Muddy Creek Muse: Molly Grace

BY TYLER NAIL, special guest writer for Muddy Creek Muse


The name Molly is from the Gaelic Maili, which is a pet form of Mary. The name Mary means “rebellion” or “bitter.” Add Grace on the end and the result truly is Molly Grace – a strong, charismatic woman with a passion for the empowerment of people. She’s a graceful rebel – a beautiful bitterness too striking not to listen to.

Molly is a traveled artist of many disciplines. She’s been a punk rocker in Pennsylvania, a painter in New York, a stage actress in Pittsburgh, and more recently an entrepreneur and songwriter in Winston-Salem. Molly is a mother and creator with a passion for challenging the dispositions of society that ought to be improved upon or discarded, best she can tell. One avenue she uses to accomplish this is songwriting. This is what enticed me to start playing with her. There was something intoxicating the first time I saw Molly perform solo, commanding her songs to the audience with conviction and poise. Hearing her didn’t feel like enough. As Molly tends to do, she inspired me to want to participate in the perspective that she was putting forth. Thus, we formed Grace and Nails.

The songs aren’t protest songs, nor are they overt activist creeds – they’re just songs. They happen to express the perspectives of two authors whose writings reflect themes of humanism and the complexities therein. These perspectives aren’t born from ideology, but rather from the contexts of our own lives and experiences. Molly wrote a song called, “There You Go,” in which she describes the struggles of growing up with the existential dilemma that we all face concerning how to find value within ourselves – in relationships, in getting older, and in being admired. In a call-and-response last verse, Molly and I sing to each other, “And when you say that I grew strong, you know I grew much smaller. And normal folks can lift you up, or they can make you wallow. And still you hope that they will say that she is one to follow. And still you hope that they will say, ‘what a lady, what a man.’

Imagery and storytelling are traditional staples within the Grace and Nails writing. In a song I wrote for the duo, Cussing at a Neon Sign, Molly and I go back and forth in describing a story of children growing up in a bucolic portrait of retro America. “Will you tell me ’bout the time a pair of kids were running ’round an apple farm, smoking Daddy’s cigarettes and hiding Mama’s garden gloves underneath their arms. And that night you parked a car and listened to the radio by the trestle bridge, and whispered I don’t want to go to Sunday school tomorrow, and kissing on the lips.”

Ironically, if one of us more embodied the Nails designation of the duo name, it would likely be Molly Grace. Molly pounds the songs into the room with forcefulness and sternness. The essence of her persona is detectably born from the same place as Molly’s passion for the empowerment of people. Molly is the awe-inspiring personification of what makes creativity and language so valuable to our collective cultural wealth.

Molly and I will be performing as Grace and Nails on Friday, January 27th, at Muddy Creek Music Hall with Cashavelly Morrison.