Lori McKenna is a real homebody. She was born in Stoughton, grew up there, raised he family there, and still lives there. The singer-songwriter also has five Boston Music Awards for Folk Artist of the Year under her belt, and has released six albums. Her most recent, “Lorraine,” is named after her late mother, who played piano around the house when Lori was a kid, while her father sang.
Lori started playing guitar when she was 13, but was writing poetry before that, with aspirations of becoming a novelist. “But I didn’t have the attention span,” she said. “The four-minute song is a long enough time period for me.” Her older brother played guitar, and was an inspiration for her to take guitar lessons. As soon as she had her first three chords down, she started writing songs. But she didn’t share her talent outside of her home till she was 27, and already married and the mother of three kids. Her goal was to “go to the Old Vienna Kaffehaus and stand on the stage like all those other people who did it,” she said. And she did.
Following a series of open mikes there, she made her first album, 1998’s self-released “Paper Wings & Halo,” and lived her dream of playing at Passim by having her CD release party there. Subsequent albums were on Signature Sounds. Through friends of friends, McKenna’s 2004 album, “Bittertown,” fell into the hands of country superstar Faith Hill, who loved what she heard and opted to record three of McKenna’s songs on her 2005 album “Fireflies.”
Practically before she could catch her breath, McKenna was signed to Warner Bros., which released her 2007 album “Unglamorous.” It was a one-shot deal. “I decided that it didn’t make sense to make another record with Warner Bros.,” she said. “I knew that record wasn’t going to sell a million copies, even though there were people over there that had faith that it could.”
McKenna now writes songs constantly, often with co-writers during regular brief visits to Nashville. She usually plays solo, but hopes to one day get back to working with a band, as she was doing in pone of her more rootsy periods. She also loves the fact that a few years ago, her name appeared in a New York Times crossword puzzle. “That’s when my father decided that I had made it,” she said.
(by Ed Symkus)