You would think that someone with a video of his own original songs on YouTube with over 50 million views would be a pop star, right? Well, imagine my surprise when I stumbled onto Andy McKee, an extremely talented fingerstyle guitarist. Finger what, finger who?? Yes, that was my reaction as well. If you do know what fingerstyle is, kudos, if not, it’s just a broad term for plucking the strings with fingernails as opposed to guitar picks, often times creating the illusion of multiple guitars.
I’ve been a fan of Andy McKee since about 2009 when I was beginning my “internet dj” phase on Blip.fm. Most of my Friday nights were spent scouring their database and queuing selections for my hundreds of Twitter followers – don’t judge, it was fun. Hearing one of his songs, and was amazed at the sounds and depth he was able to get from his instrument by simply plucking away at the strings and often times slapping the body of the guitar. When Andy’s tour finally landed back in New York after 2 years, I jumped at the chance to see him live.
Seated at a table at the legendary B.B. King’s in the heart of bustling Times Square, I was amazed at how packed this place was. No openers, just Andy. I was at a table with two fans, one from Korea, the other American. Both were just as excited as I was to see Andy’s performance. You would never think that just outside those doors, people would look at you totally puzzled if you asked them if they knew who Andy McKee was.
When he took the stage at 8pm, the crowd erupted into applause. Andy hadn’t even uttered a word yet, and everyone was on the verge of a standing ovation. Launching into his set, he played selections from his multiple albums including his covers of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” & Toto’s “Africa“, as well as his stunning harp guitar tribute to revered fingerstyle guitarist Michael Hedges, “The Friend I’ve Never Met“” as well as his own song, “Into The Ocean“. He regaled with this unbelievable story of how Prince PERSONALLY requested Andy to join him as an opener on his tour. He also talked about going on tour with Dream Theater, and all the while, he maintained his humble demeanor. He played each song with passion; eyes closed and feeling the music deeply in his soul. His compositions are heartfelt & melodic, often with alternate tunings and his two handed technique is really something to see. It’s extraordinary to think that Andy is completely self-taught; I tried teaching myself guitar (after watching Andy on YouTube back in 2009!) and I only made it to “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and part of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” before I called it quits.
Andy McKee is a talent that has inspired so many. Hundreds of covers of Andy’s songs of people inspired by him currently live on YouTube to continue the cycle. Andy continues to inspire daily; spending large amounts of time speaking with each of fans after his shows, as well as starting a guitar camp called “Musicarium” in the Catskills in 2015 with guests Antoine Dufour, Stephen Bennett, and Michael Greenfield; all fellow fingerstyle guitarists.
I think I’m going to go dust off my old acoustic guitar that I got for Christmas all those years ago and work on my “Mary Had A Little Lamb” again. Thanks Andy.
Article by: Lesley Keller