The Story of Melissa Kay McCarthy’s Music
Melissa’s love of country music, singing, and performing began at an early age. On any given day in the McCarthy house, Melissa’s mother could be heard singing along to Tanya Tucker’s greatest hits while going through the mundane routine of running a household of six. Melissa and her three sisters would join in and music seemed to make the chores less daunting.
Melissa’s musical talent did not come naturally, however. She was incredibly shy and insecure growing up. Melissa’s music and writing was something that she crafted in private behind the closed door of her bedroom.
Music and writing was more than just a passion for Melissa. Through the death of her paternal grandmother, her parent’s divorce, and living with the daily struggles of a family plagued by alcoholism, Melissa used her music and writing as a coping mechanism.
It was not until her junior of high school that Melissa finally began performing publicly, but not without her older sister, Shannon, by her side.
After graduating high school, Melissa took a year off before going to college. With her Grandma Jean’s help, she went to Jerry’s Music in Wausau and picked out her first (and only) guitar. Within a few months, she was not only playing, but also writing music.
Two years later, Melissa was playing bars and coffee shops whenever she had the chance. It didn’t matter what the venue was or the time of day, Grandma Jean and Grandpa Larry always had the best seat in the house.
In December of 2003, Melissa wrapped up her degree in Educational Interpreting (sign language). With hopes of moving closer to Nashville, Melissa began searching for work. Educational Interpreter positions were not easy to come by in the middle of the school year, but she continued checking job postings on a daily basis.
It was February of 2004 when a job was posted in Craig, AK. In the excitement of finally seeing an open position for the 2004-2005 school year, Melissa polished her resume and mailed it off with the misunderstanding it was going to Craig, Arkansas. To much surprise, a school district in Craig, Alaska offered Melissa the position. To an even greater surprise, Melissa accepted the position in March, just three weeks after sending her resume.
The news that Melissa would be moving 2,200 miles away from home was not well received. The night she told her family, Melissa sat down with her guitar and wrote the song When I’m Gone in less than ten minutes. It was a song that she tucked away and, like most of her work, kept to herself.
The next five months were filled with mixed emotions about moving, but life events kept Melissa preoccupied. Her sister, Shannon, was married in July 2004. In the back of Melissa’s mind, she knew that once the wedding was over she would need to focus on the next chapter of her own life.
The week after Mark and Shannon’s wedding and less than one month before moving day, Grandma Jean was diagnosed with stage four cancer and the prognosis was not good. With the contract signed, Melissa knew she wasn’t going to back out and it was the most difficult decision she’d make in her young life.
As she was packing, Melissa came across When I’m Gone and the lyrics had taken on an entirely different meaning. The week before she moved her life across the country, Melissa went into a recording studio and recorded a CD for her grandma.
At the age of 22, Melissa packed up and left home. On the way to Alaska, Melissa dropped the CD in the mail and Grandma played it daily in her hospital room. Melissa arrived in Alaska on August 9th, 2004. She began her 27 hour journey back home on September 7th and made it home just in time to say her final goodbye to Grandma Jean. She passed away on September 9, 2004.
Melissa returned to Alaska and worked as an interpreter there for two years. When she wasn’t interpreting, she was writing music on the floor in her tiny studio apartment. Melissa began struggling with performance anxiety in middle school and she found the more exposure she had, the easier it became to manage. While living in Alaska, Melissa had fallen out of the routine of performing for audiences and she began noticing increased anxiety when she would play for people.
In 2006, Melissa left Alaska and returned home to Wausau. While her family and friends were thrilled to have her back, Melissa was struggling with the transition. She spent the summer looking into a music school in Minneapolis, but after spending two years on an island with no stoplights, she was overwhelmed with the idea of moving to a big city.
A school district in West Salem, Wisconsin was in need of an interpreter and Melissa applied for the position. Within a week, Melissa was moving to the La Crosse area. Although she loved her job, Melissa slipped into a deep depression and her music from that time is a reflection of it.
Melissa booked frequent weekend gigs throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. She released a CD of home recordings entitled When I’m Gone and even received radio airplay in Decorah, Iowa and on Kentucky Public Radio.
While working as an interpreter in an elementary school and playing music, Melissa also began taking night and weekend classes to complete her bachelor’s degree.
Melissa released her second CD, Live at Corner Coffee in 2009. While both of Melissa’s CDs are out of stock, they can be purchased as digital downloads on iTunes and CDBaby.
In 2011, Melissa completed her degree in Biopsychology and returned to Wausau to help take care of her grandfather. She has since returned to La Crosse and is working full-time as a Behavioral Health Specialist in an Inpatient Behavioral Health unit. She is currently working on new projects and hopes to release her third CD in 2015.
Melissa Kay McCarthy Music