Jill McCracken
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Jill McCracken

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Pop Soul



The best kept secret in music


"Interview: Jill McCracken Is Here To Shake You Up"

It was early summer of 2013 when Jill McCracken first heard Lake Street Dive on the radio. She had been driving to her Ithaca apartment when “You Go Down Smooth” came on the air at 91.7 WICB. Luckily, she only had a few more blocks to drive before she could pull over to the curb. She stopped the engine and composed her rapid-fire thoughts. Who was this band? Where did their lead singer come from? What was that rich retro sound doing on a college radio station? The music was similar to McCracken’s recent foray into songwriting, but cleaner, simpler, and more soulful. How could McCracken become a singer like that? McCracken waited impatiently for the DJ to tell her who the hell had just changed her life. The answer was Rachael Price.

Not long before that day, most of McCracken’s singing experiences had been with friends on the floors of their Rochester Institute of Technology dorm rooms. Occasionally she would let loose at karaoke and summon her “worst singing voice” for a rendition of K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life.” But that wasn’t serious. It wasn’t until her friends started requesting encores did she start singing louder, and more often. And it wasn’t until she heard Rachael Price’s voice did it occur to her that music could be a career path she could take.

In her hometown of Buffalo, McCracken hadn’t grown up with parents who introduced her to “cool” artists like Bob Dylan. She received her musical education from the oldies radio stations on long car rides. Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke were staples in her Kazaa and Limewire libraries. She burned her own “Best of” compilations of soul artists on CDs. When it came time to learn new songs on guitar in high school, she perplexed her instructors at the music shop when she asked if they could teach her songs by Three Dog Night.

When Allston Pudding sat down with McCracken, she admitted that her upbringing also included a healthy dose of indie rockers like Rilo Kiley and New Pornographers. Then when Jenny Lewis and Neko Case pursued their subsequent solo careers, McCracken followed them obsessively. It’s no surprise that McCracken latched onto these strong female role models. From an early age, she strove to take on activities that were traditionally dominated by boys. She played baseball and basketball in the boys’ leagues. She picked up the drums in 4th grade. (Her affinity for rhythm ran deep, even then.) As she grew older and her appreciation for music grew more nuanced, she branched out to guitar so she could create chords and melodies. “With Arms Outstretched” by Rilo Kiley was a natural favorite to play, but so were selections by Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.

Now, it’s difficult to imagine McCracken sporting a guitar or sitting behind a drum kit on stage. When she performs, her voice surges through her whole body. Her powerhouse singing inspires a natural choreography that brightens up the stage as much as her mustard yellow outfits. (Though this would appear to be an intentional nod to ‘70s aesthetic, McCracken admits she has been drawn to this color from a young age just like she had been to soul music.) Her liveliness is infectious, and it’s not long before audiences are dancing alongside her. That wasn’t always the case, though. Engaged crowds inspired McCracken to move to Boston four years ago.

When McCracken graduated from dorm room singalongs to open mic nights, she quickly realized there wasn’t really room for soul music where she was living in the small town of Ithaca. Ithaca is often referred to as “a ten square miles, surrounded by reality.” McCracken reflected warmly about its enthusiastically liberal and overall amazing people, but nevertheless, “there’s only ten of them.” Their bubble of a music scene lends itself to folk acts and jam bands. So instead, she trekked up to familiar coffee shops in Buffalo. There, she covered songs like the Fugees’ version of “Killing Me Softly” and stripped down interpretations of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. Bringing new meaning to pop songs on the small stage helped pave the way to introduce her own vulnerable songs.

During those fledgling days of songwriting, McCracken took observations and packaged them in a saleable format. She wouldn’t spell out how she felt about the subject matter in the lyrics, but she would emote her opinions through her tone of voice. Then McCracken had a chance to intern at Ani DiFranco’s feminist record label, Righteous Babe Records, which served as a huge influence on McCracken’s budding songwriting efforts. DiFranco’s own music planted the seed about how to be honest, intimate, and forthcoming in music, but it took McCracken a long time to give herself permission to grow that seed. By 2014, she asserted that music could be more than just a hobby. To do so, she had to move to a city where people wanted to go out and experience live music. New York City was simply too overwhelming. She had visited Boston a few times, and her friend Kevin Ewer had been pestering her to move there with him. It was pure coincidence that she would move to the same city as Lake Street Dive.

By the end of her first month in Boston, she wrote “Hometown,” the oldest song that appears on her debut album, Shake Me Up. Like her counterpart in the song, she had planted herself firmly in the future, but she couldn’t forget her roots. She learned to defend who she had been, because that version of herself helped her grow into the person she had become. “Hometown” is foot-stomping-ly energizing, much like “1968,” “Lovesick Woman,” and “Whole Wide World”. By contrast, McCracken wrote “Honey” this spring, just before recording the album. It’s slow like molasses, smooth like butter, and a far cry from the album’s upbeat beginnings.

Nowadays, McCracken isn’t afraid to sing exactly what’s on her mind. On the first song of Shake Me Up—“Lovesick Woman”—she admits she doesn’t want to fall in love because she’s “got shit to do” and she doesn’t have time to cater to a romantic partner. “Good Enough” speaks to the Sisyphean tasks of following your dreams, keeping your promises, and apologizing when it matters, but there’s also an underlying insatiability in McCracken’s lust for life. “Whole Wide World” is nothing short of an asexuality anthem. The variety of emotional journeys within each song shows McCracken’s maturity as a songwriter.

Rachael Price unknowingly nudged McCracken’s career forward a second time this past January. Price taught a vocal workshop titled “Finding Your Voice” at the Institute of the Musical Arts in Goshen, MA, and McCracken was one of 75 attendees. Because the workshop was structured as a lecture, Price broke the ice at the beginning of class by asking everyone to sing something they loved. Suddenly, everybody started singing different songs at the same time. It was chaos, it was joy, and somehow Price transformed those disparate songs to one harmonious chorus.

When Price talked about her success with Lake Street Dive, she said she hadn’t given herself any other options. She was a terrible waitress and a great singer, so she chose to be a singer. Those words reverberated in McCracken’s head. Although McCracken has been performing around Boston for the last four years, she works a full-time job unrelated to music. After that lecture, she made a conscious shift to put gas on the things she was good at. She recorded her first album. She went on her first tour across the Northeast. She would not allow herself to feel bad or insecure about pursuing a creative path. McCracken knew how to toe the line. Now, she’s ready to sprint across it. - Allston Pudding

"Album Review: Shake Me Up by Jill McCracken"

Honest explorations of love, heartbreak, and self discovery hide behind Jill McCracken’s catchy Motown-inspired pop tunes.

Soul drips from Jill McCracken’s voice as she channels influences from Motown bands like the Jackson 5 on her debut album Shake Me Up. All the classic 70s pop motifs are present with staccato guitar riffs, grooving bass lines, and even occasional “ooh la la-las.”

The album opens on “Lovesick Woman,” with McCracken finding herself at the beginning of a relationship. She confesses she doesn’t want to fall in love again, singing “I’ve been there before / and truthfully I’ve got shit to do”—the kind of lyrics one might expect in a slower song. Yet, the foot-tapping hi-hat beats of the chorus and dampened guitar riffs of the verses work together to bring a high energy and positivity that remains consistent throughout the songs that follow.

This is true even in the album’s slower songs; the choruses of “The Line” and “A Taste of Sweetness” perk up despite their lower energy verses. It’s in these songs that McCracken’s vocal range shines brightest as she bends her way up and down scales, while her lyrics question her relationships. In “The Line,” she openly wonders if she’s taking someone’s perceived indifference too seriously, while in “A Taste of Sweetness” she finds herself hoping for “A taste of sweetness / from somebody new”—despite her commitment to another person.

Though much of Shake Me Up deals with the conflict that comes with heartbreak and relationships, McCracken also spends time exploring the difficulties of coming to terms with sexuality in the song “Whole Wide World.” Here, McCracken opens the topic through the world of relationships, but only does so briefly as she sings “Do you feel like somethings missing? / You wanna fix it but you don’t know how,” while later repeating, “anything you got in let it out / Don’t you waste time being untrue to you” in the song’s bridge.

Despite the album’s familiar sound, Shake Me Up still manages to surprise by providing fresh twists of modernity. These songs relish in their ability to throwback to 70s nostalgia without losing influences from subsequent decades. The album’s titular song, “Shake Me Up” proudly sports a fast paced guitar solo, while the combined grooving bass line and playful keyboard in “Honey” provide enough of a Latin flair that they could find themselves at home in a playlist full of Santana.

What really sets this album apart, however, is all the positivity. McCracken isn’t apologizing for her inner conflicts in these songs—she’s accepting what she wants and who she is, not wasting time being untrue to herself, and the effect is refreshing. - Sound of Boston

"Exclusive: "Shake Me Up" by Jill McCracken"

Jill McCracken is an indie-soul singer and songwriter who just released a new album titled "Shake Me Up". McCracken is accompanied by Mandy Goldman, Kevin Ewer, Brendan Duran, Jim Horvath and Jon Petronzio. McCracken and her group of talented musicians brings a groovy and swinging tune that will surely get you moving!

"Shake Me Up" starts with a smooth intro that brings you into a time machine, sipping a milkshake at a small diner. It has the soul and funk influence from trendy 70s music. Despite having a warm and bright sound, do not mistake this for a bubblegum pop kind tune because the song has much more depth in it than just the catchy bright overtones. Jill isn’t shy of saying how she feels and lets the listener know exactly what it is she is thinking and feeling. The chorus is where Jill’s vocals shine and you can hear the bright tone of her voice with hints of grittiness. The song is about really pushing through the difficult circumstances that may hinder while pursuing happiness in life. “If you can’t find your peace of mind, I’m sorry, but don’t step on mine”, this verse is seen as one of the points that Jill is trying to get across. “Shake Me Up” is a feel good inspiring song for those who are looking for a little motivation and some good vibes. Listen to "Shake Me Up" here.

We had the chance to talk to Jill about her new song! Check it out below.

Care to introduce yourself?
My name is Jill McCracken and I'm an indie soul singer & songwriter.
We're completely in love with your new song. Can you tell us a bit about the song and the writing style behind it?
Aw, thanks! "Shake Me Up" is the title track off my newly released album. It's a song about figuring out how to manage some newfound anxiety in my life. As a person who's always been rather joyful, I've found myself feeling more and more wound up in my adult years; I find myself caring much harder and holding so much weight to things that I hadn't felt before. The song is an ask to people to think twice before they put their negative energy into my day-- because that energy feels twice as heavy for me.

But it's a little bit tongue in cheek-- it's like, "okay, I see people out here doing X, Y and Z thing to get rid of their anxiety, so this should work, right? I tried meditating, so I should be all centered now or whatever, right? I've entered in the formula. Is it working?" The song starts with a slow groove, trying to keep the calm, and eventually escalates into a full-blown shaken-up gospel outro.
Where did the inspiration behind the song come from?
The band and I drew inspiration from a few different artists when arranging this song-- specifically, Al Green in its bare-bones soul-centric instrumentation, Kat Wright's "The River" was top of mind in terms of feel for the first half of the song, and then total inspiration from 70s gospel music for the outro.
Let's get personal for a second! What are 3 things you would love your fans to know about you?
Let's see, just the important stuff: I refuse to live anywhere that isn't walking distance from a good coffee shop, Amy Poehler and Pamela Adlon are my heroes, and mustard yellow is my color.

Any upcoming shows in the near future? For a new fan who hasn’t seen you live yet, how would you describe your live performance?
I'm heading out on tour this week! We're hitting Upstate New York (Rochester, Buffalo, Ithaca), Toronto, Philadelphia, and NYC, before heading home to our home base, Boston. Follow me on social media and you can keep up with our tour adventures! And you can check our up-to-date tour gigs by going to the "events" tab on our Facebook page. My live shows have moments of high-impact yellin' and dancin' around, and other softer, more standstill moments of intimacy-- we pack a full range of feeling into each show.

Connect with Jill McCracken on social media:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jillmccrackenmusic
Instagram: www.instagram.com/jillmccracken - BuzzMusic LA

"Meet Trailblazer Jill McCracken"

"Today we’d like to introduce you to Jill McCracken.
Jill, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far."

Despite growing up playing the drums in school and taking guitar lessons on Tuesday nights, I didn’t start singing publicly until the college days. Sitting on the floor of the dorms having some pretty classically cheesy singalongs, some new friends managed to single me out to tell me, “hey, you have a nice voice”. Enough of that kind of thing started to happen that I felt confident enough to start singing and playing acoustic guitar at small cafe open mic nights, and then writing my own songs, and then forming a college band. Once I started playing live music, I never stopped. I moved from Ithaca, NY to Boston in 2014 specifically because I wanted to live in a bigger city and play music to more people. I fired myself from guitar (greatest decision ever) and began focusing on my voice and stage presence. I started shifting my focus and goals and gave myself permission to set my sights on making a real career out of what’s always been the thing I’m best at, and the thing I Iike the most.

It’s felt like baby steps so far, but now I’m taking big giant leaps. My full-length album “Shake Me Up” will be released on 8/14, and I am so proud of it. My band and I are supporting the record on our tour at the end of August, and I can’t wait to spread our music farther and farther.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Hell to the no! I’ve worked like a dog for every damn thing. There’s no magical thing where a man in a golden cape comes down from the heavens and presents you with opportunities. My mom always says, “you don’t ask, you don’t get”, and for so long in my life, I was too scared to ask for things. Now, I don’t hold back — I’ve gotten to where I am now — and I will get to where I’m gonna be — by believing in myself and my band, and pushing us to the next bigger thing. That’s my advice for other women (particularly the youngens) — work hard and ask for the things you want! Ask kindly and courteously and respectfully, and be prepared for the answer to be no sometimes, but don’t let it stop you from asking.

"We’d love to hear more about Jill McCracken."

I sing and write songs and perform with my indie soul/pop band. I write about the things that my heart gets hung on — all the wonderful things that bring joy and color to my life, and the cracks that lie within them — and hope that the listener connects in a way that feels really right. I’ve got an awful lot of feelings, and my songs run the full gamut. But when I perform them, they’re sung with unadulterated joy. I celebrate the honest-to-goodness truth of life and love — not only the beautiful, terrible, horrible parts but especially all the in-betweens.

One of the songs that we usually end our live set with, “Whole Wide World”, repeats this mantra: “anything you got in, let it out”. That’s the best advice I could give anyone. I personally do so by belting words that mean so much to me, by boogying up and down the stage, and beating the hell out of a tambourine, and laughing and telling jokes between songs. That’s the stuff that is inside of me, and that’s what I let out into the world.

"Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?"

Well, man, I lucked out with parents who loved me an awful lot, and that’s a leg up on anything. They got me a drum set at age 11 (god bless them) and encouraged me to play in the school orchestra and the high school theater’s pit band and take guitar lessons.

And I lucked out as a kid in being the sidekick to my best friend, Alex, who was always cooler than me and introduced me to The Beatles (beginning my love of oldies) and Ani DiFranco (beginning my appreciation for songwriting and female badassery). Alex and her family taught me about arts and culture and good taste. - Boston Voyager


"Shake Me Up" 
Debut full-length album
Released August 2018



Jill McCracken is an indie soul songstress, whose original music is inspired by the likes of modern-day artists like Lake Street Dive, while taking heavy cues from classic artists such as Aretha Franklin and The Jackson 5.

Jill and her debut album “Shake Me Up” have received praise from Sound of Boston, Allston Pudding, Buzz Music LA, and Boston Voyager. The album is a celebration of feeling— anything that she’s got on the inside (and there’s a lot on the inside), is triumphantly released out into the world.

“Powerhouse singing”

When she performs, her voice surges through her whole body

Her liveliness is infectious, and it’s not long before audiences are dancing alongside her

—Allston Pudding

Interview: Jill McCracken Is Here To Shake You Up 

Soul drips from Jill McCracken’s voice”—Sound of Boston

Album Review: Shake Me Up by Jill McCracken

Jill has created a buzz touring through Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Toronto, Upstate New York and Vermont; she’s also shared the stage with national acts such as Nicole Atkins, Mikaela Davis, Diane Coffee, and Xenia Rubinos.

Singing her truth is not a standstill moment of internal solitude— rather, Jill declares her truth with power, sincerity, and pure delight. She does so with her preferred delivery of movin’, groovin’ and hip-shakin’ all through her performance.

Band Members