Co-writer remembers strong talent of fragile Mindy McCready
Trey Bruce worked with McCready in 2009 for her fifth and final album "I'm Still Here."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
Following years of ups and downs in the public eye, fans and colleagues remember the music of Mindy McCready most.
"She was on an 'up' when I met her. She was sober. She was clean-living, obsessive about her diet, working out with a trainer every day," said Trey Bruce.
Bruce is an Emmy award-winning songwriter and record producer who worked with McCready in 2009 for her fifth and final album "I'm Still Here."
McCready told him she wanted to write a song about finding clarity and forgiveness.
The title song, co-written by McCready, Bruce and Robin Thibodeau, did just that with a chorus of "I'm Still Here after the heartache / After the storm blew through / It killed me and it saved me."
"She kind of had this feeling like, 'Just because I'm not on the charts doesn't mean I'm not on the planet,'" Bruce said. "She felt like she was a valid human being, whether she was a star or not."
Bruce had little to no knowledge of the troubled star before she asked him to write with her.
Starting in mid 1990s, McCready made headlines for four albums, country charting singles and a number one hit with "Guys Do It All the Time."
The good news quickly turned bad over the next decade with reports of an abusive relationship, substance abuse and custody battles.
Bruce saw the toll McCready's troubles had on her.
"I'm not going to say my instincts didn't tell me she was fragile," he said.
But he also saw her talent.
"I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' She swallowed a whole studio of outboard gear. Her voice was amazing," he said. "Her pitch was great, but her tone was like nobody else's. She looked like a movie star."
The new album seemed to give McCready new faith in a brighter future. She worked long hours, writing and singing. She told Bruce the project was for Zander, her only son at the time, who was in the custody of her mother.
"She talked about Zander all the time," he said. "This whole cleansed Mindy that I was introduced to, this was in her moment, 'I'm going to write these songs. I'm going to make this record, and I'm getting healthy, and I'm doing all these things so I can get custody back.'"
The album was released as episodes of her participation in Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew aired.
Despite critical acclaim of the album, McCready began another downward spiral.
Bruce had few conversations with her in the years that followed. They never worked together again.
In January, McCready's boyfriend, David Wilson, was found dead of an apparent suicide at the couple's Arkansas home. After his death, her children, Zander, 6, and Zayne, 10 months, were put into foster care.
She was ordered to go to substance abuse rehabilitation, but checked herself out after only 18 hours.
On February 17, McCready's body was found on the front porch of her home after taking her own life.
The news was difficult for her former collaborator, Bruce.
"We all knew two weeks ago she was in a jam, and I'm sure people called," he said. "I didn't and I've thought about it ever since."
He added, "She was not a bad person. I knew her well enough to know, she was really a sweet person and just couldn't outrun everything."