Chenille sisters



Grace Morand comes to play. Sometimes literally. Whether she's chasing Cheryl and Connie around in a dinosaur mask during a Kids' Show performance or wearing a tiara around town just for the heck of it, Grace finds the fun in almost any situation. And if she can't find it, she makes it.

There's something about you that makes audiences feel as though they know you.

Well, that's just me. I like to connect with people wherever I am. I think all the small interactions we have throughout the day are very important, whether it's the person serving you a latte or someone at an information desk. It's an opportunity to make them smile or just have a positive moment.

You're often seen as the more boisterous Chenille. Would you say that's accurate?

I pretty much do a lot of the talking. But I'm actually quite sensitive. I have a serious side. It doesn't come across on stage, because that's not my role as a Chenille, but it's definitely there. Sometimes I just really want to be quiet. Yoga is something that lets me do that on a daily basis. It's a huge part of my life.

What do you love about performing?

For me, performing is - again - about connecting with people, and then transporting them. Taking them someplace with our songs. I love making people laugh. I love making them feel.

Did you always love it?

Yeah, I think so. At first it was just for my family. I always sang every song I learned in school or at camp for them. Then I played guitar at folk masses when I was in high school and also sang in school choirs. The first time I ever sang a pop song by myself was at a cabaret night in high school. I sang a Mary Travers song called "The Song Is Love."

Who were your early influences - not just musical, but in life?

I had mostly women (nuns and lay) teachers. From them I learned that women could be smart and do what they wanted. I learned to love reading books in high school from a teacher named Cathy Guinan. Our family had quirky and diverse friends. I learned that that is a good thing.

Do you get nervous performing?

I can remember specific times when the anticipation of performing was nerve-wracking. But once I'm out there I'm fine. When I was a kid in grade school, our principal was retiring and I was picked to read a poem to her and give her a rose. I even kissed her. It blew the other kids away that I could do that in front of the whole school, but I was like, what's the big deal? I've always felt very comfortable. I don't know why.

What's it like to work with Connie and Cheryl?

There's really so much to say about how we all work together. But something that really stands out about Connie is not only her musical training, but her great ear. And she's very generous with it. When I write songs, they sort of come into my head and I sing them into a tape recorder and take it to Connie. Then she gives me musical options - like A, B or C - for how I want it to sound. She makes it better. And Cheryl brings balance to our group. As "out there" as I can be, Cheryl is more introspective, which really shows in her music. It's personal, and really powerful. But you can't judge her by that quiet, softer manner. Sometimes she can really let a zinger out on stage and crack everybody up.

What was the Chenille Sisters' big break?

Well, we've had a lot of them, actually. When you look at these three girls who got together to sing in a bar one day - and how we've been able to turn that into touring and performing and recording for thousands and thousands of people - it's kind of mind-blowing. For me, probably the coolest was when I was cutting hair in a downtown Ann Arbor shop and someone comes over the PA system and says, "Grace, Gary Keillor is on Line One." I thought it was a joke. We had sent a tape to A Prairie Home Companion but I'd never have believed Garrison Keillor himself would just call up and invite us on. It took me a minute to realize I was really talking to him. Very, very cool.

What have you learned in 20+ years as a Chenille Sister?

That to be really good, you have to work really hard. And then no matter how good you get, your success depends a lot on luck.

Details, Details

Full name:
Grace Ellen Morand
Detroit, MI
Current home:
Ann Arbor, MI
4 sisters, 2 brothers
Favorite sound:
Favorite smell:
freshly cut grass
Favorite food: