Growing up in a small town is the storyline we’ve all heard before, leading to feelings of resentment and ending in a great escape. But, what happens when you change the story and decide home is where you want to be? Even more, what happens when you also decide to pursue career musicianship? Suburbs, the second EP from singer-songwriter McKenzie Lockhart, explores the difficulties of balancing these lifestyles as well as marriage, faith, and community.
After less than a year in Nashville, Lockhart made her way back to Florence, Alabama, ten minutes away from her hometown of Muscle Shoals. “I thought moving was what I had to do to really ‘make it,’ but I was absolutely miserable,” says Lockhart. “I missed my small town. I missed my church, my family. I missed home.” The move back came with a new passion for the creative community that has been cultivated in Florence, as well as the motivation to make musicianship work on her own terms. Part of this newfound motivation was recording the EP in the first home she and her husband lived in as a married couple, as well as allowing her husband to produce the EP. Other hometown friends made their own contributions to the project, from harmonies to mastering, and even the artwork. “My brother unknowingly supplied the artwork with his wedding gift to us - a drawing he created of our first home as ‘The Pruitts.’ It felt like a family affair and that's what I will always love the most - making music and pursuing music with the people I love the most,” Lockhart explains.
Lockhart’s vision for Suburbs was clear from the beginning. The new EP acts as a stark contrast to her first, Interlaced, which was produced and recorded at the Smoakstack in Nashville. Interlaced showcases a more polished, full-band sound, while Suburbs is only Lockhart and her guitar. This new style proves the true strength of her songwriting and simplistic yet poignant songs. She says, “I had a blast creating Interlaced in the studio and loved kicking off that project with a full band release show, but my great love is the intimacy and honesty and mistakes-included guitar/vocal performance. I have always loved Patty Griffin's Living With Ghosts, so I thought, ‘Why not just save some money and play some songs in my living room with a mic or two?’ That's exactly what we did!”
A break from the pressure that can accompany busy schedules and big cities has been a breath of fresh air for Lockhart and helped her come into her own as an artist. With the help of the creative community surrounding her in Florence, she feels more supported and ready to pursue music than ever. “My friends moved up to Nashville about the time I moved home, so my acceptance of what was home for me came with insecurities in tow. For me, I think at least for a long while, Florence is it. I still have friends who are thriving in Music City and it's a thrill to cheer them on from our hometown as those of us here carve our own path.”