Quirky singer and Portland native Grace Mitchell has been making waves in the music industry since she was thirteen. This weekend she played two shows as an opener for St. Lucia at The Fillmore and The Independent, respectively, in promotion of her latest EP, Raceday (2015). Raceday gives us a glimpse into her artistic maturity with tracks ranging from the punk-rock single “NoLo” to the bouncy electro-rap of “Jitter”, intermixing French and English lyrics with the latter track catching the attention of Zane Lowe from BBC Radio 1. The B-Side had the fortunate opportunity to interview Grace while she was on tour.
Welcome to the Bay Area! When was the last time you were here? Do you have any cool plans in the city besides touring?
We were here a couple months ago playing a show at Popscene. We don’t really have any plans yet. Right now I am actually eating at a spot called Starbelly in The Castro. We’re probably going to head out to Haight-Ashbury and hang out for a bit.
We recently watched your guide to Portland. Portland is a very unique city and can be a fountain of creative inspiration, especially for music. We also understand that you divide your time between Portland and Los Angeles. How has your hometown served as inspiration for your music?
It’s funny because I tend to be more inspired when I come down to LA because I do more of my songwriting there and that’s where I do most of my work. When I come to Oregon, it’s mainly about having downtime and space for myself to reflect on life and make observations. My influences come during my reflection time. I actually live in LA now.
You are 18 or 19 right now–that is really young for someone with a strong foot in the music industry. How do you balance all the stresses and demands which come with being a teenager transitioning into adulthood with life in the studio?
I think navigating through life is always kind of a struggle at any age. It doesn’t really reflect my opinions or my creativity in the studio. I think anyone can be creative at any age. Regardless of your age or experience, you can influence people’s minds.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
I started getting a lot of positive reinforcement and I noticed that I was pretty good at this. There came a point when I realized that I could take it professionally and at that point, things were kind of just circulating for me. People started networking on my behalf and helped me create a lot of cool connections. I signed to a label at fifteen and then there was an elaborate snowball effect from there. Things worked out really well in my favor and I am thankful for the position that I am in right now.
Who encouraged you along the way?
I would say my mom and my manager really pushed me. Basically everyone on my team- my lawyer, my publisher, my manager- everyone was kind of rooting for me and supporting me. I have a really great team that is honest and helpful behind me.
Which artists, ideas, or life events have influenced the lyrics and emotions on Raceday?
The entirety of the record is based around this character that I created to write a concept for Raceday. It is a person who may or may not be like myself, who likes to get down and party and is also exploring youth and adulthood at the same time and who is kind of provocative. This character was pretty much the inspiration for the entirety of this EP.
How would you describe your own music?
I don’t really have a genre for it. I would say my music is very genre-bending.
Who are your favorite artists you’ve been listening to recently?
I have been listening to a lot of Jamie xx and also this group called Amazon, a Swedish band.
Do you have any dream collaborations with anyone dead or alive? Don’t limit yourself to just musicians.
I would say Allen Ginsburg or Patti Smith because they are geniuses!
Tell us about your experiences touring. Your audience has definitely grown since Design (2014). What’s your favorite memory of touring so far?
I would say hanging out with the headliners and during the days we have off going out in whatever city we’re in and just adventuring and going wherever the night takes us. We would wake up in the morning all fucked up together.
What’s the craziest thing a fan has done?
My fans have not gotten too crazy yet. Although I find it pretty crazy when someone is singing my lyrics–it always throws me off!
How have you grown since releasing Design and Raceday?
I’m getting a lot more liberties now. Right now my top influences involve but aren’t limited to music. I’m exploring a lot of visual aesthetics and trying to expand my different creative outlets. I am working to figure out what else I can incorporate into my creative ability in its entirety.
Were there any characteristics on the EPs that you want to change going forward?
I’m evolving everyday, so the characters on first two the EPs are probably dead. I might expand on them at some point or leave them totally behind. Every time I write a new song or get in the studio I have different strengths and different feels come out depending on whom I’m working with.
We love your cover of White Iverson! What made you want to cover that song?
We were discussing doing a hip-hop driven song for our live sets, and that song is really fun and we decided to make it house-ier and more electro. It came out really well! I love to rap and I try to incorporate a lot of rapping and spoken word into my sets.
What do you do for fun when you’re not touring?
I do yoga, hang with my friends, hike, paint, write, and read.
If you could only take one album with you on a deserted island what would it be?
The album which has Martha by Rufus Wainwright [All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu].
If you could only have one outfit for the rest of your life onstage and offstage, what would it be?
A white or black t-shirt, tennis shoes, and jeans.
What’s your spirit animal?
Probably that one weird kid at your high school.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Maybe chocolate mint or cheesecake.
What can we expect from you in the coming years?
Interview by Angelica Zocchi and Kenneth Zhang