The Healing Power Of Music

North Carolina native, Kim McLean, is an artist whose artistic voice transcends boundaries.

The ASCAP and Dove Award-winning singer-songwriter has had cuts by more than 200 artists including Trisha Yearwood, Kelley Coffey, Tim McGraw, Lee Ann Womack, Jennifer Hanson, Shana Morrison, and Kathie Lee Gifford. Her first radio single as an artist, “Angels and Eagles”, a duet with Dolly Parton hit Top Ten on the ICMA Charts and garnered a female vocalist and duo of the year nomination for the ICMA Awards.

First Encounter

I first encountered her work during Tin Pan South week in Nashville during the spring of 1994. The event is a celebration of songwriters with as many as twelve venues offering rounds of songwriters for several nights running.

McLean is nothing short of remarkable as she easily moves from blues to rock to Appalachian folk to pop and beyond. She refers to her sound as Appalachi-Groove, where mountain footpaths meet Beale Street. She’s produced and developed artists for Capitol, Sony/Columbia, Warner Brothers and has worked on a number of indie projects.

It is her efforts to heal through music that resonates with me personally since we have shared a common battle. In her late teens, a near fatal battle with anorexia and bulimia nearly ended her life and cut short her pursuit of a college degree. In 2002 she enrolled at Trevecca University in Nashville. Four years later, she received a Bachelors degree in Music Business with honors, and in 2008, got her Masters in Biblical Theology. She serves as Adjunct Professor of Songwriting at Trevecca.

A Little Q & A

Her latest release, Rapunzel’s Escape, which she also produced, celebrates triumph over trials and tragedy and reminds us how the arts and our creative gifts are powerful tools for healing.

Kim recently took time to answer a few questions about that healing power and its role in developing her latest project.

SS: What prompted the creation of your latest project, Rapunzel’s Escape?

McLean: It was a long process putting this project together. I took my time more than I have for any other project I’ve ever done. Part of the reason is that the vision for it came slowly. These songs were born over a period of years. They are all quite personal to me, depicting life as life has happened, the good, the bad, and the ugly. These songs have helped me through some tough times of the last few years; they are the ones that would show up in my head and heart at different junctures and I would think, “What song is that?” and it would be my song! So gradually I knew I had to record my versions of them. There are many moods on this CD, which I took into consideration on a professional level as I committed to the final set list, but I feel there is a certain congruency that unfolds a progression of thought and emotion when you listen to the project as a whole, from start to finish. In that sense, it is a concept album, indeed, Rapunzel (me) escapes from her limitations, tells all, and is set free. She opens the album with a desire to fly high and soar with eagles, she ends the album grooving to the goodness of God, and she makes her confessions and cries a few tears in between.

A friend of mine told me this album feels like a greatest hit project, which I took as a good thing. Perhaps it’s because several of the songs have had some success already with other artists. This makes me happy, because if these songs are so real and personal to me that I am compelled to sing them, then what a cool thing that my life or observations about life and the stories I care to tell, are connected with others in some universal way. I love the way music connects people that way.

SS: What role does music (the arts, creativity) play in the healing process?

McLean: Music saved my life. Okay, God saved my life through music. When truth, compassion, comfort, hope, or joy are expressed lyrically and carried to the soul through melody, harmony, and rhythm, something happens that reminds me that life is beautiful, real, and….well…groovy. Music softens the blows, softens my heart, and weaves me into the fabric somehow. I don’t feel alone when I sing, and I don’t feel alone when I hear others perform, or see a Wyeth painting that tells my story, too, or read words on the page of a novel that transform my thoughts and make me more human. The Bible is mostly art to me, the first art to heal me after music. (Even an infant can feel God’s love in a song, though).

I believe we all, everyone of us, need to be healed. Our souls get wounded somehow. We are born with a reasonable expectation to be loved, and try as we all might, we tend to fail love and hurt one another. The arts, the creative expression, speak on an organic, untainted, unedited level at best; the arts tell secrets that we are afraid to say out loud but we want the world to know because we want to be known. Maslow talked about the need for belonging and how crucial that is to human survival, and I think that creative expression gives us a chance to safely stick our toes in the water and find that it’s safe to swim in this great big ocean with the rest of the fish.

One last thing: the arts put us in touch with something intangible. They bridge the gap between the seen world and the unseen world. As a creative person, I feel it when I step into that other “zone” and come back into this world with a gift that I’m dying to share with everyone – a song.

SS: What do you hope the listener receives from the witness of your work?

McLean: I hope that everyone who listens to my work senses God’s hand in it. I hope that every listener receives it as the gift to them that I intend it be. Though the songs are intensely personal, I offer them like a present, to open myself up, to be vulnerable in the hope that we can share one another’s stories, and in the hope that our stories connect. I hope that my journey will help someone else with their journey, just as others brave enough to tell their stories have helped me.

Check Her Out

Kim McLean’s CD’s are available through iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon. Visit her website at www.KimMcLean.com. Kim is also on Twitter, ReverbNation, MySpace, Facebook, and DigitalRodeo.