Mindy McCready may have had many problems in the last years of her life, but those in the country music industry who knew her and interacted with her throughout her years in Nashville remember a sweet but strong woman, dedicated to her career, with a charisma that did well for her in both her personal and professional life.
??McCready was found dead at her home in Heber City, Ark. on Sunday from a single gunshot wound that a representative from the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office said appeared to be self-inflicted. Tragically, McCready’s boyfriend, producer David Wilson, died in January at the same house in Arkansas.
Mindy McCready: 1975-2013
• McCready Dead at 37
Billboard.biz spoke with a number of people from the Nashville music business who knew and worked with McCready in times both good and bad.
Back in the mid-1990s, at the beginning of her career, producer and songwriter Norro Wilson introduced McCready to David Malloy, who set up an appointment for Joe Galante, then head of RCA, to hear her sing.
“I took her to Joe and he signed her on the spot,” Malloy recalls. “We took a guitar player with us, and she sang Joe a couple songs. She was very charming and full of energy. She had a fantastic country voice, with a bit of a cry in it. It was very unusual; she had her own sound.”
??“I remember that David Malloy brought her in, and we had the initial meeting. He left some music with me, and I called him back a day later and told him I wanted to sign her,” Galante says. “Then, about a week later, I get a call from Mindy. She said ‘I think it’s great that you want to sign me, but I don’t know who you are. I’d like to come in and sit down and talk to you.’ Here was this 19-year-old girl telling a guy running some serious labels, ‘Hold on. You don’t know me.’ I remember it very clearly. I said ‘Come on in, and let’s talk.’ From the very beginning, it was not an ordinary relationship.” ?
Thom Schuyler, who was directly involved in signing McCready to BNA (RCA Label Group), in 1995, says, “I had the privilege of working closely with Mindy during her time at BNA. We developed a healthy and constructive professional relationship and a respectful friendship.
??“Since that time I have been keenly aware of Mindy’s personal struggles and I am deeply saddened by the news. Mindy had some demons; so do I… don’t we all? I will remember her with fondness and pass along this profound and tender statement I encountered from Chely Wright this morning: ‘I will pray for her children and I hope that people are gentle with her memory.'”
??Stephen Dale Jones, who wrote McCready’s hit “Ten Thousand Angels,” says she changed his life when she recorded his song in 1996. “She was such a generous person. She loved having spaghetti suppers with her collection of friends — from people we all know to someone who she may have met at the mall that day.
??“I was in the audience at her first concert in St. Louis when she opened for George Strait. Mindy arrived in Nashville at 18 years old with a few suitcases and way too much baggage for someone her age… It’s a tragic ending to a young life.”
Galante still speaks with awe of her early work. “She had a natural way — her look, her singing ability, her ability to work with people. I remember her first video, for ‘Ten Thousand Angels,’ she was drop-dead gorgeous. She was so stunning you couldn’t take your eyes off of her.”
???Malloy says McCready’s hit “Guys Do It All The Time,” which was written by songwriters Bobby Whiteside and Kim Tribble, was exactly how she thought. “She wanted quality in songs and lyrics, and she wanted to be treated equal. She was like, ‘I’m not gonna take crap from anyone.’ She would think ‘Why do guys get to do it and I don’t?'”?
?Tribble says he was ecstatic when she cut the song. “She sang it awesome, she didn’t miss a note, didn’t miss a lick. She was perfect in every way. ?
?“I met her on two different occasions, and she was nice, very easy to talk with, kind of soft spoken and shy, actually. That was her only number one song and I was proud to be a part of it.”
??Richie McDonald of Lonestar cut a duet with McCready, “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now,” which was on her debut album, Ten Thousand Angels. “It breaks my heart to hear of Mindy’s passing. She was a beautiful soul and just an amazing talent.
??”One of my fondest memories of Mindy was back in 1995. She had asked me to sing on ‘Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now’ and we were in the studio and my wife Lorie was sitting on the couch pregnant with [son] Rhett. And I’ll never forget Mindy feeling Lorie’s stomach while Rhett was kicking from within. I can still see her smile — that smile that could light up the room. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to sing with such a beautiful person, inside and out.”
??Another songwriter, Jim Collins, remembers McCready as a sweet and beautiful girl. “She recorded a song that I wrote with Mila Mason called ‘Maybe Maybe Not.’ Mila actually pitched the song to the label as part of a project she was doing on herself. The label thought the song fit Mindy and asked us if she could have it. We were very happy to let her have the song. She did a great job with it. The video showed her singing and looking her best.
??“I’m proud to have had one of my songs recorded by Mindy,” he says. “She left us too soon. My prayers go out to her family.”
At a concert on Sunday night, the Oak Ridge Boys dedicated “Farther Along” to McCready. The group’s Joe Bonsall recalls, “I remember meeting a very vibrant, youthful, talented young woman many years ago whose life turned into negativity and sad situations… Seemingly one after another… I feel so sorry for Mindy!! A tormented soul who chose the wrong way out!! I pray for her children and for God’s mercy! This is as sad it gets. Life is God’s greatest gift.”
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Wayne met McCready when he first moved to town. He was signed to Acuff Rose Publishing and met her at their offices one day when she was looking for songs to record.
Mindy McCready: 1975-2013
• McCready Dead at 37
“She had already put one album out. I remember the day she came in. She was wearing a brown suit. It wasn’t an exercise suit, but it was a real comfortable suit, a jacket and fleece-like pair of pants. She jumped up and sat on top of the executive’s desk and said ‘Play me some damn songs or I’ll shoot you with this water gun,’ and she said there was pee in the water gun. That was just her personality. That’s just how aggressive she was. She just dominated the room instantly.
“I saw her in concert after that [meeting at Acuff Rose] and she did the same thing on stage: She dominated it. She had everyone in the audience in the palm of her hand. She just somehow could get everybody there.”
He saw her later at a writer’s night in Nashville, and she reached out to him when she saw that he was by himself at the event. “She yelled out from her table, ‘Jimmy Wayne, get your ass over here and sit with us!’ She made me feel like I was family. She made me feel so welcome. I went over and sat beside her and she was the queen. People were sitting around her, just eating it up. They just loved to be around her.”
Wayne says he didn’t interact with her later in her career, when things began to unravel. “To see how she had been in such control and then lost control is sad, but most of all it’s sad that she left behind two kids and one of them is less than a year old. That’s the saddest part of the story.”
Publisher Charlie Monk of Monk Family Music never worked with the singer, but he did see her occasionally in various social settings. “I found her to be a warm, affable, talented lady that made great records. She obviously had demons that none of us could understand. I hope she’ll be remembered for her music.”
Industry veteran Marty Martel of Midnight Special Productions had been McCready’s most recent booking agent, though he found the going rough in securing dates for the singer. “I had her on my roster for a while after everyone seemed to give up on her,” Martel tells Billboard.biz. “She was going through a lot of personal problems and could not seem to get her life in order. Trying as hard as I could, I was unable to find personal appearances for her. I predicted that if she kept on the road she was traveling on during her young life, she might meet her own demise. There will never be any doubt in my mind that she was taken advantage of, but I also felt that she was a super talented young lady.”
Like everyone else, Martel is saddened by McCready’s death. “I wish there were words to say that would comfort her family and her children, but there are none,” he says. “She is in my prayers, and especially her children as they will face life without their mother. So much talent taken advantage of and never able to reach the top rung of the ladder in music industry. So sad.”
McCready’s public relations company, Music City Media, released a statement Monday, announcing her passing with “the deepest sadness” and saying that a memorial will be held in Nashville in the coming days, with details to be announced soon.