Lori McKenna has bucked music industry norms to become one of country music’s most prolific songwriters.
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Born and raised in Stoughton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, McKenna never needed to migrate from her hometown in order to make it in Music City. McKenna is the latest guest on the Songwriter Soup podcast presented by American Songwriter and hosted by hit writer Laura Veltz, financial advisor Tracy Hackney and podcast producer Kevin Sokolnicki. Veltz introduced McKenna as “one of the greats” and a “den mother for Music Row.”
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Before becoming a hit songwriter, McKenna recalls that at one point, she was making $5,000 a year doing odd jobs like selling Tupperware, until one night she performed at a local open mic night and someone told her she should save $5,000 to make an album. Taking the woman’s word to heart, McKenna released her album Bittertown in 2004, unexpectedly taking her career to new heights.
“When I started the artist thing, it was in order to get the songs out,” McKenna explains of Bittertown, adding that she started writing songs young, but didn’t share them with family or friends until her children gave her the confidence to share her songs openly. “My favorite part of it all is songwriting. I think that using the artistry as a vehicle was my only option at that point.”
The album, which featured 13 songs written solely by McKenna, caught the ear of legendary folk singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier, who asked if she could share it with publisher Melanie Howard. Months later, the Bostonian got a call from Howard with a life-changing message.
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“Faith Hill wants to hear every song you’ve written,” McKenna recalls her saying. Before the year was over, Hill recorded three songs from Bittertown for her 2005 album, Fireflies, including the Top 40 hit, “Stealing Kisses.” This led to McKenna scoring a publishing deal with Howard, setting the stage for her future success as a songwriter, including co-penning Little Big Town’s Grammy-winning hit, “Girl Crush,” Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and Taylor Swift’s “I Bet You Think About Me” featuring Chris Stapleton.
“I think there’s a thing about songs where we are not satisfied being the only people that hear our songs, there’s something else that is necessary for us to share,” McKenna observes. “Loving yourself is one thing, but loving other people is so much better.”
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