On newest album, Kristen Grainger & True North take listeners from struggle to optimism

With each album, the Salem band Kristen Grainger & True North want to take their listeners on a transformational journey.

Their newest album, “Fear of Falling Stars,” was written during the height of the Covid pandemic, and lyricist Kristen Grainger said the tracklist starts in a place of struggle and ends with optimism.

The album comes out on Nov. 10, and is the band’s seventh. In September, the band premiered the songs live at Salem’s Historic Grand Theatre to a full house. Grainger’s lyrics were inspired by her experience during isolation, walks in Salem and the people around her.

“I’m a student of human nature,” Grainger said. “I get a lot of my ideas and material from the people around me, the stories I hear, the situations that I observe. And so my mindset is always puzzling through human nature and why people do the things they do.”

Grainger fronts the prominent local folk band and wrote most of the songs on the album. Other members include instrumentalists Dan Wetzel, Martin Stevens and Josh Adkins.

Some lyrical inspiration came from the natural world in Salem, like overcast skies or seeing the cherry blossom petals fall on Pioneer Cemetery near her home. She describes her walks in the song “Stop Me If I Told You This Before,” about her conversations with her mother while isolated during the Covid pandemic.

When the pandemic began, the band had to cancel 40 planned shows and a trip to tour in Ireland.

Much of the album was written during isolation, and coming out of it she said.

“That’s part of that little transformational journey that we were thinking about when we put the songs in the order that we put them in, was also coming out of being in a cave for a long time,” she said.

The band’s first album, “Cobalt Miles of Sky,” came out back in 2005. The latest album is the band’s first that is mostly their original work, rather than including several covers, Grainger said.

“We’ve kind of, over time, just become more confident and produced a lot more material,” she said. 

The band has been playing live music in Salem since 2006.

“There’s nothing more wonderful than feeling the love from your hometown, and the support for this kind of music. It just means a lot to me,” she said.

The album will be available to download and stream, including on Spotify and Apple Music, on Nov. 10.  Grainger has posted several of the songs to her YouTube Channel, including “Extraordinary Grace,” below:

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.