Interview: Kelley McRae
Published on September 12th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Angie Atkinson recommended the tender, soulful songwriting of Kelley McRae when we spoke to her recently, so we fired her over some questions to find out more about her, including how she made the director Wim Wenders cry. Oh yes, and she has a new album out in a few days’ time; why, here’s a track from it…
How long have you been writing, performing and recording music for?
For about ten years. I stumbled on songwriting in college (where I was studying acting), completely fell in love with the process of writing, and never looked back.
How would you describe your music, if pushed?
I grew up in Mississippi, so I tend to call it Southern folk music. Meaning that it’s music that draws from the Americana well: folk, gospel, country, blues, and a little rock.
Where are you based, and what do you use to record with?
Officially I’m based in Brooklyn (’cause that’s where I’ve lived for the last few years), but I’ve been on the road touring for the last year and a half. My husband Matt and I tour in our VW Camper van and have driven it 40,000 miles since we left Brooklyn. We took a break from the road last winter in Tennessee, rented a house with a studio in it and recorded a new album there. There was a huge ‘great room’ that had microphones in the chandelier, a grand piano, a drum set – the works – so we just set up a few mics and recorded the whole thing ourselves.
Are you signed to a label? If so, how did you come to their attention?
I did my first two albums (Never Be and Highrises in Brooklyn) with a label that I met through friends in NYC soon after I moved there. I enjoyed working with them, but decided to put this new album, Brighter Than the Blues, out independently cause there’s so much you can do on your own now that just wasn’t possible before (which gives the artist greater control and ownership of the music.)
Where can we hear your music online?
For the next few days, leading up to the album’s release on 9/15, you can download the album for free on noisetrade (http://www.noisetrade.com/kelleymcrae). After that you’ll be able to get the album on my website, iTunes and Amazon. And you can stream all of my albums here: http://www.kelleymcrae.com/music
Which have been your most exciting gigs and/or overall moments so far?
We’ve played over 200 shows in the last few months and it’s really hard to pick the best! If I had to pick one of the most exciting moments I’ve had as a songwriter, it would be when the legendary director Wim Wenders mentioned me in an interview he did with the San Francisco Chronicle. They asked him when a work of art last brought him to tears and he mentioned two of my songs. When someone told me about it, I didn’t believe them. But it was for real. Amazing.
Got any more coming up? (Gigs, that is…)
Always! We tour pretty constantly. You can see all our upcoming shows here: http://www.kelleymcrae.com/shows
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to? (Please provide links if possible!)
I’m gonna give a shout-out to Ed Romanoff, who just put out an album that is CRAZY GOOD. I mean, CRAAAZZZZY GOOD. There’s not a moment off in the whole damn thing. Get it here: http://edromanoff.com/
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Holy crap, that’s a hard question. And a good one. Well, if I was in solitary confinement, I’d be pretty bummed, and I’d need my girl Patty Griffin with me, ’cause misery loves company and no one does it better than her. I’d also need Neil Young, ’cause he’s Neil Young and I never get tired of hearing his songs. And let’s take Bob Dylan in there with us, cause he’s the master and he’s very prolific, so that’s a lot of music right there. I’m not gonna over-think this and I’m gonna go with the other two artists in my life who probably get played the most: Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams. I mean, it’s solitary, so it’s not really a dance party, right??
Kelley McRae, thank you.
For more information please visit kelleymcrae.com