Welcome back, MilspoFANs! This month we learn all about singer-songwriter Cara McCann and her work. Her warm personality will surely thaw you out if you’re experiencing the crazy cold sweeping the US this week. For Cara, music is a personal expressive outlet, as well as a passion she shares with her family. Cara, a new mom on the verge of a big move, is a burst of enthusiasm who is eager to take on a challenge- from auditioning for The Voice, or submitting her work to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, to singing show tunes at a Hungarian strudel bakery.
Now, without further delay, here’s Cara telling her story in her own voice…
MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
Cara: Let’s see, a little about me…well, I’m 31 years old, mother to a ridiculous 7-month-old baby girl (Maisie), wife to a ridiculous husband (Mike), lifelong cat lady, musician, foodie, amateur cook and baker, fitness enthusiast, smart-ass (can I say ass here?) (MilspoFAN: you sure can!), blogger, and I would like to think an all-around big-hearted gal (I’m also stubborn and get hangry if you don’t feed me on time, but let’s focus on the good stuff).
I grew up in Redondo Beach, CA, which is in the Los Angeles area, and only happened to meet my husband because my mom talked me and my brother and his wife into following her out to Denver where she wanted to semi-retire. Two months after the move, I met hubs on Match.com, and even though he only had two months left before moving to Virginia, he still managed to sweep me off my feet. Seven months after he moved, I decided to follow, and we got married a month after that (if you’re trying to do the math, we had been together for nine months before getting hitched). When you know, you know! And we definitely knew.
Hubs has been in the Navy for 15 years now and plans to go to retirement at 20, and I’ve been along for the ride for three and a half years. I originally thought that Virginia was going to be our “big move” but that’s laughable now—we’re heading to South Korea in January! He tried to get orders to Denver and we got Asia…as many people have joked, we overshot the mark a bit. It was a big pill to swallow at first, but we’re both very adventurous and I know we’ll make the most out of it.
MilspoFAN: Describe yourself as a musician and the type of work you create.
Cara: I’m definitely more of the singer/songwriter type. I’ve been singing since I could talk, and I started writing lyrics as a transition over from poetry when I was in high school. Poems were how I processed my feelings all through my school years, and since I loved singing so much it just made sense to start writing songs. I’d written bits and pieces for a couple years, but then when I was 19 I wrote my first full song in the middle of the night (“Only Goodbyes”) and it only took about 30 minutes. It was right after a horrible relationship ended and everything just kinda poured out of me. I think now I’ve written six or seven complete songs (not all of them are great quality, but complete nonetheless), two with accompanying piano (I play but it’s not my strong suit), and I used one to enter the NPR Tiny Desk Concert songwriting competition two years ago (didn’t win but it was fun to put myself out there!).
I should also note that I’m a huge karaoke fan. During one of my many random employment stints I was actually a KJ (karaoke jockey) at a little gay bar in Redondo Beach and it was a blast. The owner of the bar was a professional Elvis impersonator who did occasional shows in Vegas and the like so he was always pushing me to try new songs (like “To Sir, With Love”). I also got to make him miserable with songs he didn’t so much care for, like “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors haha… those were some fun times. Crazy, but fun!
My singing style has been majorly impacted by Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. They have these big, powerful, emotive voices that always blow me away. I wish I had even an ounce of the vibrato and control they have, but their inspiration has been notable nonetheless.
MilspoFAN: How has motherhood impacted your creative work?
Cara: Oy. This one is two-sided for me. My baby girl just hit seven months, so she’s still very much dependent on me, and that, understandably, impacts my free time, as well as how much noise I can make in the house (belting out songs from *NSYNC’s Christmas album isn’t exactly conducive to nap time). That being said, I feel so many things because of her. I was already a sensitive creature at times, but becoming a mother has amplified that by roughly ten billion. I choke up at least once a day, sometimes even just when I’m snuggling her, and the amount of love I feel is extraordinary. She simultaneously brings me deep levels of exhaustion and the most pure and complete joy I’ve ever felt. But there’s also fear—about the increasing chaos of the world, about our upcoming move to a totally foreign country, about anything bad ever happening to her, about something happening to myself or my husband—so I’m pretty much constantly riding an emotional and mental rollercoaster, which makes me crave an outlet, like songwriting. I’ve made a couple attempts at it recently but we have soooo much going on right now that I can’t stay focused on one topic, so I have little recordings and notes of song scraps that I can hopefully piece together once the dust settles.
MilspoFAN: Ok, tell us about that “Showtunes at a Hungarian strudel bakery” experience you mentioned to me!
Cara: Haha this will always be one of the most random facts about myself. So back in 2009-ish, I got a job at a little mom-and-pop shop called Mishi’s Strudel Bakery & Café in San Pedro, CA (best. strudels. EVER. But sadly they closed permanently a few years ago). I worked partly in the front as cashier/barista, and partly in the kitchen as cook/baker. Every first Thursday of the month, all of downtown San Pedro did an “Art Walk,” where the local art galleries would open their doors, food trucks would line the streets, tattoo shops would offer discounts, and eateries would feature special meals, drinks, or events. In the case of Mishi’s, the owners’ son was an opera singer, as were a few of his friends, and they had some other local connections who would perform in other styles, all with a live pianist.
Well, one day it came out that I sing, and it was half-jokingly said that I should perform one Thursday. That joke turned into a more serious offer, and the idea was that I’d wait until we weren’t slammed with orders and then just make my way out to the front to remove my apron and become a performer for a few minutes. And that’s exactly what happened! The first song I ever sang there was “I Hate Men” from Kiss Me Kate, and later I added “The Man That Got Away” from A Star is Born, “Gimme, Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie, and occasionally a few others here and there. The hit was definitely “I Hate Men,” though. It was a blast to sing, and I really got into it and performed with lots of character and sass. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat!
MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Cara: Next up in Caraland—y’know, after the international relocation—is diving headfirst into a few passions of mine. One is that I’ve decided to become a health coach with a popular organization (more on that to come in the new year), and I also really want to start blogging regularly again (I run a blog called Fit Fam & a Little Ham that chronicles my adventures through fitness and motherhood, but it’s been pretty heavily back-burnered for the last couple months).
Hubs and I also plan to start training for our first Spartan Race, and we will finally have lots of family time to work on songwriting and performing so much of the music that’s been tinkering around in our heads for the past several years. Hubs plays guitar and also sings, and we’re both interested in writing our own stuff and also learning how to be a two-man a capella group, so the next few years should be very fun. We’re expecting the minion to be fairly musical as well, since there are musicians on both sides of our family and she’ll be raised in a very music-oriented household.
Me and Hubs performing “Still Into You” by Paramore:
Me and Hubs performing “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran:
Music and fitness, those are really the two things that comprise the large majority of our free time, and even though we’ll be so far from the rest of our family and friends, Korea is providing us the most husband-wife-baby together time we’ve had thus far!
Cara, thank you so much for sharing your story with us at MilspoFAN. We wish you the very best luck with your move to South Korea, your acapella adventure with Michael, and all your upcoming ventures. Readers, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below or over at the MilspoFAN Facebook page. To find out more about Cara and keep track of what she’s up to, check out her blog, Facebook page, and Instagram: