Interview with Rebecca McCartney

Written by Divine Magazine

Rebecca McCartney returns to the city where she was raised by a family of musicians and nerds, now with her own sound and much to say. She grew up immersed in NYC’s classical music world and her early songwriting eventually led to the release of an indie-folk record under the duo name Garden Party (2020) with her close friend, Jakob Leventhal. Now, after a college career studying jazz and playing in an R&B band, McCartney is preparing to release her genre-bending debut EP, How You Feel. Calling on her eclectic musical influences and experiences, the upcoming record generates an edgy, ethereal sound that celebrates McCartney’s buttery vocals and absorbing lyrical insights.

Introduce yourself- who are you? what are you about?

Hey Divine Mag. I’m happy to be here. I’m also a soul-singer-songwriter with influences ranging from R&B to jazz to folk and beyond. I grew up in a super musical family and was exposed to different genres from a young age, spending most of my time in New York’s classical music scene until I started playing with bands and finding my own sound through high school and college. Writing songs is how I process my emotions, so most of them turn out pretty raw, and talk about lots of mixed feelings. Alongside my music, I’m a big social movement and politics person, love the outdoors, and cooking tasty vegetarian food stuffs. If my apartment doesn’t smell like garlic something is wrong. 

Who or what inspired you to make music?

My mom’s a classical clarinetist, and I grew up going to her concerts and hearing her rehearse in our house every day. The community of musicians around her was always so caring and kind and passionate, and I feel so lucky to have experienced that from such a young age. It was the energy of those musicians and the city’s music scene that first got me interested in music, but once I started performing, it was the energy from an audience that kept me coming back.

If you could open a show for any one artist, who would it be?

I would kill to open for Lianne La Havas. She’s one of my all-time favorite artists and just radiates good energy. She has this incredible acoustic-electronic balance in her music, that also pulls from soul, jazz, folk, all these different genres at the same time. I’ve never gotten to see her live, but I feel like her audiences are also probably a great time. So that would be a dream.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Nobody’s thinking about you or judging you as much as you think they are. It’s a really freeing concept.

What sets your music apart? what is unique, or at least uncommon?

My songs come from so many different genre inspirations that I think they inhabit a kinda can’t-pin-it-down sound world, which is really exciting to me. You can listen and hear it as jazzy soul, or indie rock, or whatever you’re feeling at the moment. And I think that allows so many different types of people to connect with the music, no matter their background or taste.

What are your top two favorite albums of all time? Why?

Voodoo by D’Angelo changed my life, no joke. I can’t even describe the mood I get into when Untitled comes on. It’s just the deepest groove. Then I think my other favorite album has to be Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell — especially “Help Me” into “Free Man in Paris.” There’s this part in the bridge of “Help Me” where the background vocals are singing a really simple line that, in my head, created a new genre of groovy folk music by itself. There’s always new things to hear in the album, too, every time I come back to it.

What’s the last show you watched on tv?

I’m watching Normal People now. I’m obsessed with the subtlety in the romance.

If you could learn any language fluently, which would it be?

Ooooh probably Arabic. I’d be able to communicate with so much of the world — I’d love that.

Do you have any lucky items? superstitions?

Whichever hairband I’ve managed to not lose at the moment is a lucky hairband. Til I lose it.

If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?

Probably “In Limbo.”

If you could ask your future self one question, what would it be?

What helped you get over the fear of not succeeding?

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