Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

This Mother of Five Is about to Hit It Big

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

This Mother of Five Is about to Hit It Big

Article excerpt

Lori McKenna has lived in the same blue-collar New England town her whole life. She married a boy she'd known since the third grade right out of high school. Soon after, they had their first baby. He became a plumber; she sold Tupperware and took care of the kids.

Now McKenna's life is on the cusp of deep change.

On Monday, McKenna, a critically acclaimed but largely unknown folk singer, is scheduled to appear and sing with country superstar Faith Hill on the Oprah Winfrey Show. From the kitchen of her small home in Stoughton, Mass., with five children underfoot, amid their toys and warbling interruptions, McKenna managed to write songs that caught the ear of Hill, who recorded three of McKenna's songs on her recent album, "Fireflies."

Now something of a champion of McKenna, Hill not only asked the singer-songwriter to appear on her Thanksgiving TV special, but insisted that she share the couch on Oprah. The doyenne of daytime TV is renowned for sparking buying frenzies by loyal viewers, and McKenna admits that she's "on overwhelm."

One can hardly blame her. For years, McKenna had recorded albums for Signature Records, a small independent label. Then Warner Bros. Records came knocking. Last week the company rushed to rerelease her latest album, "Bittertown," in time for her TV appearance.

"If you had asked me, a year ago or two years ago: 'Do you think you'll be on Oprah and have a major label, I would have been on the floor laughing," she says.

Still, McKenna - her oldest child 16, her youngest 16 months - says she's a mother and wife first, a singer-songwriter second. "If I had to make a list of my titles, and where the priority is," she says, "it's absolutely the kids and my husband, and then the career."

After all, it's the quotidian in life - the workings of her family and her town - that are McKenna's inspiration. In "One Man" on "Bittertown," she sings: "One man, one town is all I need/ a simple plan to guide me/ through the simple life I lead. …

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