Folk singing duo Coyote Grace has big news. Like lightning this summer their luck struck twice. It all started when the Indigo Girls asked trans musician Joe Stevens and his partner in life and music Ingrid Elizabeth (aka Coyote Grace) to open their Seattle concert. âThat was very exciting!â Stevens says. âTheyâre two of my biggest heroes. It was a super honor!â
Singer/songwriter Stevens identifies as a trans man but he was still a girl studying composition and voice in Seattle when he first met Ohioan vocalist and upright bassist Elizabeth. The two musicians wanted to play music together but he says his transition interfered. âI couldnât do very much for those two years,â Stevens recalls. âWe played around a little bit but my pitch kept changing all over the place.â When his voice settled down, they blended both their music and names. âAmy used to do burlesque and some cabaret stuff and her stage name was Amazing Grace and mine was Coyote Joe.â
Columbus, Ohioâs Stonewall Society recently honored Coyote Grace with a Pride In the Arts Award for âFavorite Trans Musician.â Theyâve been featured on the nationally syndicated program Queer Heritage Radio, appeared in the award-winning independent film, Mass Romantic, and played on a handful of compilation albums released in 2007.
But the stage they shared with the Indigo Girls was the largest venue by far - to date. âI was a little starry-eyed. They were very gracious. We got to sing âCloser to Fineâ with themâŠand they said they really enjoyed it. Amy [Ray, of the Indigo Girls] watched almost the entire set from the wings. That was very cool.â
The two bands hadnât even met when the Indigo Girls contacted Coyote Grace out of the blue and invited them to open for the Seattle concert. Without some well-placed Coyote Grace fans it might never have happened. âFriends of friends of people who know themâŠpassed CDs their way. A friend of mine [took] them to an airport and played our CD and told them who I wasâŠright when they needed someone to be on that bill and they asked us.â It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience - until it happened again.
Stevens just returned from the Rocky Mountain Folk Fest, a trip âon a wing and a prayerâ to attend a song school. Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Melissa Ferrick was one of the instructors. âI just happened to take one of her classes and as soon as I played like half a songâŠ[she] asked me to go on tour with her. She asked before she knew I was trans, too, which for some reason makes me feel better. Itâs super exciting!â
Coyote Grace will join Ferrick on tour this October, hitting Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio. In the meantime, the duo - who recently settled in the San Francisco Bay Area - will be touring Northern California, from whence Stevens originates, throughout September.
Coyote Grace spent last year driving across the country in their 1978 Chevy RV, promoting their aptly titled debut, Boxes & Bags. The CD, Stevens says, paid homage to their nomadic lifestyle and the impermanence of identity. Those experiences informed their 2008 live album, The Harvey Tour, which also features fellow folk rocker Courtney Robbins. A new studio release will be out later this year.
Many of Coyote Graceâs songs address transition topics. Elizabeth penned the lyrics, âI was in the room when my baby died,â about the pain and loss felt when a partner transitions. Still the song - which Stevens promises will be on their next album - shows love prevailing over loss. And Stevens himself admits that his lyrics are usually autobiographical. âEven when you try to write something thatâs not about you, it ends up being about you.â