How many artists have a JUNO Award on their shelf before even releasing their first album? That was the recent remarkable position of B.C.-based country songstress Stacey McKitrick. She was a member of the star-studded Young Artists for Haiti collective, one that took home the 2011 Single of the Year JUNO for their version of K'Naan's anthemic "Wavin' Flag."
Now it's time for McKitrick to step into the solo spotlight. She has just released a dazzling self-titled debut album (on Fontana North) that confirms she is a young artist of immense talent and potential. The record has been a long time in the making (three years, in fact), but Stacey's patience has been rewarded. She has surrounded herself with an A-list of producers, songwriters, and musicians, carefully constructing a killer record devoid of filler.
Producers ensuring the highest sonic quality here are Dean Maher (Chad Brownlee, Aaron Pritchett), Kevin Churko (Shania Twain, Ozzy Osbourne), Tom McKillip (Lisa Brokop, One More Girl), and platinum hit-maker Brian Howes (Hedley, Simple Plan, Daughtry). Songwriters featured include Bruce Wallace, Liz Rose, Johnathon Cain, Victoria Banks, Gretchen Wilson, and Tracey Singer, not to mention Chad Kroeger .
That's right, the lead singer and superstar of the Hard Rock band Nickelback offered his song "Friends For Life" to Stacey, with magical results. "Chad heard we were looking for one last track for the record and said 'I'll give you one of mine,'" recalls McKitrick. "That was such an honour. Lyrically, it grabbed me right away, as it talks about building memories with your best friend, and, musically, it's driving and uplifting." Stacey nailed the song, and it's out now, kicking up its heels as the first single off the album.
As well as taking material from the cream of the crop of contemporary country writers, McKitrick co-wrote two of the album's songs. A co-write with Brian Howes and Tracey Singer, "Somebody Else" is a passion-filled and irresistibly catchy song with an original take on a universal subject. "We wanted something a little edgier," she says. "It's about missing another person, the love of your life that got away." A positive message of self-affirmation is delivered on "Loved By You," a song Stacey says "felt as if it was written for me. I want people to stand up and feel happy about who they are."
Since commencing work on the album, Stacey has had co-writing sessions in Nashville with such accomplished writers as Marty Dodson (Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney) and Chris Wallin (Trace Adkins, Chesney). These have boosted her creative self-confidence, giving her the courage to follow her own instincts and come up with a well-rounded record that reflects the different facets of her personality.
"I wanted an album that shows a lot of range, vocally, musically and lyrically," she explains. "The songs are all different, going from real country to pop and rock-sounding material, but it sounds coherent. I believe in and love everything I'm singing here. People see through stuff that isn't real very fast. What they really want is who you genuinely are."
To express the wide range of emotions explored on Stacey McKitrick, the singer draws upon a powerful voice equally at home on emotional ballads such as "Over Tonight" and "How The Story Goes" and scorching country-rockers like "Big Small World" and the fiddle-fuelled opening cut, "What Goodbye Looks Like."
Stacey's influences and inspirations range from Reba McEntire, Shania Twain and Gretchen Wilson through to Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks. "I love the richness of their voices," she says of those last two artists. "I think its important to listen to all types of music, and that has helped me develop a unique sound that pulls from different areas."
Singing has always come naturally to Stacey. "I sing all the time, in the shower, the car, everywhere," she laughs. "But getting to sing for and meet people is the biggest reward for me. It's like giving a present and getting to see people enjoy it." She started early too. "We listened to a lot of Reba in the house. My mom tells me that at nine months I was singing Reba songs!"
She started singing publicly at age nine in Abbotsford, grabbing every possible opportunity from then on. "I started doing musical theatre, and I joined every single choir in high school. My friends thought that was uncool, but I didn't care! I sang for the school jazz band, and I'd constantly call the City of Abbotsford, asking if they needed a singer. My parents were always so supportive too." Stacey performed regularly at civic events and fundraisers, and later joined a popular local Top 40 covers group, The Famous Players Band.
Her chops as a live performer have been honed over the last two years by extensive cross-country touring. This past summer, 18 dates in Ontario culminated in a triumphant appearance at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Hamilton. Stacey joined seven other emerging talents at the New Artist Showcase, turning heads and ears with her performance. McKitrick has already earned the respect of her Canadian country peers. That was shown when she was asked to join Emerson Drive, Tara Oram, Dean Brody and Ridley Bent to record the single "Strong and True," a powerful tribute to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Stacey McKitrick's time has come, and she intends to seize it fiercely. "Music is my passion and I'm so excited to finally be able to share it with the world. I've been waiting my whole life for this moment."