Outsider A-Side: Forrest McCurren Captures the Spirit of the Heartland with His Debut Album ‘Oh Me, Oh My’

by Clayton Edwards

Lately, we’ve been hearing a ton of great new music. However, it has been a while since I’ve had an album tick all of my boxes and work its way into my bones. Forrest McCurren’s debut record Oh Me, Oh My did just that. Sonically, the songs on this collection range from laid-back folk tunes to country barn burners and hit all the stops in between. No matter where a song lands stylistically, it sounds great. Most importantly, Forrest is one of the best new songwriters I’ve heard in quite some time.

Forrest McCurren had a killer group of musicians behind him. For instance, Ryan Engleman (Turnpike Troubadours) plays electric guitar and fiddle steel on the record. More interestingly, his wife Margaret plays fiddle and sings harmony on the album. She’s a damn fine fiddler and there is something magical about hearing the couple harmonize.

The 32-year-old Missouri native captures the sound and spirit of the Midwest on this record. The blend of folk and country with a dash of rock for flavor somehow sounds like the flatlands bordering the Ozark Mountains. Lyrically, these are songs about everyday people and real life. You’ll be able to hear the influences of greats like John Prine and Kris Kristofferson. However, Forrest McCurren isn’t trying to be anyone but who he is.

Ahead of the release of his last single “Denver”, Forrest McCurren sat down with Outsider to talk about his influences, his background, and his debut album.

Raised on Willie and Gospel

Forrest McCurren: I played sports through college. My grandma played the organ in church and my dad loved to sing. He would sing “Amazing Grace” and “Stand By Me” to help me go to sleep. My mom listened exclusively to Willie Nelson when I was growing up. But, I didn’t pick up the guitar until I was in my early 20s. My older brother who is a great guitarist gave me a guitar my sophomore year in college. So, I feel really lucky that after sports ended in college, I was able to kind of dig into something else that I’m really passionate about

Forrest McCurren on the Greatness of John Prine

Forrest McCurren: If you’re like me and can’t afford a therapist, John Prine’s the next best option. He’s my number one guy. I love the way he zeroes in on seemingly mundane but very human aspects of life. Songs that make you appreciate a Wednesday morning in a way that you wouldn’t.

If you can make any old day feel a little bit special, I think that’s really the artistic aspect of songwriting. That’s what Prine’s so good at – making you realize that you’re experiencing something right now.

Also, his career is something for independent artists to aspire to. I mean, he put out that first album on Atlantic. Then, in the 80s, he was one of the first artists to go independent and start their own label. He just kind of cultivated a community of folks who got what he was doing. And, he just stayed so good as well. It’s like a heavyweight boxer being in his 40s and still knocking people out.

Turnpike Troubadours Connections

Forrest McCurren: That’s Ryan Engleman from Turnpike Troubadours on the pedal steel. We recorded with Wes Sharon who did a couple of Turnpike albums, John Fullbright’s albums, and Parker Millsap’s debut. Ryan shares that office space with Wes. So, he played all the electric guitar and pedal steel on the album.

Wes Sharon really, I can’t say enough about the guy. We were as green as green could be and he really made it happen. He got the players, he knew where the songs were coming from. I was working in foster care and Margret was making cheese. So, we didn’t have money spilling out of our pockets, but he was able to make a professional-sounding record on the budget that we had.

Forrest McCurren’s Nostalgia Fueled Oh Me, Oh My

Forrest McCurren: A lot of these songs came from the same time period. I had graduated from school and was living in Kansas City –the big city – about two-and-a-half hours away from my hometown. A lot of the songs are looking back and remembering characters from my hometown. For me, these songs are a way of keeping friends and family, and characters that I knew from my home close to me.