Grace Stubbings

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Course Studied: BA (Hons) Music Production

Year of Graduation: 2019

Top Career Achievements:

  • Being part of 5-piece female rock band VENUS GRRRLS and getting signed to Monomyth Records
  • Partaking in the CoMusica Exchange programme at the Sage Gateshead, shadowing a range of workshops across the North East, with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Becoming a Creative Assistant for Changing Relations, an organisation created to give people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to be creative

Grace works as a freelancer in a variety of music industry roles, including as a keyboardist, workshop facilitator, creative assistant and researcher.

Alongside performing with VENUS GRRRLS, Grace has completed two Brighter Sound residencies, and now works as a Creative Assistant for Changing Relations, in addition to freelance work.

You're part of 5-piece all-female rock band VENUS GRRRLS, how did the band form?

We formed whilst we were studying at Leeds Conservatoire. I lived with Grace Kelly who is the frontwoman - we met on our first day at Joseph Stones House. I was in a punk band at that point, an all-girl riot band, but that dissolved when we all moved away to study. Grace suggested we should make a band, and in our second year she put a call-out for musicians to see if anyone was interested, and quite a few people were. Eventually, we found the right line up, made up of all-female Pop and Production students! It took a while for us to get to know each other and start writing together, then we started gigging, and went from there.

You found success quite early on, from being signed to Monomyth Records, to being supported by BBC Introducing - what's next for you as a band?

We've just got a booking agent which is pretty exciting, as Grace and I would sort out all the bookings before, and that was a big job to have to do alongside my own work. He books all our gigs and festivals, it's great! It's the same with press - we're starting to expand our team a little to help with publicity and press enquiries. That being said, we're still very independent and do a lot ourselves, and mostly, we're just really excited to get back to playing live shows again, and we're planning for a tour in November.

With live gigs on hold, we've been really targeting radios and online platforms, especially BBC Introducing, BBC Radio 6 and Radio 1. It's been fantastic to tick off these goals and reach new audiences, especially when things have felt like they've been at a bit of a standstill. I found out yesterday that we got played on Sirius XM in New York, and things like that build up and allow people to find our music which is really exciting.

Many bands/artists are very keen to be signed by a record label - having been signed to a label, how has your experience as a band been?

We managed to get signed before our first release, after gigging for nearly a year, as we decided to build up an audience before we released anything, kind of how they used to do back in the day. Then we were approached by the head of the label who said he'd been keeping up with what we'd been doing and wanted to sign us!

It was so helpful to be signed at that point, and it really helped us with all the details when planning gigs - things like distributing tickets, organising the backline, all of that sort of stuff. There have been times when our car has broken down, or shows have been difficult to get to, and our label has been able to sort us out with travel, these are things you wouldn't think but are a massive help! That extra support, especially when you're an independent band can be really great, and it allows you to focus on the important stuff which is the music. 

That being said, I understand that there are bands that don't need a label, especially in this current climate where you can release music independently and upload it online, but it is a huge help, especially when it comes to releasing, touring and networking.


You were initially a classical pianist, what led you to study on the BA (Hons) Music Production programme?

I'd done my ABRSM exam grades growing up, but around age 14, I started getting really into experimental music. My parents were both punk rockers when they were younger - or I guess they still are, but they used to take me to gigs and shows all the time, so I was really into a diverse range of music from an early age. Then I started getting into artists like Björk and Grimes, and I realised they were making music that I was really interested in. I started to question music theory at quite a young age, I just didn't understand the "rules" of classical music, and I thought there was so much more to music than just rules.

Seeing artists like Grimes and the equipment they were using inspired me, so I used Audacity on my dad's laptop to experiment with sounds, and it went from there. I learned more about music production at college, then I became aware of Leeds Conservatoire and I decided to apply for the production course.

What's the most interesting thing you learned during your time at Leeds Conservatoire?

There were so many interesting things I learned during the three years there, but a time that stands out to me was the 'Free Improvisation' module in third year. The students on that module were mainly jazz students, and I came in with my synth, but it was the first time I'd done a module like that! It was nice to mix and play with students from other programmes, and it really opened my mind to experimental music and improvisation.

Another time was the 'Both Sides Now' residency with Brighter Sound - it was five days of workshops based on deep listening and improvising, and again, that really opened my mind. Being from Hartlepool, I've never had access to these kinds of opportunities growing up, so to be able to be involved in a project like this really inspired me.

Whilst you were studying at Leeds Conservatoire, you worked in a number of internal roles, such as being a Digimentor, AV Technician, and Workshop Facilitator. How did these roles prepare you for a career in music?

I worked for a while as a Workshop Facilitator - that came from completing the 'Music in the Community' module. They asked me, with another production student, to help organise and run workshops. It gave me hands-on experience in community music and workshops, and in particular, working with young people and foster families.

I also worked as a Digimentor and a Student Ambassador. These roles helped me become more confident and comfortable talking to people, which has helped when it comes to networking at events, and being in the music industry in general, and I've been able to transfer these skills into various different projects and roles.

Now you're working as a Creative Assistant for Changing Relations, can you tell us a little bit about Changing Relations and what they advocate for?

I work for Changing Relations alongside a bunch of different freelance stuff, so it's nice and varied. Changing Relations are based in County Durham, and they use the arts to strive towards gender equality and supporting those who are victims of domestic abuse. They have an array of different projects going on, but the main aim is to be involved with the community and create projects with them. It's a super varied role, from facilitating workshops to admin and networking with communities, and it's great to be able to meet so many people, especially as a freelancer.


You've done a couple of residencies with Brighter Sound. What were your experiences like, and what did you learn?

I loved the residencies! I did one with Anna Meredith in Newcastle, and one in Leeds with Shiva Feshareki. It was the first residency I'd ever done, and it was mad to think you could just go off for a week to network and make music with people. It gave me so many opportunities too, like working with some of the people I met and getting to perform. They were so varied, and it was great to learn some new skills and meet people. I definitely want to do more residencies.

You've also worked as a Researcher for Youth Music alongside other voluntary roles and internships - why do you think it's important for young people in music to have access to these creative platforms?

I'm massively passionate about accessibility within music, I think because of my experiences of where I grew up. Music and Arts are so underfunded, and I have witnessed first hand some of the ways music can impact your life, especially things like music therapy and community music. 

I was on the CoMusica Exchange programme at the Sage Gateshead after I graduated, and I had the opportunity to shadow a range of different workshops across the North East, with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Being able to meet a range of different people and make music together was so eye-opening, and it makes me frustrated that there are barriers in place. You don't have to be a musician to make music, and you don't have to be an artist to make art. Everyone can be creative, and should be allowed to express themselves through the arts, that's why I feel like these platforms are so good, as they bring people together who might not normally be able to learn music. It allows people to express themselves without barriers in place. 

Having gained experience in a large range of industry roles, do you have any advice for people who might want to study at Leeds Conservatoire?

I think it's best to go in with an open mind, and if there's modules you feel might make you uncomfortable, maybe you should do it! It's a really good time to meet new people and put yourself in situations you wouldn't normally have access to. How often would you normally have access to professional studios and spaces without having to pay lots of money? Make the most of it while you have it. Make the most of the community and networking - talk to everyone and you'll see it pay off. As soon as you can when you get here, start talking to people and meeting people. 

Visit VENUS GRRRLS' website

Read about our BA (Hons) Music Production programme

Find out more about what our graduates have been up to in our Alumni Profiles

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