Jason Lee McKinney Speaks May15


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Jason Lee McKinney Speaks

Powerhouse vocalist and punch-to-the-gut songwriter Jason Lee McKinney blends a snarling musical hash of equal parts formal-trained prowess and barely control reckless abandon on his latest indie project, Chasing Obscurity.

mckinney1At once raw and raucous, reflective and radiant; McKinney weaves a narrative that is everyman’s story, yet uniquely his own.

Parker: New project. What was the impetus?

McKinney: A couple of things. I reached the conclusion, and I think it was a gift from God, that I no longer gave a crap what anyone else thought. I wanted to just report the facts. I wanted to wear my emotions on my sleeve and tell it like it is, on the lyrical side. On the musical side, it’s a little darker than my more recent stuff. It’s more going back to the roots of what I loved to listen to when I was growing up.

Parker: You’ve been a signed artist and an indie artist. This is an indie project, right?

McKinney: It is. I have no plans nor desire to be with a label. I’ve done that twice in the past and I’m sort of done with that – not in a bitter way. It’s just there are opportunities for different business models to work as an independent artist.

Parker: You are actually pretty highly educated in the realm of music business, which might help you navigate the indie artist waters perhaps a bit more successfully than some other independent artists.

McKinney: Well, I’m in the unique position of having been in the industry for a while. I’ve been signed to labels twice, but I’ve also got an MBA and a doctorate in the field, so very little surprises me. Of course this industry moves quickly, so what was true yesterday might not be true today. But I think the way things work remains pretty much the same. So much of the day to day operations, an independent artist can do on his own. But it’s tough on a new artist, because this industry really is about who you know. That’s where a good publicist comes into play.

Parker: How important is building your fan base?

McKinney: It is everything. There are true fans, casual fans and people who just show up because they happen to be at the venue when you showed up. True fans will support you. They’ll spend a couple of hundred dollars per year on your product and show up to seven or eight of your shows every year. I’ve got 20,000+ ‘fans’ on facebook, we’ve played festivals in front of more than 100,000 fans, but I’ve got very few real fans. Thankfully, I’ve got enough.

Parker: Which song on the new album surprised you?

McKinney: There are a couple. One is called “Empty Glass” because it is a cover song. I’ve got eight albums out and this is the first time I’ve recorded a cover. It is a song we picked up in Texas, and it is just the saddest song I’ve ever heard. Every band in Texas plays this song, so we weren’t sure we could add anything new to it to make it our own. But we put a little groove to it and our audience just really reacted to it.

The second song is called “Selfish Prick.” The title is pretty shocking, but it’s got a great groove. The story behind the song is, and I’m generalizing here, when a woman gives herself to a relationship they go all in. But us guys tend to be ‘in, but also.’ Ask a woman who she is, and she’ll often say who her husband is. Ask a man who he is and nine times out of ten he’ll say what he does. There tends to be some inequality in the amount of sacrifice. The song kind of encourages me to step up to the plant and assess my commitment to my relationships.

Parker: Favorite song on the project.

McKinney: “Selfish Prick” is my favorite song to play live. “Old Pews” is my favorite to listen to. Quite frankly, it is my story. It’s a testimonial. I think there is power in someone telling their story.

Parker: The music industry has seen a seismic shift in how musicians make a living. Live performance seems to have taken on a new breath of life.

McKinney: Absolutely. I used to sit in writing sessions and try to write a radio hit. Today, I don’t even think about radio. Songs today are written to appeal to an audience. The reality is, the music industry is devolving, not evolving. Recording music is the newest piece of the puzzle. In the old days, musicians were commissioned to write songs and to perform live. The recording industry changed that in the 40’s and 50’s but now it seems like the industry is going back to its roots of musicians playing live in front of an audience.

Parker: Last words?

McKinney: There is more music being consumed today than ever, but there is less music being both. I just wish contemporary audiences would appreciate their artists. Support original music. Support your local and regional artists. Otherwise, they won’t be able to make the music you enjoy.

mckinneychasingobsThe Seven Questions

1. What’s your favorite sound?
McKinney – Prince playing guitar.

2. What makes you happy?
McKinney – Those moments when I know I’m doing what I was  created to do.

3. What makes you angry?
McKinney – Injustice. I get very angry when I see someone get a raw deal.

4. What is the secret of success?
McKinney – You tell me. At the end of the day I think it has to do with influence. If you can influence people positively, at the end of your life you have been a success.

5. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, living or dead, who would it be?
McKinney – Probably a tossup between Bono and Teddy Roosevelt.

6. What is the epitaph that is written on your tombstone?
McKinney – “He left more here than he took.”

7. When you get to heaven, what is the first thing you want to hear God say to you?
McKinney – I’m hoping for “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If I don’t hear that nothing else really matters.