An interview with Megan McCormick

I got a hold of 23-year-old Megan McCormick’s album Honest Words about a month ago. And it’s really one of the best singer/songwriter releases I’ve heard this year.

McCormick creates haunting melodic love songs, and rollicking rock tunes infused with a bracing honesty and a tone that’s sometimes, breezy and sometimes breathtakingly heartfelt. The upbeat tunes on the record are solid, but for me it’s the ballads like “Wreck,” and “Oh My Love” and “Honest Words” that really deliver.

Born in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, McCormick was raised in Wasilla, Alaska. She entered college at 16 after receiving a performance scholarship at East Tennessee State University. Her song “Bullseye” landed in the Emmy-Award nominated Prayers for Bobby featuring Sigourney Weaver.

Right now, the openly gay McCormick is touring all over the U.S. She’s in New York tonight and then Iowa, Virginia and Pennyslvania. Check her tour schedule and please catch her soon. Congrats on the release, Honest Words. You rock out on the guitar, and you also deliver some great heart-breaking ballads. Which comes more naturally to you?
Megan McCormick: For me, the singing and playing go hand in hand. They are each there to compliment and support each other really.

AE: This must change frequently, but right now, what’s your favorite song to perform from Honest Words?
MM: “Drifting” is a really fun one to perform. I love getting to stretch out a bit on the guitar leads and really get into it!

AE: For someone who’s not yet heard your album, how would you describe your sound in a sentence?
MM: Confidently intimate, and genuinely eclectic roots-rock with a little something for everybody!

AE: You went to East Tennessee State University; how did your time in the hills there influence affect your music?

MM: I spent a lot of time playing acoustic flat-picking style guitar when I was living in East Tennessee. It changed my technique on guitar for the better. It’s a demanding style and requires a lot of control and dedication. I don’t spend much time playing that style anymore, but I definitely benefit from the time that I spent with it.

AE:  What’s one essential bluegrass album anyone should own?

MM: I absolutely love So Long, So Wrong by Alison Krauss and Union Station. Some bluegrassers may say that it’s not “true bluegrass” but I don’t – it’s an amazing record.

AE: What’s the first music video you ever remember seeing that made you think – “Wow! I wanna do THAT!” or that just affected you greatly?
MM: Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” It’s nowhere near the first video I saw but I remember that one well from when I was fairly young.

AE: Finally, you grew up in Wasilla, Alaska. What’s a great thing about your hometown that the rest of us don’t know? And what’s it like being gay there?

MM: Wasilla marks the true beginning of Alaska’s famous Iditarod Race – the dogsled racing thing you’ve heard about. I’ve honestly spent very little time in Wasilla as an openly gay woman. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that there isn’t much of a community – it’s such a small town.

AE: And to be nosy, are you in a relationship right now? How’s the love life? Does that affect how you write songs?
MM: I’m as single as I could possibly be! My love life is slightly non-existent right now — not necessarily by choice but rather circumstance. I’m never in one place long enough to really meet people. My career is most definitely the most important aspect of my life right now, not that the two things are mutually exclusive, but I’m just extremely focused and dedicated. The beginnings and endings of relationships, or considerable intimate experiences certainly inspire me to write.

When you’re happy you want to go all the way to heaven to spread the news, and when you’re on the other end (where rationality can be scarce) you can’t find enough ways to express the displeasure. Yeah, I’m single! Ha.