“… she’s also sufficiently a woman of her time to pull in influences as diverse as funk and folk. And her compelling contralto owes more to Grace Slick than Sarah Vaughan”
They say it’s never too late to follow your dreams. But can a middle-aged woman take her roots-blues band all the way to Europe? Can she rediscover her creativity amidst the drear of pandemic life in the Midwest? Over twenty years into her career, can she set aside practicality for the sake of passion?
Those are the questions Denise La Grassa is exploring in her upcoming documentary film, North of 40.
An energetic, multi-talented performer and polymath musician, Denise’s artistic impulses have found many outlets over the years. Her resume boasts supporting role in an HBO movie starring Anthony Edwards, appearances on the TV drama Unsolved Mysteries, numerous musical and other stage productions around her hometown Chicago, and several original one-woman social commentary musical shows. She also won three Emmy Awards (and received numerous nominations) for her “day job” producing art segments and documentaries for PBS in Chicago and Champaign-Urbana. Denise has performed her original songs at jazz haunts all over Chicago and has produced five original albums.
But with these accomplishments in her rearview mirror, Denise finds herself asking: now what?
North of 40 will document Denise’s journey with her new roots-blues sound and new band, beginning with smaller venues around Chicago and downstate as she works to get the attention of larger venues and festivals. The dream is a return to Europe, where she staged her one-person musical show, Bite, in the 1990s and where she performed her music at venues there. The film will also detail the hard work required of anyone trying to make a name for themselves in the music business—especially women of “a certain age.” Along the way, Denise will talk with other artists in similar circumstances to learn how they overcame obstacles and persevered in the pursuit of their dreams.