This first appeared in January issue, Buddy Magazine. Story and photos by Mary Jane Farmer
Look for a new CD to drop this month, a CD which includes a chart-topping song and features others destined to slide right on up to the charts. It’s Mark McKinney’s fifth CD, titled World in Between, a collection of songs he’s written, and that he’s co-written with others including his wife and son.
Scene In Town talked with Mark as his band set up before his gig at Hank’s Texas Grill in McKinney, and he explained that the first single on this new project, “Bridges,” is already at the radio stations and getting some good airplay. The song is tight with images, “The chapter is ended, go ahead and turn the page,” and “Quit throwing matches on the bridge we burned.”
He opened the conversation talking about that earlier hit,” Sunshine.” It was written, he said, about a “couple of strong women in my life who had through some tough health issues.” With lyrics like, “Seems like luck’s never on her side, where does the guardian angel hide?” and “She don’t know her future, don’t know her dad. Add to the last of things gone bad,” McKinney has proven himself a wordsmith to be listened to and remembered. “I just know that in the midst of darkness, you gotta make your own sunshine,” he said.
There’s a video of that song, filmed in New York City, and that’s available on YouTube.com, just as there’s already one out for the new release, “Bridge,” and a whole bunch of videos McKinney made.
So, what’s the financial advantage of spending money on videos? McKinney answered that, undaunted, saying, “Maybe there’s no return on the video, but it’s an investment. It will be there forever, a history of your music out there in the world. It’s a visual that kinda draws you into the song. I am glad my kids and grandkids can look back at your video, it’s another piece of art.” He not only has them on YouTube, he also uses other social media to get the videos and his songs out there — Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, to name a few. “Sometimes people discover the song that way, maybe they’ve not heard it on the radio.”
McKinney, a newly-wed, said he and his wife, Cassidy, wrote “Bridge” together. “It’s about letting go and moving on, with a darker vibe sound than my previous songs. I’m going to shoot for a video of it, too.” Mission accomplished, video is finished, unless, of course, he decides to go with complete on-site filming to replace the current one which is the song with a photo. Let’s watch and see what Mark does on this.
Other songs on the CD, he said, are exciting to him, too. One, “Bacon and Eggs,” is compares a couple as “go together like bacon and eggs.” “’Revolution’is about the state of affairs in the world right now, more so about how you’ve got to start a revolution in your own mind and hear and be the change you want to see in the world,” McKinney said. “Another song is coastal in nature, “Rainy Day Money,” about how I’d rather run out of money than run out of time. Might as well spend it, not save it in a coffee can. This might be the third release off this CD. I may be releasing ‘Bacon and Eggs’ second.”
McKinney said he tries to keep writing all the time. Sometimes it’s hard, he admitted, to fitting it in with the touring and recording and family life. Actually, his wife co-wrote three songs on this project. And it’s co-produced by Mark himself along with his brother, Eric McKinney, in Wonderland Studios in south Austin. “He and I produced my last album, and it did really well, so we gave it another shot here.” And with a smile, Mark added, “We added my dad, Rick McKinney, as couch producer. We get his two cents worth, sometimes it’s good and sometimes we ignore it.”
His son Jagger, already a musician himself, played organ and piano on “Revolution,” and wrote and laid down piano intro and outro on the album, the proud papa said.
Family is first with Mark. “We (Cassie and he) got married September 18. I have two kids now, eighth-grader Jagger and Cypress, who is in the 4th grade. And Cassie and I are already talking about having one of our own. It’s an adventure, being a parent. I’m excited about it.”
He met Cassidy through Larry Joe Taylor about four years ago, he said. His son is featured on the CD, and Mark said that he shares custody of the children with their mother. And his grandfather, R. E. McKinney, is his hero, he said, as he raised a shirt sleeve to show a special tattoo, The United States of Texas. “After my grandfather passed away, I found a hat in his closet. He had been in a group of World War II Texans, who had formed a little club. He had sewn that (club logo) patch right onto that hat. We got the trademark on it, and started manufacturing certain items from it. Then, Big Ern from Prodigy Ink (Greenville), gave me the tattoo in a room in Amarillo, after I played a convention he was at.”
Mark grew up in Big Springs, where he started up his first band. “We were in the eighth grade. I played bass, my buddy played drums. We played in the local pizza place, and then bars across the Permian Basin, with dad, (Rick ‘Grumps’ McKinney) chaperoning. We played all night long, to redneckers and roughneckers.”
As the years passed, Mark went to college, but quick to start his own construction company, and kept on playing music all along. “It was me and the McKinney Brothers Band, real cosmic cowboys.”
By then, he had a buddy in Nashville who produced his first record, a single. He’s had five studio albums and one live album since.
What does the future hold?
“The big thing right now is getting new album out, and the music video for ‘Bridge’,” McKinney said. “It’s liable to include a lot of fire, explosions.”
He’s also busy planning the second, ‘Pickin’ in Paradise,’ a trip for folks to join him and his good-buddy and co-organizer Bri Bagwell in Riviera Maya. That will be in mid-June and the details are on his Website, shown below.
Then, there’s the River Fest next year in New Braunfels, with the firm date on that still pending. “But it will probably be in mid-August,” McKinney said. Those details will be on the same Website, once firmed up.
He’s also playing lots and lots of concerts, several festivals — already signed up to CrudeFest in Midland and SandFest in Port Aransas, and those concerts are taking him all across Texas, including a January 24 gig at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo and back in North Texas on February 10, when he’ll be at Love & War in (Plano) Texas.
This road warrior said that there are advantages and disadvantages to playing festivals, where there are big crowds and big exposure, and the downfall is that there are so many people it’s harder to interact with them. “But it’s good for letting people discovery you, and you might make a new fan for life.” At the saloon gigs, “the people are right up front, right there. We can hang out before and after. We have lots of friends, and we always try to be very social. We enjoy the friends, and they’ve become like family over the years. Sometimes, we even stay and their houses. They are what make it happen.”
And songwriting. That’s something McKinney will be keeping up with, too. Besides his wife, he enjoys songwriting with the likes of Kevin Fowler, Larry Joe Taylor, Bleu Edmondson and Kyle Park.
It’s a good idea to keep Mark McKinney on your radar. After all, he is one member of the United States of Texas!
Upcoming Shows —Plano on February 10 at Love & War in Texas. Actually, he’s all over the place, and is returning again in May to CrudeFest for a repeat performance at that Midland-area festival.