Grace McKagan is trading in her rock band days and debuting herself as a solo artist, one explosive record at a time. Transitioning from the synth-pop-punk sound that made up The Pink Slips, the 23-year-old showcases growth and maturity, embarking on a new venture fine-tuning her own version of alternative, 60’s garage rock.
Since she was 3 years old, Grace fondly remembers putting on shows to No Doubt for her parents and anyone who’d come over. She’d tell them “you can’t leave, you have to watch me and film me!” Priding herself in being both a singer and a performer ultimately and fundamentally, Grace describes herself as “a bitch who’s always loved rock and roll.”
Plus, being the daughter to Guns N’ Roses bass player Duff means you’re a rockstar by default. Preserving her signature dark style, McKagan now releases her triumphant lullaby titled “Surrender,” a bad bitch anthem for anyone going through heartbreak. The song is brought to life in the equally powerful visual, as she performs live covered in real-life butterflies—representing metamorphosis and leaving the past versions of herself behind.
Flaunt caught up with Grace via FaceTime, who was enjoying pizza and mimosas in Los Angeles in celebration of her boyfriend’s birthday. Read below as we discuss her being a Virgo, going solo, the inspo behind “Surrender,” hobbies outside of music, fashion influences, modeling in the Skims campaign, her new merch with Deadly Dolls, goals, and more!
You’re a Virgo, what does that mean for you?
Virgos are generally very overanalytical, organized, kind, loyal and anal. It’s the librarian of the Zodiacs.
What are you anal about?
I’m anal about the organization of my room and the fridge, having everything set up nice. [laughs] Making my bed. I like a clean space. If my space is clean, then the rest of my life feels clean and organized.
Being from LA, what was the household like growing up?
I grew up half between LA and half in Seattle, because my dad’s from Seattle. Both living in the valley and growing up in Seattle has influenced who I am as a person. Both cities are great for music and the culture behind the music. I definitely grew up with a lot of rock and roll, art, hair people, makeup artists, every kind of artist around me. I’ve always been encouraged and supported to be creative.
You started Pink Slips at age 15, what was Grace like then?
I can’t speak for everyone but me personally, I was super awkward. I’m still super awkward. I always knew I wanted to be a singer. I grew up doing musical theater so forming a band was the next step. Of course all 15-year-olds have insecurities, but I was so naive to the industry and other people’s opinions about me that I didn’t care. I was doing it for myself. The more I started performing, I grew into what music I wanted to play more and discovered who I was more on stage as an artist. Every year as a teenager, you grow up and learn so much about yourself. At 15, I really didn’t give a fuck because I didn’t know there was people to give a fuck about. I was doing it to fulfill what I thought was fun, I was having fun and still am.
Fondest memories from those days?
A lot of amazing memories from being in the Pink Slips. I have memories of my band members and I going out. One of the songs “So Lucky” coming out, I wrote it about my keyboard player Trent. It’s a dramatized version of what actually happened, he hooked up with a flight attendant. It’s about having a quirky situation in an airplane. I have a bunch of fun memories, playing a bunch of DIY shows in LA. Opening up for Killing Joke was really amazing. The Pink Slips was amazing. Me being a teenager, I had fun. 23 I’m still finding myself and discovering who I am, but I think of The Pink Slips as fun, raw, and youthful.
How does it feel to be going solo?
It feels really good. I didn’t anticipate this happening at the beginning of the year. When I was writing my new song “Surrender,” it felt natural where I am in my life. “Surrender” is about discovering myself, there’s imagery of butterflies in the video which represents metamorphosis and coming into your own. Putting out “Surrender” along with going solo comes hand in hand at the perfect time. When I wrote this song, I had no intention of going solo. I was writing it for The Pink Slips with my producer Isaac Carpenter and my guitar player/boyfriend Blues Williams. It feels natural at the right time in my life right now. I’m feeling bittersweet, but really looking forward to it at the same time.
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How excited are you for “Surrender” to be out? I know you’ve been pushing this for a minute.
I’m so excited, I wrote this song a while ago. Everyone this year has had a jolt in their careers due to the pandemic. I was supposed to put out this song a while ago back in May, but we shifted because of going solo. We had to postpone the tours we had planned like everybody else, which sucks but there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I’m really excited to share my favorite song I’ve ever written, the most mature song I’ve ever written. Hopefully people can relate whether it’s because of the pandemic, internal struggles, a breakup, whatever it may be.
The song is about finding confidence when times are bleak. How therapeutic is music for you?
Everyone can relate that music is therapeutic. Whether you’re happy or sad, music helps everybody to some degree. Let them feel their emotions to the most authentic ability. It’s okay to be sad, listening to sad music can feel comforting. “Surrender” isn’t necessarily sad or happy, it’s a little bit of both. It represents finding that self-confidence and reminding yourself that you won’t surrender no matter what outside influences are telling you or your internal voice saying “I can’t do it, I can’t do it!” I wrote it to remind myself I can do it and I should do it, and I can be strong.
Releasing “Surrender” is super therapeutic because writing it, I felt really bad about myself. I was super sad. I was going through a breakup in multiple different ways via through my band and a boyfriend at the time. Just an older version of myself. I subconsciously wrote these lyrics and started to believe myself, because it’s affirmation. If you tell yourself something over and over again, you’re going to start to believe it. Now where I am, I’m in a much better place. I feel more confident in myself, I feel better. I fell in love writing the song with my boyfriend who I have now, it’s a beautiful love story not only with him but with myself.
What are some things you do for self-care?
I definitely love glam, face masks, baths, watching rom-coms, something comforting. It’s so relaxing., I like to relax. I love being alone and zoning out on my phone watching YouTube videos. A lot of the times, I’m always trying to please people and make people like me. When I’m alone I can grab myself again, be comfortable and feel at ease.
Your live performance is very theatrical. How much do you miss performing?
I miss it so much! Whenever my boyfriend and I get lit when we’re at home because of the pandemic, I’ll put on music and put on a show for him. Pretend like we’re playing a show because I miss it that much. [laughs]
3 things you need in the studio?
I’m so bad for saying this, but definitely my cigarettes. I love feeling charged up as fuck when I go into the studio, so I go to Starbucks and I get the largest Iced Matcha I can get with coconut milk. I like to feel cracked out! Definitely a notebook and a pen so I can write lyrics.
Do you write everything down?
Yeah, I like to write down my lyrics or ideas because it feels like I’m more in the process as opposed to typing on my phone. I’m actually writing words down. When you outline an essay, you like to write it as opposed to type it, at least for me. You feel what you’re trying to do more, it’s pen to paper.
What is one thing you want fans to get from “MILES AWAY”?
“MILES AWAY” is really fun and really fucking sexy. It’s about having a crush on somebody and you want to hang out and make out with them. It’s not that deep. A fun, sexy, hot song, I’d love fans to do a striptease to it.
What are your hobbies outside of music?
Well I’m in online school, so that takes up a lot of my time. I’m majoring in Creative Writing, it takes up most of my time. I love doing yoga, pilates and working out because it feels really good. I like taking walks too.
Who are your fashion influences?
My fashion influences are definitely Nancy Sinatra, Iggy Pop, Brigitte Bardot, Debby Harry, those are my main ones. I love 60’s pop the most.
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How was it modeling in the Skims campaign?
That was so fun! One of the coolest moments of my year. Before this, I never modeled. I felt super cool and very hot knowing that I could be an underwear model. [laughs] I never thought it could happen. Never thought I’d have those words coming out of my mouth, but it felt super cool.
Talk about the merch collab you have with Jessie Jo Stark clothing line Deadly Dolls
We had our friend Lucas David, a really cool artist from Mexico who does sexy Tim Burton shit, he drew stickers, sweatshirts, and a white t-shirt. I’m the first collab she’s ever done, I’m super excited. My dad had her baby shower at his house, we’ve known each other forever and ever. It feels really special that she’s here supporting me and encouraging me embarking on my solo career. Letting me do this collab with her because she’s the coolest fucking fashion icon, so creative. The best and the sweetest person. It’s been a really fun process to be creative with her.
Greatest memory from seeing your dad perform?
I’ve always felt really proud of him when I get to watch him. It’s surreal because I forget he’s my dad, I see him almost every day.. It’s surreal when I get to watch him play on stage, definitely really cool and I feel proud to say ‘wow, that’s my dad! He’s so cool.”
Goals you have for yourself at this point in your career?
Write more music, create really cool videos. One of my favorite parts is always creating concepts, directing videos, having different fashion looks, makeup, wigs, etc. My goals are to keep being creative and keep working my ass off.
Anything else you want to let us know?
I hope that everybody finds something to connect about within “Surrender,” t hey either leave it after listening feeling empowered, confident, or some sort of powerful emotion within themselves. I hope they can find the beauty and the strength within the song, how I perceive it as well.