by GSC Reporter, Daniel Reifsnyder
Dan Reifsnyder: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Brad McKinney: Well, I’m originally from Hyden, KY. Nobody knows where it is, but I always say it’s next to the city of Hazard.
DR: Oh, like where the Dukes of Hazard are from?
BM: Exactly! It’s a very, very small town, a population of about 500. All my family is from there, we all lived in the same holler. In the mid 90’s I moved to Richmond, which is more central KY. I also started my day job in technology.
DR: What kind of technology?
BM: I’m a network engineer. I travel and work with school systems all over the state. So, I’ve got that during the day and then I’ve got the full-time job of songwriting. I try to write 4 or 5 times a week. It’s hard to find time for myself and my family and that balance. But I just try to make it work.
DR: So how did you get into music?
BM: Well, I had a very musical extended family. My uncle was a Grammy nominated songwriter in the Bluegrass genre. He wrote “Lefty’s Old Guitar” by J.D. Crowe. He and some uncles and cousins were in a Bluegrass band, so every family gathering there was always music. I never thought that’s who I was – I loved music and loved to sing but it wasn’t until 2013 that some friends said, “Maybe you should look into doing this in some capacity.” So, I thought “I wonder if I can write a song.” I sat down and wrote a song…it wasn’t great. Then I wrote another one and it was a little better. And then another one. And then another. The second song I wrote was recommended for the NSAI Publisher’s Luncheon and the third song got me onto the NSAI Ones to Watch list. I thought “This is easy!” But it’s not. *laugh* I just managed to catch some very very small bolts of lightning in a bottle. I was lucky enough to find GSC, and Songtown, and they’ve helped me to refine my writing skills. I discovered co-writing, and I love that. We’ve all got strengths, we’ve all got weaknesses, and that’s where I started to really write better songs – paired with other people whose strengths complemented my weaknesses. My only goal is to write quality songs and write more songs than I did last year.
DR: So, is Bluegrass one of your songwriting influences?
BM: It’s really not, as much as I hate to say it, sorry Uncle Dave. I was a hair band guy. Give me Def Leppard, Bon Jovi. Give me Poison. I didn’t even really discover Country until the 90’s. Then when I did, it was like home. Tim McGraw, Garth. Clint Black. Alan Jackson. It all just clicked.
DR: Do you consider yourself an artist as well as a writer?
BM: I consider myself more of a writer. I do release stuff from time to time but it’s more of a vanity project. I just want to get some music out while I can. The songs I end up releasing are usually solo writes or songs that fall through the cracks with publishers. My last release was December 2020, and I’ll probably release another song next year. My main goal is to be a writer.
DR: That’s great! What are some of your big dream board goals?
BM: Well, probably like most other people, major label holds and cuts. Staff writing deal. Sync placements. I’m a wine guy, I like a good Cabernet. My Cab of choice is Caymus – it’s not cheap, but it’s not on the very top end. It’s like $100 a bottle. So, I went out and got out a bottle. That’s my celebratory drink. When I have a success – staff writing deal, major label cut, I’ll crack it open. I can’t open it if it’s an indie cut or catalog placement or something. So far, I’ve not gotten to open it, but every day I walk by it and I think “What can I do today to help me crack that bottle?”
DR: Cabernet is for closers!
BM: There ya go!
DR: How did you get involved with GSC?
BM: I discovered GSC early on. When I first started writing I just tried to jump in and find as many organizations as I could. The problem was I didn’t really take advantage of everything Sheree had to offer. What I did – and what I thought you were supposed to do – was just demo everything. And I had these songs, and they weren’t terrible, but they were not door opening songs by any stretch. All I was doing with GSC early on was just pitching my songs. I didn’t really do anything else for a long time, but in 2020 I started back in with Sheree more seriously. She welcomed me in with open arms, and I knew that this is a person that really cares. She may legitimately be the nicest person I have ever met. She truly cares about the people she’s working with.
DR: I agree. I think she really walks beside the songwriters as they go through things.
BM: Yeah! You can kinda sense that when you talk to her. I knew immediately that this is the person that’s gonna help me. She’s gonna do everything she can to help.
DR: That’s Sheree! Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
BM: I have a couple outside indie cuts. One with Matthew Wayne – he’s an up and comer. His most recent release has been added to a lot of Spotify playlists. I wrote that with Leslie Bowe and Kelly McKay. Then I’ve got two cuts coming out with a Norwegian artist named Tor Evanson. I wrote those with Bill O’Hanlon, Michelle Canning, Leslie Bowe and Kelly McKay. I had a catalog placement with Crucial Music the other day, too. I also won the Rising Star award from Songtown!
DR: Very cool!
BM: Yeah! The cool thing about that is that its peer voted. It wasn’t even a matter of a checked box, it was a write in. So, people had to take the time and effort to write me in. It’s amazing to be recognized by your peers. It was totally and completely unexpected!
DR: Nice! That’s amazing! I think that about wraps us up. Thanks for sitting down and talking today!