Interviews / Music

Grace McKagan Reveals Her Deepest Ditches in Her Debut EP, “Heart of Hearts”

Grace McKagan has a special affinity for rock going back years. Its influence can still be felt in her music, with her own flair layered in. “I really came into my own and loving rock when I was in high school,” she says. “I discovered The Stooges and The Sex Pistols. I remember being on a school field trip and listening to them in the corner, hiding my phone because I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is embarrassing.’ Even though obviously it’s not – they’re the coolest, but I was just 14 and 15 insecure and everyone was into EDM. I feel that every musician and writer is most heavily influenced by what they listen to the most and what they grew up listening to. There are so many subgenres of rock as well. This past year I’ve really gotten into Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions. A lot of people, when they hear my name or have expectations about my music, they think of rock. If you listen to my new EP, Heart of Hearts, there are definitely some alternative rock elements, but I wouldn’t say it’s rock in the traditional sense.” The EP symbolizes her evolution as she continues to make a name for herself as a solo artist. This time, her work is self-expression in its purest form, allowing the listener a new level of intimacy, and getting to know her as an artist. Grace is still getting to know herself, too. “I’ve been technically solo since 2020, so we’ve had almost three years and we have this new chapter. But it’s definitely a new feeling putting out Heart of Hearts, my debut EP as a solo artist. Although I’ve put out bodies of work with bands before, like with my former band The Pink Slips and our EP Trigger. This is totally different. And I feel like this EP is more representative of me and my heart and who I am as a lyricist, songwriter, and vocalist. Perhaps with my older projects, like The Pink Slips, I feel like it was more punk driven. So therefore, I didn’t get to explore the depths and the strengths of my voice as much. It’s been fun to really explore my voice and I’ve been working on it a lot over the past few years with a vocal coach and discovering my strengths and discovering who I really am as an artist and as a young woman.”

Each track embodies a different footstep in her becoming. “I hope that resonates because that’s what it truly is about and how I’m feeling at this particular time and how I felt writing these songs back in 2020 for a big majority of them. I’m also hopeful that people will resonate with the theme of the EP and the overall motif of just coming into one’s own. It’s a coming of age EP. It’s the soundtrack from start to finish. We all have those feelings of being misunderstood or insecure or naive. I think everybody can relate to that in some respect. So I’m really just hoping to resonate with the good in all of us because I think in 2022, we look for the bad in people as opposed to looking at the good and we look at the glass half empty as opposed to looking at the glass half full.” She is perpetually appealing for more tenderness in life. “My hope is that we can just treat each other with a little more kindness and go into things and thoughts and situations with love as opposed to with all these judgments, which we’re all guilty of doing. We go into things judging somebody because it’s what we’re so conditioned to do. In my experience specifically, people have this idea of who I should be or what they want to project onto me. It just makes me really uncomfortable and really sad. That’s really what this EP is about for me.” The accompanying music video for the EP’s synonymous title track, “Heart of Hearts,” references our innate craving for love and acceptance. “I always had this idea of wanting to show little kids running around and smiling and having fun, because we’re all working on healing our inner child, either consciously or subconsciously, so everyone should treat others with a little bit of kindness.”

The song also reveals a deep yearning for understanding, as well as the cavern its absence can create. “The lyrics at the end are, ‘When you see me, do you really see me?’ When I went to record the vocals with that song, I hadn’t written those as lyrics,” Grace reveals. “We built on this really dramatic outro. It’s the climax of the whole EP. The first vocals I ever tried to sing for the outro, I was just like, ‘Wait, I want to try something.’ We just kept those forever. I never redid them or anything because they felt so authentic and so natural. I always felt like the real ethos of the song and the whole EP was that: ‘When you see me, do you really see me?’ And feeling misunderstood, which again, I’m not alone in feeling. Everybody resonates with that in some respect. And reminding each other to be kind because I feel like what I always strive for is just to be kind because I really want to be well-liked and I think a lot of people do too. I think my kindness can be mistaken for fakeness perhaps, and that can be really frustrating and sad. I wanted to feature the children to make viewers feel sensitive and inspired to share kindness.” That hope springs eternal. “Wouldn’t your day be so much easier if everyone was just a little kind to you? It’s those little things and all those little acts that have effects on your whole day and then how you project yourself onto the world and how you treat other people. It’s so cheesy, but kindness is genuinely what makes the world go round.” Rather than seeking out contrast to justify pushing ourselves adrift on festering islands of ego, we should instead be searching for threads of commonality to pull us closer. “What I perceive is that we try so hard to pick apart what’s different from each other because we like to pick apart other people for what we don’t like about ourselves. But it’s actually that we’re all the same. There’s some link between all of us. Maybe you want to be friends with somebody because they like music and you like music too. A lot of times, people will be insecure and project their insecurities and pick somebody apart, as opposed to looking inwards and trying to work on themselves, if that makes sense. As opposed to treating other people with kindness, we just want to prove ourselves to each other and our egos get in the way of really true and beautiful friendships and relationships because of how we think we should present ourselves to the world and how we think others should perceive us. But at the end of the day, we’re really all those kids playing on the playground, like in the video.”

Grace will be celebrating music from every angle in 2023. “I have more music I’m excited to release. I’ll be promoting more stuff for Heart of Hearts and more content, more visuals, more videos, all that fun stuff. I’ll just keep on keeping on. I’m always down to be playing music and writing music and listening to music and discovering new artists. The way that we get to go to shows now, I think we all realize it’s truly such a gift. I live in LA and in 2022, I’ve been to so many concerts and it’s been so fun. So I can’t wait to keep doing that and I can’t wait to keep playing.” She’s looking forward to immersing audiences in her creative vision.”I can’t wait to go on tour and do more festivals, and just share. That’s why the EP is called Heart of Hearts because it’s like my heart and my heart of hearts and my deep ditches. I can’t wait to share that with people and make new fans and meet the ones that I have and extend my heart to everybody. I’ve always said since I was a teenager, since I started professionally performing and writing music, being on stage is always such an adrenaline rush. It’s such a therapy session because it’s the most vulnerable and authentic I can be. It’s like meditation in a sense. I’m so removed from other people’s reality, I’m so invested in mine and my heart of hearts and my deep ditches. It’s just always the best experience and I’m so lucky that I get to experience that feeling.” Dive into those deep ditches and get acquainted with Grace by streaming Heart of Hearts

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Grace McKagan Reveals Her Deepest Ditches in Her Debut EP, “Heart of Hearts.” Photo Credit: Kristen Jan Wong.

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