Welcome to a new feature on my blog, “A Visit to My Back Porch,” which is reserved exclusively for my favorite musicians. It is my pleasure to start this feature with one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Lori McKenna, whom I was lucky enough to hear and meet in Zionsville, Pennsylvania, a few weeks ago (I tried to see her in Nashville at the Bluebird Café, but it was all sold out!).
What I love about Lori is she writes songs that cut to the heart of living a real life. She’s a mother of five kids (yes, five!!!) and lives in Massachusetts. But she has managed to create songs that have become hits for people like Faith Hill (“Stealing Kisses”), and one of my favorite songs from the new Keith Urban album (“The Luxury of Knowing”). But I still think she sings her songs the best. Her new album, Lorraine, is named after her mother, who died when she was a young child—and for whom she was named. I am thrilled to hang out with Lori on my back porch! And for a soundtrack, here are my five favorite Lori McKenna songs:
1. Stealing Kisses
2. Luxury of Knowing
3. How to Survive
4. Witness to Your Life
1. What was your favorite comfort food growing up?
I don’t know if we ever had a “comfort food” growing up. I was raised by men. My brothers cooked most nights—and they did a great job. But we had special dinner nights twice a week, Thursdays, my Grandmother—Nana Gorman—would walk to our house and cook a big chicken dinner, and then we would play cards (well, the big kids did; I watched). And every Sunday, my father would cook Sunday dinner roast. And we ALWAYS all sat together as a family. Always.
2. What is it now?
I make a couple of favorite dishes that my kids and husband love—it goes through stages, but right now I think Chicken Tortilla Soup is everyone’s favorite.
3. What’s your must-have food when on the road?
I call myself a carb-o-tarian, but I’m trying to change my ways in that department. But I usually travel with a granola bar in my bag. In case I get stuck on a plane or something like that!
4. What’s your viewpoint on organic food?
I’m a newbie! But I’m totally sold. I just need to learn more about it. I’m reading the Michael Pollan books in backwards order—started with Food Rules, then In Defense of Food, and just yesterday I bought Omnivore’s Dilemma. My kids have been the catalyst for this—my 18-year-old son Mark made a transformation over the last two years that revolved around health and fitness. My son Christopher (17) watched Food Inc. at school and made the whole family sit down and watch it. Now we buy organic milk and eggs, and the kids test me as I’m pouring them a glass: “Mom, is this the good milk?”
5. Do you do anything in your life organically?
I haven’t purchased a loaf of supermarket bread since last October. We are bread eaters. So when we all decided we HAD to change the way we lived, I bought a Kitchen Aid mixer (with CD money from a show, seriously) and I’ve been making on average eight loaves of bread a week. I actually love it. I’m trying to convince my sister to do the same. Making bread is like yoga—totally therapy for the soul.
6. Who was your biggest musical influence growing?
My brothers. I have four big brothers and they all LOVED music. I listened to what they listened to: Neil Young, James Taylor, Carole King, Jackson Browne.
7. Who is it now?
My friends. I’m lucky to have a lot of friends who are amazing songwriters. They influence me musically more than anyone.
8. If you could write a theme song for any revolution or movement, what would it be?
Oh, that’s a really good and tough question. Most likely something for kids. Jamie Oliver’s talk on TED about school lunches, maybe. I make everyone who will sit and be patient watch it.
9. Where’s your favorite place to play music?
I’m most comfortable in a small room or theater. I like to feel like the audience is comfortable and can listen to every word. Quite selfish of me, really!
10. As you travel and tour, what’s one insight about humanity that you’ve gained from your adventures?
That the good people far outnumber the bad, but we are all too rushed to notice. And that each of us has a hugely amazing story. I waited for a plane for four hours yesterday in Florida, so maybe this is just airport talk, but people in general are really amazing. I try to figure out what everyone’s story is.