Staci Griesbach, the Sony Pictures publicist-turned-vocalist, is out with her second album, My Shania Twain Songbook, a collection of jazz-inspired interpretations celebrating the 25th anniversary of the iconic 1990s country star’s breakout album, The Woman in Me.
Among them: “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under,” “Any Man of Mine,” “The Woman in Me” and “No One Needs To Know,” which JAZZIZ Magazine hailed for its “warmth” and made its “Song of the Day” earlier this month.
“When Shania released The Woman in Me in 1995, I was a junior in high school in rural Wisconsin, and that album very much represented a coming of age for me,” Griesbach said. “Shania demonstrated confidence in being a woman and really owning who she was as an artist.
“Most importantly, she didn’t shy away from her desire of pursuing her dream, and that was inspiring to me then and perhaps even more so now.”
Twain pushed the boundaries of country music at that time, and fans responded by making her one of the 1990s’ biggest country-pop crossover superstars, capable of filling huge arenas.
The Woman in Me, her second studio album produced with then-husband Robert John “Mutt” Lange, became certified “diamond.” Twain just released a “Diamond Edition” version of the album to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its initial release.
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Inspired during the coronavirus pandemic, the timeline for Griesbach’s second album was incredibly quick. Griesbach once again collaborated with some of the top musicians in the world on the arrangements, including Tamir Hendelman, Michael O. Mitchell, Rahsaan Barber and Otmaro Ruiz.
“This album came together so incredibly fast, it was like magic,” she recalled. “We started on the arrangements in July, were in the recording studio at the end of September and mixing in October. It’s almost unheard of to release an album that fast, but I guess the inspiration was that strong.”
To promote the release, Griesbach has teamed up with Twain’s charity, Shania Kids Can, for a benefit streaming concert and online auction to help raise money for kids and schools.
My Shania Twain Songbook is a followup to Griesbach’s debut, My Patsy Cline Songbook, which was financed partially by a Kickstarter campaign and released in August 2019. The album — a reimagining of classics by the pioneering female country singer in a style similar to jazz standards from the Great American Songbook — led to gigs at top jazz clubs in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, as well as an appearance at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Carnegie Hall.
Rolling Stone hailed her “gorgeous jazz interpretation of Patsy Cline’s ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’” and included the song on its “10 Best Country and Americana Songs to Hear Now” list, alongside such established stars as Miranda Lambert.
The album even won accolades from Cline’s daughter, Julie Fudge, who in the CD’s liner notes wrote, “It is amazing to hear Staci interpreting Mom’s music for the jazz fan, as well as the traditional Patsy fan. These arrangements are new and fresh and so engaging. I truly think Mom would have listened to this collection.”
Griesbach, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, spent 15 years as a publicist for the home entertainment division of Sony Pictures, rising to VP of worldwide publicity.
Music was never far from her heart, though, she recalled. On the farm, she had grown up to the songs of Patsy Cline and other famous stars of the era, and later, in high school, Griesbach became a huge fan of Shania Twain, who at the time was breaking boundaries for women in music and inspiring young female musicians all over the world.
“Shania crossed genres arguably better than any other female in country music at that time, and it’s part of my exploration to bring her music into the jazz world,” Griesbach said. “For me, looking at this album 25 later is like going home and reconnecting to a little part of myself all over again.”
While attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Griesbach was a member of the Wisconsin Singers, a touring troupe that performs Broadway and pop standards and entertains more than 50,000 fans each year.
After graduating, she pursued a career in PR and landed a job with Fleishman-Hillard in Kansas City. The big agency moved her to Sacramento, and two years later she moved to Los Angeles to be closer to the entertainment scene.
In 2005, Griesbach was hired at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, where over a 15-year run — and under the tutelage of Fritz Friedman, regarded as one of Hollywood’s top publicists — she rose from manager to VP, managing global campaigns and promoting the studio’s film and television content around the world.
Music, however, remained more than just a hobby. In 2013, Griesbach started studying jazz vocals and jazz piano with Michele Weir, currently an adjunct professor in global jazz studies at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. In January 2015, she secured a regular residency at a Hollywood hotel, performing with her trio on Friday evenings.
In 2017, she recalled, “I sang and produced 100 songs for a centennial tribute to Ella Fitzgerald — complete with a sell-out show at an L.A. club benefiting the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation.”
She subsequently booked time at Talley Sherwood’s TriTone Recording in Glendale, and in January 2018 recorded the first six tracks.
Two years after her position at Sony was eliminated, Griesbach runs her own boutique PR agency but is laser-focused on music.
“Like many, there were so many dreams and plans we had going into this year,” Griesbach said. “For me, it was playing the SXSW Music Festival. But even though this year has been challenging on so many levels, 2020 has provided an opportunity for this album to be born, for me to continue to explore this intersection of country and jazz, and take my musical journey one more step forward.”