Andy McKee’s acoustic guitar can approximate the polyrhythmic interplay of a percussion ensemble, the harmonic sweep of a string section, the dazzling runs of a bluegrass doghouse bass-and-banjo duo, and virtually anything else his pastoral compositions and tasteful covers require. In nine years and five records he’s written an oeuvre that globally inspires and intrigues music fans. His robust 200 dates-a-year tour itinerary—often spanning domestic rural to the exotically remote, from Albuquerque to Jakarta to Zurich and everything in between—and his fans-first commitment, make him a worldwide ambassador for a new era in acoustic virtuosity.
Andy’s imaginative and masterful approach to the instrument and his Guitar Masters tour franchise—a tour package of edgy progressives—is helping to redefine our conception of acoustic guitar. Recently he’s garnered plum exposure playing with Prince in sold-out arena shows in Australia as a featured soloist and special guest member of Prince’s extraordinary live band. He has toured two different continents with Dream Theater (where he played to 10,000 in Mexico City and to tens of thousands in South Korea, Thailand, China and Japan) and with one of his hero’s, Eric Johnson (who made a rare acoustic showing on the Guitar Masters Tour), where he’s been able to share his unique artistry with a wide and diverse audience. Fans of sophisticated holiday music had the opportunity to hear Andy on Josh Groban’s Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum Christmas album, Noël. In December 2008 Andy was awarded Acoustic Guitar Magazine’s esteemed worldwide silver medal award for his fingerstyle approach. But most fans first exposure to Andy’s guitartistry has been through his YouTube presence; the Topeka Kansas native’s 150 million cumulative youtube views puts him in the top three most viewed subjects on the site’s storied seven-year history. YouTube, and video culture in general, tends to have a shtick-based popularity where humorous and superficial images tend to attract the most attention. That a guy with just an acoustic guitar and no fancy camera work or special effects could resonate with that many people is inspiring in that it showed there is a powerful and widespread hunger for pure and progressive musicianship.
Andy is currently building the Guitar Masters Tour brand, a franchise that seeks to combine technically masterful acoustic guitar performances with artist’s workshop accessibility for an engaging and participatory fan experience. His current CD/DVD package, Joyland (Razor & Tie, 2010), has a cinematic feel often conjuring up abandoned theme parks though it also features his trademark pastoral compositional style. The album is a breakthrough as he tastefully expanded his artistic palette through adding drums and cello in select places, showcasing his scoring capabilities outside the guitar-centric realm. The DVD component has an instructional bend with Andy’s trademark candor and wit as he takes the viewer through his musical journey and generously reveals tunings and techniques, bringing the guitar fan close for intimate masterclass performances of the new standards on Joyland.