For an artist, the range of emotions that come with releasing music is quite vast, but for an artist releasing music for the first time, those emotions may increase tenfold or more as they introduce themselves for the first time to a wider audience.
As March began, so did a new chapter for singer/songwriter Claire McCarty, as she released her debut single, “Wayward Heart,” into the world. McCarty, a now Nashville-based artist, presents a delicate vocal delivery matched with a lonesome fiddle and atmospheric production in the folk-tinged tune, which she says is the first of a host of songs she’d like to release.
We chatted with McCarty all about “Wayward Heart,” as well as her musical roots, moving to Nashville and more!
Pro Country: You’ve shared covers of various different musical stylings on social media. Who are some of the artists you’ve drawn on for inspiration to shape your sound?
Claire McCarty: Growing up, I listened to a lot of John Denver, Taylor Swift and The Wailin’ Jennys. My dad and I would always play John Denver in the car and sing his songs together. I loved the way he would tell stories through his music. Taylor Swift was another huge inspiration in that area. My sister bought Taylor Swift’s first two CDs, and I would sit and listen to them all the time. My mom also had The Wailin’ Jennys CD, which I loved. Other inspirational artists that I have discovered over the past few years are Gregory Alan Isakov and the Lumineers. I’ve realized that each of these artists tell beautiful stories through song, using words and melodies to paint pictures in the listener’s mind. Also, they all tend to lean into folk sounding music. There is something very simplistic and sweet about folk stories and melodies. Each of these artists have greatly inspired me in my writing and style as an artist.
PC: You began composing piano pieces at just eight years-old and writing lyrics at 10. What was it about composing and songwriting that struck you so early in your life?
CM: I have always found music so fascinating and beautiful. All my siblings took piano lessons, and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to take them. A few years later, when I was eight, I started composing piano songs and then writing lyrics at ten. I can’t really explain why or what exactly encouraged me to start doing it, I just did it and loved it. I remember I would sit down at the piano, look out the window and create a piano song that kind of described the nature of the world I was looking at through the glass. As I got older, I would write little poems until it turned into writing songs. Writing not only helped me express my emotions and feelings, but it also let me visit places and pretend I was someone else living in a different world or lifetime for about three and a half minutes. Because of it, I was able to put myself in other peoples’ shoes. I never had to force it or make myself write, I just did it constantly. It was, and still is, my favorite thing to do.
PC: At what point did that early interest in music and songwriting translate into wanting to, and realizing you could, pursue music as a career?
CM: Since I can remember, music is all I’ve wanted to do. Once I started writing songs, I knew that God had given me that gift for a reason, and that He was going to use my music to be a light for Him. I have never doubted that. I’m still learning how to pursue a career in music, and it’s not easy, but it is always an adventure. I know that God has a wonderful plan for my life and music, so I will just keep trusting Him.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you prepared to release music for the first time with your debut single, “Wayward Heart”?
CM: Honestly, when you are crafting a song together, you hear it so much that you almost become numb to it. I think it was only a few days before the release that I realized what was happening. At first, it was all the excitement, but then, for a moment, I thought to myself “wow, I’m about to give this to the world and enable them to love or to hate my song.” Releasing music, especially a first song, can be very intimidating. It’s choosing to be vulnerable and hoping that someone can feel something because of it. Overall, I was beyond grateful and overwhelmed to release my first single. The second the song came out, I fell on the ground crying. It was so special. I kept picturing telling my little girl self that her dreams were coming true. It has been so sweet to see how God is working in my life, and I hope He can use this song to help others in some way.
PC: You wrote “Wayward Heart” with Joel Carpenter and Leah Sawyer. Can you take us in the room and talk about how the song came together?
CM: Joel has been my worship pastor for a few years now, so we have become good friends through Church. On the other hand, I have known Leah since I was young. She is an incredible fiddle player and instrumentalist. I knew it would be a lot of fun to have her play on the song, so one day, the three of us sat down in Joel’s home studio to record the demo. When I wrote the song, I wanted it to feel like driving through the mountains and have a very folky sound. First, we laid down my vocal and guitar. From there, we started messing around with the fiddle. Leah is so talented and can come up with amazing fiddle parts on the fly. Originally, I wanted a mandolin on the song, but since we didn’t have one with us, I overheard Leah plucking and tuning her strings, and knew that the plucking would sound perfect in the song. Joel was the awesome producer who knew the ins and outs of recording and making it sound great. It was such a blessing to have two creative, skilled friends and musicians there to help me with the song.
PC: You recently moved to Nashville. What emotions were you feeling as you were moving away from home, and what has it been like to be immersed in Music City over the last few months?
CM: First, if I was told a year ago that I would be moving to Nashville, I wouldn’t have believed it. When it was set in stone, I was beyond excited! It was difficult to make that move because I have grown up in the same town and house my entire life. I was leaving behind everything I knew so deeply, but I had such a peace about coming here. It has been really special to live in the center of music and be surrounded by so many incredible musicians.
PC: You have also shared several original songs on social media. What information, if any, can you give about any plans to release more recorded original music?
CM: I have so many songs that I want to release, it is just a matter of when; hopefully as soon as possible.
PC: What do you have planned for 2023?
CM: Honestly, I don’t know exactly what I will be doing in 2023 except chasing my dreams and pursuing music, whatever that looks like. I am constantly writing new songs and trying to figure out how to release them. I am a person who likes to have my life somewhat planned out, so it has been weird as a singer/songwriter, because you never know what’s coming next. I try to see each day as its own sweet adventure, which makes me excited for the rest of 2023 and the future.
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
CM: I want to use the musical gifts I was given to be a light for Jesus. I want people to know Him and His love. I want to bring hope and life to the broken and hurting. I want to tell heartbreakingly beautiful stories. I want to paint vibrant pictures in the listener’s mind. I want my songs to help people feel something. If a smile breaks out, or a single tear is shed, or one heart is touched by my music, it is all worth it.
*”Wayward Heart” is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
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