BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — Molly McCarthy might only be 15 years old, but when she’s up on stage singing while playing her guitar she seems to be experienced beyond her years.
She stood on the wooden outdoor stage at Clifton Commons on Sunday night — she was the opening act for Clifton Park’s Summer Concert Series — radiating nothing but confidence as she played music ranging from Imagine Dragons, Walk the Moon, Joni Mitchell and even some originals the she had written herself.
She performs regularly at The Rusty Nail and Powers Pub.
McCarthy has always had a love of music. “Since I was really small, I had this karaoke machine and I would dance and sing around my room.” She rocked out to Hannah Montana, Jessie McCartney — back during his blonde days — and The Cheetah Girls albums.
Initially the guitar wasn’t quite what she thought it would be. “I took guitar lessons when I was 7 for about six months, but then I quit because I didn’t have the attention span to practice and I didn’t like being told what to do,” McCarthy said. “But I picked it up again three years ago and I found that teaching myself, doing what I wanted to do, it was a lot more fun and I picked up on it more.”
She was drawn back by a single song. “I heard a song, Drake’s ‘Find Your Love,’ that I thought would sound pretty acoustic,” McCarthy said. “I was playing it totally wrong looking back on it but it was fun to do.” His words, however, did help her to find her love, the passion that continues to push her forward to her dreams.
Since she rekindled her relationship with her guitar, she has had to overcome some serious adversity already. “In the beginning, a few years ago, I developed a goal injury — pre-nodule development; I would sing maybe 30 seconds of a song and at that point, I would have no more voice,” McCarthy said. “It was very scary and it was hard because that was my way of expression; it was like one of the only things I felt I was good at and it physically hurt me to do it, it was really rough.”
The condition worsened the more she utilized her voice. After a while, she decided to go to the doctor. The verdict was clear, the solution was speech therapy. “They told me, ‘You’re good with talking but singing is a totally different story. You need a vocal coach,’ ” McCarthy said. “She helps me develop my voice and now I can sing for hours at a time because I fixed the problem.” The rehabilitation process included voice exercises, drinking a certain amount of water and breathing exercises, all of which she still completes on a daily basis. She continued: “It got me back on my feet.”
The problem sounds simple to fix, but it actually it took a great deal of willpower, perseverance and practice. “I sang from my throat and you’re supposed to sing from your diaphragm; it’s hard because sometimes you slip back into that habit,” McCarthy said. “Bad habits are how you develop the vocal problems. That’s why I had the vocal coach, to say, ‘Snap out of it, you’re doing this wrong.’ ” Saying this, she immediately grabbed her bottle of Aquafina and took a swig, ensuring the longevity of her voice.
Toward the end of seventh grade, she told her mom that she wanted to be a singer. “I had the guitar and I’d been playing it quietly in my room so that no one would be able to hear the sound,” McCarthy said.
Her music career outside of her bedroom began with open mic nights. “I forgot the words; it was at Gaffney’s in Saratoga — the Saratoga Children’s Theater does an open mic night a couple nights during the summer — and I sang “Fearless” by Taylor Swift and I just forgot the words,” McCarthy said. “The crowd started cheering me on saying, ‘You can do it, you can do it!’ so I picked up and just sang through.”
Two Junes ago she experience a writers block. There was a long period of time where her performances came to a halt; that is, until last December. She decided to participate in Shen’s Got Talent.
“Only ten people who audition are selected; I was up against seniors and I just didn’t expect anything to come from it but I won, I won the whole thing,” McCarthy said. “At that point, that was validation that people thought I could sing, people thought I had talent. So, I was like OK, you’ve got to go, you’ve got your validation, get back into writing and get back into performing, and so I did.”
A couple weeks ago, she performed at the Saratoga Race Course through the children’s theater. “They called up a few of their performers and rotated me and three other performers throughout the day,” McCarthy said. “When I went on, a bunch of people stopped while walking by and at the end of my song they chanted, ‘One more song,’ repeatedly.”
McCarthy moved here from Long Island when she was 1.
Her mother, Jess, works in the Shen district office and her father, Tom, is the town attorney for Clifton Park. “They are both very supportive my music, and that’s been so instrumental,” McCarthy said. “I couldn’t imagine doing this without them.” She has one brother, Bobby, who is about to start his sophomore year of college at Coastal Carolina studying business. “I look up to him a lot,” she said.
Even though she is only about to enter her sophomore year of high school, she already has a vision of where she wants to attend college. “I want to go to school somewhere in Nashville and have music business as a major,” McCarthy said. “That’s not a crazy promising major, but I think the point of going for music business is so that while I’m trying to make my way as a singer, to actually know what I’m talking about so that no one takes advantage of you.”
In ten years, she wants to be touring and playing music. “That’s the ideal situation,” she said with a smile in her eyes.
Seven questions for Molly McCarthy:
Q: What are the essential toppings you need on your ice cream sundae?
A: Chocolate sauce and rainbow sprinkles. (Pauses a moment). Well not even chocolate sauce, just the sprinkles, I need those.
Q: What’s your favorite color?
Q: What’s the number one thing on your bucket list?
A: Crowd surf.
Q: If you could only have one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Mashed potatoes.
Q: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
A: To fly because that feeling has to be so great and you can see everything. I would fly over a beach in the evening. The other ones like reading people’s minds, I don’t want to know what people are thinking about me it’s better if I just don’t know.
Q: What is one of your biggest fears?
A: Daddy long legs, I can’t handle them.
Q: What is your favorite candy?
A: Sour Patch Kids; I’m so thankful they added a blue one, that was necessary for the longest time.
Check her out live: https://youtu.be/j9e3J_opEyc