Grace Weber wasn't expecting to be confronted by a camera crew from The Oprah Winfrey Show as she walked to a Subway restaurant in 2009.
Weber's New York University college roommate was walking with her and knew what was coming. She helped plan the surprise with the show's producers, who wanted to tape Weber's reaction to the news that she'd been selected to appear on Oprah's Karaoke Challenge.
"The funniest thing about that moment," says Weber, "was that all the other people in the restaurant just looked annoyed by it. They looked like typical unfazed New Yorkers."
They might not have been so unfazed had they heard Grace Weber sing.
The 23-year old Wauwatosa native has wholesome, girl-next-door good looks and a deeply soulful voice, evident on her performance of Carole King's "Natural Woman" for Oprah.
Weber attended the Saint Jude parish grade school and Milwaukee's Pius XI high school before she left to attend New York University. In seventh grade, she joined Milwaukee's Inner City Youth Gospel Choir.
"I was on a retreat, and this gospel choir came and sang for us," says Weber. "I knew right away that choir was where I wanted to be."
Weber got her start performing at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village after she moved to New York City.
"In New York, once you get in at one of the clubs, you can network to get shows in other clubs," she says.
This September, Weber will release her debut CD, Hope & Heart. The album was produced by Mike Mangini, whose credits include work with Bruce Hornsby and David Byrne. She cowrote the songs with Julian Pollack, who attended NYU with her.
Hope & Heart shifts mainly between jazzy acoustic pop ("Hitchhiker") and soulful piano ballads ("Someone"). All 10 songs are smartly shaped around Weber's spectacular voice.