HAVING A COW: Singer-songwriter Kieran McGee and his Drunken Cow Music (BMI) enter a co-publishing pact with Jamro Music, an affiliate of Major Songs, administered by Bug Music. Pictured before rifling through his pockets for spare change while promising that everyone in America who sings his songs in the shower will pay through the nose are (l-r) Bug Music Creative Mgr. File, TV & Advertising Karen Langjhar, Sr. VP Gary Velletri, McGee, Major Songs’ Mike Sigman & McGee’s manager, Art Collins, all wondering whatever happened to Earl McGrath.
From Hits Magazine March 7, 2003
From Hits Magazine March 7, 2003
I was born in the summer of 1981 while a Beatles marathon played on the radio in the nursery at New York Hospital. A lot of people could probably say the same thing about themselves, but it still seems significant considering that I’ve been surrounded by music, in one way or another, for my whole life. I always heard my mom playing gospel and classical songs on piano at home or singing me to sleep at night. My dad is a music writer and I’d always fall asleep in a big chair next to the turntable with a Buddy Holly or Beatles record spinning away. Thanks to my stepfather, I started going to see plenty of live music at a young age and was turned onto heavier music also.
When I was six or seven, I got a cassette of Robert Johnson songs and fell in love with the haunting quality of delta and country blues. I always tried to clunk around on the piano and guitar at home and would frequently drag all of the pots and pans out and make my family watch me “perform” on the kitchen floor.
Like most kids my age, I got into metal. This and my love for banging on stuff made me decide to be a drummer. My parents bought me a cheapo Toys R’ Us set, and I pounded the crap out of it for about 6 years until I finally got a decent drum set. I spent hours in my room trying to copy all my favorite songs. My brother bought a guitar and we played together. I decided to try and play his guitar; my hands were too small to play chords so I used a slide. I started playing the blues and picked up harmonica too. At this point I was heavily into punk and indie music as well as absorbing all of the southern country, folk and blues sounds around me.
I played drums and guitar in a punk band and bass in a pop band writing songs and making a lot of noise. We always had cops showing up to practice and shows, which we were very proud of. This whole time I was playing guitar in my room and writing songs and recording them on a 4-track alone, learning about producing without really realizing it.
When I was fourteen I discovered French symbolist/surrealist poetry as well as Taoism, Woody Guthrie and Beat Writers. All of this combined with my love for art and all the new stuff I was seeing and hearing exploded in my brain and onto tape, canvas, paper.
I was sending out cassettes of songs to labels. Clean Cuts Records showed interest in doing a recording. I went to Baltimore and recorded 18 songs in three days, some of which became my first record, Left For Dead. I brought in an accordion/violin player and I had picked up piano, mandolin and banjo as well. Mark Bell of Sun Studios heard the album and offered to have his friend Robbie Turner (pedal steel player for Dylan, Cash etc.) play on the album. Mark also offered to let me use Sun to record my next album.
I was playing at coffeehouses, open mikes-even though I was still very young I had grown comfortable with performing. I did a small tour with my father at the wheel. I played small shows and did a set at the Helena Blues Festival in Arkansas. I also did several radio interviews and played on-air at KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic in San Francisco.
We also went to Bentonia, Mississippi and tracked down local bluesmen Bud Spires and Jack Owens. I got to watch them play on a porch on a Mississippi plantation for hours – definitely one of the most spiritual moments of my life.
Then I decided to make an album about all of the emotions I was feeling and many of the experiences I was having within myself, so I started writing. That summer in Memphis I recorded Ash Wednesday with my friends Jeremiah Lockwood, and Cody and Luther Dickinson (of the North Mississippi All Stars) at Sun Studios. It was a much more spontaneous vibe and most of it was recorded live. Unfortunately just as I finished the record I got word that Clean Cuts was losing their distribution deal with Rounder Records. I’ve put it out on my own in very small quantities, but it largely remains unreleased.
I spent the next two years playing music less, but still painting and writing. After some very hard times I’ve resurfaced and started playing lots of shows with a band (Automatic) and solo shows at clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I went back to Sun recently to start work on a new album, which is unfinished. Lately the music is sounding more melodic and poppy but I still have a heavy country/folk influence in everything I write.
Most of all I want to get my music out of the city and to a larger audience. I really hope to find a home for Ash Wednesday someday and a means of releasing my new album. I love playing music and seeing people react to it. I don’t pretend to have a grand world-changing political message or anything, I just know what I say might reach someone on a personal level and that’s all I care about.