Inspiration could be found in many places. Love and heartbreak are the most common themes, as musicians fondly remember the “one” or attempt to recover from the end of a relationship. Music is also often used as a means to express oneself, whether it’s a proclamation of one’s independence or coping with depressions, anxiety, or isolation. Then there are the places that inspire artists to write music. Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” might be the most famous song about a place. The Beach Boys sang about the Caribbean in “Cocomo”, and John Lennon wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever”, one of The Beatles’ classic tunes.

For Helen McCreary, it was in the beauty and solitude of New Zealand where she found inspiration. She wasn’t just inspired to write songs about the country; she was inspired to start playing the guitar and writing music. McCreary, as such, wasn’t a child prodigy nor has she been involved in music for very long. She instead trained as an archaeologist and spent time in Christchurch assisting with recovery efforts following the devastating earthquake of 2011.

While McCreary is now back in the US (Brooklyn, New York to be precise), New Zealand remains close to her heart, for it was the place where she found her greatest discovery – a hidden talent as a singer-songwriter. It’s story that sounds too good to be true, yet we are here today presenting Helen McCreary’s debut album, The Lovely Days.

The Lovely Days is 11 songs of elegant and intimate, acoustic, folk-pop. Each song is written from McCreary’s heart, celebrating both the people in her life, the places that have inspired her, and the small and big events that have define her and the people around her. It’s an album that could be compared to the Academy Award-winning film, Forest Gump, where even in the toughest times and darkest moments there is always a shining light to guide us to something hopeful, positive, and brilliant. The world could use more optimism, and McCreary is doing her part with her splendid first album.

Listen to the entire album below, and as you do that read the stories behind each song as told by Helen McCreary. The stories will make you laugh as well as reflect on your own inspirations.

The Lovely Days is available for purchase at Bandcamp and iTunes.

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Track-by-Track Commentary by Helen McCreary

“Heart Beats” – I’ve always been a little afraid of the dark. My worries and fears like to rear their heads when everyone else is asleep. This song is about lying next to someone you love and worrying about the future.

“A Word That Couldn’t Hurt” – It’s pretty hard to go through life without hurting people, even if it’s completely unintentional. I was feeling especially guilty one day, and this song came out. It was pretty cathartic because in the process I realized that learning from these mistakes is how you grow and become a better person.
“Best Friend” – I actually wrote this song on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court handed down their decision on gay marriage. I remember scrolling through Facebook, seeing all the beautiful reactions, all my friends who were deliriously happy… I guess I wrote this song for all of them 🙂
“The Lovely Days” – This is one of the first songs I ever wrote! Written in New Zealand (when I was feeling pretty homesick), it’s about missing simplicity and accepting the fact that growing up often means moving on.
“Older” – I wrote this at a time when life was extremely complicated. I felt like I was being pulled in opposite directions, and I just wanted to go back to when I didn’t have to worry about anything other than what was for dinner. But when you’re a kid, all you want to be is grown up. This song is for my mother – and probably every mother – because I’m sure this is how most people feel when they have children.
“Kaikoura” – This song is about my favorite place in the world – a small town on the northwest coast of the South Island of New Zealand. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so at home as I felt in NZ. I wrote this during a blizzard in Brooklyn, when I was really missing the people and places I left behind.
“Don’t Wake” – I honestly have no idea where this song came from. I’ve never written anything else like it, before or since. It’s very hard to play live because sometimes during those long silences, people think I’m done and start clapping. But my guitar teacher in NZ – my songwriting guru – and my producer here in Brooklyn both loved it, so… here it is!
“Don’t You Worry” – I moved to Brooklyn to work on music after a year in NZ and was still in a relationship. Cue song. The “broken city” is a reference to Christchurch, which was hit by a massive earthquake in 2011.
“Love’s Philosophy” (Christchurch Garage Demo) – I think this is something like the third song I ever wrote. December 2013, I thought I couldn’t write music to save my life. My brother suggested I try putting melodies to old poems, and voila! I was off. This is a Percy Shelley poem and – as the name suggests – it was recorded in my guitar teacher’s garage. John Dierckx helped with many of the arrangements on this album, I owe him so much.
“Trace of Your Love” (Christchurch Garage Demo) – This is about my grandfather, who died when I was five. I’m the youngest grandchild and have no memories of him. But through stories and memories, I feel like I know him.
“Kath & Jim” (Live @ Rockwood) – Kath and Jim are my parents. Yep, they’re cute 🙂
Helen McCreary - The Lovely Days

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