Born in 2014, Nashville’s all-female singer-songwriter collective, Song Suffragettes has taken place every Monday night at The Listening Room Café in Nashville, Tennessee. As the night approaches its tenth birthday which now features two separate shows each Monday, the collective has showcased more than 400 talented women out of over 3,000 who have submitted to play the show. With weekly sell-outs, it vocally combats widespread discrimination against women in the music industry by giving female talent a place to play, grow and evolve with fellow creatives. Since its inception, 37 Song Suffragettes have gone on to receive record deals and over 60 have landed music publishing deals.
In October 2022, founder Todd Cassetty brought the show to a new audience for the first time for a UK tour during Country Music Week which featured Twinnie, Robyn Ottolini, Carter Faith and Kalie Shorr before a monthly night began through the early part of 2023 at the Camden Club in London began to continue the message internationally. This year, the show returned to Bush Hall for a special London performance as part of Country Music Week 2023 which featured: Brooke Eden, Harper Grace, Catherine McGrath and Simeon Hammond Dallas.
Before the round kicked into action, Jamie sat down with Catherine McGrath to find out what she has been up to and how soon we can expect a long awaited follow up to her acclaimed debut album “Talk of This Town”.
It’s great to finally meet you because somehow we have managed to never cross paths before and have avoided each other but this is going to be fun tonight isn’t it? “Oh, I can’t wait. It’s been really fun and we all went for a dinner last night to get together and meet each other because I feel like now there are so many people that you know through social media and feel you know so you almost lose track of who you have actually met. We all got together, had some dinner and we’re going to do a little group song at the end so, it’s been nice just to get to know the girls.”
Totally, it’s me with Todd (Cassetty) where we have spoken on Zoom, text each other and seen each other’s Instagram for a couple of years but we only met in person for the first time about half an hour ago. “Yeah, but you forget that because you know what they are doing, feel like you know who their family are and things because you see it on Insta so it is weird when you remember you haven’t actually met in person.”
I’m going to go straight for it and ask you the question that a lot of people have been asking me since they saw you were a part of this show tonight. You haven’t put any music out for quite a while, so the million dollar question is what have you been doing with yourself? “I have been writing a lot of songs, I mean Covid really threw a major spanner into the works for me. I was all ready to move to Nashville with my visa, accommodation and everything sorted to go over there to base myself there creatively and write songs, then come back with my music ready to go. Covid happened so, the whole Nashville plan got derailed and we decided at that point with things closing down and people’s tours being cancelled that we hold off on the music and now that things are back open again, it’s just been figuring when we put it out and what we put out first. Obviously I have written new songs since then and all of a sudden it has been five years since the album but we are going to get music out in a few months. I’ve finally picked at least three of the songs that we’re going with which you will hear two of them tonight along with a classic at the end so things are definitely on the way!”
The fact you were set on a plan and had an idea of the songs you were going to go with, then the pandemic hit and you would have written so many more songs because as a musician there wasn’t really much else that you could do during this time. These new songs are always shiny and having them in your locker changes plans again as the songs and plans get moved around further I guess. “I think for me, I’m still calling them new songs but they have been new songs for so long. There are a couple of the songs that I love so much that I will release no matter what but obviously some of the songs that I have written, like when I did a trip to Nashville a few months ago and wrote a song that I really love which is going to go on whatever comes next too. With everything that has happened, it has been juggling everything like we didn’t get to release this or do this show with where am I starting from now? I just love my first album so much, I was so proud of how it went, had such a fun headline tour after it and it’s trying to know what comes next to take the next step. It was just at a time where there was so much overthinking and so many uncertainties that it just prolonged the whole thing so, I am more eager than anyone to have this music out in the world.”
That is the thing, your first record is your entire life’s work up to that point and especially now with the way that consumers digest music, once that comes out in one go, a week later people are already wanting what is next. The difference from a first project which people have had ten, twenty or thirty years to work on compared to having to turn something around in a much shorter space of time where there may not be as may events or observations to focus on that are new as a writer but there is the pressure to get something out quicker and many fans don’t appreciate that. “Also, I love an album, I love a physical cd, figuring out the track list and the story that it tells so for me I didn’t want to drop a song because I wrote it and not know what is next. I had to be like this is what is going to come, this is where it leads and these are the songs that surround it so it has been a lot of organising and thinking where does this fit in with this song. I still like to think of things as a whole project because especially with country music, I think that is part of it with the storytelling and I want there to be a purpose to everything that I do. I don’t just want to throw out a song and throw out another one, I want to be proud of everything and have intent behind everything that I do. Most people haven’t heard these songs, their new to most people, some of them are still new to me so next it’s follow them up with the actual songs.”
Coming back to Song Suffragettes and obviously everything that Todd has going with it in Nashville is amazing with giving the platform for female artists, you have spent so much time over there that you must have played one of those nights at The Listening Room? “Yes, I can’t remember if it was 2016 or 2017 but I played it on one of my first trips to Nashville. It might have actually been the first thing I did in town but I remember that we did a Lauren Alaina cover all together at the end. It’s just so nice and especially like I said before, when you haven’t actually met a lot of these people and I was very new to the Nashville scene so to go over and play with a group of girls where you get to chat and feel like you are not alone on the stage but amongst people that get it. I love that set up and me and the girls playing tonight have been able to hang out too so, I don’t know, it kind of feels more like a more fun casual thing. I was saying to someone yesterday that the whole writers round setup reminds me a lot of back home in Ireland.”
That was actually going to be my next question. Here as a generalisation, the whole writers round and interacting between each other playing is not as natural to people as it is in Nashville but back in Northern Ireland is it really common to have people sat telling stories as they play? “Oh yeah, it just reminds me of home, my living room and our parties where anyone just comes and sings a song. We have nights in the pub at home where people take turns, you can tell a story and tell a joke so, that’s like the kind of format of playing music which I grew up with and feel most at home. That’s why I love Nashville because when I went there, everyone is telling their stories on stage. I love a “show” show and watching the spectacle of a show with lights and costume changes but for me this is the most authentic kind of setting where you are sitting down talking to people like you are friends and playing the songs how they were written. Country music has a lot of roots in Ireland anyway but the Nashville setup of getting together and playing music with friends definitely feels like home for me.”
It’s really cool to hear that there is new music on the way. A lot of people were wondering what have you actually been doing? Where have you been? Have you been abducted by aliens and stuff like that. “Ha ha, I’ve been everywhere. I’ve had a lot of Nashville and a lot of London, but it’s hard releasing music. I think people forget that when you sit in a room and write a song, somebody produces the track in the session and you pay that person, then you need conversations and people that you have to go through to release something. Unless I were to write and produce it solo, it’s so much more complicated but I am as eager and as impatient as everyone else to get going. I think it will be worth the wait, it will be fun to be playing and seeing people’s reactions and if they hate it, at least they liked the first album.”
To make you are the first to hear about new music from Catherine McGrath, check out her WEBSITE or follow along with her on INSTAGRAMTIKTOKFACEBOOK & TWITTER. You can find more information on upcoming Song Suffragettes shows in Nashville HERE or you can stream the shows live on YOUTUBE (along with checking out a huge amount of past content) and you can find plenty more exciting content and news of their upcoming line-ups on INSTAGRAMFACEBOOK & TWITTER.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks