While Nashville has become an important artistic and business hub, Stoughton, Massachusetts has remained home. A married mom to five kids, McKenna explains that leaving Massachusetts just never made sense. “My whole family is here,” she says. “I don’t think it changes your growth as a writer, where you are. I think you will grow no matter what, as long as you put the work into it.”
Her commute between the two cities hasn’t held her back in the least. Nearly a decade since receiving her first album cut through superstar, Faith Hill, McKenna is one of the most sought after songwriters in the industry with her songs recorded by top artists including Reba, Alison Krauss, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban. McKenna’s songwriting credits include the 2x Platinum Billboard No. 1 hit, “I Want Crazy,” by Hunter Hayes and radio favorites like Little Big Town’s “Your Side of the Bed” and “Sober.” She penned the 2015 massive Little Big Town hit, “Girl Crush,” which reached 11 weeks on the Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and netted McKenna a CMA Award, NSAI Songwriters and her first Grammy. Billboard recently spotlighted McKenna for bringing the solo songwriter back to No. 1 with her Tim McGraw hit, “Humble & Kind.” The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart marking the first time in more than four years a song written by one writer topped the chart.
As an artist, McKenna has now recorded a total of 10 albums. Rolling Stone named Numbered Doors, a stunning collection of her gritty, pensive songs, one of the “40 Best Country Albums of 2014.” Massachusetts, released the previous year, introduced McKenna to an even wider audience, hungry for something real, while 2012’s Heart Shaped Bullet Hole and 2011’s Lorraine were also breakthroughs, adding New York Times praise to her long list of fans including American Songwriter, Paste, and CMT.
More than anything else, McKenna wants her songs to hit listeners wherever and whoever they are. “My husband always teases me and says I don’t really have the Boston accent I used to have,” McKenna says. “When I started traveling a lot, I started pronouncing my r’s, because they were nonexistent before that. And then when I sing, I have to sing in a way that people can understand my words. So my husband and I have this joke: He says, ‘It’s like you have no self-identity.’ But I figured it out. I’m not supposed to. I’m a songwriter. I’m supposed to be able to identify with these other characters and write songs about them. That’s my job.”