In 2018, McKayla Marie Webb was doing a photoshoot for her upcoming album Open Road. She was on, you guessed it, an open road just outside of Eugene when a family at a nearby house asked if she was a musician. A few minutes later, she was sitting on a chair outside of their house giving them a personal concert.
The 20-year-old country singer-songwriter says moments like these are what keep her going. “If I can reach somebody with my music and put them in a better mood,” she says, “then my job is done.”
Known as McKayla Marie in her music career, Webb started writing songs at 5 years old and learned guitar at 10. After joining Grrrlz Rock, a youth program for girls to play music, she says she became more confident. Now she uploads videos of herself singing at home on her Instagram — blonde hair, a warm smile and an acoustic guitar in tow.
She was born and raised in Eugene with a music-loving family — a dad, Bill Webb, who adored Garth Brooks, and a mom, Teresa Webb, who leaned more toward bands like AC/DC. You can guess which one Webb took after musically.
What drew Webb to country music initially was its storytelling. “When you sit down and listen to it, you live the song,” Webb says. “You follow the progression, and it’s like reading a good book or watching a good movie.”
Now, with more than 100 original songs under her belt, Webb draws from both personal experiences and fictional stories when songwriting. “I feel other people’s emotions,” she says. “So I can watch something happen to somebody else and really feel that.”
Though she defines her music as country, Webb enjoys incorporating elements of other genres into her songs. She might have one song with a pop influence, and have the next be an edgier, more rock ‘n’ roll style track. She describes her music as country with other genres blended into it.
“I love the fact that everyone can relate to music,” Webb says. “It’s so powerful in that way. You can be in front of a thousand people and they’ll all interpret your song differently, and it might impact their lives in a certain way. It’s kind of like giving a speech in front of people and having them feel empowered, having an urgency to go do something. I’ve always felt like music is the same way.”
She performs as many as two or three shows a week in the summer, anywhere from the Ponderosa Country Bar in Portland to Oregon’s state and county fairs, which have been canceled this year. A big part of music for Webb is connecting with people — not only with her fans, but with her close network of family and friends.
She remembers her first time performing, when she was 12. It was the annual Diamond Lake talent show on the Fourth of July. She says she was terrified, but the audience found it endearing. “It was hilarious because there was a person holding a microphone to my guitar, someone holding a microphone up to my face, and then someone holding my music in front of me.”
She calls her dad her superfan. “If I had a show that was six hours away, he would pack the car and we would drive six hours away just for the day,” she says. “He’s always been that way. He’s always done everything he can to support my music.”
“She puts so much work into perfecting her art,” says her dad. “You can’t explain the feeling when someone hears McKayla sing her original music. I’ve heard it, so it’s normal for me. But then you get out and you realize it’s moving people.”
Webb’s grandparents own a construction company in Eugene, where she currently works, helping with bookkeeping and logistics. She’s a student at Lane Community College studying business, but ultimately her goal is to be a full-time singer-songwriter.
One day in the near future — once COVID-19-related social distancing is lifted — she hopes to move to Nashville for the music opportunities. Until then, she’s writing music at home and working on developing her career as an artist.
“I want to get my songs out there and impact people’s lives that way,” Webb says. “The words are the important part. If my words can reach people, that’s what I want to do.” ν
For more information on McKayla Marie, visit McKaylaMarieMusic.com