McGovern was born in Youngstown, Ohio to Mary Rita Welsh and James Terrence McGovern. She has Irish ancestry. As a child, McGovern would listen to her father's barbershop quartet rehearse in their home. She was told by her elders that she began singing at the tender age of three, and would sometimes sing herself to sleep with things she heard on the radio. She decided at age eight that she wanted to be a professional singer; and she developed a taste for various types of music, including jazz, showtunes, oldies, and folk. Her influences include Barbra Streisand and Dionne Warwick.