“Kristen Grainger’s Musical Compass Points True North” featuring one of the Top 10 Finalists in the Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest! #WAMFest2018 | Kristen Grainger and True North Band

Kristen Grainger’s Musical Compass Points True North





Three  DJs at KBCS named Open Road, Broken Heart among their top ten albums for 2017, even though the album wasn’t released until October 14.  See the comprehensive lists here:


DJs’ Favorites for 2017




Kristen Grainger’s song “Be Here Now” won Song of the Year in the folk category for the 2015 International Music and Entertainment Awards. Winners were announced at the IoMEA Awards on October 24.  Read about it at

This song is from the True North album Elsebound  released in 2014.


Kristen Grainger placed 2nd in the 2015 Chris Austin songwriting competition at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC in April.   This brought her recognition by the “Big Three” national songwriting competitions: Kerrville New Folk, Telluride Troubador, and Merlefest.


Salem songwriter finalist in Telluride competition

For Kristen Grainger, music is not a hobby or passion; It’s a compulsion, like breathing

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Salem songwriter on stage, Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Salem singer/songwriter Kristen Grainger performed at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, Colo., Thursday. She was one of 10 finalists in

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From Willamette University Website Story:

A Moment with True North’s Lead Singer

From the soulful narrative “Be Here Now ” to the toe-tapping melody of  “Shiny Black Shoes ,” the latest album from True North has earned international airtime and critical recognition on its way to the top of the Roots Music Report folk chart.

Two of the band’s four members are Bearcats — lead singer Kristen Grainger, who’s served as a university vice president since 2002, and guitarist Dale Adkins ‘85. They’re joined by Suzanne Pearce and Grainger’s husband, Dan Wetzel.

Like the musicians, True North’s sound is complex. Bluegrass and folk tones accentuate Grainger’s smooth voice and elegant lyrics.

Many in our community turn out to see True North when they play locally, so we stopped by to ask the vice president about her music and the success of her group’s recent album.

What do these accolades mean for Grainger and her bandmates? “I don’t know,” she says, adding that she’s not planning on packing up and moving to Nashville anytime soon. “We got booked at WinterGrass, which is a huge festival in Seattle. That’s the big time in my little world.”

The popularity of the group’s latest CD, “Elsebound,” follows solo recognition for Grainger’s songwriting. She was a finalist at the 41st annual Telluride Bluegrass festival, which USA Today describes as a “mega-event” in the world of bluegrass music.

“We had never been on the radar anywhere before. All of a sudden, we’re number six, and while I was at the Telluride songwriting contest, there were three of us with records in the top 10 — me, Ray Lamontagne and Nickel Creek. That was ‘wow’ for me.”

Though her passion for storytelling led to a young writer’s award from The Oregonian, as well as her decision to study creative writing in college, it was her partner Dan who encouraged her to write songs. “Dan’s been a huge inspiration for the writing I do,” she says.

Grainger’s college mentor, poet and professor Nelson Bentley, shared advice that informs her songwriting. “I learned that the simplest things can be said in ways that are both profound and fresh. It made it OK to write about ordinary life.”

“What I’m trying to do is take a situation, a story, a feeling, an idea, a memory, or a moment — often it’s a moment — and capture that in its purest and most potent version of itself,” she says.

For Grainger, the popularity of True North’s latest album is an opportunity to share a story — or a moment — with others. “That is enough,” she says. “It is more than enough.”