Somber, understated, and at times darkly humorous, Wisconsin native Melissa Kay McCarthy (not to be confused with Melissa McCarthy, the actress) is a folk/country singer-songwriter known for her detailed lyrical ability. Influenced by the works of Reba McEntire and Lori McKenna, McCarthy weaves her stories over sparse, unassuming instrumentation, often accompanied by a lone acoustic guitar.
For 22 years, McCarthy has been writing and performing music as a form of therapy, releasing two independent albums along the way. Her first official release, “When I’m Gone”, arrived in 2007, featuring a collection of original, home-recorded material. Her follow-up album “Live at Corner Coffee” came out a year later, taped during a performance at Corner Coffee in Minneapolis, MN.
McCarthy began pursuing a career in mental health in 2005, after the suicide of her 22-year old cousin Elliot. Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree in biopsychology, she started working in an inpatient behavioral health unit. She has also worked as a mental health crisis responder and is currently pursuing social work licensure.
McCarthy was just 22 years old when she left home, mistakenly applying for a job in Craig, Alaska instead of Craig, Arkansas. She lived there for two years before returning to Wisconsin. She has auditioned for American Idol and America’s Got Talent twice, The Voice once, and Nashville Star three times, but never made it past the first round in any show.
Following a period of writer’s block where she stopped booking gigs, McCarthy’s passion for songwriting was renewed after the death of two cousins to accidental overdoses in 2018 and 2019. She began drawing on her music to help navigate through loss and grief.
After a 12-year hiatus, Melissa Kay McCarthy began recording a new studio album in 2021. Hourglass, released in July 2022, is made up of songs she wrote after moving back to her hometown. Drawing inspiration from Mary Gauthier’s work with Songwriting with Soldiers, McCarthy hopes her music can someday be used to help addiction and mental health patients in the same way.