Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our teenage years feel more like a pity party than an actual party. But in a way, those messy moments can be more valuable to our growth and resilience than any fun night out ever could, and that’s exactly what the multi-talented McKenna Grace explores on her debut EP, Bittersweet 16. This eight-song collection dives into the moments of young adulthood that shape our views of the world and of ourselves, in a vibrant, playlist-ready package.
“I’ve been sitting with this music for so long now!!” McKenna tells TREMG. “I’m so happy to finally be releasing it. I’ve been creating such different music lately and I feel so different than I did at the time of writing Bittersweet 16, so it is really bittersweet to listen to haha. I hope people like it, it’s definitely personal but also really fun!”
From the vulnerable opening track “Ugly Crier,” Bittersweet 16 paints a dimensional portrait of a young woman stepping into her own and finding who she wants to be, no matter what others might think of her along the way. Meanwhile, she’s dealing with the aftermath of someone “hanging [her] heart from a telephone wire” on songs like “City Leaver” and “Buzzkill Baby,” gracefully drifting between tear-filled, introspective moments and powerful realizations that she deserves much more.
“I felt like ‘Checkered Vans’ was so fun and ‘Self Dysmorphia’ is so self-deprecating that it really flows nicely into the half-breakup, half-internal Bittersweet EP,” McKenna says. “It was so hard to decide what songs to release as singles, what to keep on the EP, and what to scrap! So many songs, ah! The EP ended up with a lot of favorites though.”
Each of the songs on Bittersweet 16 feel so cinematic and fulfilling, bringing different stories to life with a unique charm on each track while intertwining to create a rich, compelling narrative. It feels like a natural progression for McKenna, who’s also an actress with credits in movies like I, Tonya and TV shows like The Handmaid’s Tale. Her talent for storytelling is a key pillar of what makes her work so moving, whether it’s a riveting acting role, an irresistibly catchy song, or a music video that bridges her two worlds together.
“It’s fun creating and writing music videos after being an actor for so long,” McKenna shares. “I love co-directing and writing them. I do this weird thing on set where I jump up and down a bunch to get hyped up for an intense scene and for some reason I find myself doing that before I do a take of a song! I don’t know why but it works haha.”
From navigating her teenage years and writing an awe-inspiring EP, to getting scoliosis surgery and landing major roles on screen, McKenna Grace has proven to the world and herself that there’s nothing she can’t do. Bittersweet 16 is a mosaic of breakdowns and breakthroughs, of all the moments that make us who we are and how we pick ourselves back up after running into our worst-case scenarios.
“I created this EP back in 2021 and have been working on its release for a while now,” McKenna explains. “I have been away filming for the past year on different projects, so after my spine surgery, I was able to focus on putting this out. It finally seemed like the right time to put it out after releasing all of these singles. I’m really so excited for it to be out!”
You can find Bittersweet 16 on your favorite streaming services now, and get to know McKenna Grace on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter! Keep reading for more from our interview with this incredible multi-hyphenate.
Congratulations on your debut EP, Bittersweet 16! How does it feel to finally share the project with the world?
I’ve been sitting with this music for so long now!! I’m so happy to finally be releasing it. I’ve been creating such different music lately and I feel so different than I did at the time of writing Bittersweet 16, so it is really bittersweet to listen to haha. I hope people like it, it’s definitely personal but also really fun 🙂
You’ve been releasing music since 2021 and have racked up over 45 million streams since then, which is incredible! How did you know that now was the right time to put together a full EP?
45 million streams!? Oh wow haha, that’s so cool!! I didn’t know this was the right time, to be honest! I created this EP back in 2021 and have been working on its release for a while now. I have been away filming for the past year on different projects, so after my spine surgery, I was able to focus on putting this out. It finally seemed like the right time to put it out after releasing all of these singles. I’m really so excited for it to be out!
Songs like “Ugly Crier” are full of so many punchy lines, with some of our favorites being “I’m such an ugly crier, I’ll never be Taylor Swift” and “she’s mature for her age, but too young for 16.” Is there a certain lyric on the EP that you’re especially proud of?
I really like the lyrics “You even ruined air for me” (So dramatic hahaha), “You ruined parking lots and movies snacks and photo booths, imagine that.” I also really like “YOU SUCK!! … the air out of the room..” And it just makes me feel cool saying “It was close, but no cigar.”
How do you feel Bittersweet 16 compares to the previous singles you’ve released, and how did you decide which tracks to include?
It’s funny, I really just wrote a ton of songs not even planning on all of them meshing together as well as they did. There are so many songs that didn’t make it onto the record, but these were just my favorites that also really seemed to flow and connect. I feel compared to my other singles I’ve released, it’s very similar, but I think there are some new, fun, surprising elements in some of the songs.
Which songs on Bittersweet 16 took the most and least time to make?
Maybe the title track, “Bittersweet 16?” We just had some notes going back and forth on it for a little bit but honestly not even very long! Each song was created in about a day or so, and in some cases, we would do two songs a day. We wrote a lot the songs that ended up on this EP over the span of a week, it was really so quick and while I was shooting Handmaid’s Tale!
Which song on Bittersweet 16 means the most to you and why?
I really love “Post Party Trauma.” It’s just always been a favorite of mine. I’m just really proud of that song haha.
Before the release of Bittersweet 16, you released songs like “Self Dysmorphia” and “Checkered Vans” as singles. How did you decide which songs to release as singles to introduce fans to the Bittersweet 16 era?
I felt like “Checkered Vans” was so fun and “Self Dysmorphia” is so self-deprecating that it really flows nicely into the half-breakup, half-internal Bittersweet EP. It was so hard to decide what songs to release as singles, what to keep on the EP, and what to scrap! So many songs, ah! The EP ended up with a lot of favorites though 🙂
You played your first-ever live show on February 21st, which is so exciting! What was it like preparing for that show, and which songs were you most excited to perform live?
It was so fun preparing for the show, I’d never done anything like it. My band was so amazing and supportive and we really had the best time- it was like summer camp. We had band rehearsals the week before the show and it was really one of my favorite weeks ever. I had so much fun performing “Collapsing Stars,” “Post Party Trauma,” and “Buzzkill Baby!!” It was incredible to see that people knew my lyrics 🙂
Many of your fans first met you as an actress in projects like Ghostbusters: Afterlife and The Handmaid’s Tale, and this year, you’ll be voicing a character in PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie! Is there anything you’ve learned from acting that you’ve carried with you into your music career, or vice versa?
It’s fun creating and writing music videos after being an actor for so long, I love co-directing and writing them. I do this weird thing on set where I jump up and down a bunch to get hyped up for an intense scene and for some reason I find myself doing that before I do a take of a song! I don’t know why but it works haha
As someone with scoliosis, it’s been so inspiring to see you openly talk about your struggles with the condition and your surgery! What has it been like for you to turn something so difficult into something that has helped so many of your followers with scoliosis feel less alone?
It’s really scary to share a journey that’s so personal with the world. Originally, I didn’t think I was going to talk about it because I had been trying to hide it for so long. But when I went through my surgery, I was so scared and I didn’t see very many people online talking about it, so I wanted to help people in my situation feel less alone. I really hope I can help people be less scared or be more informed on the surgery. It’s so common, yet I find that not a lot of people talk about the surgery or what it’s like! It is a really scary thing to go through, but it’s so, so worth it. My surgeon, Dr. Skaggs at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, is one of the greatest in the world, I’m so lucky that he performed my surgery! I have absolutely no regrets about having the surgery and am so happy I did it!
How do you feel you’ve grown as an artist since releasing your first single, “Haunted House,” in 2021?
I think my writing and music style and just everything about me has completely changed since then. I’ve learned so much! I’ve even changed so much since this EP. I find that I’m constantly changing and evolving, it’s a part of being an artist but also a part of growing up! I’m so excited for my next project of music 🙂 it’s so different and I really love it.
We at TREMG love getting to know new artists who haven’t gotten the success or attention they deserve. Who are some of your favorite underrated artists at the moment?
CAROL ADES!! She’s AMAZING! She totally deserves more recognition. Also, Lily Kincade! She such an amazing lyricist and is just a really good person too. There’s this cool artist Chloe Lilac and I really enjoy some of her songs, and Hobo Johnson is super funny.
What can your fans look forward to in the rest of 2023?
Hopefully a ton more music:)!!! I’ve got a lot of exciting projects I’m working on in music and in acting. I’ve been writing so so so much! I can’t wait to share everything<3