“red” may be her debut single as Cyote, but New York singer-songwriter Carter Lou McElroy isn’t exactly new on the scene. She’s been involved with the industry for most of the last decade, living in Brooklyn and working on the business and PR side of the equation, but for a long time, building a career around other people’s art had a chilling effect on her own.
“I’ve gotten to know amazing and not-so-amazing people who work as publicists, marketers, managers, tour managers, licensing agents, booking agents, venue managers, producers, audio engineers, and beyond,” says McElroy. “I respect everyone’s opinion, but being in a position to hear those strong opinions about music all the time made me constantly question whether or not mine measured up.”
It wasn’t until she moved upstate in 2019 that she found the space to shake off the pressure and trust in the support of the people closest to her. McElroy was fresh off a harrowing breakup, and that meant she needed her own music more than ever. Enter “red,” with its acoustic twang and dark, percussive snap.
“I needed to work on something that reminded me of who I was and what I was capable of. ‘red’ was a project I had started years ago and never finished, but always felt really connected to the guitar part, along with lyrics that felt more like poetry,” she says. “It also felt like a good ‘coming out’ track because it illustrates what has always been my relationship to New York City–only now, with more acute outside perspective.”
It was another outside perspective that shaped the track’s second verse. The only voice on the track–aside from her own–doesn’t come from the music industry, or even New York City. It belongs to a talkative cab driver who offered some words of inspiration while she was in Nashville for a work trip years ago.
“He knew I was a musician because I had my guitar with me, so he started chatting about the rich music history of Nashville and how so many of the ‘greats’ started their careers playing in the bars we were driving past,” says McElroy. “I loved his perspective and found it to be particularly relevant to my chasing artistic opportunity in New York City.”
A phone recording of that conversation wound its way into “red,” giving a voice to the mixed tension and excitement surrounding McElroy’s debut: “You could be great, or you could flop […] but you’re here for a reason.”
Having a single to release also meant having the opportunity to support a deeply personal cause; proceeds from ”red” will go to support the Alzheimer’s Association.
“My grandfather’s battle with Alzheimer’s was my first memory of heartbreak,” says McElroy. “It had a profound impact on me as a child, and it felt right to support an organization who actively offers support to families suffering the effects of this disease, during a time where there’s still no cure or insurance coverage for those diagnosed. My dear friend Mona Dehghan–of my label, Mon Amie Records–is currently one of those families. It meant a lot to both of us that we could offer more support for something that has affected us both so deeply.”
With newfound creative momentum behind her, McElroy has more music on the way; she’s considering recording a “Quarantine EP” while on COVID-19 lockdown, and she’s also working on a collaborative release with Brooklyn musician Noah Luke. She says after ten years of unfinished personal projects, having her debut single out has been a major relief.
“Like a weight lifted off my proverbial shoulders–feels like I was actually the only one holding myself back.”