Alannah McCready's new single "Can I Call," a duet with TikTok sensation Will Gittens, embodies the spirit of collaboration that's continually pairing Nashville-based country artists with singer-songwriter peers across genre lines and time zones.
"He grew up [in Nashville] but does R&B music, and I grew up in Minnesota but I do country music," McCready told Wide Open Country about Gittens, a Los Angeles resident and native of Trinidad and Tobago. "It was such a good meld, just having the different vibes."
Beyond singing with someone known in part for his smooth-voiced renditions of mainstream hits, McCready co-wrote "Can I Call" and four other confessional tracks with one of the people she trusts the most.
"We're best friends, so it helps that we know each other really, really well," McCready explained. "We sat down and him and I wrote my entire EP together. The duet was the last song that we wrote for it. We have both been in long-distance relationships before, so it organically happened. Actually, his brother [the song's producer and third co-writer, Sterling "David" Gittens Jr.] thought of the concept in the shower. He came out and said, 'See if you guys can do something with that.'"
"He literally got out of the shower and I was in the studio. He was like, 'Yo, I just came up with this idea,'" Gittens added. "Then he sang the chorus, and I was like, 'Wow, that's beautiful.' So I just grabbed my guitar, and I put some chords to it. When Alannah came over, we wrote 'Can I Call.' I just thought it was kind of funny how it started."
McCready and Gittens' closeness allowed new collaborators to click as if they'd written together for years.
"Writing with people that know you, especially when you are writing for yourself, is very helpful," McCready said. "There were times where I would say, 'What if we did this?' He would be like, 'What would you really say? I know you and I know what you would say in that situation, so let's say that. Let's not say what you think you should say.' When someone knows you really well, they don't mind holding you accountable or pushing you, which was really great."
"Because we're such good friends and because we're both solid songwriters, us teaming up together was a very seamless thing, especially songwriting wise," Gittens added. "A lot the songs we wrote took us like an hour and a half, two hours tops to finish."
Working closely with others comes easy for McCready, a two-time national champion goalie for the University of Wisconsin's women's hockey team.
"A lot of people don't think that sports and music can mesh, but I feel like the athlete mentality helps so much," she said. "Especially when you're an independent artist and need to be self motivated and make a schedule for myself and learn how to work with others. Being open to criticism is a really big one because when you're writing with other people, it's hard not to take things personally when they're like, 'Oh, maybe not that. Maybe let's say this.' Learning that those aren't personal things and they just want the best for the project comes a lot from being in sports and learning to be a teammate."
McCready landed a public relations job in New York in between graduating from college and setting her sights on Nashville. Her dream to pursue music full-time took a fruitful detour in Atlanta for several years after she learned the hard way that Middle Tennessee did a number on her allergies. Three years of immunotherapy allowed the Minneapolis native to return to Nashville in 2021, positioning her in the music business ecosystem that turned some of her earliest influences into stars.
"I used to copy Martina and Trisha and all of those powerhouse ladies when I was younger to teach myself how to sing," McCready said. "They had a lot of soul in their voices, and I feel like that comes through in my voice, too. They were such strong women in country, and I'm so glad we're kind of getting back to that now."
Gittens came of age in Nashville, so he, too, has been immersed in country lore. Thus, he cherished the opportunity to bring his own ideas and vocal talents to the genre.
"The coolest thing about being a part of this is my brother and I take a lot of pride in being versatile," he shared. "We actually went to school with a lot of country artists' kids at the school I went to in middle school and high school. We were engulfed in country, but we never had an opportunity to actually work with country artists in that capacity, as far as making a whole project.
"To be honest with you, I had a blast working on this country EP with Alannah," he continued. "I felt like it was my first time to put my brother and I's versatility to the test. It's going to be awesome to see people's reaction when they hear the songs. What's beautiful about it is they're not going to be like, 'Oh man, two Black guys made this.' They're going to not know who made the thing, and when they go and they do the research and they see that it's two island boys that produced and wrote the songs, it'll just show that my brother and I, we just love music. Country music is something that we both love a lot, and we were so happy to be able to bring that to fruition with Alannah's project."
"Can I Call" and prior single "Something Like That" will appear on the upcoming EP. Expect more unfiltered truth from McCready, whose back catalog ranges from the longing '90s country homage "I'll Be Your Whiskey" to the take-no-prisoners stomper "Enemies With Benefits."
"I love doing girl power anthem-type songs, so there's one of those," McCready added. "There's a duet that's a really sad one about being alone. We try to cover all the bases."
Each EP selection captures a moment when one friend helped another exorcise lingering feelings. In the process, they wrote some damn fine country songs.
"Every single thing I talk about in all of these songs has happened to me or has been a situation that I have been a part of in some way, so I really feel like it makes it super personal and hopefully relatable," McCready said. "Writing these songs helped me process those situations better, even if they were a long time ago. I hope they do the same for people when they listen to them."
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