Singer-songwriter, Evvie McKinney, grew up in church in Memphis, Tennessee. As a result, religion has influenced essentially every decision she’s ever made since, both personally and professionally.
The artist, who rose to prominence by winning the inaugural season of the P. Diddy-led Fox television singing competition, The Four, has gone on to collaborate with famed songwriters, including Meghan Trainor. As a kid, McKinney’s family doted on her. She was the youngest of seven siblings and their attention, along with the experience she gained performing in church, helped propel her to become a professional artist. Today, McKinney is poised to unveil her debut EP, This Is Evvie McKinney, on February 26th after recently releasing several singles, including the rousing, “Bring The Whole Hood.” The new songs have helped earn the artist significant attention. In fact, her track, “Look No Further,” recently charted at number-2 on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs. As McKinney’s career unfolds, she hopes to continue to achieve lofty goals while still keeping her feet grounded in her faith.
“I want to be successful in the way that God says I should be successful,” McKinney says. “Spiritually-sound and at peace. That’s the real goal for me. It’s not to have a certain amount of money. I just want to be where God wants me to be.”
In Memphis, music was everywhere. McKinney’s family would go to church to worship in song three-times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. At home, McKinney’s father, an R&B singer, would perform songs and play piano. He would also spin records on the home stereo, including those from Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind & Fire. McKinney found herself especially drawn to the music of Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner. In fact, she performed songs by Franklin and Turner in her auditions for The Four. She celebrates both for their individual ties to Memphis. By absorbing popular music and the music of the church, McKinney has since created a singular style and an ambition to spread her faith to people of all backgrounds.
“Growing up,” she says, “I knew that the Lord had something special for me. There’s never been a moment of my life when I even questioned God. God has always been a part of me and I knew I wanted him to be in my music. Four years ago, I didn’t even know what that would look like. But I never gave up and God made everything happen.”
As she got older, McKinney sang all the time. She developed her powerful voice simply by using it. In total, there were nine people in her childhood home, so there was always an audience somewhere to perform for. Doing so, she channeled her appreciation for artists like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers and combined it with her appreciation for a Higher Power. Historically, music has a way of bridging these two forces and McKinney can’t get enough of the combination. But with that also comes criticism. Anyone who so outwardly projects their belief system is bound to receive derision and McKinney’s life is no different. She understands, though, that all that is part of the deal. Faith often requires dismissing doubt and doubters.
“I get it,” she says. “In the past, it used to bother me. But at this point, I live in a world where some people hear God’s word, and it clicks with them. One thing I want to do in my music – I don’t want to force anybody to love Jesus or see him how I see him. Because I know that’s probably not possible.”
Even landing on The Four, McKinney says, proved the value of her faith.
“It was a miracle,” she says. “That’s all I can put it. The show was a miracle for me. I know that people, when they hear me say that, they think, ‘She’s just being over the top. She’s Christian, she loves Jesus.’ But if you knew what I went through, knew what I prayed for, that show was a miracle for me.”
When thinking about the victory, McKinney equates it to the opening of a mansion door. And with that door now open to her, she has the freedom to explore any number of elegant, opulent rooms inside, each with their own offering to push her career forward. Before that, McKinney remembers driving her 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier north from Tennessee the 14 hours to try out for The Four, bumping Meghan Trainor the whole way. Now she’s working with the platinum-selling songwriter and their co-write will feature prominently on McKinney’s forthcoming EP, along with a handful of other tracks. On each, McKinney says, she offers her faith-based restorative intentions. She delivers the same message always in new, evocative ways. For McKinney, that’s music’s great gift.
“What I love most about music,” McKinney says, “is its ability to heal. It’s ability to take somebody who you’ve never met, someone who doesn’t even know you personally, and get them to feel everything you say. It blends into their soul and, hopefully, lets them look deeper into who they are.”