Solo artist uses old country vocals, heart-wrenching lyrics in new album

Jul 29, 2013

Singer/songwriter Carrie McFerrin
Credit Lori Jean Owen

Folk-rock artist Carrie McFerrin recently released her new album The Wolves and is setting sail for her first tour.

McFerrin has a unique vocal style that might remind you of old country singers like Patsy Cline and Lorretta Lynn. But instead of imitating those artists, McFerrin says she found her voice a different way. Through Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer of the Irish rock group The Cranberries

“I would sit in my room and just try to make my voice crack and try to make it crack," she says. "Cause I wanted to sing just like her with her little Celtic sound. And I eventually did figure out how to get it to crack, but instead of being Celtic it ended up a little country.”

McFerrin will start the release tour for her new album The Wolves this weekend. This is McFerrin’s first solo album after breaking away from The Lindsay Rakers Band, an indie group out of Atlanta, Georgia. McFerrin says leaving the band was a tough decision. Solo artists are less likely to get gigs and often aren’t taken seriously in the music business. McFerrin says a lot of the tracks on The Wolves are about trying to find herself as a solo musician—like the song “Liquid Nitrogen.”

“My first musical endeavor in Atlanta when I moved there, before the Lindsay Rakers Band, was a group called Cousins. And I was like co-leader of that group which I found that setup doesn’t always work very well when you’ve got people who want different things that are in charge of something. So it’s a song about learning the hard way that I probably need to be a solo artist rather than kind of rely on others in a group—which is how I find myself here now. So the first verse actually talks about, ‘I finally learned to sing in a key besides E.’ That happens to be the first letter of the person’s name who was co-leader of the group. So it’s a song about finding myself and actually brings me to where I am today.”  

McFerrin says songwriting is a lot like venting for her. She calls the music on the album “bittersweet life experiences set to song.”

“When A Gun Goes Off is the most deep song on the album. It’s about a suicide that happened to someone in my family, their significant other. They broke up. They were engaged, they broke up and he killed himself over it. So it’s a song…it word for word tells how it actually happened. Each verse it tells a little bit more of the story. It’s a really deep song and that’s a perfect example of one of those songs where I had to get those emotions out of me. I had been holding on to it for about five years. And that song…one bottle of wine and a night alone at home and that song just came out in like 10 minutes. It was one of the most quick songs I had ever written.”

For this reason, McFerrin says after a show she can feel a little drained, but it's worth it.

“I tend to admire people that sing each song with feeling. So I try to do that because you know the songs they’re just flat without any feeling behind it," she says. "But in order to that I do feel like I’m kind of reliving these experiences that maybe normal people would rather put to bed and put to rest. So I’m kind of stirring things up inside of me every time I’m performing and I do feel a little emotionally exhausted at the end of a show.”