The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

By Diana Zimmerman
Wah. Co. Eagle 

Singer/Songwriter releasing first solo recording


When Kerrie McNally started taking guitar lessons at age nine, she never imagined that one day she’d be writing her own songs. When she was 15 and got her first paying gig, playing at a wedding, she never imagined she’d be putting out a solo album.

The CD album in McNally’s hand is proof that dreams evolve over time and experience. And it’s proof that shifting dreams can still come true.

Music slept in the in-between years. There was too much noise with five kids to raise and a job at a paper mill. And too much silence with a man she had ceased to love.

But something was stirring in McNally. The country girl was longing to get back to a place where it was peaceful and quiet. She got her first look at Skamokawa on a trip to the beach.

“It was charming,” McNally said. She stopped at a realtor’s office and found some land on a dead end road. That was 20 years ago.

McNally and her husband split up and 18 months later she met Skamokawa native Brad McNally. They’ve been married 18 years now.

She met a few musicians, and answered an ad for a musical revue. She met more musicians.

“I started playing more,” McNally said, “and I got invited to do things. It was fun. I always loved music, but I hadn’t really had time for it and I didn’t know how to get involved. A whole new chapter in my life opened up.”

She’s been performing with the Willapa Hills band for more than 10 years. She plays the guitar, mandolin and she sings.

About four years ago, band mate Andrew Emlen challenged each member of Willapa Hills to interview an elder in the community and write a song about what they had learned.

“I didn’t know I could write songs,” McNally said. “It had been so long since I had read music, I didn’t know how to go about it. I used a little voice recorder and I wrote a song called ‘The Imperial,' about the last mail boat on the Columbia between Cathlamet and Astoria.”

What began with self-doubt and fear has become her greatest pleasure.

These days it comes much easier. It might start with a chord progression or a phrase, but she knows what to do when it happens. She’s written 26 songs; 13 are on the album, which she created to share her songs with her kids.

She dedicated the album to her dad, who passed away last September.

The album was produced by a friend and fellow musician, Ron Baldwin of Chinook. He enlisted some musicians to accompany McNally, but she made sure to include Emlen, who plays the cello on a couple songs.

“The musicians are top notch,” McNally said. “They’re all better than I am.”

More than anything, she’s proud of the songs she has written, and that is what she wants to share.

McNally will be performing at the Puget Island Farmers Market on Friday, and Willapa Hills will be performing there on July 18.

Her album, ‘My Songs,' will be available after July 14 and will be available at Tsuga Art Gallery, Redmen Hall and the Skamokawa store. Or stop by the Town of Cathlamet office, where she has worked for nearly 12 years. She’ll have some on hand and if you’re lucky, she might just sign it.


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