By Kelci McKendrick
Grace Babb remembers all the moments she makes a room full of people pay attention to her through her radiant voice and the melodic strums of her guitar.
Grace began playing the guitar at 14, a year after her twin sister Sophia started playing, following their father’s suicide. Although this is not a moment she remembers as a crowded room, she remembers it as one that changed her life in the music industry.
Before, Grace had her entire life planned in the opposite direction she would go in. Afterward, her life flipped upside-down.
“It changed everything,” Grace said. “I was going to go to a Catholic high school, and I had it all planned out — I was going to be a cheerleader. I had all my friends going with me, and I was probably going to be super preppy. Then he died, and I was awoken into conscious reality, which is like, ‘Oh shit, I’m mortal. Anyone I know could die, and one of them just did.’”
Grace said she would not have pursued her life in music if she had never come to the realization that life is short, and silly things don’t matter in comparison to death.
As the youngest of 12 siblings, Grace and Sophia found comfort in music together.
“It was hard for us both to handle it, but when we started playing music, we both kind of got on the same level in terms of recovering from grief,” Sophia said.
The twins had a lot of extra emotions and creative energy lounging around, so they plugged it all into music as a sort of therapy tool to express their feelings of grief.
An inseparable duo, Grace and Sophia formed a band together called “Grace and Sophia” in 2013. The name changed to “Annie Oakley” when their violinist and longtime best friend Nia Personette joined.
Seven years later, Annie Oakley is on the verge of breaking out of being local. Annie Oakley is where Grace can focus her energy to doing something that matters to her. As a guitarist and singer, she’s embracing everything that comes with the band — including its first full-length album.
Annie Oakley is releasing “Words We Mean” on Oct. 12. Grace said she believes this album is what will take the band further into the music industry. She said the band put in five years worth of stories into their first album, choosing 12 songs the band played continuously for over a year.
“We’re always writing new songs, but these have been ones that we keep around in our sets, so we figured we might as well just record them, and I think they’re solid,” Grace said. “We wanted something we were proud of.”
Last year, Annie Oakley got to play in the Plaza District Festival in Oklahoma City where Grace met Spenser Powers.
Powers introduced himself to Grace through Instagram before the festival, asking her to come watch his show. She said she would only if he watched hers. That’s where their love story began.
Grace and Powers began playing music together, and when her sister, an Oklahoma City University mass communications senior, interned over the summer in Washington, D.C., Grace said she couldn’t not play music for that long. She formed the band Spinster with Powers and other friends of theirs.
Sophia is now studying abroad in Germany, which is something she’s grateful for. The once inseparable twins are now forming their own identities away from each other, and Grace gets to express herself how she wants to with Spinster whereas she didn’t have as much freedom in Annie Oakley.
Spinster is very different from Annie Oakley, which is more of a collaborative effort with Sophia and Personette. As the leader of Spinster, Grace gets to be more of a performer and do her own songs.
“Spinster is her band, so she’s all business and writes all the songs, comes up with the vision and does everything like that,” Powers said. “That’s her baby.”
Grace enjoys the songs and music she plays in Spinster and finds them fun, but she likes the stories in and the intimacy of the crowd with Annie Oakley.
Spinster does, however, allow Grace to put her heart and emotions into her songs — some of which were about Powers.
“When I write a song, it’s what I want to say to them and how I feel or how they made me feel,” Grace said. “I’ve written my most intimate songs by thinking that way, and I play them, and I just feel like that’s being honest — this is how I really think about things.”
Grace and Powers broke up for more reasons than one, but it was mutual in the end. Powers said he didn’t want to stop her from doing what she wants and being “the one of the best songwriters in Oklahoma City.”
One of Grace’s songs about Powers is what led to Powers actually leaving Spinster on Oct. 8. Powers said he and Grace fought after Grace sang a song called “Yellow” that was about him.
I want to tell you to shut your mouth
Circumvent the moment you might fuck it up
I’m not your mother
I’m not your shrink
These words made Powers feel worthless.
“I can’t play those songs,” Powers said to Grace. “I’m not going to stop you from playing those songs, but I can’t do it.”
This, however, is what comes with being a songwriter — wearing your heart on your sleeve, Grace said.
Although Powers is heartbroken over losing Grace as a lover and a bandmate, he still said only the best things possible about her. In fact, he couldn’t find enough words to describe her “perfection.”
“I just can’t say enough good things about Grace,” Power said.
Grace remembers moments — all the moments she spent with Annie Oakley writing songs, losing her father and balancing music with everything else. Most importantly, though, is she revels in silence in the moments she captivates audiences.
Annie Oakley has performed in the Sooner Theatre during Norman Music Fest for the past three years. The last two years, the band was asked to perform on the main stage, but it declined because Annie Oakley is a band you listen to, Grace said.
“We are a listening-room band,” Grace said. “What we do is very focused as a band, and it’s really a story. Those moments are the moments that I do music for — just being able to grab someone’s attention, because it’s hard … to sit still and listen to someone sing. It takes a lot. So whenever I can do that — whenever I can make someone pay attention, those are the most memorable moments for me.”
Annie Oakley is going on a Southwestern tour in March 2019 — Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. In June that year, the band is doing a Texas tour and has hopes of booking a California tour and a European tour.
Even though Annie Oakley is still working out the kinks with tours during school semesters for Personette, Sophia and Grace are determined to make their dreams come true and dream of leaving Oklahoma within two years.
Where will Grace Babb be in five years — after Annie Oakley goes further into the music world, after she leaves Oklahoma and after Spinster takes off with Grace’s own words in her songs?
“I see her really kicking ass with her music and killing it with her creative projects,” Sophia Babb said. “I think she’s only going to get better, and she’s going to make a professional career out of what she’s really good at.”
Powers sees an even bigger future for Grace.
“On the cover of Rolling Stone — no doubt in my mind,” Powers said with a smile. “She wants it, and she can do whatever she wants. Grace is a badass.”