A singer with an uncommon command of her luminous voice and an organic, soulful and dramatic sense of phrasing a lyric, Seattle native Courtney Cutchins is also a vivid storyteller and prolific songwriter. All of those qualities come to bear on her genre-bending debut album, Grunge to Grace. Along with six stirring originals, the jazz-educated singer (she earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Vocal Performance from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and a Master of Music degree in Jazz Vocal Performance from prestigious Manhattan School of Music in New York City) radically re-imagines three ‘90s anthems from her Seattle youth by grunge rock luminaires Soundgarden and Nirvana. Interpreted through her deeply-rooted jazz filter, these songs take on a new life while still conveying the feelings of anxiety, anguish and social alienation that underscored the original versions.

These deep, introspective grunge rock songs make sense to me,” said the singer who spent three years in New York City and currently splits her time between the Big Apple and the Greater Savannah Area.They fit the theme of this album, which is about living in your authentic truth. Its about the journey of finding freedom to become who you are and who you want to be, which is a message I would love to pass along to others.”

Courtney’s notion to explore the blending of two seemingly disparate genres into one organic whole first came to her as an epiphany nine years ago. As she wrote in the liner notes to Grunge to Grace: “In 2015, while navigating difficult times, I found my way to a supportive music therapy exercise that encouraged people to rediscover songs from early childhood that bring you joy. After combing through dozens of Disney soundtracks, folk songs and Muppets movies, an unexpected memory hit me from when I was growing up in the Seattle area — hearing Soundgardens mystical, soaring ‘Black Hole Sun’ on the radio. With this song as my muse, I created a variety of reinventions of grunge tunes from my youth and had some of the most fun ever performing them in NYC.”

She began incorporating her longstanding love of jazz with her memories of ‘90s grunge rock on gigs at New York City venues like Rockwood Music Hall, Cornelia Street Cafe, Silvana and the 55 Bar. Her vision of jazzgrunge that emerged finally comes to fruition on Grunge to Grace. Backed by a stellar crew of rising stars on the New York jazz scene — pianist-producer David Cook (Taylor Swift, Mark Guiliana, Lizz Wright), guitarist Nir Felder (Keyon Harrold, Terri Lyne Carrington), bassist Matt Clohesy (Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Maria Schneider Orchestra) and drummer Obed Calvaire (Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Dave Holland, Cécile McLorin Salvant) — Courtney has found her way to some new musical terrain on this triumphant and revealing debut.

As she wrote in the liner notes: “Theres no better title than Grunge to Grace for the way I strive to see life. Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places. Even in the midst of suffering, we can find daring, honest freedom in that which lights us up. Through us, theres a great force of love connecting all things, even when times seem dark. May we rise up, take up space in our galaxy and show up as our brightest and boldest laser beam self. The world needs each and every one of us to shine.”

While Cutchins may have connected with grunge during her ‘90s youth in Seattle, her earliest memories of jazz go back even further. “I got my first Ella Fitzgerald album when I was eleven years old and I just totally fell in love with it,” she recalled. “In middle school, I was the weird kid playing saxophone and listening to jazz all the time. So that’s something that I’ve really studied very intensely, to the point where I developed this purist attitude about it. Like, ‘This is jazz and this is not jazz, and this is what jazz should sound like and how it’s defined.’ And eventually I got to a point where that was really limiting and uncomfortable. There were other sounds and textures and genres of music that I believed I wasn’t allowed to combine with jazz. So in putting together this jazzgrunge project, it’s really coming full circle in a sense.”

Along with Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, Cutchins cites Jeff Buckley as a major influence. “It wasnt until I was in college that I discovered his music,” she said. “That was my first kind of inkling that I could be vocally influenced by both jazz and rock. Because he was known more as an alt rock singer but he had this whole background of listening to Nina Simone and Ella. In fact, Grunge to Grace ended up being just a little bit of an homage to him as his only studio album, released in 1994, was titled Grace. As both a beautifully skilled vocalist and songwriter, he was one of my biggest influences.”

Courtney recalled one of her favorite songs as a kid in Seattle was “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden. “I still remember hearing it on the radio and it being this majestic thing,” she said. “I mean, the melody of that song is so beautiful. Fast-forward to 2015, I’m living in New York and it was one of those lightbulb moments of, ‘I think I’m going to sing ‘Black Hole Sun’ at my next jazz gig, but I’m going to rearrange it and do it on my own terms’ And that was more just to support me personally. It was a challenging time and I needed something a little more joyful and fun that I didn’t have to take so seriously, in a way, even though it’s still serious music. It is a little ironic that I had to lighten up by singing a grunge tune.”

With the release of Grunge to Grace, Cutchins is now poised to introduce a new genre, jazzgrunge. Nine years in the making, it is a triumph of the heart, delivered with authenticity in her luminous voice, and with support from a band of New Yorks finest, each a bandleader in his own right. Along with her re-imaginings of three grunge classics (Nirvanas All Apologies” and Soundgardens Boot Camp” and The Day I Tried to Live), Courtney contributes six thoughtful, introspective and poetic originals in intimate numbers like Star on the Sea,” “Hold Up the Moon” and the hymn-like title track. More hard-hitting numbers like her ode to the New York City subway system, Passenger,” her confessional Prison in Your Mind” and the slamming finale, Illuminate,” reveal an edgier, almost cathartic aspect of her singing style. Both sides represent the full picture of this sensational, risk-taking singer who is coming into her own with this auspicious debut, which focuses on the messages of light and living authentically.

Along with her ongoing commitment to singing, writing and performing, Cutchins also continues working with clients on empowering their voices and creativity through Seadragon Songhouse, her award-winning, international coaching studio she founded in 2018. At Seadragon Songhouse, she often works with clients who have endured voice and music-related challenges and is honored to walk alongside them on their courageous path back to their creative selves. Its her way of sharing her message of vocal freedom to others around the world.