Born December 4, 1981 in Puyallup, WA. Addresses: Record company--Asylum, Elektra Entertainment Group, a division of Warner Communications Inc., 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019. Management--Walker Management, 12021 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 911, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Fan Club--Lila McCann Fan Club, 3800A Bridgeport Way West, Suite 533, University Place, WA 98466.
Lila McCann has established herself as a hit-making country artist while still in her teens. Her debut album appeared in the wake of singer LeAnn Rimes' enormous success and comparisons between the two teenaged vocalists have been frequently made. But McCann has stood on her own by virtue of her All-American cheerleader image and polished vocal abilities. She has been able to shape a convincing identity by recording material appropriate for her age, choosing more mature songs as her career has progressed. Unlike Rimes, McCann's focus has been on the country market exclusively, favoring the more upbeat side of the country sound.
Born in Puyallup, Washington, McCann came to a singing career naturally. At age four, she made her first appearance on stage with her father Pat's country band, the Southlanders. By eight, she was regularly singing with the group at their weekend engagements at the local Eagles Club. Her selections with the Southlanders included such modern country favorites as Kathy Mattea's "18 Wheels And A Dozen Roses" and the Judds' "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout The Good Ol' Days)," as well as standards like Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and "Sweet Dreams." Word began to spread about McCann's precocious talent, which led to Los Angeles-based manager Kasey Walker coming to see her perform. After years of managing actors and directors, Walker was tiring of the business and reluctant to take on a new client. Her feelings changed once she heard McCann, however. "She got up and sang and, literally, my mouth dropped open," Walker told Los Angeles Times writer Jerry Crowe. "Even at nine, she was brilliant. Her voice had such a natural country feel to it."
Walker began to assemble a team of highly regarded music business professionals to work on the young singer's behalf, including attorney Ken Hertz and agent Rob Light. From there, Walker arranged for McCann, then aged 12, to perform at the Palomino in North Hollywood, CA, a landmark country music venue. Around this same time, McCann entered a country music youth talent contest in Las Vegas, and found herself competing against LeAnn Rimes for singing honors. Rimes ended up winning an award for best female vocalist, while McCann took the prize for best female entertainer.
McCann's talent was evident enough to secure her a recording contract with Asylum Records at age 13. Rather than release an album as soon as possible, the decision was made to wait until she was fully ready to record. "We all decided that we didn't want to rush into things," McCann said in an interview with Mike Greenblatt of Modern Screen's Country Music. "We had a record deal with Asylum two and a half years before we started cutting songs. Asylum co-president Kyle Lehning told the Los Angeles Times that "though her [McCann's] voice was wonderful, she just didn't have it all there ... I didn't feel like Lila was somebody who at the time could sing about mature subjects and have anybody really buy into it. So there was a lot of thought that went into the choice of material." In the meantime, LeAnn Rimes recorded and released her own debut album in 1996, which proved to be phenomenally successful.
Mark Spiro, a songwriter and producer who had worked with such artists as Julian Lennon and Boyz II Men, was chosen to guide McCann in the studio. Spiro co-wrote much of the material McCann recorded for her debut album, which was eventually titled Lila and released in 1998. The first single from the album, "Down Came A Blackbird," was an unusual blend of bluegrass and rap elements and brought McCann a modest hit. Her next release, "I Wanna Fall In Love," was a more conventional upbeat tune that rose to the top of the country charts. Though two more singles, "Almost Over You" and "Yippy Ky Yay" performed less well, Lila went on to earn gold record certification. This led to McCann's 1998 Academy of Country Music award nomination for best new female vocalist.
Because of their ages, comparisons between McCann and Rimes in the media were inevitable. For her part, McCann tried to downplay any similarities between them. As she told People, "the only thing we really have in common is our ages. As far as the music goes, or our lifestyles, we're pretty different. She's out on the road all the time, and most of the time I'm still home at school." Stories about McCann in the press emphasized her life as a typical Seattle, Washington area high school student apart from her singing career. Keeping her touring and recording to weekends during the school year, she managed to maintain a B-average as a sophomore. As a member of her school's cheerleading squad, she participated in a national championship competition in the fall of 1998 in Orlando, Florida.
McCann kept her career momentum running smoothly by appearing in an episode of the popular television series Walker, Texas Ranger in 1998. That same fall she received even greater exposure by recording the song "To Get Me To You" for the soundtrack for the film Hope Floats. Also important were her appearances as part of the 1998 George Strait Chevy Truck Country Music Festival, featuring her on a touring concert bill, which also included Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and John Michael Montgomery.
Something In The Air, McCann's second CD, was released in 1999. For this album, McCann and producer Mark Spiro built on the strengths of Lila while allowing for a more mature focus in the songwriting. While much of the material was by Spiro or outside writers, McCann did co-write two songs, "I Reckon I Will" and "Can You Hear Me." "With You," the first single, was an immediate hit, rising to number one on the country charts. Something In The Air revealed the now 17 year-old singer to be an evolving artist just beginning to stretch out and make full use of her talents. "This time, just because I had spent more time in the studio, I knew better what I was doing," McCann said of Somethng In The Air in an interview with Country Weekly. "It was fun, too because I am a little older ... I mean, we didn't go way over into the divorce scene or anything, but... we got to grow up a little bit!"
McCann worked to maintain a balance between her burgeoning musical career and the pressures of teenage life as she approached her senior year in high school. She told Country Weekly that "I do want to go to college, but as soon as I get out of high school I want to do music full-time for a while. I think I'm going to wait about three years, because I really would like to produce and write a lot more."
by Barry Alfonso
Lila McCann's Career
Began performing with her father's band The Southlanders, 1985; signed with Asylum Records, 1995; released debut album Lila, 1998; released Something In The Air in 1999.
Lila McCann's Awards
Platinum record for contribution to Hope Floats soundtrack album, 1998.
- Selected discography
- Lila (includes "Down Came A Blackbird" and "I Wanna Fall In Love"), Asylum, 1998.
- (contributor) Hope Floats (soundtrack), Capitol, 1998.
- Something In The Air (included "With You"), Asylum, 1999.
- Billboard, February 13, 1999.
- Country Weekly, March 23, 1999.
- Los Angeles Times, February 7, 1998.
- Modern Screen's Country Music, April 1999.
- People, June 29, 1998.
- Additional information was provided by Asylum publicity materials, 1999.