“I am moving to L.A., like, today,” Grace Mitchell tells Billboard during a call from Ashland, Oregon in late August. “I just picked up a U-Haul, and I’m at a storage unit packing up all my things.”
Ashland is a 10-hour drive from Los Angeles, and the 18-year-old Mitchell, who signed with Casablanca/Republic Records in 2013, says that it’s a drive she’s been making for a long time. Permanent relocation is more convenient and cost-efficient, Mitchell attests, but the timing of Mitchell’s move from her hometown to L.A. is particularly fortuitous. One week prior to packing up her things and driving south, Mitchell’s single “Jitter” was declared a ‘World Record’ by Zane Lowe when the song premiered on his Beats 1 radio show.
“This might be the song of the year so far, honestly,” Lowe said while introducing “Jitter” on his Aug. 18 show. The veteran DJ and tastemaker went on to proclaim Mitchell “absolutely a new contender in the pop world,” the type of authentic hype that most aspiring pop artists can only dream of.
Miitchell was not in Oregon when Lowe premiered the track. “I was in Hawaii on vacation, actually,” she recalls. That didn’t stop her phone from blowing up as soon as the Beats 1 premiere had occurred. “It was instantly just a bunch of people telling me, ‘I just heard your song! This is huge!’”
The Lowe co-sign is indeed a huge look for Mitchell, whose Raceday EP was released days after the “Jitter” premiere last month, but “Jitter” also lives up to the DJ’s gushing praise. Combining stuttering electro-pop, dead-eyed speak-singing, a breakdown that’s partially in French and roughly five distinct musical hooks, “Jitter” is a quirky fit of genius that may be too strange to puncture pop radio but has certainly made an impression within the pop blogosphere over the past month.
“In the beginning it was a downtempo vibe track,” says Mitchell of “Jitter.” “It originally began very free-flowing and organic, and it started with a melodic instrumental guitar breakdown that was really moody. When we started adding samples and programmed drums and heavy production on the track, it became more energetic, with lots of crazy stuff going on. It was just this total evolutionary process.”
“Jitter” is the clear-cut highlight of a very strong EP: the five-song Raceday, which follows last October’s Design EP as well as a cover of Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” on the Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack, finds Mitchell twisting opulent indie-pop arrangements into oddball confessionals that quickly pull in the listener. Fans of the EP may be surprised to hear that Mark Foster, the leader of Foster The People, co-produced the project, along with Rich Costey (Muse, Of Monsters and Men).
“Mark is such a creative individual, and all of our artistic styles often lead to this cool, energetic clash of ideas,” says Mitchell. The singer says that she has continued collaborating with Foster and Costey on some new tunes that could appear on her in-the-works debut album.
In the meantime, Mitchell has continued to be an Apple Music darling after the Beats 1 premiere last month, as the singer-songwriter opened for the Weeknd at the Apple Music Festival earlier this week. Mitchell also just released a lyric video for the Raceday track “Bae,” and will hit the road with Joywave beginning this Sunday (Sept. 27) before heading to New York for the CMJ Music Marathon next month.