Grace Mitchell’s Twitter bio is just two words: “genre-bender.” It’s really all she needs to describe all the sounds she put out this year. In her five singles released in 2017 so far, she floats effortlessly from the beach-wave vibes of “Come Back For You,” to the hard-hitting “Cali God“—a track that can easily be mistaken for a song off of BANKS’s latest album.
At only 19 years old, Mitchell is just getting started—but between her cover of Hall & Oates’s “Maneater” featured on the soundtrack of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, to playing at Coachella this year, it’s clear that she’s welllll on her way to superstardom. FLARE chatted with Mitchell about the insanity of festival season, artist activism and her unconventional approach to skincare. We’re obsessed.
You’re so young and already embarking on a successful career. How do you think your age affects your approach to the industry?
I think my age makes it so that I have fresh opinions and a fresh approach to music, my career and my creativity. I don’t think it ever impedes my process; it just makes it better, more raw.
What themes do you draw on when writing music?
I tend to write a lot about things I observe. A lot of the time, I’ll put myself in the position of characters that I think up. I don’t tend to write much about super-personal things. If I do, I spend a lot of time trying to flesh them out and make sure it’s honest.
You grew up in Portland, Oregon, which is a hotbed for cool culture. What was that like?
Growing up in Oregon, I was surrounded by a lot of art. [The area] draws a lot of artistic people. I always felt really supported by my community to pursue artistic endeavours. It was a very counter-culture community; everyone was doing something abstract or artistic.
In June, you wrote a “love letter” to the LGBTQ community for Billboard. Especially in the current political climate, how do you feel that as an artist, you can promote conversations about acceptance and diversity?
I think that by writing about it in my songs—and being vocal about my opinions regarding human rights and activism—I can really help people who follow me online or who like my music, because maybe they wouldn’t be able to find an outlet or community that agrees with them otherwise. I interact with a lot of people—and a lot of my fans online—and I always want to be a safe place, someone that they can turn to for support.
You played at Coachella this year. What was that like?
It’s pretty surreal, being able to perform at Coachella. I got to see a lot of my friends perform. I had a lot of people come out and support me; I didn’t know what to expect, as far as my own personal crowd. A lot of people were singing the lyrics [to my songs], which was really exciting. Coachella is something that a lot of artists hope that they will eventually be on the lineup of, and I’m really thankful that they picked me this year.
It must be so cool to have everyone singing your lyrics back at you.
It never stops being weird and amazing.
You’ve been playing other festivals this year, including WayHome and Osheaga. How has the circuit been this season in general?
Festival season is really freaking wild. We’ve done so many festivals and I’ve loved every single one. I think that festivals are a really interesting way to perform music, because you have to be prepared for anything: the elements, things going wrong. You only get a 15-minute line check, so you have to be really quick and make sure that everything is secure. You also have a lot of people coming to your show who have never heard of your music before, or who maybe know you a little and want to get a better feel for your music. You get people who are walking past and see the stage and think it’s intriguing, so they come over. It’s always really exciting to see that.
Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
I have a couple mantras that I say to myself, things that help me focus on what I’m about to do and get me in the mind space that I need to be in to go on stage. Then, I get psyched up with my band: we share a drink or talk about what we’re going to do, the energy we’re going to have.
You’ve named Alanis Morissette and Joni Mitchell as your inspirations in other interviews. What is it that you admire about these women?
They have a very interesting, organic way of telling their stories. I think their songwriting is really natural to their experience, where a lot of pop music can be vapid. They want to talk about serious situations, which is what I want to do as well.
When it comes to style, who are your biggest icons?
What are your go-to beauty products?
I love moisturizer. I use lots of moisturizer, and toner. I don’t tend to wash my face—I just use toner. I really like Fatboy hair putty, from Urban Outfitters. And I also really like lip balm, Burt’s Bee’s pomegranate stick.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading a book called Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. Also Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.