Lori McKenna didn’t grow up listening to country music, but you’d never know it by the Grammy awards she’s taken home. The songwriter behind hits like Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” says she was more influenced by ‘70s singer-songwriters like Neil Young, Carly Simon, and Carole King. But it’s McKenna’s knack for finding depth in the details of everyday life—a quality she sees in classic country songs, and one that shines through on her latest album The Bird and the Rifle—that keeps her splitting time between Music City and her Massachusetts home. “I just love songs that are about extraordinary things that happen to ordinary people,” she says. “We all have this crazy story.”
For her newest, “Mama’s Cooking,” McKenna started with the title, adding it to a list of phrases she thought might make good songs. But she didn’t set out to pen a holiday hit. “My favorite Christmas songs growing up were always the ones that didn’t seem like full-on holiday songs,” she says. The Christmas angle came along when McKenna, a mother of five, began wondering whether one of her sons would be coming home for Christmas after a cross-country move to Los Angeles. Soon enough, “Mama’s Cooking” became a song about being home for the holidays. “Even if your mom is not a great cook, there is something about her cooking that you love,” she says. “It’s a song about a kid missing home, and home missing the kid.”
Stream “Mama’s Cooking” exclusively here at Garden & Gun. On December 1, the song will be among twenty-one new tracks added to Acoustic Christmas, a special holiday playlist available via Amazon.