Kate McNally performing with The Women Presidents. Photo by P. Vankevich
Kate McNally performing with The Woman Presidents. Photo by P. Vankevich

By Peter Vankevich

Kate McNally loves performing, and that is evident by her wonderful smile and the emotions she puts into her songs that she is playing from the heart.

At age 10 she began guitar playing at 12 and has been playing professionally since she was 16. Both her skilled guitar playing and singing are equal highlights of her performances.

She recently arrived at WOVV, Ocracoke’s community radio station, for an interview and a chance to play live on-air. Slung onto her back as she entered the studio was a funny-looking, long-but-narrow string instrument she later described as a Martin backpacker guitar.

“I play this instrument for small places,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to carry and sounds great. I use a large acoustic Gibson for audience performances.”

A graduate of Asheville School of Massage and Yoga, she is a certified massage therapist and works at Ocracoke’s Stillwater Spa & Wellness.

Kate, 31, has performed regularly this season at the Ocracoke Bar and Grille, locally referred to as the O-Bar, as well at Ocracoke Oyster Company and Dajio restaurants.

“I’ve gone off-island a few times to perform in Beaufort, Belhaven and Little Washington,” she said.  “This is the first time I’ve spent so many months on the island.”

Born and raised in Greenville, at age 19 she “high-tailed” it to the mountains.   Like many North Carolina artists, she enjoys both the western mountains and the Outer Banks, and gets her musical styles from both locations.

Her early inspirations were from grunge rock, and was big fan of Curt Cobain and Nirvana. As she has evolved, she appreciated many other styles of music.

“I’m a sucker for good song writing,” she said. “Emmy Lou Harris, Graham Parsons and Patsy Kline are performers I greatly admire these days.”

Song writing comes when she gets inspiration, rather than a discipline of writing each day, she says and her sets are a combination of original material and cover songs.

The Woman Presidents play at T.J. Outfitters.
The Woman Presidents play at T.J. Outfitters.

Although she usually performs solo, Kate loves to play with others.

This summer, she teamed with Kim France and Katy Mitchell  under the name of The Woman Presidents, a name coined by Katy. They have performed a couple times on the island to enthusiastic audiences.

Kim France enjoys perfoming with her in the trio. “Our voices blend well,” she said.  “Kate has a great ear for songs.  The Presidents can mention a song we are considering for the group, and she will usually jump right into playing the guitar parts.”

“I love the eclectic mix of material that we have performed,” Kate said. “Now that the season has wound down, we’ll be focusing on playing as a group for future performances.”

At the WOVV interview, she performed a song she had just finished writing that morning that still had no title.

“Help me out with the title,” she said laughing.

Listen to Kate’s song The Shift 

Published: Nov 26, 2015

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