Grace Mitchell’s been drawing a lot of comparisons lately; many are even wondering if the 17-year-old Portland singer/songwriter is the American answer to New Zealand’s Lorde.
“I can see why people compare us, we’re both artists trying to make a really cool substantial career for ourselves. We’re both young,” Mitchell explains from her home. “It’s a really cool compliment but I think that we’re definitely dissimilar in many ways. We have very different tastes. Really different styles.”
They also share another common comparison that leaves Mitchell a bit perplexed: “I think it’s really funny when I read articles and they say I’m brooding or kind of dark because I really don’t think that. I’d say I’m pretty lighthearted.”
Mitchell is an intriguing kaleidoscope of contradictions. There’s something quintessentially ‘80s about her: Molly Ringwald good looks and a voice that could have shared the top of the ‘80s charts alongside Kim Carnes and Laura Branigan. Yet her sound is influenced by ‘90s alternative rock/pop icons like Tori Amos, Paula Cole, Alanis Morissette, and Fiona Apple. “They were massive influences on the way that I write songs.”
Both decades merged perfectly when Mitchell covered the 1982 Hall & Oates classic “Maneater” for Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Her sophisticated take was perfect, not simply a cover but a reinterpretation–the predatory coldness of the maneater was less bouncy and more menacing–making it relevant to a new generation. A fantastic debut for the then 16 year old who had been given only three days to record the track with her producer Morgan Taylor Reid. Then again, she’s been ready for a while: writing as well as performing in small venues in her hometown and recording her first demo with her neighbour, singer-songwriter Richard Swift, at 11. Her elegant voice, which took her years to appreciate, and affecting lyrics are well beyond her age.
In late 2014 she released tracks on SoundCloud and fans—and praise—quickly followed. Her music was assured and, as she says, firmly crafted by Mitchell herself. “I like to pride myself in making a lot of the decisions on sound, [and] I would like to stay on the forefront of this project [her debut LP]. I have a lot of people backing my ideas, which feels so good [but] I would say that I’m kind of running the ship,” she admits with a laugh. “We’re going to experiment with more abstract stuff, play around with interesting theory. The EP is more of a pop contemporary version of what I think the album will be. But still very accessible to pop and radio.”
Interestingly enough, being in the spotlight may simply be a means to a bigger, if not behind-the-scenes goal for the gifted musician. “I would like to write and produce for other people,” she acknowledges. “That is probably the most desired thing in life. That’s the end game for me.”
[magazine month=”March” year=”2015"]