Last year, three of Lori McKenna’s songs cracked the country Top 40. One of them — “I Want Crazy,” performed by (and co-written with) Hunter Hayes — became one of the biggest hits of 2013, earning a Grammy nomination and selling upwards of 1.5 million copies. Sounds like a good year.
Even so, McKenna saves some of her best material for her eighth solo record, Numbered Doors. Written on tour and produced by her frequent bandmate, Mark Erelli, the album finds McKenna taking a break from the personal songs that filled her last album, Massachusetts, and tapping into her storytelling skills instead.
“It’s fair to say that songwriters spend a good amount of time in motel rooms,” says McKenna, who wrote Numbered Doors from a fly-on-the-wall perspective, imagining all the characters who must have crossed the threshold of that rented room. “We arrive late — after a show. We stare into the trunks of our rental cars wondering what we can safely leave out there in the parking lot and how many instruments we can carry up the stairs without making two trips. We always bring the guitar, of course, because motel rooms were made for songwriting.”
McKenna and Erelli tracked the album live, nailing the first five songs in a single day. In keeping with her folk roots — and in contrast with the layered sound of her country-pop co-writes — Numbered Doors is an acoustic record, with her voice and acoustic guitar at the forefront. It’s due out on September 23rd, followed by CD release shows in New York, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine.
A Massachusetts native, McKenna celebrates the 10th anniversary of her first publishing deal this year. Among her hits penned for other artists over the last decade are Faith Hill’s “Stealing Kisses,” Little Big Town’s “Your Side of the Bed” and “Sober,” and Tim McGraw’s “I’m Workin’.”