It's shocking to hear Cathryn McGill say that for the first time in her life, she's "making music a priority."
"What happens when something moves you profoundly," the jazz and R&B vocalist says, "is that things left on the back burner become more important."
McGill's mother, Rubye, passed away on Dec. 2 of last year. Since losing her strongest advocate and biggest fan, McGill says she's begun a process of "deep introspection" about music.
"In the past, it's just been something that I do," McGill says. But there's no question about it now: "This is the thing that I do. I put it in its proper place in my life."
McGill cites Etta James as her patron saint of vocal cords. ("I love him, but that was a mistake," she says flatly of Obama's inauguration, when Beyoncé sang "At Last" instead of James.) She also lists Betty Carter and Shirley Horn as "people who know how to tell stories through music." That's what attracts McGill most to a voice.
The singer writes, too. McGill penned "The Hand That Rocked My Cradle" for her mother, just one original tune and one story of many on her new album, From the Inside.
On Friday, April 10, McGill will launch From the Inside at 8 p.m. at the African American Performing Arts Center (310 San Pedro NE, at Expo NM). The concert will cover the fresh ground paved by the album, with live assistance by John Rangel (keyboards, and co-producer of From the Inside with Grammy winner Larry Mitchell), Larry Mitchell (guitar), Howard Cloud (bass), Joel Fadness (drums) and Cesar Bauvallet (trombone, percussion). Tickets are $20 through 265-0612 or the AAPAC box office, a portion of which goes to the foundation that keeps the performance center operating.
"It's been a powerful, life-changing time for me, and I think that's reflected in the music," says McGill. But this isn't the last album we'll hear from her. “I have other ones in me, and I'm really proud of allowing myself to be in a creative space.”