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Colleen McFarland: Bio

American Rhythm Music Magazine (January 2009)
"Another fantastic Alt. Country gal, Colleen McFarland even throws in a horn section on a track or two. This is her fourth CD, and it’s a keeper. Another great CD for the 2009 music season."

Music Row Online - Robert Oermann (Jan. 2009)
“… she kinda sounds like your friend down the street.  Extremely likeable. "

Nashville Scene - Michael McCall (October 2006)
"A gritty feel and for-the-ages mysticism…her smoky alto drips with inner strength and sensuality…a compelling mix of dreamy imagery and direct emotion…"

Performing Songwriter - Jesse Thompson (Oct. 2006)
“…the arrival of a refreshingly original voice and talent…"

   Drenched in heartache and gritty soul, Colleen's "…jaw-dropping vocal presence…" (Allen Foster, Songwriters Monthly) can quiet a room instantly.  With influences ranging from Neil Young to Emmylou Harris to Aretha Franklin, Colleen's undeniably unique voice and songs take her fans on a journey from bittersweet to bluesy energy. Creating melodies with mind-crafted lyrics that appear rough around the edges, but also beautiful and haunting is a skill this gifted songwriter masters, and critics and music lovers are fortunate to discover from time to time.  While glimpsing into McFarland's journeys of sorrow, deep introspection and determination, fans will translate her songs into their own self-discoveries. 

   The youngest of nine children, Colleen grew up in Jennings, Missouri, listening to the music her parents, and one brother and seven sisters played on the radio, and family turntable.  Colleen became a professional entertainer at the age of fifteen, singing in local bands and orchestras throughout the Midwest.  Moving to the Northeast for an extended period of time after graduating ‘cum laude’ from UMSL with a music degree, Colleen continued to write and perform her original songs at venues including the Tin Angel, The Point, The Lansdowne Folk Club, and The Bitter End as well as several coffee shops, and festivals.

   Colleen has produced four independent cds, her newest, Let It Shine (2009, 9th Child Records) was co-produced by Thomm Jutz (guitarist for Nanci Griffith), featuring a stellar lineup of musicians, who have toured with artists including Ricky Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Hornsby, Kim Richey and many others.  In June of 2009, Let It Shine was #5 on the Americana AMA charts, in the top 50 for Roots Music charts, and #69 on the Folk DJ charts.  Colleen was also selected as a Premiere Showcase Artist for the Far-West Folk Alliance Conference in Irvine, CA, November 2009.

   Licensing two of her songs to Universal Studios in January of 2006 for the DVD release of the television series Northern Exposure, another one of McFarland’s originals was featured in CBS television's Swing Town (2009).  Colleen's songs can also be heard on radio stations across the country including WRLT in Nashville, WXPN in Philadelphia, Sirius XM, and as far away as Paris, France, on NSEO “Keep It Country”.  Colleen was picked for Best of Show for "The Miller Tells Her Tale" a popular Americana radio podcast from Edinburgh, Scotland, and has been featured on BBC Radio 2 with Bob Harris and Bryan Burnett of BBC (Brand New Country).  Other accolades include 'Critics Pick' in the Nashville Scene, Performing Songwriters top 12 DIY picks, and ‘four stars’ in Maverick Magazine (UK).

    Since moving to Nashville in 2003, Colleen has performed across the U.S. and Europe as a solo artist, most recently with her blues and soul band Kicking Stars, featuring lead guitarist Reeves Gabrels (David Bowie’s Tin Machine) whose shows have included the From Nashville to Norway festival in September of 2010.  Colleen has also been a featured performer of the band Soul Food in Nashville, led by pedal steel/guitarist Pete Finney, featuring current and former members of Wilco, Last Train Home, the Dixie Chicks and the Jayhawks.  She has shared the stage as a solo artist with Freedy Johnston, Kim Richey, Jeff Black, Jeffrey Gaines, Lucy Kaplansky, Frank Black, and Entrain to name a few.

   A recent show with Norwegian songwriter Peter Nova at Fjellhallen (Mountain Hall) in Gjøvik, Norway on January 15th, 2011 was highly praised by journalist Frode Hermanrud on the cover and inside feature issue of the Oppland Arbeiderblad.  Colleen and Peter’s song "I Do" was one of the top 10 songs played on Norwegian radio station P1.  Colleen will be touring with renowned American singer-songwriter David Olney in the spring of 2011 in the Northeastern U.S. and will return to Europe with Olney, Nova, and her band Kicking Stars in September of 2011.

Blame the voice.  The first time you hear Colleen McFarland, you might not notice just how great her songs are.  No, at first you just want to hear her sing some more.

 As the youngest of 9 children growing up in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house in a middle class suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, Colleen learned a valuable lesson early in life: You have to make your voice heard.  And hers was no ordinary voice, even then.  A professional by age 15, her undeniable gifts earned her both a living as a singer and a music degree (with honors) from the University of Missouri.  Colleen became a seasoned performer singing pop, rock, jazz, and R&B in clubs from St. Louis to Chicago.  She also appeared at, in her words, “places a less determined midwestern girl would not venture into—my mom used to pray the 'Hail Mary' for my safe return home.”

 Ready to test some new waters after graduation, Colleen relocated to the Northeastern US.  Soon she was performing at such storied venues as the Bitter End, the Tin Angel, and the Lansdowne Folk Club. After hearing Colleen, Songwriter’s Monthly praised her “jaw-dropping vocal presence.”  During these years her “other” voice began to emerge, that of a rapidly maturing songwriter.  She realized that one more move was in order.

 Colleen arrived in Nashville in 2003.  Even in a city where seemingly every waiter, mechanic, or sales clerk is also a singer-songwriter, she immediately commanded attention from audiences and industry insiders alike.  Performing Songwriter hailed “the arrival of a refreshingly original voice and talent.”  And the Nashville Scene loved her “gritty feel and for-the-ages mysticism,” adding that “her smoky alto drips with inner strength and sensuality.”

 To maintain creative control of her music, Colleen launched 9th Child Records.  Her most recent release, Let It Shine, is her fourth for the label.  Co-produced by Colleen and esteemed guitarist Thomm Jutz (Nanci Griffith), the new CD features several of Nashville’s most in-demand players (collectively their credits include Ricky Skaggs, Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Hornsby, and Kim Richey).  Americana Rhythm Music Magazine called it “a great CD for the 2009 music season,” and labeled Colleen “a fantastic alt-country gal.”  The dean of Nashville critics, Robert Oermann, found Let It Shine “extremely likeable,” observing that Colleen “kinda sounds like your friend down the street.”

 Colleen has also worked regularly as a voice-over and jingle talent; she’s been heard in commercials and industrial spots for Nike, Fox Television, and Polygram Video.  The NFL Films documentary The Faces Of Evil showcased Colleen as the featured soprano in a post-mortem release of Opus 6 by Bernard Herrmann (of Alfred Hitchcock fame).  But since her arrival in Nashville, Colleen’s focus has been her deeply personal and compelling original music.  Film and television songwriting collaborators include Grammy nominees John Mattick and Rodney Lawson (Crew 22).  Her songs have been featured in the CBS drama Swingtown and the DVD box set of the now-classic series Northern Exposure.

 Live performance is perhaps where Colleen shines most brightly.  Her voice conveys an astonishing range of emotional nuance, from deep sorrow to overpowering joy. Colleen sings every song as if it’s the one she’s been singing her whole life.  She makes her unique presence known even while sharing the stage with such contemporary artists as Kim Richey, Lucy Kaplansky, Freedy Johnston, Frank Black, David Olney, and Jeff Black.  She also fronts the powerhouse band Kicking Stars, featuring former David Bowie guitarist and sonic magician Reeves Gabrels.

 Colleen’s album releases have garnered her a strong following in both the United States and Europe.  The prestigious British country periodical Maverick loved Colleen’s “beautiful collection of songs” and welcomed “a new voice to our shores.”   Her January 2011 show at the Olympic Mountain Hall in Gjovik, Norway received front-page coverage in Oppland Arbeiderblad, and each year she headlines the From Nashville To Norway Music Festival along with Kicking Stars and Norwegian singer-songwriter Peter Nova.  Colleen’s recordings receive substantial airplay in many parts of Europe, and “I Do,” a duet co-written and sung with Nova, reached the Top 10 in Norway.  She’s been featured on the popular Scottish podcast “The Miller Tells Her Tale,” and on the popular BBC radio programs hosted by Bob Harris and Bryan Burnett. 

 In September 2011 Colleen and Peter Nova will perform several dates in Ireland following the From Nashville To Norway festival.  She then begins work on a new solo project, as well as an album of duets written and performed with Nova.