Jackie McLean / Shawn Strack
While just one person graces the cover of their debut album Indigo, Roan Yellowthorn is technically a duo. Growing up in Maine, Jackie McLean was drawn to music from an early age, performing in musicals. McLean continued to sing and act in leading roles throughout her formative years at Bard College, where she first met producer, multi-instrumentalist, and now husband Shawn Strack after inviting him to a game of Ping-Pong. Graduating with degrees in Language, Literature, and English, both McLean and Strack enjoy reading about the philosophical implications of Virgil, just as much as they enjoy breaking down a deeply personal story into a catchy melody.
In 2015, McLean penned an unpublished novel and book of poetry while teaching herself to play piano. It did not take long for McLean to realize she had a talent for turning poetry into lyrics. “Once I knew that I could write a song, I wrote obsessively,” says McLean.
Shortly thereafter, McLean recorded a self-titled EP at Nada Recording Studio with Strack co-writing on the production side. Performing onstage and in living rooms across New England, Roan Yellowthorn soon caught the attention of independent record label Blue Élan. In the Fall of 2018, the duo released their first full-length album, Indigo — with Strack again serving as a producer on the freshman effort. Indigo was described by music reviewer Jordan Adams as having tracks with “Palpitating beats, brisk acoustic thrumming and authoritative piano chords… McLean’s vocal front and center.” The collection of songs would mark a turning point for the duo (who draws influences from acts like Angel Olsen to The National) — who define their sound as ethereal indie rockers with a singer/songwriter heart.
While Roan Yellowthorn’s Ping-Pong days are a thing of the past, their ascent to commercial success is poised for launch. Playing dates nationally in Los Angeles, New York, and all parts between, including Adam Duritz’ Underwater Sunshine Festival, and soon, SXSW as an official showcase act in March 2020, Roan Yellowthorn’s music is as sincere and heartfelt as their eternally optimistic spirit.
“Creating is my passion and purpose in life. It makes me a happier person. A better person,” McLean says.
As for the rest of 2020? It’s a laundry list of creative projects, which include an EP and a Chris Cornell tribute project with Ty Bailie (Katy Perry) and Brockett Parsons (Carrie Underwood and Lady Gaga) — all before McLean and Strack head into the studio to record their second full-length studio album with legendary producer John Agnello (Alvvays, Dinosaur Jr., Twin Peaks).