As a listener, Alannah McCready says she likes “to hear things that are outside the box and a breath of fresh air, when everything tends to sound similar.”
As a performer — and by her own admission, someone who doesn’t sound or look like a typical country artist — McCready could benefit from others feeling the same way about music as she does.
“I don’t have a twang; I have a total Midwestern accent,” the singer says. “Country is used to the little blondes — twangy girls doing their thing — and now it’s starting to be different with Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves. They’re a little more edgy and aren’t afraid to actually say what they mean, and that’s how I am.”
The Blaine, Minnesota-raised McCready followed a different-from-most path to a music career. While at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hockey was a priority; from 2007-10, her UW Badgers won a pair of National Division I championships. After graduation, she worked for a sports management firm in New York — and on the side started to invest more time in her music interests than she had in years.
Around 2012, her musician uncle in Los Angeles connected McCready with Nashville, Tennessee-based producer Dan Hodges. She was looking for honest, professional feedback, and after providing a positive assessment of her singing and songwriting skills, Hodges went on to produce McCready’s debut, 2015’s Love Hangover, which was recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles.
The Atlanta-based McCready returned home to Minnesota a few times last year to make the follow-up, Ricochet Heart, released last month. It was important for her to record in one place with the same personnel, as well as to have a hand in writing every song on the album (which she did by herself or with producer Kevin Bowe).
“The third session that I went up there for, I had just gone through a breakup, and that’s when we wrote ‘Undefeated,’ ” she recalls. “It was healing for me to be home in general at that point, and then to be able to go into the studio and write something like that, while I was still experiencing that emotion, I think that’s what makes that song special to me.”
Ricochet Heart is “a hybrid country album, for sure,” McCready says, adding that she wanted it to be “a mix of strong independence, but I’m also a girl with feelings.”
As for girl power, an important theme to her, McCready doesn’t disagree that an underlying feeling exists in the music industry as to just how much confidence female country artists can exhibit.
“I don’t think anyone is going to say it out loud,” she says with a laugh. “But it’s definitely come a long way [in recent years]. In the 1990s, you had Faith Hill, Reba McEntire and Martina McBride, and they were all very strong, powerful female artists. Then it dipped down and became male-dominated, and now it’s slowly coming back.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Alannah McCready on tour (schedule subject to change):
• May 4: Chevy’s Nightclub — Augusta, Georgia
• May 6: The Local — Nashville, Tennessee
• May 11: Kathy’s Pub — Rochester, Minnesota
• May 12: The Pourhouse — Minneapolis
• May 19: Tavern 53 — Hoschton, Georgia
Alannah McCready in Austin, Texas, in March 2018. Photo by Chris M. Junior