Blues singer Kara Grainger knows a bit about love and heartbreak, and she’s not afraid to share it. Just look at the songs on her latest album, 2013’s Shiver and Sigh. With titles like “No Way You Can Hurt Me Now,” “Lost in You” and “Holding out for Love,” Grainger takes her life experiences, and puts them to music.
“I started writing my own music when I was a teenager, about the same time I discovered dating,” Grainger said. “That still inspires my songwriting today.”
The Aussie is one of more than 15 acts taking the stage in the Grand County Blues Society’s “Blues from the Top” Festival, which takes place June 27-29 at Hideaway Park, in downtown Winter Park. The event features performers from seven different countries.
Grainger grew up in Sydney, Australia. She started singing and playing the guitar when she was 12 years old.
“My father used to play and sing around the house, so he was my first inspiration,” she said.
Grainger cites American Blues music as her biggest influence. When she was 15, her brother, also a musician, began collecting old LP’s of Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed.
“The more blues I listened to, I discovered that I liked the funk and Southern soul side of it,” Grainger said. Freddie King and Otis Rush had a big influence on her, as did several female blues voices of the South, like Irma Thomas, Etta James and Mavis Staples.
Her instruments of choice these days: the slide guitar and a Fender Stratocaster.
“I have my own unique sound and style of playing,” Grainger said. She describes her most recent album as a fresh take on rhythm and blues with deep grooves and heartfelt lyrics.
As a vocalist, Grainger counts singers like Emmy Lou Harris, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell among her earliest influences. She’s been compared to Bonnie Raitt, and recently met the singer at a blues festival in Singapore. “I actually got turned on to Bonnie a little later in the journey,” said Grainger. “She is phenomenal, and a lovely lady to boot. I believe she may have had a lot of the same influences.”
This is Grainger’s second time performing in Winter Park. Festival organizer John Catt says Grainger was a crowd favorite last year, which made her an easy choice for this year’s event. “The locals adopted her,” Catt said. “She was shopping and hiking and having a great visit.”
Grainger is excited to come back. “It’s an absolutely beautiful location, and loads of fun,” she said. “It’s definitely one of my favorites.”