New Audio: The Old School Soul-Inspired Sound of McClain Sullivan’s “Happy Anniversary”

Born in Seattle, WA and currently based in Brooklyn, McClain Sullivan grew up with an unwavering passion for making music; in fact, Sullivan says in press notes, that “I could sing before I talk” and she has been playing and guitar and writing her own songs since she was 12. She eventually wound up attending the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, where she began developing her singular, genre spanning style, inspired by Ani Difranco, Erykah Badu, and Sarah Vaughan. After graduating there were moves to Vermont, NYC, North Carolina and Texas when she realized that NYC was her home and moved back, settling into Brooklyn’s music scene.

As a touring musician, Sullivan has opened for The Roots, Talib Kweli, and Souls of Mischief, and played the Savannah Jazz Festival, Fillmore Jazz Festival, House of Blues and the Hammerstein Ballroom, which has expanded her profile both locally and nationally.

Sullivan’s forthcoming EP, Rachel slated for an October 16 release will further cement her burgeoning reputation for a genre spanning sound as the material effortlessly bounces between hip-hop, funk, classic soul, jazz standards and acoustic singer/songwriter confessionals but I think it’ll also grab attention for fearlessly honest songwriting and perhaps most important, a vocal style that bears an uncanny resemblance to Erykah Badu.

Rachel‘s first single “Happy Anniversary” is a old school soul-inspired song consisting of tumbling drumming, slinky guitar lines, sinuous bass and organ chords and Sullivan’s effortless jazzy vocals that sonically reminds me quite a bit of Bill Withers‘ “Use Me” and Erykah Badu’s “Back In The Day” and “Tyrone.”  And much like those songs, there’s an emotional honesty within the song as Sullivan expresses snarky, sassy sarcasm, desire, befuddlement, fiery resolve, and being absolutely fed up with someone within a a turn of a phrase. It captures how confusing, infuriating and exhausting human relationships can be — and with a bitter sense of humor. Such songwriting and such a voice seems to come about maybe once in a generation, so pay attention to this woman.