Named by Billboard as one of the Top Ten Touring Acts, Jake McVey is the definition of a road warrior, playing 300 shows per year and earning new fans every step of the way with his energizing stage presence. His last release was 2014’s Best Days of Our Lives and he is preparing to release a new EP in early 2016. McVey kindly took the time to talk about his roots, his new single and what’s in store.
You attended school to become a luthier. Was that always the path you wanted or did you want to perform as well?
I had such a wonderful upbringing. I was very fortunate because I was introduced to music from a young age. My dad, who was a drummer, would take me to a blues club or to hear rock or country and my mom, who played piano, took me to symphonies or the orchestra. We wouldn’t make it to church every Sunday, but we would break out the records and listen to Johnny Cash or The Beatles; that was my church. I knew I was going to do music since I was very young and my parents were very supportive.
After high school graduation I told my parents that I was going to move to Nashville to try to be a big country star. They were like, 'Well, we believe in you, but what else?' So I went to Phoenix and learned how to build guitars [at the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery]. I started up a successful business, but my shows were picking up and I wanted to be more on the artist side, so I decided to pursue music full time.
"Y’All Girls" with its uptempo, modern sound is your current single. What drew you to the song?
"Y'All Girls" is the brand new single from the new album we hope to have out the first of the year and I couldn’t be more excited. I did a lot of writing with Greg Barnill on the previous album and had such a good experience working with him. I told him that I was going to put some songs together for an album, but since I spend a lot of time on the road, I wanted something that would be exciting and fun, something that would bring the party atmosphere to venues. He mentioned that he had just finished writing a song that he thought would fit me really well. He sent it to me and it was exactly what I was looking for....and I think what the fans were looking for. It has an infectious hook and so far, it has resonated extremely well with fans and radio. I have been playing it out and it’s been nice to see people singing along and dancing to it.
The song is also known as “Templeton Rye Whiskey,” referencing a company that you are affiliated with. How did that come about?
When the song was first pitched it had another liquor named in the lyrics, but since I am from Iowa, I thought of Templeton Rye Whiskey which has a lot of history associated with it. Some mutual friends knew the owners of the company so I went and had a meeting. They loved the idea of putting the name in the song and collaborating and it's been a great partnership. They are a great supporter and sponsor and we're selling a lot of Templeton Rye!
Not to get too crazy into the business side of things, but I feel right now it’s very important for artists to look at alternative sources of income in the industry. Things are so fickle, you have to find some sort of way to partner with someone to advertise and market, it's very crucial for new acts and even the established ones.
Absolutely, in addition to the art, there has to be a business savvy.
Your music showcases your well roundedness--there are ballads, fun songs, and guitar driven tracks. Do you think this is what will make you stand out in a crowded sea of male artists?
I think so. I started out listening to George Strait and Johnny Cash. I am also influenced by guitar driven players like Brad Paisley and Eric Clapton as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer. So when you come to a show you may hear a little John Mayer mixed with a little Pink Floyd. It will be an entertaining concert and you'll leave saying 'That’s Jake - well rounded, yet with direction.' And the best part is, it’s just me being me.
I have been doing this for a little while and spend so much time on the road in front of fans and know that you have to pay attention. When you put an album together or even a single, you have to think how that song is going to fit within the live application. You have to put on the best show that you can so that the fans say, 'Wow I love this and am coming back.'
It seems like they must be coming back because you perform 300 shows a year, which is huge. How do you keep up that pace?
Well, it all boils down to the team I have. So much is going on from one day to next – performing, flying, making the album - that I count on the people around me. We travel with a tour manager as well as a sound tech who doubles as a back-up planner so I am fortunate enough where I have a lot of people who help me so I don’t forget what I need to be doing. It gets pretty crazy sometimes, I am not gonna lie, you get rolling and the old tape with the city and state on the front of the stage is very important! (laughing)
Life is organized chaos and at end of day when I lay my head down I am exhausted and I am excited, but I am also ready for the next day, the next city, the next state and meeting the next fan. I love what I do. I am living the American dream of chasing my dream. I enjoy the music side of the business and the business side of the music - every angle of this industry.
You can write a song and have no idea what will happen, so I just try to write what I feel and hope fans can relate. There is a lot of stuff going on in the world and at the end of the day a lot of people want to have a song they can relate to, whether it is being able to say “I’ve been there” or grabbing a drink and having some fun.
As 2015 comes to a close, is there one thing you want to accomplish in the coming year?
I have so many goals and there are so many neat things that I would love to see happen. I think the biggest is to get over that other side of the wall, get over the hump where I would become known as a newbie household name, like a Hunter Hayes. I feel we're on the right track and couldn’t be more excited for what lies ahead.
For more information visit his official website
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