Premiere: Grace Mitchell Gets Twisted with “Cali God”

Premiere: Grace Mitchell Gets Twisted with “Cali God”

We talked to the rising music sensation about the sinister new single, her musical inspirations, and why her upcoming new music can't be described in one word.

We talked to the rising music sensation about the sinister new single, her musical inspirations, and why her upcoming new music can't be described in one word.

Text: Jake Viswanath

“Don’t say my name around these parts, this is my boulevard,” Grace Mitchell sneers on her devilishly good new single, “Cali God,” premiering exclusively on V. Upon first listen, “Cali God” seems like an ode to the twisted yet hypnotizing land of California, a tribute that’s cynical yet immensely wanderlust, with an attitude that combines the dread of corruption in Grimes’s “California” and the fantastical allure of Katy’s “California Gurls.” But that line is really an intense and utterly confident switch-up on a track that was actually yearning for an unrequited past love just seconds earlier.

“‘Cali God’ is about a romantic relationship that takes a dark turn,” she explained. “It talks about the idea that you're not totally into seeing someone anymore but you're not considering breaking up with them because the sheer thought of them sleeping with someone else is enough to keep you with them, which is a fucked up reason to stay with somebody.”

The inspiration for “Cali God” comes from one of Grace’s past relationships, something which she usually doesn’t delve into in her songwriting but felt compelled to this time around because of the track’s all-too-relatable theme. “I definitely know people and I've definitely thought about the idea that if you can't have them then no one else can,” she said. “It’s this story of a person who goes a little bit nuts and takes that to the extreme and ends up committing some sort of horrific act against someone else, for the sheer purpose of preserving his or her relationship with someone that they're not even that into but they can't see them with anyone else.”

But if all you heard upon first listen was an outward dedication to California and its luring dangers, you aren’t necessarily wrong. The hook “California you’re a monster, California you’re a God” virtually sums up how locals and doe-eyed tourists alike feel about the great state, and the sinister distorted drop consumes you just like Grace's dreamland has the power to do. “It's talking about the dichotomy of how fantastical and magical California is and also how it could be super dangerous and corrupt,” she said. “There’s a lot of deception and interesting things that are going on beneath the surface, and I wanted to kind of capture that with the mood and instrumentation in the song.”

Mitchell started experimenting with music at a young age while growing up in a small town outside of Portland, Oregon, and was spurred on to push her talents by an unlikely figure: her mother. “My mom wanted me to start learning how to play an instrument and it came pretty naturally me to just start writing songs,” she reminisced. “Through learning the guitar, I've started doing small coffee shop and open mic gigs in my really small town.” Singer-songwriters like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette as well as more surprising discoveries like Jan Hammer (“He's a huge influence of mine. I just recently discovered him about maybe six or seven months ago and I've been obsessed with his music ever since, I think he's such a freaking genius”) helped define her versatile sound, building up to a point where her music went viral on SoundCloud and circulated among the LA scene.

Now, the girl who just sang at her hometown coffee shop is making her debut at major festivals like Coachella — in the midst of other madness of course. “It was super jam-packed because we were doing so much press and promo for the new music, for Coachella, so we were busy all day long. And the performance came around and we were all just exhausted but we pulled through and I think that we did a good performance. But the second weekend, I feel like we really did a good job.”

Following multiple early EPs and her breakout single “Now,” she is currently putting the final touches on an upcoming collection of music that has taken on various genres and forms during its making, in true Grace fashion. “I think that the sound both expanded and reverted into something that I've always wanted to do, which is heavily produced with organic instruments, the guitars, piano, drums, and making it a priority to record live instruments instead of doing it all on the computer,” she said. “I needed to figure out what sound fit the best with the message that I was trying to deliver, and my songwriting, so it's taken many shapes but I'm really proud of where it is right now.”

The emerging artist is also prepping some fresh visuals, especially an upcoming one for “Cali God” (“I'm working on getting it so that it's cinematic and feels like a proper score to the very visceral situation depicting what's happening in the song”) and is also looking way ahead by already working on material for her sophomore album. “I just want to continue to make music that feels organic to me, that doesn't subscribe to any type of genre limitations,” she declared. “I want to continue to make art that's boundless and shapeless and limitless.”

Photo: Stephen Penta

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