If you were to believe her lyrics to be strictly autobiographical, you might think a conversation with singer-songwriter Lori McKenna would be less than uplifting. Her song “If He Tried” reveals the disappointment of a woman whose partner shows lukewarm affection at best. "Lorraine", the lead title of her album of the same name, speaks of the daunting task of filling her mother’s shoes after she died prematurely when Lori was seven. Her country-laced twang that calls me home to my Southern roots every time I listen to it is merely her singer’s voice. Her speaking voice reveals her lifelong residency in Stoughton, Massachusetts.
A paradox? It’s what makes Lori so intriguing.
Clearly, this artist knows who she is. She is about family, songwriting and her art. And she does it with the most amazing smile that radiates through the phone.
When I asked her how she manages five children and a skyrocketing music career, she laughed. Her life has gone full circle, she says. While her four brothers essentially raised her after her mother’s passing, her older young adult children are helping out with her two youngest kids before her husband gets home from work. She is living her life’s dream. The hardest challenge is balancing her passion with her family obligations, but she feels blessed to be able to spend as much time as she does being able to make a living doing what she loves.
“I see a lot of people around me who do not have that privilege,” she admits.
Growing up, she had modest dreams. She grew up in a musical family, but she wasn’t the one belting out songs in the living room like her brothers. As she developed her interests, she turned to songwriting to express herself. “I thought I’d end up working in a coffee shop or something. Life turns out a lot better in some ways, hopefully better than you imagine.”
One of her greatest challenges is when to say “no”. Because she doesn’t want to miss a single opportunity, she often finds herself on the road every other week, living the crazy like many people whose lives are überbusy. While she takes her eleven-year-old daughter with her sometimes, it’s not always easy to manage the children’s schedules with hers. Although not a perfectionist, Lori admits to being a workaholic. Songwriting is her favorite part of her career.
And she does it so well.
“The great thing about songwriting is you never have to retire.” She envisions writing songs well into her seventies. Let’s hope she graces the stage for many years to come. Get your sample of Lori's work on her Web site. She's offering a free download to her song "Buy this Town".