Starkville singer-songwriter returns for Cotton District Festival Saturday

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – You could say Kelley McRae has split personalities.
The singer-songwriter grew up in Starkville, but has lived the past seven years in Brooklyn.
Similarly, her career was just as split: She went to college to study acting, but fell in love with guitar, singing and songwriting in her junior year.
Music is her love now, but McRae’s heart is still torn between Mississippi and New York. Those two places show up equally in her soulful, edgy roots music.
“Half of me is so drawn to Mississippi and the green and the air and the open space,” she said, “but the other half has always been drawn to the grit and diversity of a place like Brooklyn.”
The sounds of both places share equal space in McRae’s music and somehow complement each other. The three-part harmonies and gospel music of her youth mix well with the images of her present life in Brooklyn, with subways and highrises.

On the road again
Earlier this year, McRae and her husband/guitarist Matt Castelein sold everything and hit the road in a VW van for an East Coast/Southeast tour.
The pair have performed a variety of shows, which has allowed them to be both loud and rowdy and mellow and cool.
“This past weekend we played a great venue … we really got to dig in and see how far we could push our sound,” she said. “And then last night we played a show on the beach, as the sun was setting. We got to just pull out our mellowest set.”
McRae said she’s excited about coming back to her hometown for the Cotton District Festival, but it’s just one tour stop in a list of many.
“I’m sitting here on the beach on my day off, trying to book the summer,” she said. “I’m looking at a map of America and trying to figure how to get to all those places. Hopefully the future holds a lot more shows and seeing a lot more of America. … We have a lot of new songs; it’d be great to get those out to the world.”