NASHVILLE, Tennessee – In the more than two years since our first interview, so much has happened in Parker McKay’s life. When I saw that she was trying out for NBC’s The Voice, I knew it was time to catch up.
The most significant change in McKay’s life was the passing of her mother. A month before she would go to California for the Blind Auditions her mother passed at age 57 (the day before her 58th birthday) as she finally succumbed to her battle with dementia.
Her mother was diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia five years ago, a group of uncommon brain disorders that affect the part of the brain associated with personality, behavior, and language, according to Mayo Clinic.
“My mom started acting drastically different and wasn’t acting like my mom,” McKay explained ahead of her performance. “Near the end, She wasn’t really present except when I sang for her.”
In the past, her mother had been her biggest champion.
“She took me my first ever audition for American Idol. When I was 17, she stood in line with me for 13 hours… I’m so lucky I got to tell her that I was going to be on The Voice,” she said.
When McKay auditioned, all teams were full except Kelly Clarkson’s so there was only one option left for her. As her dad was watching from home, she sang Niall Horan’s “Slow Hands,” and when she wailed, “Can’t you tell that I want you, baby,” Kelly pressed the button and turned around. It was obvious the other judges were impressed as well.
As the contest goes, people on the teams have to battle against each other to see who ends up in the final rounds. McKay was pinned against the talented Cunningham Sisters where they sang an unusual but impeccable version of “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To)” that had the judges standing and waving from their seats. After hearing the remarkable performance, I understood completely why Ariana Grande stated she had to go to therapy after being a judge on The Voice. Choosing winners and losers with these talented artists is nearly impossible when there is so much at stake.
After she was sent home, the songstress confirmed, “You get so close with everybody on the show. You are working together and are around each other so much. And the show casts these incredible people who aren’t just amazing artists but who have these compelling stories and are unbelievable people. It’s hard not to fall in love with them almost immediately. It’s difficult to watch your friends go home and it’s difficult for the coaches to watch members from their team go home. It’s tough.”
Still, only one person can win the show and it becomes a giant commercial for everyone else. So many have become famous by just being a part of a nationally televised talent show, even if they weren’t the official winner.
One thing that struck me was that McKay has recently embraced the pop music sound which she performs so effortlessly. Initially, she was drawn to the lyrics of country music, but sonically she knows her voice belongs in pop music.
She agreed, “At first I was country because I was surrounded by it and it was something I could learn easily and I did. But sonically, I’ve always been more of a fan of pop. So many great vocal pop recording artists like Adele, Niall Horan, Harry Styles, even Kasey Musgraves, and Maren (Morris) are just song-based artists. The lyrics mean something. There is a story and it’s not just the melody. It’s a genre-less place.”
As McKay pointed out, the algorithms of playlists can figure out what you like and often suggest songs from other genres where a person is exposed to much more variety than they would be by listening to terrestrial radio.
Not only did she compete in The Voice this year, McKay recently got engaged and in May, and she also graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the incredible and prestigious New School University in Manhattan.
Even though a degree is not required to be a singer-songwriter, she stated, “It’s always been in important to me. I’m a better artist when I am not focusing only on music. And I’m a better artist when I am a well-rounded person. When you are learning, you create all these new neuropathways that make you more creative. I am a life-long learner and it was really important to me to finish school.”
She is also involved in community issues like getting people out to vote. She created a non-profit called the Nashville Action Committee which fights social injustice and inspires people to get involved in their community and government. She states, “Politics is not always fun or exciting but it’s the system by which this country works.”
Her latest song, “Used To Be” was written about her mother before she was officially diagnosed with dementia. She explained “Frontotemporal dementia often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years. It can present itself as really odd, inappropriate, confusing behavior. We knew something was happening but we didn’t know what it was and we couldn’t help her.”
The disease is so rare that doctors often don’t recognize it. That is why people must be aware so they can get the proper medical care.
With the lyrics, I’ll love you until you are who you used to be again, McKay connects with the listener in a compassionate and meaningful way.
Now that The Voice is behind her, the independent artist will soon be putting out new music. Beginning in 2022, McKay will be doing a “House Concert Tour.” Those interesting in hosting this multi-talented artist can email her team at [email protected].
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