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When getting ready to listen to Alannah McCready’s latest release,

Ricochet Heart, don’t be fooled by the familiar strains of guitar picking and fiddle that surge from the opening track. This infectious release may be country, but it’s certainly not your average country.


“I feel like my voice doesn’t sound like a typical country artist,” notes the Atlanta-based singer-songwriter. “And I don’t look like the typical country artist!”


True enough: McCready’s clear, sweet vocals have a straightforward--and totally twang free--bent which can be attributed to her native Midwest. She does have a look that’s different, as well; and she admits she’s in love with every genre from rock to rap. However, these diversions merely make her stand out in a unique way. This artist has truly made country all her own.


Ricochet Heart, which marks her sophomore full length, buzzes with pure “girl power” energy, yet stays strongly grounded by traditional country instrumental elements and ultra-magnetic songwriting.


Taking situations in hand and making them adapt to her, rather than the other way around, is something McCready’s been doing all her life. Growing up in Minnesota, she discovered an affinity for both music and ice hockey at an early age. Music was no problem, but hockey proved to be a bit more challenging--there were no girls’ teams to play on below high-school level.


Undaunted, McCready decided she’d just go ahead and play against the boys. “I would hide my hair in my helmet so they would think i was a boy,” she recalls. “I wouldn’t wear any makeup, or anything like that. And then I started realizing that I am just as good as them--and better than some of them.”


That realization led to McCready letting down her hair (literally) while she played, and eventually to a sports scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she won two National Division 1 Championships as a goalie for the Badgers. Alannah also played in two NCAA Division I Women’s Ice Hockey National Championships, as well as the WCHA (league) championship.


Her passion for music never left completely; however, her involvement with the college and pro sports worlds did not allow a great deal of time to pursue other interests. Music rehearsals and tryouts for the various emerging music reality show programs would too often bump up against her hockey commitments. So, she chose to place her musical pursuits on hold for the time being.


Upon graduating, McCready took a job doing PR for a sports management company in New York--and also, now free to do as she liked, began writing music again. Her uncle, a recording artist in Los Angeles, gave her a connection to a music producer in Nashville, who urged her to come visit and test out a few songs.


McCready, who was “comfortable” in her corporate job, hesitated at first, but then decided to make the plunge. “I was like, if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it,” she laughs, adding that she was prepared to hear bad news. “I would rather have someone who knows what they’re talking about tell me, ‘no you shouldn’t be doing this,’” she explains.


As it turns out, she was told, “No, you should be doing this!” McCready packed up her bags and moved south, and has been honing her craft ever since. Her first album, Love Hangover (“it was basically all about one very long relationship--the ups and downs”) was released in 2015, and McCready decided to take a different approach to the next release.


All of the songs on Ricochet Heart are either written or co-written by McCready herself, which she strongly believes is a major element of the overall vibe. “When I write a song, it is really different [for me],” she says. “Now that I’m 30, I’ve been through a lot of the things that everyone else has been through, so I’m hoping that’s helpful. I use music for therapy, and I’m hoping other people could use my music as well.”


The singer also turned to her background this time around to focus on a theme of female empowerment, which is most evident in first single “Last Girl Standing.”


“Girl power is a big thing for me. This whole album has girl power notes to it,” McCready asserts, noting that there is a serious imbalance between the number of male vs. female artists played on country radio. “I feel that is the same exact thing I went through with hockey. ‘Oh here we go, gotta prove myself again…’ Different format,” she says.  


That’s not to say that she’s planning to out-”bro” the guys in this department. On the contrary, McCready’s record is--like everything else she does--completely and fearlessly just as she wants it, including many personal touches from a female point of view.


She points out her ballad “Undefeated” as an example. “I’ve been in quite a few serious relationships over my dating years and every time, I always feel like I’m losing even when I’m winning,” she explains, adding that she feels this seems to be a universal theme with many women.


“I had a friend once say ‘I feel like I can’t win,” and I was like--that is a song,” McCready smiles. “When you read ‘undefeated,’ you probably think it’s going to be like this power ballad, woman who wins all the time, but actually it’s flipped. You’re undefeated in losing.”


McCready’s not afraid to let her power slip completely out of her hands at times, too--such as when a song she writes ends up surprising even herself! “‘Knocking on Devil’s door’ wasn’t in my top when I was first writing, but I found when we play it live, that song out of all of them on the new album is the most well-received by audiences. People are just loving it. I love that the song came out and surprised me, and now it’s one of my favorites!”


Overall, McCready’s standout element as she progresses in her music career is confidence, something she developed on the ice rink years ago and hopes others can be inspired by, as well.


“I think that played a major role in this album in general,” she says. “When I think about a lot of the boys I was playing with [growing up]--they would try to be more aggressive with me, because they didn’t think I was as good, they didn’t think I was as strong….well, they didn’t play Division 1 hockey. I did! So, it kind of makes me feel like, I’m still standing.”

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