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Exclusive with Sean McConnell

Sean McConnell lands his first record deal with his self-titled tenth album.

Written By:  Luke Levenson

Photographers:  Supplied

Photo by Becky Fluke

In a city chock-full of artists shopping for record deals with their first or second albums, Sean McConnell didn’t pursue one until he had finished his tenth. On July 8, the longtime DIY singer-songwriter will release his self-titled album on Rounder Records.

“I brought it to where I could on my own,” McConnell says. “I wanted to put some more muscle behind me to see where we could go with it. I’m passionate about this record, and I want as many people to hear it as possible.”

The album, which relies more on lyrics than music to push McConnell’s powerful and acoustically-driven sound back to his roots, is his most autobiographical to date. Similar to his last release (The B Side Session EP in 2014), Sean McConnell features a variety of instruments, from banjo to bouzouki, to back the leading man’s wide-ranging vocals and guitar strumming. Unlike his past records, this one delves into the details of stories from his life. “This record is presenting a story,” he says. “The tracks lend themselves to sitting behind that story as opposed to doing something over the top musically.”

A life of independent-artist work yields many stories, and McConnell’s start was when he first began writing songs at age 10. Raised by musicians just outside Boston—his mother, a singer; his father, a songwriter—he had a natural tendency toward the craft. When his family relocated to Georgia, McConnell dealt with the change by writing songs and playing them live at local coffeehouses.

After high school, McConnell earned a music business degree at MTSU, moved to Nashville, and signed to Warner/Chappell Music. A few years in, he was cutting songs for big league artists, like Brad Paisley, Meat Loaf, and Martina McBride, all the while touring and releasing a slew of solo albums. When it came time to start writing songs for a 2016 release, he went to a cabin and isolated himself in it.

“I knew I needed to get away and unplug from everything,” he says. “I needed to find a place to be quiet and let the music come to me, and it did. I wrote half the record in five or six days. Something mystical happened out there.”

The magic shines through on tracks like “Ghost Town,” in which McConnell explores the potency of nostalgia through narrative, and on Americana-esque ballads, like “One Acre of Land,” a song about moving to Nolensville with his wife and daughter. “I stand behind every record I’ve ever made because they all represent a Polaroid of where I am at a certain time,” he says. “This one feels like me at this point in my life, and I think people will hear that and connect with it.”

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