Born Shanna Elizabeth Henderson, Harper Grae is proving to be unstoppable. After her parents were unable to raise her, she grew up with her aunt and grandparents, turning to music to help her through the good and bad times that life threw her way. Grae’s name change (Harper) came to honor the family that raised her. She discovered her gift for music singing in the church and has grown to become an artist who writes and sings with a rare vulnerability. She has appeared on The Glee Project 2, is releasing a new album titled Break Your Crowns and is launching a new nonprofit. Grae took a pause from her busy schedule to talk with us about her projects, her hopes, and give advice to those who relate to her story.
Did you always turn to music growing up? Are there certain artists you remember inspiring you?
Growing up, music was an integral part of my upbringing. I always relied on music to get me through good and bad times. There were a few artists who inspired me like Reba, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Jerry Lee Lewis.
When did you first realize you had a gift for singing and songwriting?
I think I realized I had a gift early on from singing in church. My church family would always encourage me and ask me to sing. I loved doing it, so I didn’t mind singing often.
“Dear Daddy” is a very powerful autobiographical song. Did you ever feel any reservations getting so personal in your songwriting?
Honestly, yes. I knew a song like “Dear Daddy” needed to be written with someone who cared about helping me tell my story. When Pat Alger agreed to write that song with me, I jumped at the opportunity. We simply put music to my story and out came “Dear Daddy.” (Pat Alger is a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member and writer of many big hits, including “The Thunder Rolls” by Garth Brooks.)
Your new album comes out on October 6th. What can our readers expect from your album?
They can expect me to be more intimate than ever before. Break Your Crowns is an inside look at my heart, all facets of it. The good, the sweet, the bad, the sad- it’s all there.
How did you find out about The Glee Project 2 and what did you learn from that experience?
I found out about TGP2 online- auditioned and found myself on a set in LA. I learned so much from that incredible experience, but one thing I will always carry with me is that it is incredibly important to work as hard as those around you are working. TGP2 had a huge crew, respecting their time, and valuing their worth was a huge lesson in how to conduct yourself as a professional in this industry. I learned to “treat others as you would like to be treated” at an early age, but it surely rings true in this industry, TGP2 instilled that within me.
Can you tell us about your foundation “The Look Up Foundation?”
Yeah! Look Up Foundation is a 501c3 that is committed to bringing digitally innovative and artistically motived resources to children & adolescents who are grieving the loss of loved ones.
Why was it so important to you to start your own foundation so early in your career?
Starting a foundation was important to me because I wanted to start giving back as soon as possible. Traveling all the world as an artist is an opportunity to give back in multiple cities. Honestly, I felt that starting a foundation like LUF was my responsibility as an artist. I couldn’t think of any reasons to wait, so I just went for it.
I think it is wonderful that your foundation wants to offer more digital tools for children and adolescents. How did you come up with this idea?
The idea came from visiting with kids and noticing that they didn’t really want to talk. They either wanted to listen to me sing or wanted to be in front of some kind of device (tv, iPad, phone, etc.) I was inspired to meet the kids where they were at, so I set out to blend the music world with the digital age and create a resource kids can use to help cope.
You will soon be traveling in the western United States to work on your book. Can you tell me more about how your book and trip will benefit your foundation?
The book series will be comprised of two genres 1. Children series 2. Adolescent series. They will share a common theme, which is navigating through the 5 stages of grief. I wanted to remain truthful to the readers, so it was crucial to create 2 books designed for their different development phases. The books will eventually be published, but first will be created into an E-Book as well an audible.
What is your biggest hope for your foundation and your career?
Such big and great questions. I think my biggest hopes for my foundation are for it to positively impact anyone who comes into contact with it and I hope we are always in a position to provide the help & resources the children need to inspire and encourage them to boldly walk into this world, regardless of the scars grief may leave behind. My hope for my career is to be able to write and perform music for the rest of my life. If I can wake up, write, sing and work with Look Up Foundation, then I can’t possibly be failing.
How can our readers support the foundation?
As many of you may know, non-profits survive off donations. Right now, we are constantly fundraising to build a solid foundation. Donating is easy, you can simply visit lookupfoundation.org and give online via paypal or you can send donations to 3805 Rolland RD Nashville TN 37205 (made out to Look Up Foundation)
Do you have any advice or wisdom to offer adolescents who relate to your story?
Never give up on yourself. You came into this world for a reason and your strength, determination and passions matter. Embrace your dreams, turn them into goals and work hard to make them a reality.