About Jason Lee McKinney
Jason Lee McKinney has been the "next big thing" since he started writing and recording music, but life has always intervened: now, McKinney is writing about that life, and it is more real and powerful than ever.
He is the type of musician who is becoming the face of the new music business: a vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. He has been signed to two major record deals with two different bandsâ€”SpinAround and Lost Anthemâ€”and worked with music legends such as Tommy Sims (Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, and Eric Clapton). He has played over 1,500 shows, released five full-length albums and two EPs, and had four moderate hits on three different charts.
In fact, it is hard to imagine that with as much as he has worked and recorded, McKinney is not a household name yet. However, in 2006 while Lost Anthem was recording a new album, McKinney suffered two of life's biggest losses on the heels of each other: first, his father died of cancer; and then, his high school sweetheart and wife of fourteen years filed for divorce. It seemed like the music left him, too.
For the first time since the age of ten McKinney was not involved with musicâ€” he did not sing, he didn't play, he didn't write, he didn't even listen. About a year after the divorce, however, he was going through his father's records when he stumbled upon a stack of old Bob Seger albums. "I was reminded that I knew every word to every song," he says. "Bob wrote about the human condition, common experiences everyone faces and appeals to people from all walks of life for the long haul." He wrote off this epiphany moment as a fluke, but he kept listening to the music of his childhoodâ€” Seger, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jenningsâ€” opening the door wide enough for music to come back to him.
If vinyl was the gateway drug, going back to the radio was the hard stuff. For the first time in two years, McKinney began listening to contemporary music, and discovered that while he was settling things in his own life, contemporary country radio had become something for which he had an ear. Though he had heard and appreciated artists like Keith Urban and Pat Green before, he had not yet realized the impact it would have on his own writing. Soon after, a friend of his, Scott Faircloth (songwriter and producer for Lifehouse), convinced him to sit down and write.
"Scott asked me if I had written about the divorce and I told him, 'I haven't written about anything.' Scott challenged me to just write whatever would come out and not think about selling records or radio, or demographics, just frigging write from the heart, from the pain, from the soul. So I just simply poured out my heart with him at the piano and me frantically writing and singing. Literally five minutes later the song was done and we were both in tears," McKinney recalls.
That experience still wasn't enough for him to fully commit to music again, but after several music industry people heard the song and had the same stunned tears reactionâ€” he decided to stop fighting who he was and dive back in. "I just came to the realization that it is in me, for better or worse like a marriage, musicâ€” performing and being creative is just who I am." It was then that McKinney began to methodically, cathartically, and honestly tell his story in song. Though he had been writing for years and had a reputation as an articulate and clever lyricist as well as being a master of the hook melody, his writing had always been missing his story, his heart, and now it was there. For the first time, McKinney was bleeding on the page.