The following is from the July 30, 2008, edition of Velocity. Kelley McRae is a 2002 graduate of SMU's Meadows School of the Arts

City life takes hold for Southern-born
singer-songwriter Kelley McRae

By Javacia N. Harris

Singer-songwriter Kelley McRae is a Mississippi girl. Her 2006 debut, "Never Be," showed off her rich Southern heritage with songs drenched in country, gospel and blues. But McRae has been living in New York City for a few years now, and with her new album, "Highrises in Brooklyn," it's clear that the Big Apple is winning her heart.

Kelley McRae

"This one plays more with rock and with pop and has more intensity about it," she said of the new album, out on Aug. 19. "To me it sounds more like Brooklyn, whereas the first album sounds more like Mississippi." . . .

When McRae was a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, she originally studied acting, but then signed up for a guitar class as an elective.

"I began songwriting almost immediately, and it was clear that was my true passion," she said. McRae's influences not only include artists like Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Patty Griffin, but writers like James Baldwin, Anne Lamott and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

"There's something about the way they can evoke an image," she said. "In a very short sentence, someone like Ernest Hemingway can completely put you in a certain place. Studying and enjoying the way that language can be used so efficiently and so powerfully is definitely an influence on how I write. As a songwriter, you're trying to tell a story or create an image or a feeling in a short span of time."

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