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Michelle McAfee has fun with 'Float'

On her brand-new album, "Float," Michelle McAfee keeps her "intense" side in check.

"I'm very passionate about environmental and social issues, but this album is about learning how to balance that with the playful side of being human," says the Williams-based singer and songwriter, adding that there's only one truly serious song, "Prove Me Wrong," on the album.

Some of Portland's finest musicians and the Applegate Horns, featuring Mikey Stevens, Frankie Hernandez and Duke Davis, contributed to the album, which was recorded at KBC Studio in Portland under the artistic eye of producer Jeremy Sherrer and released earlier this month.

A CD release party is planned for 9 p.m. Friday, April 26, at Club 66, 1951 Ashland St., Ashland. Guitarist Michelle Bellamy will open the show, and McAfee, accompanied by Stevens, Davis, Hernandez, drummer Michael Forney, and bassist Joshua "Swerve" Chang, will play all 10 tracks on the album, as well as some old and new material. The cover is $10.

For 10 years, McAfee was a staff songwriter for various publishing companies, most recently for Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., but five years ago, she decided to pursue music independently and at her own pace.

Originally from Colorado, McAfee lived in Portland for a couple years, before moving into a strawbale cottage in Williams two years ago. Now she's content to hike, backpack and make music within view of the Siskiyou Mountains.

In 2011, McAfee released her debut, "Up In the Air," produced by David Jacobs-Strain, and while she is fond of the album, she regrets that the process was rushed. The recording was cut live in just two and a half days and on a limited budget.

"I wanted to spend more time on vocals and change the grooves here and there," she says. "On the new record, produced in Portland ... I wasn't on the clock, and we worked off and on over the course of a year making the record. We spent a week recording the rhythm section — drums, bass and acoustic guitar — and spent a lot of days on the vocals and experimenting with sounds."

On "Float," McAfee played organ and guitar, messed with the grooves, introduced pop-rock to her folk soundscape and tried to "rant" less.

One of her songs, "Bar Song," was inspired by a little Portland hipster bar that she and Sherrer patronized.

"It was a complete culture shock," McAfee says. " 'Paul Revere' by the Beastie Boys was playing so loud that the wood walls were shaking."

Later that night, the lyrics to "Bar Song" spilled out, and the song was recorded the next day.

Michelle McAfee's music falls somewhere between Lucinda Williams and Feist. - Photo by Matthew Ginn