raise money with the show and find a more permanent location for Nadine’s?
Yeah. Right now, there’s a couple of locations where the [pop-up] could be. I’m really excited to share that news but I can’t do it until the papers are signed. It’s going to be an amazing spot when it all works out—hopefully in the next six months. There’s still a lot more money to raise!

Is Nadine’s Café representative of something you saw missing here in the Pacific Northwest?
Well, there are lots of places in town that say they do “soul food” and it pisses me off. There’s good food out here, don’t get me wrong, and we have a collective whirlwind of food, but there’s not true soul food out here. That’s the one thing I want to bring from my childhood and introduce people to flavors and things that they thought they would never want to eat.

Will it be all soul food? Where’d you learn about cooking?
Yeah, it’ll be my versions of stuff I grew up with. Typical staples, but my papa was a food truck guy before this whole food truck craze happened. He had a grill called Big Mama—a 100-gallon drum—and once a month we’re going to have ribs. Just so people can taste Memphis and Mississippi barbeque how it’s supposed to be. 

Will there be healthy stuff?
When people think of soul food they don’t think it’s healthy. But people I’ve either dated or am friends with, they’re vegan or vegetarian and it’s hard to do if you want soul food, but I’ve learned how to make jerk tofu and it’s pretty incredible.

Will you be the only cook? Or will you have a staff?
Well, for the first year I’m going to be a little OCD about everything—in a good way. But, I don’t want to be in my restaurant. [Eventually,] I want to work with at-risk youth and teach them how to cook.

So there’s an ultimate community service goal.
Nadine’s Café is going to be a catalyst for my nonprofit Nadine’s House, which is going to be dealing with at-risk youth that need to learn a skill. Basically, I’m going to be going to alternative high schools and LGBT community centers and finding the kids that are not given the proper opportunity and chance to do their art. Then, [I’ll connect them] with my friends in the community so the kids can shadow them. I have friends who are photographers, fashion designers, filmmakers. So, my goal is to encourage them [to explore their art] and also put money in their pockets.

Sex, Drugs, Rock & Soul runs at the Vera Project at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27. Proceeds go toward the creation of Grace Love’s soul food restaurant and community outreach center Nadine’s Café. Buy tickets here. 

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