Atlanta-based artist Alannah McCready is originally from Minnesota and she attended the University of Madison, Wisconsin on a full-athletic scholarship for women’s hockey. She won two National Division I Championships as a goalie for the Badgers and played in two NCAA Division I Women’s Ice Hockey National Championships. She chose to pursue her dream of music and is set to release her sophomore album Ricochet Heart on April 27. Sonically, this record will appeal to fans of Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Be sure to check out “Last Girl Standing” from the release embedded below.
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Mehnaz Ladha: Kicking it off with your hometown area of Blaine, Minnesota, what really stands out and makes it special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor to get a real sense of the surrounding area?
Alannah McCready: The thing that stands out the most to me is that [Blaine] is home to one of the biggest ice rinks in the Midwest. There’s like nine rinks in one building and it’s three blocks from my house so I grew up playing hockey there. That’s one of the most notable things but it’s really a nice suburban city that I grew up in.
It’s also only 15 minutes from Minneapolis so it’s just far enough outside the city but then you can get into the city really quickly. Usually, when people come to visit me, I just take them downtown. I like to do a lot of concerts and activities so maybe a Vikings game or a Twins game or something like that.
ML: How does the music scene of Atlanta compare to other cities you have performed in?
AM: Atlanta is very big with music and it has every genre, which is what I like. Nashville, for example, is the country capital of the United States and it’s majority country. But, here in Atlanta, every genre of music is popular in different parts of the city and I love that.
ML: So, what was your first real exposure to music?
AM: My mom is from Oklahoma so country music is obviously huge there. Even though I grew up in Minnesota, her being from there, I grew up listening to country music with her. I grew up on all the classics like Martina Mcbride, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain.
ML: How did you get inspired to create your own and eventually pursue it as a career?
AM: Even though I was at school and playing hockey full time, I was still writing in college. I wasn’t really doing any performing because of no time. I accumulated a lot of material over those years through relationships and friendships and all of the above. So far, it’s made for two-full albums. It’s just a lot of personal experiences and from what my friends go through that we talk about. If we’re going through it, we’re not the only ones guaranteed, so that’s where most of it comes from.
ML: Definitely. How did it feel to leave the sports world and follow your passion for music?
AM: I’ve been playing hockey since I was like three so it was very comfortable for me. Even though hockey is a big world, it’s a very small world once you get to a certain level and everyone knows everyone. It was a little bit strange for me after graduating because at Wisconsin, they treat the athletes very well. It was sort of like entering reality after college, entering the real world.
AM: I do! Before I moved to Georgia, I was coaching and then I played in a men’s league. Just a casual men’s league here in Atlanta in the witness. My hockey stick and puck are still in my trunk.
ML: To create music, and traveling to promote it, must be such a feeling. What’s the most impactful and meaningful part you cherish about it? Does the travel help inspirationally?
AM: We have been to a lot of places so far and after this album comes out, we’ll actually be going to a lot more places that we haven’t even played yet. We’re actually playing in Canada this summer.
I like seeing the different cities and how they respond to the shows differently. There is something about each city that makes it different. It’s funny to see how people respond to different songs that we play. We just got back from Austin playing Red Gorilla at SXSW. Austin is very country driven but it’s very urban as well. So, at our shows, it’s such a good mix of people and I love the different cities and how they bring different people together.
AM: Traveling is definitely a big part because I feel like I live in a car. We’re constantly all over the place but with all the hours in the car, I definitely write a lot. I think it’s just the experiences while traveling like while gone. Because obviously, if you are in a different city you’re experiencing different people and different things are going to be happening to you than what would usually happen where you live.
ML: You’re about to release Ricochet Heart on April 27th. Describe your excitement for the release? What was the inspiration behind the album?
AM: I haven’t done an album in a few years, so I’m very excited. This one is a lot more personal than the first one just because I either co-wrote or wrote every song on this album. On the last album, I wrote about half of it.
This one is a bit more personal and I wanted it to feel like everyone was involved. A lot of the songs come from stories my friends have told me about their relationships or from my own relationships. Even our record will look vintage. The insert is going to look like a piece of paper and everything is handwritten. We wanted to make it feel very homelike because that’s how I felt when I recorded the album at home in Minnesota.
ML: There’s a strong message of female empowerment in your music, especially in “Last Girl Standing”. Describe what it’s like being a female musician in such a male-dominated industry.
AM: This whole album definitely has a girl-power theme. It started off like that and I’m glad it stayed throughout, because I’m at a different point in my life right now. I just turned 30 — don’t tell anybody. Right now, I’m single. All of my friends that I surround myself, I love to be around powerful women, we’re all very independent and have our own paths. But, we still make time for each other and the things that are important. Women like that just really empower me.
So, I wanted to have that theme throughout to show girls and women that things go up and down but if you’re strong within yourself, then you’re always going to be okay. That’s what I wanted to portray. The album has a lot of girl power and stuff like that on it, but then there are also songs that are really sad. Even though I’m a strong woman, I have feelings.
ML: I couldn’t agree more. We’re all human and we have to remember that. Moving forward a bit, what’s been the most memorable performance for you?
AM: One of them, for sure, was one of my first headlining shows back home in Minnesota, because it was the first time that my extended family, friends and everyone I grew up with along with people who knew me from my hockey life. It was the first time that they saw me doing this, thinking like, “She’s actually doing this professionally and has her stuff together with music.” That was a really big eye-opener to show everyone that this was another side of me that you may not have seen until now. Then playing Summerfest for the first time was crazy also. That was the most people for sure.
ML: I bet the size of the crowd makes it more exciting too.
AM: For sure! But that was actually the only time I got nervous. I never get nervous before shows because it’s just fun for me. It’s like my happy place but that was a little bit nervous. I was like, okay. I’m doing it. I’m really doing it.
ML: It’s almost like you’re stepping on stage, opening your mouth and hoping for the best.
AM: Exactly! There’s only like 5,000 people there. You’re totally fine.
ML: Where would you want to perform at in the future?
AM: I definitely want to go back and play in New York again. Last time we played in the city we did an acoustic show, but I’d like to go back and play a full band show there.
I’m Irish so I’d love to play in Ireland. Pretty much anywhere in Europe actually. Paris is my favorite place on Earth. Going there is amazing and playing there would be absolutely crazy.
ML: One of our core objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling, not only to influence people to see and appreciate our beautiful world, but to also minimize cross-cultural divides. What effect does traveling, specifically surrounding music, have on humans in this regard? How has it broadened your perspective of the world?
AM: Imagine how much we wouldn’t know about each other if we didn’t travel? I can’t even imagine what that would be like. But, I’ve been quite a few places and my parents have been to a lot of places around the world. I just think it’s fascinating to see how different people live in different countries and how their day to day lives differ from what we do. But, they’re still so welcoming to people who aren’t from there. I think it’s so helpful for our culture to broaden our horizons and really understand that we are not the only people that exist.
ML: Has there been one specific place that left an impact on you?
AM: Yeah, as I said, Paris is one of my favorite places I have ever been to. I was in awe just being there and I feel like that changed my whole perspective on international travel in general. It’s so beautiful, but it’s so different from anywhere you could go in the US. It just gives you a whole new perspective that these people get to live here every single day and, to me, this is so beautiful. To them, it’s so normal.
ML: Absolutely. It’s always easy to take what we have for granted but travel helps us realize the beauty around us. When you’re traveling for the band or for leisure, what are you most excited about when visiting a new destination?
AM: My band and I are foodies, so we’re really into finding what the local people’s favorite places to eat are. We don’t want to miss out on anything fantastic that we have never had. We ask people at our shows all the time where the best food is around here, what’s unique and what’s your favorite place to eat at. We’re definitely into the food.
ML: Lastly, what do the next couple of months have in store for you?
AM: A lot of travel. As of right now, I think I only have three or four weekends between now and October that I’m actually free, which is amazing. We’re going to be out and about. We’re doing a run through the Midwest up to Minnesota. We’re doing an album release concert up there as well as in Atlanta. So, we’ll play shows going all the way up there and on the way back. Then, we’re going to Canada and just a lot of shows and a lot of traveling. We love being on the road.