Our Swag Spotlight this week is Kären McCormick, singer and songwriter born in Congo and grew up in Spokane, Washington. Her father who was in the Peace Corps was helping people learn how to filter their water where he met her mother and they fell in love. Growing up her parents listened to all types of music including Afro-pop but she specifically recalls hearing Taylor Swift sing “Tim McGraw” on the radio when she was 11 or 12 years old. Her mother listened to Faith Hill and she loved Brooks & Dunn but Swift’s songwriting really caught McCormick’s attention. “At the time I was really big on writing stories and then really big on music so I started begging my dad for a guitar,” she explains. When she was 13 years old, she finally was gifted her first guitar and she says she hasn’t put it down since. “I learned that Taylor [Swift] went to Nashville, so I begged my dad to take me there,” she recalls. “He made me a deal, before we would travel to Nashville I had to perform at least three times in public.”
It wasn’t easy to find places for a young girl to perform but finally, when she was 16 years old she saw a flier for ‘Spokane, Got Talent?’ competition. She auditioned, was picked out of fifteen other contestants by the judges, by singing The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”. She was the top three, and after singing “Stay Beautiful”, by Taylor Swift the audience picked her to win. The following year, they did visit Nashville, she played an open mic night at The Bluebird Cafe and after that trip, she spent the next few years just waiting and wanting to get back to Music City. After getting her degree in Communications from Eastern Washington University, McCormick found herself back in Nashville interning and learning all about the music industry.
On a whim, while back home in Washington, she tweeted a video of her singing Walker Hayes’ song “Halloween” for a chance to win a meet and greet that night while he was on tour with Kelsea Ballerini. Hayes not only loved the video but messaged her and asked her to join him on stage that night. “When I got to the venue I was so nervous, I wanted to perform well, make the most of the invitation. He is just the nicest, had the best energy and is so great at making everyone feel comfortable,” she says of the singer-songwriter. “I am so grateful for the experience. For me, it is not just the opportunity to sing with someone like Walker [Hayes] but for someone to extend their stage to me, who isn’t signed, who they found on Twitter, it’s a stage he’s been working towards for so long, he just embodies kindness.”
Since being in Nashville, McCormick has released three songs that she has written, most recently “Dancing With Him Tonight”. She explains that she wrote the song before moving to Nashville, calling it a pre-Nashville song. “All writers have their pre-Nashville songs, and post-Nashville songs and its interesting to compare the two, to see how I changed as a writer after moving here.” The track will be the first on her debut EP which is slated for release later this summer.
McCormick explains how she wrote the song after going to a rodeo with her friends and seeing someone that she would have loved to dance with, even though she says she is a terrible dancer. “It’s more about taking a chance, getting out of your comfort zone, certain people make you want to do something like that, a person can bring that out of you,” she says of the song.
The EP will feature five songs all co-written or written by McCormick. She explains how she is still getting used to co-writing, learning how to compromise and give and take in a writers room since she is so used to writing songs alone back in Washington. She tells us how she loves that country artists are branching out and collaborating with other artists in other genres and growing up in Cameroon, Africa and listening to Afro-pop she would love to merge both genres in the future.
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