Newton native Jacey Gutknecht has been interested in music virtually her entire life. By the time she was a freshman in high school, she was playing guitar and writing original songs. But for the 21-year-old, who now goes by just her first name, the road to the stage had some unusual turns.
“I started working with a group in Nashville when I was a senior in high school,” she explained. “I had never performed live before. I was extremely shy in high school. I put a song that I wrote up on ReverbNation, and they contacted me. So I recorded songs before I’d ever played live.”
That group, an A&R firm called Lighthouse Music, reached out to Jacey while she was spending a year living in Mexico and working with a volunteer group building houses. For much of that year, Jacey split her time between Mexico and Nashville to record her songs. Once she returned to Iowa, however, it was time to do something she had never done before: perform live.
“I was terrified,” she admitted. “I made myself sick, I was so nervous. Just being up there by myself, talking to the crowd; it’s something I’m still getting used to.”
Her first live performance came at Ritual Café where she sat in for a couple of songs with Mary McAdams’ Women in the Round songwriter series. Since then, her honest, uncluttered songwriting and beautiful voice have quickly endeared her to music fans around town.
Jacey has started working with a booking agency based in New York, and she plans on playing more regional shows during the next year. She still handles her own local booking, however, and has a busy schedule lined up for the summer. In between shows, she plans on heading back into the studio to work on a new EP, her third.
“The first two were done very quickly,” she said. “Creatively, they weren’t exactly how I wanted them to be.
“When I got into the studio, I was super nervous around the studio musicians and didn’t speak up much. This time I want to go in with an actual game plan and know exactly what I want out of my sound. I want to make sure that each song is how I really want it.” CV