Born and raised in southern Florida, McCready (born Malinda Gayle McCready) graduated from high school at the age of 16 with the intention of beginning her musical career early. Following her graduation, she took a part-time job in her mother’s ambulance company and began concentrating on performing her music. When she was 18 years old, she moved to Nashville. She had made her mother a promise that she would go to college if she failed to break into the music industry within the space of a year. After a few months in Nashville, she met producer/songwriter Norro Wilson, who directed her demo tapes to producer David Malloy. Impressed with her tapes, Malloy agreed to work with McCready. For the next year, McCready and Malloy refined the singer’s style and crafted a high-class demo tape. Eventually, Malloy took the tape to RLG Records, who signed McCready after seeing her perform a live concert; she completed the deal exactly 51 weeks after she moved to Nashville.
McCready released her debut album, Ten Thousand Angels, in April of 1996 to positive reviews. Within six months of its release, it had gone gold. If I Don’t Stay the Night followed in 1997, trailed two years later by I’m Not So Tough.