Welcome to the second part of a new regular feature on Belles and Gals, where we shine our spotlight on the rising stars of the industry coming out of Nashville – all brought to you by new team member Craig Brooks! (twitter.com/swindonforever)
One of my favourite things about the thriving music scene in Nashville is the frequency in which you just unexpectedly discover a gem at random. SJ McDonald is an artist I discovered whilst watching a friend play in the same round as her at Alley Taps, a small pub on Printers Alley.
SJ is the absolute embodiment of the spirit that makes country music so special to people. Born and raised in Virginia she grew up working on the family farm and even frequently uses holiday time to go home and help out, I for one can’t think of anything cooler and more country than a badass rock chick farm girl. There are no doubts at all that she has taken this humble and hardworking attitude forward into her music. I’m not somebody who generally believes in drawing too much attention to an artist’s age but you can’t help admiring how much SJ has achieved at 19 years old. She released her 10-track solo album in 2014 titled ‘The Girl with the Yellow Guitar’, I’m really impressed with the maturity of the song writing on this album. Adding that to the catchy guitar playing and very strong vocals throughout it’s a really solid debut record. In a further display of the versatile talents of SJ you can catch her performing with a full band set up under the name ‘SaraJane McDonald and Sweetfire’. You’ll hear them playing a mix of modern country, originals and some really cool throwbacks to keep everyone partying. With a frontwoman like SJ in the group there are no limits to what they can do as a group and they have performed at festivals and bars all over the East Coast.
I’ve been fortunate enough to catch SJ in a number of different venues, whether it’s an acoustic writers round in pubs/coffee shops or a 4 hour full band set at the Stage on Broadway, every set is a flawless performance full of energy and passion. She never fails to captivate any audience with her talents and whether it’s the infectious smile or the vibrant personality you can’t find help but find SJ to be the most likeable person. At time of writing this, SJ has just made her debut at the biggest and most popular writers round in Nashville, the Song Suffragettes show at the Listening Room. Only the most elite of performers get on the bill for this and it’s just another in what is sure to be a long line of incredible accolades she will reach in her career.