For 45 minutes on Saturday (June 4), Lori McKenna shed some light on the songwriter’s perspective at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s weekly series, Songwriter Session. The mastermind behind CMA Song of the Year and Grammy Award winning Country Song of the Year “Girl Crush” as well as Tim McGraw’s recent No. 1 “Humble and Kind,” McKenna told the stories behind both songs as well as performed several tracks off her forthcoming solo album The Bird and the Rifle, due out July 29.
McKenna’s set was a roller coaster of emotions. Whether she was telling stories about her non-existent Boston accent, singing poignant songs about her father and father-in-law, or sharing how a song of hers came to be written at a traffic light, her energy was contagious and the museum’s packed Ford Theater felt more like a living room chat with a close friend.
“The problem with me is I do like sad songs but I’m really happy in real life,” McKenna said halfway into her set after playing her songs “Wreck You,” “Buy This Town” and Hunter Hayes’ “I Want Crazy,” the latter of which she says she felt like “the luckiest person” to be in the room when the writing took place with Hayes and Troy Verges.
Another one of her songs, “Humble and Kind,” began with McKenna thinking of her five children and husband. She says she wrote a list of things to tell her children so she wouldn’t be accused of not telling them important life lessons later on.
“I had the title and I knew I wanted it to be things I wanted my kids to know,” she said, explaining her process. “Once you get there, there’s a lot of information. You could overshoot the song. It was more about editing and taking out ‘put the toilet seat down.’ That didn’t necessarily have to be in it.”
After much laughter from the room, McKenna shared that she recorded the song on her phone’s voice memos and sent it to McGraw but she didn’t hear back for a year. During a gig at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, she performed the song with her kids in attendance and one of them cried. Accepting that no one else would hear the song but her family, she was okay with this realization as the song clearly touched the people she wrote it for.
Fast forward a year later, McGraw calls to tell McKenna he decided to record the song. It is then made into a book and a music video and has since inspired random acts of kindness everywhere.
“Since it’s been out in the world it has given me back so much more,” she explained. “Music has always given me back more than I have given it. It’s given me some of my best friends in the world and taken me places that I’ve never imagined.”
McKenna herself has given the world much more than her songs, for many, she has given the soundtrack of their lives.