State Theatre Portland
Lori McKenna

Return to Bittertown Tour

Lori McKenna

Hailey Whitters

Sun, August 4, 2019

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Port City Music Hall

Portland, ME

$30 GA Seated / $45 Preferred GA Seated

This event is 18 and over

Buy tickets in person at the Port City Music Hall box office (504 Congress Street) Wednesday-Friday 10AM-5PM, charge by phone at 800-745-3000, or online right here. PCMH box office will open one hour before doors night of show.

Lori McKenna
Lori McKenna
Lori McKenna celebrates the 15th Anniversary of “Bittertown” (5/11/2004) with a special re-issue of the album and The Return to Bittertown Tour. Join us as Lori opens the show with playing the record in its entirety plus all her hits, and a chance to shop some special merch.

“I love people's stories about their families...I love the way families tic, and the ways we're all crazy and love each other. There's so much your family gives to you that you don't even realize it's giving," says Lori McKenna.

McKenna is home in Stoughton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Holed up in her basement writing room, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is reflecting on The Tree, her much-anticipated new collection of the smart roots music that has become her hallmark. The Tree takes one of McKenna’s signature themes––family––and builds a tapestry of experiences she has lived and overheard, been told and dreamed up, to create a stunning ode to life’s defining relationships.

Home and the people who make it have captivated McKenna for years. “I got married at 19 and had my oldest at 20,” she says. “I didn’t grow up all the way before I started having children. I didn’t have a lot of time being an adult that was just me––I spent so much time worrying about someone else. So I do like to address how I feel about things, for sure, but I also like to think about what other people might feel, too.”

McKenna was raised in a Boston family of six children. She met her husband Gene in third grade. They have five kids. And over the last three decades, as she became a wife and mother, she has also emerged as one of the most respected, prolific singer-songwriters in popular music. Her 2016 release The Bird and the Rifle netted three Grammy nominations, along with Americana Music Association nods––all firsts for McKenna as an artist. Then, she made history: In 2016, she became the first woman ever to win the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year two years in a row thanks to co-writing Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and penning Tim McGraw’s no. 1 “Humble and Kind” solo. Both songs also clinched back-to-back Grammy wins for Best Country Song. In 2017, she became the Academy of Country Music’s first female Songwriter of the Year. The list of stars who have recorded McKenna gems continues to grow: Reba, Alison Krauss, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Hunter Hayes, and others.

The Tree is McKenna’s eleventh studio album. It’s her second collaboration with producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile, Sturgill Simpson), and the chemistry generated by the pair and their elite supporting cast of engineers and musicians that helped fuel The Bird and the Rifle is back. “I’ve seen Dave work in a few different environments, and I’m always blown away by the way he can handle everybody’s emotions,” McKenna says. “He can come up with the best equation of how everybody’s feeling right then in the room, and then what song will be best––the one we’ll get right in that moment because of how we all feel. It’s not like we’re making a record. We are just sitting around, playing the songs together.”

When asked what she hopes listeners experience once they hear The Tree, McKenna doesn’t hesitate.

“Every single person in the world has such awesome stories. I love to write songs that just shine a little light on that for a second. Maybe our stories remind us of our families and what they give us. It’s beautiful, and sometimes we take it for granted.”
Hailey Whitters
Hailey Whitters has an endearing habit of suggesting she’s perennially late to the party. “I’ve always just felt like a late bloomer,” she says, with a sigh that turns into a laugh.



With the release of her debut album Black Sheep (October 2, 2015 via Carnival Music), Whitters proves she was well worth the wait. Produced by ace session guitarist Derek Wells, Black Sheep is a soulful collection that turns sad stories into bold celebrations of people society often shames, layered over honky tonk and rootsy rock.



“It’s been really therapeutic for me to put it out,” Whitters says of the album. “Just being able to know what I want to say and get that out to people has been cool on my end.”



Whitters grew up in Shueyville, Iowa, population just shy of 600. “It’s such a little town. It’s getting bigger, but we don’t even have a post office,” she says. “We have two bars, a wine cellar, and a church.”



The oldest of six children born to a large Catholic family, Whitters grew up a determined but unexpected artist, drawn to songs and singers but unsure why. “I didn’t grow up in a super musical family,” she says. “I just had a weird inkling to do music.” The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, and other women who drove 90s country radio were her gateway heroines, which led to a deep dive into classic country, and ultimately, Americana storytellers such as Patty Griffin, John Prine, and Gillian Welch.



“I took my first trip to Nashville when I was 16 and fell in love,” Whitters says. “I immediately knew I wanted to move here.” A year later, she did. She also enrolled in college, and paid her proverbial dues as a nanny, waitress, and salon receptionist before signing with left-of-center lighthouse Carnival Music in 2012.



“When I was younger, I just mimicked people that I admired,” Whitters says. “I learned how to tell a story.” With an arresting voice effortlessly rooted in honky tonk’s long tradition of angelic sopranos who are equally comfortable mourning and raising hell, she has spent the last several years discovering that she has something of her own to say––along with a unique way to say it.



Whitters often writes and sings songs that detail the search for acceptance––of self or of others––sometimes dreamily, other times with rollicking irreverence. Features in No Depression and The Bluegrass Situation, a Daytrotter Session, several nods on 2016 artists-to-watch lists, and other praise have introduced her to a larger audience, who has responded with open arms. “I love to hear from people about how one of my songs has touched them. It just makes me feel like I’m doing something bigger than myself,” she says.



Black Sheep’s title track, written with the Wrights’ Adam Wright, moodily canvasses the rewards and frustrations of sticking out, and ultimately offers a defiant resolution keep going her own way. “I feel that way a lot, especially in this town,” she says. “To do what nobody’s doing…it’s kind of cool, fuel for the fire. It’s invigorating to be different.”



The guitar-soaked stroll “Late Bloomer” is an autobiographical ode to lollygagging in a variety of situations. “I was the oldest of six, so I was very naïve, I felt like,” she says. “But I finally came to accept that it’s actually okay to figure out who you are and what you want later in life.”



Whitters penned live-show standout “One More Hell” alone after her little brother was killed in a car accident. “He was 19. It was awful,” she says. “I went home to be with my family, and we went out West that summer. We had no plan, just got in the car and drove. It was really good being all together––we all just kind of disappeared for a month.” She sat down to write when she got back to Nashville, and “One More Hell” came quickly. “The first time I ever played it live, this stranger in the front row was bawling,” she says. “It’s a sad song, but it’s kind of a happy song, I always say––people just feel it.”



Whitters takes the only two songs on the album she didn’t write––“City Girl” and “Pocket Change”––and owns them confidently. Her blithe version of “City Girl,” written by the Wrights, was featured in the 2015 season of Nashville, while her interpretation of Mando Saenz’s indignant “Pocket Change” gives the song a droll feminine spin.



Written by Whitters alone, stunner “Low All Afternoon” takes pity on a jilted other woman. Forlorn but commiserative, the song tells a true story Whitters witnessed a friend endure. “I like to write without a hook in mind sometimes––to just let the song move toward what it’s trying to say,” she says. “That’s how I approached this one. For about three months, I’d work on it, leave it, and then come back to it. That was a luxury.”



Martina McBride heard “Low All Afternoon” and recorded the song for her upcoming album, gifting Whitters with the first cut of her career. When asked about song’s journey, Whitters is grateful and amazed. “They say this doesn’t happen much anymore––a song written alone, a waltz, a ballad––being cut,” she says. “I feel like I created something real and honest, and it’s been so rewarding.”



Lately, Whitters has taken to gigging all over the country. She joined the lineup at the 30A Songwriters Festival for the first time and makes her SXSW debut this spring. She’s opened shows for acts ranging from Randy Houser to Chris Knight, and is sincerely grateful for every opportunity. “I will play just about anywhere,” she says with a laugh. “There’s something about getting out on the road and traveling that I just love.”



Winning over a crowd delivers an inimitable high for Whitters, who relishes connecting live. “I love performing ‘One More Hell,’” she says. “You think no one’s listening, and then the middle of that song, you see them raise their beer glasses in the air and know that they’re listening and that you’re all on the same page.”



“I’m a risk taker,” Whitters says. “My friends always laugh because I’m kind of one extreme or the other. I’m not really a middle ground kind of person. You take these risks, and then the reward is just…” She trails off for a moment. “I feel like the part that feels so awesome about it afterwards is knowing that you were scared to do it, but then you did -- and it paid off.”
Venue Information:
Port City Music Hall
504 Congress St
Portland, ME, 04101