Photo: press

Mckenna Grace

Mckenna Grace has been dominating both the big and small screen for more than half her life. Having already secured work in the soap opera The Young and the Restless, films Gifted, Spirit Untamed, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this young powerhouse’s acting career remains in demand as her upcoming roles will see Grace also star in Crater, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie and the untitled Ghostbusters: Afterlife sequel in the near future.

If that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, the multitalented 16-year-old has ventured into music and is now also a full-time recording artist. Following her debut single “Haunted House” in 2021, the Texas-born star dropped her first EP, Bittersweet 16, in March of this year. With moods of heartbreak, loneliness, and angst, Mckenna’s project is definitely one for the sad playlist. If you’re obsessed with the new generation of punk-pop girlies (Leah Kate, LØLØ, and Maggie Lindemann), then it’s definitely time to tune into Mckenna’s music.

During a Zoom call interview with McKenna, EUPHORIA. caught up with the starlet to discuss her first-ever EP, making history at the Primetime Emmy Awards, growing up in the spotlight, and what’s next for her.

Photo: press

Hey Mckenna! I know you’re currently in the UK for filming. How has London been treating you?

It’s been great. I haven’t really had a chance to explore yet, but it’s been very cold.

Yeah, it is! The weather is very inconsistent right now.

It’s terribly rainy. And I packed for summer, man.

Onwards and upwards, however! You released your debut EP, Bittersweet 16, in March this year. How have you felt about the reception of it?

It’s been weird. I don’t know, it’s so interesting. I mean, I lived with those songs for so long and then all of a sudden they were just out there. They’re just out in the world now. It doesn’t feel all that different because I’ve lived with them for so long and now it’s just like, oh, everybody else is living with them. Too weird. It already felt like they were out, but they just weren’t.

Were all the songs written while you were 16 or leading up to it?

Oh, all of them were written before I was 16. All of them were written probably a year prior to the release, which is so funny. That’s why it felt so weird finally releasing everything because I had lived with all these songs for a year and now it’s like, oh, it’s finally out there.

People primarily knew you as an actor before. What’s it been like transitioning from an actor to who is now a singer too?

With music, I thought that I would be able to figure it out because I’ve been in acting for so long and I feel like I know the industry pretty well, but it is so different, like, so different. I’m still figuring out what I’m doing and who I am as an artist, but, it’s just so weird because now I can’t remember not going into the studio every week and writing music all the time. Now it’s just a part of my life, I don’t really remember a time before then it just happened. Now it’s a really big part of my life and it’s so fun being both an actor and a musician because I’m constantly creating songs for films I’m doing now. I have a film that I did that hasn’t come out yet that I got like three or four songs and I’m very excited about. So, it’s so cool.

I read that you wrote your first song at the age of 11. Was it then that you realized that music was another profession you wanted to take seriously?

I mean, it wasn’t a great song, but I did start kind of-ish writing music around then. It was 11-year-old McKenna writing little tunes on a ukulele, I was inspired by Grace VanderWaal. I think it was during the pandemic that I took it more seriously. I would sit and I had a Kid Krow record that I would listen to on repeat. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and I would get very inspired. The main thing that I use whenever I’m writing music is I have like Pinterest boards and I look at all the quotes and get inspired. I started writing music over the pandemic and I think around that time I had a moment where I realized I wanted it as a career path. It just happened and now I’m like, this is my favorite thing. I’ve always played music and it’s always felt like a part of my life but now it’s in a way different capacity that I love.

I guess because you’ve always been a creative person, you’ve always been in entertainment, and this is just like another extension of that.

Yeah, for sure. I’ve always been in the creative industry but now it’s a moment where it’s like, now I know that I wanna be a musician. I feel like now I’m having the revelation where it’s like, “Whoa, I wanna be a musician.” And it’s like, “Yeah, Mckenna, you have an EP out. You ARE a musician.”

Out of the eight songs on this specific EP, is there one that is a favorite or that you’re most proud of?

I think “Post Party Trauma” is my favorite song that I have released, I really love that song. I also really love “City Leaver” but my favorite out is “Post Party Trauma.”

If I had to describe your music, it would be angsty and emotional. Is it easier to write more sad songs as opposed to happy ones?

I mean, in life, it’s easier to focus on negative emotions than positive ones. I feel like it’s always so much easier to focus on the negative. I probably should be writing happier music, but I don’t know, music is like my therapy. That’s the kind of my thing with music is that writing songs is a way for me to get my emotions out and putting the words to paper or in my notes app, it’s very cathartic and therapeutic. There are songs that I’ve written that I will probably never release and never see the light of day, just because it felt right for me to write them or it felt good for me to say those things out loud that I haven’t before, you know? For me, music is like an outlet. I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s really what it is for me. I feel like that’s probably why a lot of my songs are about heartbreak or being sad or feeling anxious at parties. 

Photo: press

You got to perform those songs earlier this year at your very first debut headline show. How was that experience as that must have been something you had wanted to do for some time?

It was so cool. I was so scared, ooh, I was so scared! I threw up immediately after I got off stage. I was so scared, you have no clue man! I don’t even know how I got on stage. I got up there and I started singing. And then whenever I started talking to everyone, I almost started crying. It was the coolest thing that I’ve ever done. Because I act and I put these movies out that so many people see, you never really see yourself on the screen and people looking back at everybody watching you. Being on stage was such a different feeling and now  I wish I could go on tour. I wish I could play more shows. Like, that’s my dream now. That’s my dream. It’s my goal. 

You’ve been acting for a very long time now since you were about four or five years old. How did you get your foot in the door?

My great-grandmama gave me a box of Shirley Temple DVDs whenever I was younger and I watched those. I also had a box set of Herman Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and I watched those all the time growing up. I don’t know what it was that made me decide that, but I was like, “I wanna be like Shirley Dimple. I wanna be an actress. That’s so cool. Like, look, it’s a child and she’s making movies.”  I just thought that that was the coolest thing ever and I begged my mom. I wanted to go to an acting class or be an actress. And she was like, “No, that’s weird.” And it took so long to convince her. She eventually put me in an acting class and they were like, “Wow, she actually likes doing this.” I don’t know… I always really loved getting to act and somehow I  did a lot of commercials back in Texas and then somehow I got an audition for something in LA and then I never came back to Texas. I was just out there and I managed to get the first two things that I auditioned for, which was insane. Acting has been so much hard work, but also a crazy amount of luck just to get out to LA. It’s been wild.

What’s it been like then growing up in the spotlight? I guess you kind of don’t really know any different and you’re kind of just used to it now.

I don’t really know another life and I mean, I’ve definitely had an unconventional childhood for sure. And now that I’m older, I can look at that and be like, “Yeah, I’ve had a really weird life and childhood and crazy experiences, but there’s no other way that I would’ve rather grown up.” I truly don’t think I’m happier than whenever I’m on a film set. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve just grown more of an appreciation for filmmaking and movies. I love getting to act and create, it’s really nice as I’ve gotten older to carry that passion and to continue to love what I do because I know that’s not always the case for child actors. I don’t think that there’s any other way I would’ve rather grown up. I really have loved what I’ve gotten to do. The one thing that I do regret is that I wish that I could go to prom. It’s the one thing that I’m waiting to happen. I’ve never been to school before. I’ve been homeschooled my whole life. I’m always trying to get my friends to invite me to their proms or school dances.

You received an Emmy Award nomination for your role in The Handmaid’s Tale. That must have felt amazing, that’s a huge accomplishment.

It was really incredible. It was the coolest. I was the youngest person nominated in that category ever. And that is really one of the coolest things that have ever happened to me. And I got to go with my dad who is a really big film buff. He’s one of the reasons that I’m as into movies as I am. And so I got to go with him and that’s one of my biggest accomplishments.

And lastly, what’s next for you music-wise?

I have so much music that I am itching to release. I’m so ready to put it out there. I’m trying to convince my label to let me put on an album, but they’re like, “No, Mckenna.” I have around 20 songs right now that I want to release, but I have to pick. And then I’m writing more music constantly. I’m so excited about my new music though. I really, really, really like it. I’m so excited to put it out there.

So, if no album comes this year we can still expect a lot of new music regardless?

Yeah, lots of music. Maybe an EP. We’ll see. I just wanna release more music. I’ve already written music video treatments, I’m so ready.