Rebecca McDade is enchanting. Bright-eyed and quick-witted, she can imitate accents from around the globe and just as easily bring a hush over a room with a single note. Neither are simple feats.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, McDade is a woman of three countries. Growing up, she hopped back and forth between Scotland, Ireland and Oregon until her family settled in Portland in 2006. For the budding troubadour, Portland brought about a renaissance of musical discovery. Her love of music had always been a constant, but now she found a home in musical theater and choir.
Her lilting tune “Needle in the Straw” began as an exercise. She’d become enamored by the Travis picking fingerstyle, named for Merle Travis, after watching the movie Inside Llewyn Davis. The film initiated her love affair with American folk music from the 60s, and she was determined to learn the style that defined it. Thus, it changed from a challenge to an origin story. She had found her sound.
“‘Needle in the Straw’ was the start of something for me,” McDade remembers. “My songwriting and guitar playing is so influenced by the music I was listening to at the time, and that song was the first one written by the version of myself who plays the music I do now.”
In part, it was the sense of “home and heart” that drew McDade to the genre. Perhaps because home wasn’t always constant, but there was always plenty of heart to go around. Mcdade adds, “[Folk music is the] music of the people. A really beautiful folk song's biggest hope is to be able to connect people in the softest and strongest ways. A folk song is everyone's.”
It’s true. McDade imparts such a gentleness to her Glasgow-to-Portland brand of folk. We all need a little part of that beauty and enchantment.