While most folks in their late teens are finishing up high school or getting started in college, Portland-based singer-songwriter Grace Mitchell is on a slightly different path. She just released her second EP, Raceday, and when I listened to it, I immediately knew she was the next big thing. I usually have to listen to an album a few times to get into it but it was different with this one. The fresh opener, the title track, instantly hit me. When I'm in a good mood, I'll blast her current single, "NoLo" in my car and scream "Don't worry about me, I'm all better now / You can worry about you, I'm all better now." That little bend she adds in the last "now" will make you fall in love! Her melodies are so well-crafted and detail-oriented andher voice is so mature that I thought I was listening to a more soulful version of P!nk at first. Sultry, sassy, effortless. That's what solidifies her as one of the best new artists of 2015.
About one year ago, Mitchell released her debut EP, Design, on Soundcloud. Now let's fast forward to this year. After releasing her second EP, she has been gaining massive buzz on Beats 1, she's grabbed the attention of DJ/producer Zane Lowe, and she recently opened for The Weeknd during The Apple Music Festival. When asked what was it like going from a Soundcloud sensation to major label success, Mitchell said, "The Soundcloud release actually lined up with when I signed to my label, so we decided that's how I was going to release both of my EPs." This was interesting to hear because during the release of her first EP, Mitchell remained very mysterious. It seems like a smart move...Soundcloud being the way to go these days. Even enormous stars like Miley Cyrus and Kanye West are taking a more indie approach, beginning to gravitate towards Soundcloud, making their music more accessible. "We wanted to make it exclusive to the internet," says Mitchell.
Mitchell partnered up with Mark Foster (Foster The People) and Rich Costey (Frank Turner, Muse, Foster the People, Santigold) to produce Raceday. When asked how the writing process went, Mitchell said it was very collaborative, "We would vibe off of each other in the studio and we wrote everything together. It was a very organic process."
It seems like singer-songwriters are getting younger and younger every day (Lorde, Alessia Cara, etc). When asked how she feels about accomplishing so much at such a young age, she got a bit irritated, but rightfully so. "Everyone always asks me how I feel about being so young through all of this, but it doesn't matter. Age is irrelevant and has nothing to do with the music. It doesn't matter how old you are."
Her new EP has a constant theme of confidence, i.e. the very assertive single "Jitter" which is simply about partying with your friends. However, because Mitchell executed it in such a compelling way, it's not your typical bubblegum pop song. Instead, it's a powerful teenage anthem about staying young and enjoying life, and yeah, it'll make you dance. It also manages to combine several different genres with hip hop-influenced samples and a smart pop formula. If you listen carefully, Mitchell even threw a little French into the mix. "I think it's a beautiful language and I added it to the song because I like the way it sounds. Sonically, it went well with the music and created a nice flow." You don't have to know the language. Sometimes you just need to appreciate the language and know when it appropriately fits into the song. In this case, it was perfect and upped the quality-factor. You'll also hear some French in her song "Bae," where she teamed up with French rapper S. Pri Noir.
While on the subject of confidence in her EP, I wondered if Mitchell always walked around with so much self-confidence or if maybe it was a songwriting technique she used. You know, a musical persona, like Beyonce's Sasha Fierce. "I would say I'm a confident person. Like everyone else, I have my insecurities in some areas but for the most part I'm very comfortable with myself. Especially when it comes to songwriting." Like we said before, this girl knows who she is.
Now that the EP is out, the singer is ready to take her profound voice on stage. She just wrapped up a tour with indie rock band Joywave. "Touring with those guys was incredible. I'm sad that it's over -- I wish I could stay on tour with them for another six months." But don't worry, Mitchell reassures us that she's planning to head back on the road very soon. "In addition to touring, I'm also in the process of putting together my debut album and I have a lot more exciting projects lined up." It seems like some things are still on the down low right now, but we're just getting acquainted. As soon as she drops her debut full-length, Grace Mitchell is going to become the world's much-needed bold best friend.