For the Love of Grace: Catching Up with Grace McKagan
In the midst of a swirling maelstrom of fuzzed up garage guitars, grunge and pure rock n roll, you’ll find Grace McKagan. We caught up with her in Seattle where she’s busy recording new material. Along with LA, it’s a place she knows well. “I grew up in the aftermath of grunge in Seattle,” she says about the influences of both West Coast cities. “Grunge was a very formative sound and feeling throughout my teenage years. I was yet another angry teen who deeply resonated with the loneliness and despair of grunge. Seattle has been the epicenter for so much epic music history from Heart to Nirvana. Obviously, so has LA. I am fortunate to have learned about music through the lenses of both history-dense cities.”
You might recognize Grace’s surname. She’s the daughter of Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan. She’s not someone who shies away from this fact and has always been upfront about her immersion into true American rock n roll heritage. “I am so lucky to have grown up in a world where I was surrounded by music and creatives,” she describes. “You are in a way a product of your environment.” But it’s not something that defines her sound; she finds muses everywhere. “I attempt to create sonic experiences I crave. Music that I wish to hear and it’s just that simple! I pull from so many inspirations. Right now, I’m really into Stereo Total, Broadcast, Wolf Alice, always M.I.A. And the music from the [Showtime series] Yellowjackets both the music made for the show by Craig Wedren and Anna Waronker, and the soundtrack.”
Her latest single is something she’s incredibly excited about. “K-Town feat. Boots Electric” sees her joined on vocals by Eagles of Death Metal frontman, Jesse Hughes, (aka Boots Electric). It’s a gritty, beat-driven song that they recorded during lockdown, passing versions back and forth online. “It was a dream come true!”– she enthuses of working with one of her favorite rock n roll singers. The track is the perfect backdrop for a drive through LA, paying homage to all the textures of urban life. “I’m so grateful for the experience to create art with some of my idols.” The video sees them racing along the same “Thunder Road” area of LA as John Travolta did for the infamous “pink slips” scene in Grease—a nod to the name of McKagan’s previous band, The Pink Slips. McKagan races in a convertible while Hughes follows on a motorcycle, dressed as Evel Knieval.
She’s been in a band since she was fifteen and most musicians feel acute pangs of change when they venture out on their own. “To me, the big difference in performing under The Pink Slips versus being a solo artist, is maturity. Maturity in sound, life experience, people around me. And respect for my craft. I am always striving to grow and become a better performer, writer, singer, friend, sibling, daughter and partner.” Basically, an honest approach to her expression and resistance to classification.
I believe that if you go into a project with the intent of trying to channel a certain spirit, it resonates inauthentically. I try to be as authentic to my voice and heart as possible, whatever that feeling or sound may be in the moment. To me, ‘rock n roll’ is a synonym for ‘authenticity’–it can be limitless in sound and experience. Johnny Cash is rock n roll, so is Prince, so is Peaches, so is Morphine and so is LCD Soundsystem. Refreshingly open. A lot like Grace McKagan herself.