After less than a year in Nashville, singer-songwriter McKenzie Lockhart made her way back to Florence, Alabama, ten minutes away from her hometown of Muscle Shoals.
“I thought moving was what I had to do to really ‘make it,’ but I was absolutely miserable,” she says. “I missed my small town. I missed my church, my family. I missed home.”
The return home came with a new passion for the creative community that has been cultivated in Florence, as well as the motivation to make music on her own terms. This newfound motivation resulted in her second EP, Suburbs, which released February 23, 2018. Produced by her husband and recorded in their first home as a married couple, Suburbs examines the ideas of faith, relationships, and the pursuit of music.
The vision for Suburbs was clear from the beginning. Suburbs acts as a stark contrast to her first EP, Interlaced, which was produced and recorded at the Smoakstack in Nashville. Interlaced showcased a more polished, full-band sound, while Suburbs features just Lockhart and her guitar. It’s music (and words) that prove the true strength of her simplistic yet poignant style. It also prepares fans for her live performance, which rarely includes anything other than an acoustic guitar and pitch-perfect vocals.
In that spirit, Lockhart chose to explore and embrace a similar approach for Suburbs. With just a couple of microphones in a living room, she created a record that embraces the intimacy and honesty of live, one-take performances.
Hometown friends made their own contributions to the project, from harmonies to mastering—and even the artwork. “My brother unknowingly supplied the artwork with his wedding gift to us: a drawing he created of our first home as ‘The Pruitts.’ It felt like a family affair and that's what I will always love the most—making music and pursuing music with the people I love the most,” Lockhart explains.
A break from the pressure that accompanies busy schedules and big cities has been a breath of fresh air for Lockhart, helping her come into her own as an artist. The new EP, an ever-growing touring schedule, and accolades such as an official showcase at Americanafest 2018 are the latest signs of her arrival.
With the encouragement of the community surrounding her in Florence, she feels more supported and ready to pursue music than ever.
“My friends moved up to Nashville about the time I moved home, so my acceptance of what was home for me came with insecurities. For me, I think at least for a long while, Florence is it. I still have friends who are thriving in Music City and it's a thrill to cheer them on from our hometown as those of us here carve our own path.”
What a bold, compelling path it is.