|This biographical article relies too much on references to primary sources. (August 2007)|
McNally was born in Hempstead, on Long Island. While studying anthropology at Franklin and Marshall College, she began singing and playing guitar in clubs. After graduating and honing her skills on the streets of Paris as a busker, McNally secured a deal with Capitol Records in 1997. McNally was intent on making an acoustic record and entered the studio with studio professionals including Jim Keltner, Benmont Tench, and Greg Leisz. The resulting album Jukebox Sparrows was not released at the time.
In the interim, McNally opened for Stevie Nicks and Ryan Adams, and was part of the 1999 Girl's Room tour with Tara MacLean, Kendall Payne, and Amy Correia. She also modeled for Urban Decay cosmetics. In 2000, McNally issued the holdover EP Bolder Than Paradise. When Capitol finally issued Jukebox Sparrows in January 2002, it did so into a market that had already embraced such roots-flavored material as Ryan Adams and the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack. McNally embarked on a press tour, and spent the summer of that year supporting John Mellencamp. In late 2002, she released the Ran on Pure Lightning EP, a collaboration with songwriter Neal Casal.
In 2005, McNally returned with the country, blues, and soul influences on the album Geronimo. The album's June release was accompanied by a summer's worth of live dates. Early 2006 saw the release of McNally's third album, North American Ghost Music. Tour dates with Son Volt also coincided its release.
McNally took off most of 2008 and 2009 after the birth of her first child. She has resumed performing and recording and toured with Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women. In 2009 she released the album Coldwater with her band Hot Sauce. McNally currently resides near Oxford, Mississippi.
In 2013, McNally released Small Town Talk, a tribute album to the songs of Bobby Charles. In an interview, McNally said that she was a longtime friend of Bobby Charles and Small Town Talk was inspired by Charles' first, self-titled album from 1973.
- Bolder Than Paradise [EP] (2000)
- Jukebox Sparrows (2002)
- Ran on Pure Lightning (2003)
- Run for Cover (2004)
- Geronimo (2005)
- North American Ghost Music (Live) (2006)
- Southside Sessions [EP] (with Charlie Sexton) (2006)
- Coldwater (2009)
- Western Ballad (2010)
- Chasing the Ghost Rehearsal Sessions [EP] (with Amy LaVere) (2012)
- Small Town Talk (Songs of Bobby Charles) (2013)
- Live at the World Café: Vol. 15 - Handcrafted (2002, World Café) - "Down and Dirty"
- 107.1 KGSR Radio Austin - Broadcasts Vol.10 (2002) - "Now That I Know"
- WYEP Live and Direct: Volume 4 - On Air Performances (2002) - "Now That I Know"
- Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen (2003) - "As Long as I Live"
- Call of Juarez [VG] as Suzy (2006)
- interview on episode 149 of the Americana Music Show, published July 22, 2013.