Rising country singer-songwriter Kären McCormick was born in Brazzaville, Congo and is raised in the eastern part of Washington state. She started singing at seven years old when her dad noticed she could hold a tune. “He asked me if I’d be interested in joining a choir at Church where some other kids sang. I gave it a shot and I really, really enjoyed it,” she tells us. “Around that same time, I had really enjoyed writing stories in journals. I never really thought of marrying those two things together until a couple of years later when I discovered country music because so much of country music is storytelling.
McCormick’s introduction to country music was Faith Hill’s Fireflies album; her mom owned the album and McCormick still cites the record as one of her favorites. Her introduction to songwriting was Taylor Swift who was blossoming in her own career when McCormick discovered her own talent for penmanship. “I was like, wow, there’s somebody who’s not that much older than me that’s telling these stories about her life and I was already kind of doing that. I just didn’t know that was something you could do for a job,” she says. “So I just really fell in love with country music and the idea of storytelling through music.” Seeing Swift, who was the same age as her older sister pursuing songwriting, motivated her. It felt attainable. Then, at 13, she asked her dad for her first guitar.
She first made a trip to Nashville at 16 years old when she asked her dad if they could go. “We made an agreement and he said, ‘If you want me to take you to Nashville, you have to perform in public three times,’” she exclaims. When she was 13, 14, and 15, it was hard to find places to perform other than church, but she had also entered a talent competition and won at an early age and knew performing on stage was in the cards for her future. “Just seeing the audience react — there’s really nothing like that experience. I became hooked on it. I said, ‘Country music is in Nashville, that’s where we’ve gotta go.’”
When she was in Nashville, she found herself around people who did music for a living. That experience served as a decisive moment for her younger self. “Being surrounded by people who do it for a living and who understand you, and get what your dreams and passions are, and you don’t have to explain yourself to anybody, and you can be yourself, that was really a turning point for me,” she explains.
Her debut EP, titled Retro, came out in 2020 during the pandemic. It was meant to come out in July of 2020 but she pushed it back to the latter half of September. The five-song project was the first collection of songs McCormick had ever put out and when asked if she was stressed, she laughs. “Leading up to it, I was so excited throughout the whole process. I mean I’m an independent artist so I am fortunate enough that I do get to make those decisions of what songs are gonna be on the EP, and what I want it to look like, things like that,” she tells us. “I would say, all in all, it was one of the most fun experiences, one of my most proud experiences to be able to set out to say, ‘I want to put out a five-song EP’ and seeing that through and seeing the response to it has been very humbling. I’m really, really proud of myself.”
Every song on the EP is like a child she’s emotionally attached to but the one she holds closest to her heart is “Congratulations,” the ballad of the EP. “When I went to make the tracklist, that one was kind of a no-brainer,” she says with confidence. “‘Congratulations’ was a song that I had just always believed in.”
Since being released, the special song has taken on a new meaning for McCormick as she states, “It’s funny because I performed it the other day and I was talking about how songs like that come from a place of heartbreak or sadness in the moment when you’re writing them. And then, as time goes by, they might not be so sad anymore because time has passed and so they might take on a whole new meaning,” she exclaims. “That’s definitely one of those songs for me. When I wrote it, it was obviously sad to see somebody’s life continue in a different direction from mine. But now, it’s something that you can be thankful for and I can be appreciative of.”
“It was cold.” “We filmed the entire video at my house in Nashville in my backyard.” The couple in the video is together in real life so they had to do their best to act heartbroken even though they are truly in love.
In 2021, she was named as a part of Rissi Palmer’s Color Me Country Class of 2021. She also released her newest single “READY WHEN U ARE” at the beginning of August. She introduced the pop-infused earworm on her social media with stunning photos that capture an ethereal mint green aesthetic. The song details the exciting feelings that come with a new relationship. “I’m 25. I think people around my age are nervous to admit feelings or admit that they’re ready to take that next step with somebody,” she tells us. She wanted to spin the negative emotions around. “I wanted it to be something where people would blast it in their cars, windows down, and to sing along with. Especially with the time we’re in. There’s a lot of sad songs right now, and I wanted to put something out that was feel good.”
For the rest of the year, she plans on releasing new songs. “I’m kind of just taking on the idea of putting out singles but really wanting each of them to have their own moment,” she says. “I want each single from here on out to have its own aesthetic and to have its own color that I see and hopefully the listener takes on as well. When you don’t see me having green anymore and you see a new color, that’s how you’ll know.”
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