When Alexandra Grace received a phone call from New York, she thought about taking it.
“I thought ‘This is definitely a spam call, but I am just going to answer it just in case,” the 23-year old Gloucester resident said.
Thank goodness she did.
On the other line was a representative from the John Lennon Songwriting Contest notifying Grace that she had just won its Song of the Week award for her song "Medicine."
“I was literally in so much shock my mouth dropped open and I’m still on the moon with excitement,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
Grace had entered the competition on a whim late one night, “not expecting anything,” she said.
The John Lennon Songwriting Contest is a nationally-known competition created by Yoko Ono Lennon in 1997 to give songwriters an opportunity to express themselves, gain recognition and get their music heard.
The competition awards over $300,000 in cash awards and prizes in 12 categories. The Executive Committee of Judges includes icons such as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, The Lone Bellow, Sean Paul, George Clinton and Prince Royce.
These professionals and others, who can be found on the contest’s webpage, have exceeded Grace's expectations in affirming her talent and providing her the resources to grow.
In addition to joining the organization on its Instagram livestream this Friday for an interview, Grace received new music gear including a Casio keyboard, Audio-Technica headphones, and useful cables. She also received a membership to Sonicbids, which connects bands, music promoters and major brands through an online platform.
But that is not all.
Grace is now in the running for the contest’s Song of the Year award that will be announced later this year.
Origins of an award-winning song
Grace wrote the award-winning "Medicine" during what she said was an extremely difficult time, personally and globally.
Early in 2020, Grace became very sick with what she now thinks was COVID-19 and ended up going to Urgent Care.
"It was pretty intense," she recounted.
During her ailment, Grace lost her voice.
"Not being able to sing for a month as a singer is really difficult," she said.
As she began to heal, Grace used her own experience of having to take medicine and rest to write a song of how love is like medicine to a soul.
"It is probably one of the most positive songs that I wrote," she said. "For me, it invokes this acknowledgement that we did this together. It was a scary year as a musician."
Navigating a paused industry
On top of being sick for a stretch of time, Grace said the past year has been difficult for musicians everywhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the world shut down, Grace had just graduated from the Berklee College of Music's songwriting program and was in the middle of recording her EP record.
"Then the studios closed and everything stopped so I had to take everything and record at home and buy my own gear," she said. "I had to learn everything on my own."
As she navigated entering an industry shuttered by pandemic, Grace found help along the way from other musicians, mixing and mastering recordings with Mike Dwyer and Grammy Award-winner Paula Cole, a Rockport native.
"They were phenomenal," Grace said.
Now, with COVID-specific regulations lifting, Grace is ecstatic to see the world of music opening back up.
For this teacher at the Marblehead School of Music, that means recording a new song, "Dragon," and performing live on Cape Ann and over the bridge.
"If you look around, all of the musicians are posting about their gigs and it makes me so happy," Grace said. "We are on the other end of it."
"They kept hope and that means a lot and they are doing their best to get back out there and make art again for people," she added.
Listen to "Medicine" on Spotify here: https://spoti.fi/3z2Ow4m
Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford may be contacted at 978-675-2705, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at TayBradford97.