By Olivia Bitetti
Much like the bird that she is named after, Grace “Tucan” Gara is spreading her wings and flying into the crazy world that is the music industry. Although she is not actually named after the tropical rainforest bird, 16-year-old Grace has been affectionately called Tucan by friends and family since she was four, after her toucan Beanie Baby that never left her side.
Tucan’s fame began when a YouTube music video of her song “Freak in the Crowd” was uploaded just a few short months ago. Written and produced by her New York City-based managers, Nefertiti Jones and Jimi Bones, the video is an anti-bullying anthem shot in Manhattan that stars Tucan on lead vocals alongside her sister, Faith Gara, and friends. It is safe to say that, although undoubtedly optimistic, no one involved with the making of the video anticipated the nearly instantaneous fame and recognition that accompanied its debut.
Less than a month after its initial posting, The Huffington Post recognized the video and applauded the teens for the message they were sending and, most importantly, the relatable way that it was delivered. Shortly after, “Freak in the Crowd” captured the attention of Lee Hircsh, director of the highly acclaimed documentary “Bully,” who tweeted about Tucan’s music video. Perhaps one of the most impressive honors was received on April 11 when The Huffington Post named “Freak in the Crowd” one of the top five Anti-Bullying Anthems of 2012.
Now having more than 13,000 views on YouTube, Tucan is still adjusting to the notable recognition.
“It was a huge honor. I never thought that anything like that would happen. I would never have even thought that they [The Huffington Post] would recognize my video,” Tucan humbly said.
Having always had musical roots and a passion for singing since the age of three, Tucan’s eyes light up when she talks about her music and performing. Sitting at her kitchen table in her Cazenovia home, she took a deep breath as if to collect her thoughts, smiled and simply said, “I love doing it; it’s so much fun. This is what I want to do when I’m older.”
It comes as no surprise that her first album, “Pretty Packages,” is already in the works and is slated to be released sometime this fall. “Pretty Packages” will feature 10 original songs that Tucan and her managers will collaborate on, including her three singles “Hey Now,” “Freak in the Crowd” and “Stupid Stars” which are currently available on iTunes. Being a teenage girl, Tucan is still in the process of creating a sense of personal style.
“I’m kind of experimenting with that right now,” Tucan said of her image and style. “I am trying different genres of music. I did the pop song and now my upcoming song, ‘I Can’t Lose You’ is more alternative. I kind of want to do my own thing. I have a very unique sense of style. One day I’m girly-girl, the next I want to be alternative and the next I want to wear a rock ‘n’ roll outfit.”
Influenced by artists such as Katy Perry, Selena Gomez and Pink, Tucan’s catchy melodies and inspirational lyrics are her interpretation of what it takes to be a well-respected female role model in today’s music industry.
“I like what their music is about,” Tucan said of her role models. “They are really for promoting girl power and standing up for what is right. We are all trying to be inspirational but also fun and catchy at the same time. So, I think that that is why they are my big inspirations.”
Following in the footsteps of other influential female artists, Tucan performed for the second time last month at NYC’s oldest rock club, The Bitter End, where Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and hundreds of other musical powerhouses got their start.
“I don’t really get nervous. I try to be fearless,” Tucan said of her second performance at the NYC rock club. “With each performance it gets easier and a lot more fun.”
With plans to live in Manhattan this summer, Tucan, with the help of her talent agency About Face, her managers and constant support from friends and family, is undoubtedly going to be one busy bird.