Michigan's Sweetheart


With a striking voice that instantly commands attention, Carrie McFerrin makes audiences sit up, take notice and fall under her spell. But it’s the emotional power she puts into her heartfelt songs and performances that really sets McFerrin apart. “It’s not just singing the words but remembering why I wrote the song and remembering those emotions,” the West Michigan-based singer-songwriter acknowledges. “Usually, my songs are about some kind of heartache. That’s why it’s emotionally exhausting when I play a show, because I feel like I relive my whole life while singing.”

It’s that sort of uncommon passion – combined with penetrating songs about loss, bittersweet sentiment and inner strength – that signals the arrival of a new voice on the Midwest’s indie-folk scene. McFerrin’s EP, “The Wolves,” certainly marks an impressive debut for an artist whose music stirs the pot with country twang, folk-rock sensibility and that special voice. “I haven’t heard anyone that I really sound like,” she concedes. “I’ve been singing this same way my whole life, so I think I’ve got something that works and something that’s unique.”

Indeed, even the background of this native of Warsaw, Ind., is unique, growing up “pretty much living in a log cabin in the woods,” raised by musician parents who encouraged their children to take piano lessons and embrace music. “It was something I thought everybody did in the world,” offers McFerrin, who cites artists ranging from The Cranberries to Fleetwood Mac to Tom Petty as influences. “It’s something I’ve always been around. It wasn’t a choice, it found me.”

She got serious about playing guitar in high school, attended Grace College, got married and moved to Atlanta, Ga., where she dove into the music scene and eventually found a home as backing singer for the high-energy country-blues outfit, The Lindsay Rakers Band. Performing and touring with that band gave her the confidence to forge ahead on her own after moving to Kalamazoo, Michigan, capitalizing on her independent streak and self-described “methodical” Type A approach. It all paid off on her stunning debut EP, gorgeously recorded at Electric Angels Studios in Goshen, Ind., featuring the bracing tracks “Momma Said,” “When a Gun Goes Off” and “The Wolves.”

Now, McFerrin’s ready to showcase that compelling material for listeners in the Midwest and beyond, telling stories, bantering with the crowd “as if I’ve known them forever,” and offering some musical surprises along the way. “I want it to be a little unexpected, but in a good way,” she says. “I have the freedom to do whatever the heck I want and I like that.” And so will her audiences.

– John Sinkevics, LocalSpins.com