SJ McDonald is back with her third single ‘Rouge’, a duet with Brittany Moore which shines a light on the subject of domestic violence. We sat down with her to chat about the new single and how things are going for her right now.
Your previous single ‘Hot Damn’ which came out at the end of August has done very well. Were you always confident of that one being successful?
I was extremely confident in the music and production of Hot Damn. Brandon Meagher absolutely slayed that song! I was however worried that since it’s so different than my first single, “Give Me Back My Heart”, that people would react differently. Turns out, everyone has been super into it and shown me so much support over Hot Damn. I am so so grateful and feel like the luckiest chick!!
Were you always planning to release ‘Rouge’ quite soon after or did quarantine change your release plans?
Actually, quarantine was what made Rouge. I had no big plans to release anything this soon after Hot Damn, but when Brittany Moore and I wrote it in May (during quarantine), we just knew we had to release it, and it felt like the perfect song to follow up the girl-power anthem Hot Damn.
Can you tell us the story behind the song and the reason you’re releasing it during October?
There is a Devin Dawson song that has the words “moulin rouge” in it, and the word Rouge always fascinated me ever since I heard that. I had written “Rouge” down as a title and brought it up to Brittany during a zoom write. After some googling we found that it typically stood for makeup, and we quickly came up with the story about a woman who appears to be wearing makeup (aka rouge), but really it’s abuse marks. We wanted to release this song in October because it is clearly about domestic violence and what so many people live with each day silently, and October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.
You’re managed by a close friend of yours Caroline Hodson and have worked with other close friends such as Willow Johnson and Mackenzie Baker. Are releases that extra bit special for you when good friends have played key roles in the project?
You just listed my badass chick team!! It means so much to work with not only friends, but friends who are the best at what they do – for example Willow Johnson did the cover art for “Rouge”! It helps that I’m comfortable with them so I can be blunt about the vision I see over the music/branding, and they can be blunt with me too!
Anything fun planned for Halloween?
Since things are still uncertain when it comes to safety and COVID….I think my girls and I may just dress up and watch movies / eat candy in our house!
What would you say the biggest challenge is for an artist like yourself in getting to where you want to be?
The biggest challenge is definitely navigating the insane amount of music always coming out. I can’t even begin to imagine how many new country songs come out each week. As a listener, I am sometimes overwhelmed with how much new music there is to listen to, and I want to support everyone but sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day! My team and I are trying to find ways to combat that and cut through in any way we can, and we hope that a strong female duet like “Rouge” will perk up some ears.
You look like you’re making an effort to embrace the whole TikTok thing right now. Enjoying yourself?
Oh my… I’m sure it’s obvious that I am trying to figure out what to do on TikTok. I love stupid things so lately I have been posting videos doing the WAP dance but to the wrong song, haha! I do need to amp up my game. I love watching singers make listening to music fun on TikTok, like the 615 House crew!
Do you have a particular path in mind for your career or is it more a case of releasing the best music you can and seeing where it takes you?
You answered the question for me J
If you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s hot in Nashville you should already be well aware of SJ McDonald. If you follow her on socials you’ll know how great a job she does of using her voice and platform to stand up for others so it’s very apt she’s released a song about domestic violence during October which is domestic violence awareness month.
SJ has one of the most powerful voices I’ve ever encountered in the music business and the feeling in it behind every note is perfect for the emotive subject matter of ‘Rouge’. We get a great taste of the fantastic range in her voice with this track; it opens with a more delicate side to her voice as she paints the picture of the victim in an abusive relationship and her relief as the abusive partner leaves the house each morning. Her voice picks up and couples with her always incredible lyrical ability to describe the ‘rouge’ the subject of the song is wearing which is actually a mark left by the actions of her partner. “She’s wearing rouge, and it ain’t by choice, lately it seems, that she can’t avoid him painting it on, a blush coloured rouge, can’t wash it off, she’s wearing rouge”.
I think SJ and Brittany Moore who duets on the track have both done a great job of not just simply writing a song, but really shining a light on a tough and incredibly serious subject. SJ sings about the abusive partner trying to make up for what he’s done by buying flowers whilst also singing “by this time next week, he’ll be needing to buy her more flowers” highlighting the sad fact the abusive partner will more than likely keep reoffending. Brittany really adds to the track with her and SJ’s voices complimenting each other fantastically and the production is top notch, really allowing the strength of SJ’s voice to give life to this heart wrenching tale.
‘Rouge’ is another fantastic example of the incredible level of maturity in SJ’s songwriting, she has been consistently writing great song after great song for a long while now and should definitely be a top pick on anyone’s artists to watch list. ‘Rouge’ is out on October 16th and you can pre-save/pre-order it at the following link https://tinyurl.com/yycvrr9t .
If you’re suffering due to domestic violence and are based in the United States please go to https://www.thehotline.org/ for advice and guidance. For those based in the U.K please go to https://www.refuge.org.uk/ .
Interview conducted by and review written by Craig Brooks (twitter.com/swindonforever)