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Sami Grisafe: Immersed in L.A., but keeping Chicago ties
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2019-12-24

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Sami Grisafe got some high-profile exposure for the first single to be released from her upcoming album, Manifest.

The former Chicago Force star quarterback who has transitioned into a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter/actor, Grisafe played the acoustic version of her single "Key of Us" on episode two of the Showtime original series Work In Progress on Sunday, Dec. 15.

"Key of Us" is a modern-day love duet that has been described as a mix of pop, alt-folk and a hint of country in a relatable and single tune. "This track has a lot of Shawn Mendes elements with the percussive acoustic guitar and beats. It'll definitely make you move and sing-a-long," Grisafe said.

The song features Linsea Waugh, a Chicago-based musician and long-time collaborator and friend of Grisafe. "Key of Us" is produced by KOIL PreAmple and Eren Cannata, the two who gave Grisafe's acoustic love song a pop makeover. The single was released through Grisafe's record company which she co-founded with Kathy Kuras, Vanguard Muse.

"The song was inspired by a late night/early morning in Chicago with friends and a new love interest," Grisafe said. "We went out to the bars in Andersonville, then back to our friend's condo. It was one of those epic nights you never forget: acoustic guitar sing-a-longs, drinking anything we could find from Jameson to flat champagne, heart-to-hearts and infatuation with a new love interest until the night turned to dawn and the tension turned into a nine-month-long relationship.

"It was the support of my best friend, Linsea Waugh, who I had always had in mind for the other part since its inception who has always been my partner in crime musically and the reason I had the confidence to pursue a career in music. I couldn't think of a better, more talented person to sing this duet with me. We've been performing 'Key of Us' acoustically together for 6-plus years and it was really cool to be able to realize all those years of performing it through a live into a recording. I cannot speak highly enough about Linsea's presence on this song. She is truly a remarkable talent."

Grisafe, 34, performed the song on Showtime with Chicago-based singer-songwriter, Xoe Wise.

"Key of Us" is the only duet on the new album—and the album is the soundtrack to the feature documentary film about women's tackle football, Open Field, set to release in 2020.

The song is available as a single on all streaming platforms and online stores.

Grisafe said, "'Key of Us' is about falling for someone and the romanticism and intimacy of the act of singing together without caring so much about the 'musical key' you're singing in."

"I met Xoe Wise through [former] Chicago Force teammate Brandy Hatcher. She would come and play music at The Closet during my shifts. I always loved Xoe's songwriting, voice, and exceptional kindness. We collaborated on a few shows over the years in Chicago and continued to connect through social media once I moved to Los Angeles.

"I was curious when I saw I had a missed call from her one morning in LA. When I called her back, Xoe asked if I might be interested in singing in a scene with her for this new Showtime series, Work in Progress. I ( immediately ) said, 'Hell yes!' [I] come to find out that the music editor for Work in Progress, Ethan Stoller, and I had met at a mutual friend's showcase in L.A. a couple years back. Then, I discovered Abby McEnany was the co-creator and star and it just felt like all the stars were aligned."

Grisafe added, "The whole process was truly amazing. Every person I interacted with on this project was so kind and professional. From the first email to the wrap, everyone treated each other with patience and respect. Having worked in entertainment for over a decade, I can tell you how rare and beautiful it is for a project and a message to take precedence over ego."

Grisafe admitted that when she saw the pilot of Work in Progress, she was filled with pride and joy. "I met Abby several years ago, while I was bartending at The Closet and she was performing at Second City," Grisafe said. "She was always so kind and polite and just a wonderful person to be around. I couldn't help but smile when she walked in the door.

"Seeing Abby and her talent on the screen, telling a story that hasn't been told, diving into characters and stories that get little screen time, with Chicago as the backdrop, sent me over the moon. And, to be a part of a production that Lilly Wachowski and Tim Mason are a part of is absolutely incredible. The show is funny, dark, provocative [and] enlightening. It's all of the things that I crave in great pieces of art and entertainment. I'm so honored to be a part of this show, even for just one scene, in one episode."

Grisafe, born and raised in Southern California, moved to Chicago at 18. "I consider Chicago the place that raised the adult in me," she said. "I came out as a lesbian in Chicago. My professional football career with the Chicago Force took place in Chicago. I started music career and co-founded my record label, Vanguard Muse, in Chicago.

"Boystown, The Closet, the Chicago Force and my music family were the support systems that got me through my 20s. Watching a series that takes place in similar social circles, in my second home, fills me [with] nostalgia and pride."

On Dec. 15, Grisafe was in Los Angeles serving as the emcee for a private concert series that she co-founded called SunSeshLA ( sunsesh.la ). After that show, she went to a watch party for Work.

"When I got the call from Ethan Stoller that 'Key of Us' made the show, I was excited and incredibly grateful. Being able to perform my song with Xoe Wise and sing her song, 'Careful' with her, on such a sincerely groundbreaking series, is an honor," Grisafe said.

Grisafe's segment for Work was filmed in Uptown.

Grisafe said she gets back to Chicago about four times annually. When asked what she misses most about Chicago, she said it's mainly the people.

"I miss my best friend, my Force family [and] my buddies from Boystown," she said. "Chicago has so many amazing communities that I was lucky enough to be a part of, including the LGBTQ community. I miss that connection and the fantastic humans who make up Chicago."

Grisafe's music also is featured in the movie and soundtrack for Season of Love, a lighthearted queer women's holiday romantic comedy, which was just released by Tello Films.


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