nine questions with: Andy McKee Interview


Guitarist Andy McKee


Personal background, general 'Andy McKee life-related stuff' that isn't in your Wikipedia article?

Well, I don't really know what to add here. I guess the only thing missing from the Wiki is the fact that I moonlight as a costumed crime-fighter named "The Dark Avenger". I had my wife sew together a really nice outfit but I haven't really gotten off the couch and fought any "crime" per se yet. Once I beat the new Mortal Kombat game I'll probably get around to it.

Percussive stuff aside, you're definitely a rhythm-monster, which is such a huge part of good fingerstyle music. In your formative years as a musician, was this playing dynamic something you focused on or did it come naturally?

In my formative years I was really into metal, truth be told. I was listening to bands like Metallica, Pantera, and Iron Maiden. Those bands were always about the riff first, so I think I picked up quite a bit of knowledge about groove and rhythm by listening to them. Later when I discovered guys like Don Ross and Preston Reed, those percussive and rhythmic ideas that they were doing really appealed to me. So to answer your question, I've always been drawn to music with an interesting or powerful rhythmic idea so I guess it was something I was naturally drawn to.

Away from guitar, what are your passions?

As I mentioned in the first question, I am really into video games. I guess a lot of people in my age bracket are, we sort of grew up with Nintendo and Commodore 64. I find the interactive nature of video games and the way you control the story in many of the games far more appealing than watching a movie. I also enjoy getting to travel as much as I do. I feel extremely lucky to be able to go around the world and play guitar for a living. My other big passion that I discovered in the last 3 months is being a dad. I cant get enough off hanging out with my baby boy. I love talking like an idiot in a high-pitched goofy voice to him.

One of the more unfortunate aspects about the transition to digital media is the significant financial impact its had on independent/niche artists. You've addressed this before. Can you think of any solutions that might allow for artists in the 21st Century to receive fair compensation for their works? Is the iTunes store the only way?

Yeah, it's crazy. I guess the only thing guys like us in the Fingerstyle Guitar genre can do is appeal to our fans and let them know that "Hey, we aren't millionaires". None of us are going to enjoy the sort of crazy success that people like Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber have (not that they deserve to have their music stolen either, mind you). Most of us are just trying hard to pay all the tour expenses, mortgage, and car payment! If you truly appreciate what an artist creates, why would you disrespect them and their art by saying it is worth nothing at all?

I think iTunes is pretty cool, I just got an invite to Spotify and am going to check that out as well. I believe the way it works is it is subscription based and artists are compensated through that. It's certainly better than nothing at all.

Don Ross. 
Andy McKee. 
Buster B. Jones.
Jerry Reed went the mutton chop route, but the potential was clearly there.... 
Can we allow for the possibility that the ability to grow an epic beard may play some interrelated role with the ability to compose great fingerstyle music? 

Hahahaha, possibly! I didn't really have that epic of a beard, I must say. It looked better at 240p on Youtube than in real life. It was kinda patchy and weird. Mr. Weird Beard.

Five albums. What are they?

1. Ah Via Musicom- Eric Johnson

2. Aerial Boundaries- Michael Hedges

3. Passion Session- Don Ross

4. Far Beyond Driven- Pantera

5. Debut- Bjork

In the vein of question 2: 'Innate Talent' versus 'Learned Skill”. 
Do you feel one factor is dominant over the other, when it comes to great composers? Can someone 'learn' to be a great composer, or is it just a freak thing they're either born with, or they aren't?

Man, I am not sure. I suppose it can be learned. I can only speak from my own personal experience and in my case, I've never had any sort of formal training. I had about a year of electric guitar lessons when I started and then I went off on my own learning spree. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out Don Ross tunes and Michael Hedges tunes from the record and I think that sort of ear training helped me out a lot when I decided to start writing my own music. I was better able to put the sounds in my head on the guitar because of it. I am interested in learning to sight-read better and I would really love to be able to compose away from the guitar with only a pen and some sheet music in front of me, but that isn't a skill I currently possess.

Elaborate on how the whole “Drifting” ultra-mega-viral thing impacted your life as an artist?

It's definitely changed my life, you know. I'd had a bit of success with my music career but I was really making most of my income as a guitar teacher in Topeka, Kansas. In 2005 I joined a new record label that was focused on acoustic music called "Candyrat Records". The guy that runs that label, Rob Poland, asked me if I would be interested in shooting some guitar videos that we could upload to Youtube and potentially get some new fans. I figured "Why not?" and so we shot about 8 videos in an afternoon at his house and I made sure to wear my best red shirt and blue jeans. What followed was nothing less than mind-boggling for all of us. We had no expectations that any of my videos would become as popular as they have and I feel extremely fortunate to have had that sort of success online. It's made it possible for me to tour all over the world and meet all of these wonderful fans. What really impacts me though is when  people tell me that I inspired them to pick up the guitar or to try new things and be creative. Some people have named their children after my songs. There are also 4 people walking the earth that have my signature tattooed on their body! I never would have dreamed of such things just a few years ago.

Jam session with any artist, living or dead?

There is no question, Michael Hedges.



Andy posted a link to this interview on his Facebook fan page around 12:00 midnight CDT on 08/06. Within a few hours, we were approaching 1000 unique visitors, surpassing the previous one day traffic record (and still rising, fast). Much thanks Mr. McKee. You've got awesome fans!

Folks, if you like great fingerstyle guitar, please help us spread the word about these amazing artists - click the "Recomend" button!

- Editor, FG

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