Singer-songwriter Whitney McClain‘s migration to Austin, Texas didn’t directly stem from a fiery desire to jump in the midst of South by Southwest’s stylistic explosion of genres. However, the Salem, Oregon resident ended up in the famed festival town anyway, as a result of her choosing to attend the University of Texas in Austin. Perhaps the serendipity of that alignment of timing and a fervent interest in music thanks to collegiate a capella, turned the creative winds in her favor because McClain quickly made a name for herself through her embrace of musical blending.
Turning to the qualities of R&B, indie pop, and soul thanks to a steady childhood diet of varied repertoire of classic artists and her own father’s passion for R&B, soul, and funk, McClain has carefully shaped her own sound over the course of two EPs and with the support of a large, enthusiastic YouTube audience by her side, since her fateful collegiate move in 2011.
Today, McClain is based in Los Angeles, CA and American Songwriter is premiering the lyric video for her single, “Good With Pain,” off her second EP, Letters From a Broken Heart.
Though she has relocated once again, from the Lone Star State to the Golden State, McClain has retained and continued to build upon all the artistic ideas she’s gleaned thus far. The result is music that is at once clear in its sonic preferences but also adamant about not trying to simply be a direct second coming of the artists McClain admires and is influenced by, like Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Beyoncé.
Rather, between McClain’s crisply mixed vocals and the assortment of gentle syllabic background vocals, intermittent tambourine splashes, and a lightly jaunting rhythmic piano line, “Good With Pain” seamlessly blends the modern polish of these artists from the present, with artists of early soul, Motown, and R&B like Otis Redding, Ben E. King, and Michael Jackson. Tied all together with a lyrical narrative that revisits one particularly emotionally taxing connection in McClain’s life and “Good with Pain” reflects some of the most enjoyable and relatable aspects of all the genres she’s come to love most.
“I was in a really toxic relationship with this guy for a couple years off and on. I felt such a deep connection to him that I was willing to do just about anything to stay together even though it caused me so much pain and heartache in the process,” says McClain.
Despite the song’s occasionally brow-raising declarations (I’m good with pain / boy hurt me as much as you want / I have no shame / yes I’m just a sucker for love) it’s just as emotionally light and linguistically peppy with its choice of metaphors (Lay out the red carpet oh I’m coming babe / I deserve an Oscar for my poker face / we built our love on a house of cards / Now who plays the joker when it falls apart?). In this way, McClain demonstrates her conceptual versatility for how to address what, at the time, was a situation of very singularly, negatively fixated proportions.
It’s a subtle showcasing of skill and makes “Good with Pain” all the more a noteworthy piece of contemporary songwriting.
If you dig what you hear, check out the full album with this smartlink.