Ali McGuirk Ben Collins photo

It’s always neat to interview someone for the very first time and Sept. 26 I got the opportunity to chat with singer-songwriter Ali McGuirk. Her publicist supplied a link to McGuirk’s Signature Sounds album, “Til It’s Gone” where I was introduced to her soulful R&B sound. Then found myself caught up in her cool, sultry stylings that permeates the nine original songs. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to having a conversation with this talented, young artist.

Q: Now, have you performed in Maine before?
McGuirk: Have I performed in Maine? I know I must have. I have with the band Session Americana. I played the same venue as a guest of Session Americana, I know that, and I think it must have been about a million years ago. I did a gig with my band at some venue in Portland, but nothing really to speak of in recent history.

Q: Well, I got a link to what I think is your new album, “Til It’s Gone”?
McGuirk: Yup, that’s the new one, it’s about one week old at this point.

Q: Oh, my goodness, it’s just a toddler.
McGuirk: (Chuckle) Just a newborn, basically. I don’t know what CD years is when compared to human years, but it’s pretty new.

Q: Well, I have a thing for the blues, and you have a smooth, honey tone that is a pleasure to listen to, that’s for sure.
McGuirk: Oh, thank you so much! You were breaking up, but I heard ‘blues,’ ‘honey tone,’ and ‘a pleasure to listen to’ and that’s good, I’ll take that (laughter).

Q: So how long have you been doing this?
McGuirk: Like music?

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Q: Yeah, exactly.
McGuirk: Well, (it’s) never not been part of my identity. My number one hobby and passion has always been singing, and I’ve been playing the guitar (since) high school and college. Really, music just kind of took over and was happening whether I liked it or not. When I released my first record, “Slow Burn,” in 2017 … that was when I left my full-time job. It’s been about five years that I’ve been living the life of the career artist, I guess you could say.

Q: Music has always been a big part of my life. Not the creating of it, just the consumption of it. But it’s also hard to verbalize its impact on one’s life.
McGuirk: Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s been a massive source of therapy and grounding for me. It’s good; we love music.

Q: Now, you said your first album came out in 2017, that was before the pandemic, and your new one is out, hopefully, after the pandemic. What’s it like getting back out in front of people again?
McGuirk: Oh, it’s been amazing. During the pandemic everything became so introspective, and I focused so much more on just guitar and writing. Now afterwards, getting back out there, submitting to the moment and trying to get into that well state and feed off the audience and a band, all that stuff, was just so healing, I would say. You see, I’ve been performing on some level ever since college, and when that was taken away, I definitely learned a little bit about myself — things that I had taken for granted like what role performance made in my life. But now that it’s back, it’s been very refreshing and healing, and I’m definitely not taking it for granted anymore.

Q: Now, will you have a band with you at One Longfellow Square?
McGuirk: This band in Portland is my original Boston band. We used to play every month in Somerville at a bar that actually closed its door forever during the pandemic. The bass player somewhere along the way actually moved to Portland; I moved to Burlington; the drummer had a kid; the guitar player’s teaching at Berklee (College of Music in Boston), and everyone has things in their lives that kind of pulled them away from … playing together as much as we used to, but we will be all together at this show in Portland. Out of all of the release run shows, only two are going to have that original band, because everyone’s got so much going on.

Q: So this gig at One Longfellow is going to be a reunion of sorts.
McGuirk: Exactly.

Q: What can folks expect from your show down in Portland?
McGuirk: Feelings (chuckle), I really expect really good vibes from this show. Something we all have in common in the band is the love of improv and going with the flow. And a lot of these songs we’ve played so much together so we have that kind of flexibility to play with them a little bit. There’s going to be special harmony vocals with two singers from Portland who will jump in as guests, so that’s going to make it elevated. I have the feeling that Portland is going to be a very joyful night.

Q: Is there anything, Ali that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
McGuirk: What can I say? I just think that it’s going to be a special show. Jeff Lockhart is the guitar player. He’s definitely an ace, and part of what built our success in that Somerville residency was his guitar playing. He’s one of Boston’s beloved musicians.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.