The Official Pat McGee Bio—from a personal viewpoint …
Since my first album “From The Wood” in 1995 to my latest effort and ninth recording, “No Wrong Way To Make It Right” in 2011, I’ve let too many publicists—who knew little about me—write my bio. Now it’s my turn, because who knows the Pat McGee story better than I do, right?
Selling music is different from selling any other product because the music, along with live shows are so much a part of who I am.
Maybe it’s the fact that I am now 41, living in Rhode Island, the father of three beautiful girls and a newborn son, with my heart in the best place it’s ever been in my life—but I want this bio to be transparent and personal, sharing a little what goes into my life as a self-sustaining recording artist and long-time touring musician.
Reflecting on almost two decades of recording and touring, now more than ever I look forward to the next twenty and feel that my next release—fueled by a successful Kickstarter campaign and featuring legends like Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, Waddy Wachtel and Jeff Pevar—will be my strongest work to date.
We spent five days at Boulevard Recording in Los Angeles mid-June and cut over a dozen tracks in what proved to be a magical and serendipitous experience. The band played live, recorded to tape and was nailing these brand new, never-heard-before songs in one to three takes.
Vocals are set to be recorded late July and there might be a few more surprises in store regarding guest appearances, which I’ll update here at PatMcGee.net, in due time—as well as giving backstory on the songwriting process how these songs came to be.
Regarding the songs on my last album, “No Wrong Way To Make It Right”, they were compiled over several years and evoked emotions that I previously shied away from. Deeply, personal pain. Pleasure. Regret. Bliss. Discouragement. Resentment. Love. Anger. Fear. Peace of mind. It all poured out on each track.
The airy and lighthearted title track reeks of my teenager years—cruising in, “my grandmother’s ’70 convertible Cadillac” and spending summers on the New Jersey boardwalk, yet it relates to my current life.
“Juliet” was written from the mindset of a 15-year old boy, if my vision and hope of what will be when my now-8-year-old daughter repels all the fellas gunning for her love, leaving them broken-hearted.
The album’s closing track, “They Think We’re Not Gonna Make It” shares the struggle of other people working to accept a new relationship, while also being an intimate love song about a hopeful future.
The use of folk instruments that I grew up adoring—acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro, fiddle and bazouki—all seems to showcase perfectly the sentiment in each song, in a way that brings me back to those tones I adored sonically by way of my parents’ record collection.
The material on this effort also includes some of my hardest-rockin’, yet the most delicate arrangements that I’ve ever tracked.
Dating back to my earliest recordings, I was often labeled as “country” in album reviews; so it’s no surprise that my last release instinctively went even further in that direction.
In addition to writing some of the material alone, for the first time in a long while I had the fortune of working and writing with some of my oldest comrades in the business: Jason Mraz, Emerson Hart of Tonic, Stephen Kellogg, Keaton Simons and Ryan Newell from Sister Hazel.
Vocalists Tim Warren from Alternate Routes and Lucy Woodward, pedal steel mad man Jon Graboff from Ryan Adams and The Cardinals and violinist Gabe Witcher from Punchbrothers all shared their talents in this process—some both as co-writers as well as guests on the recordings.
It is literally music to my ears to have so many artists on this record whom I have known for years and have also been a fan of.
The road to recording my last album started on an exciting path that suddenly turned to a very dark place, but eventually came to level of comfort that I had never previously recorded in.
The original producer slated for this project was my old friend and accomplished musician, Will Owsley. We’d recently reconnected after being label-mates at Warner Brothers in the late 90’s and were focused on working together on this project.
We were both newly divorced, but also proud, dedicated dads as well as working musicians. Will and I faced the struggles and challenges that came with that gift of the musician profession.
A few weeks had gone by and I hadn’t heard from Will, which was out of the ordinary. I soon came to find out that he took his own life and left so many of us with endless questions and deep sadness.
I’m grateful for the time we had just spent together and fondly recall those WBR years as such a hopeful time for both of us.
Knowing I was sitting on a batch of tunes that had to see the light of day, I was forced to pick up the pieces and move forward. I needed a producer and called the one man I’d always wanted to work with since he pressed record on my first demo in 1991; Doug Derryberry.
Doug agreed to take on the project and weeks later we were at the Dave Matthews Band’s studio, “Haunted Hollow” in the hills of Charlottesville, VA.
“No Wrong Way To Make It Right” was really a return to my roots—not just from a writing standpoint or in the geographical sense, but because of the musicians I recorded with. That process also helped fuel this latest effort.
Growing up in Virginia, at around the age of 16, I began to idolize not only the superstars on vinyl, but more so the local musicians who went from the Virginia/DC club circuit to become national recording artists.
The backing musicians—as well as the engineers and studio technicians on this record—are those artists, who have over the years become my peers.
That in itself brought a relaxed vibe and calming support (with unbridled drive) to the sessions. The process was a reflection of all I’d learned to that point, while surrounded by musicians who truly respected one another.
In the winter of 1994, I wrote my first song—“Rebecca”—which I’m proud to say is still a crowd favorite. The following spring I released my first real-deal CD (the aforementioned “From The Wood”), just prior to leaving college life behind and diving headfirst into the touring singer/songwriter world.
I was willing to play every night if I could—and most of the time, did.
In the spring of 1996 I founded the official “Pat McGee Band”, to back my acoustic-driven shows. We went on to sell over 300,000 records—some out of the back of my trailer, others through what used to be known as record stores. (Remember those? Sigh.)
I’d call each “mom and pop” store myself and both valued and appreciated their role in the music business. These days, my music is relegated to that online megastore referred to as iTunes.
Back in the day, we were an absolute touring machine. I officially lost count somewhere after our 3,000th show, but still recall playing 98 gigs during a 103-day stretch. This was well before tour buses and cushy notes, too—and we loved every minute of it.
In the fall of 2006, my band suffered our greatest loss when our drummer and brother Chris Williams passed away suddenly. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t change everything, because it did.
To this day it feels like one of my best friends took a vacation and simply hasn’t returned yet.
Like most bands I know, many of my backing musicians have come and gone, but I always surround myself with talented artists, sharing a stage night after night.
I’ve had the fortune of selling out such venues as the Filmore in San Francisco), the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the House of Blues in Chicago, as well as Wolf Trap’s Filene Center in Virginia, The Avalon in Boston and The Roxy in Atlanta.
I’ve also had the privilege of sharing the stage with a handful of my musical heroes—The Who, The Allman Brothers, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, to name(drop) a few.
Being the youngest of three, my siblings and parents showed the the light and led me to great music at a very young age. In fifth grade I can recall getting in a fight after school because some kid wasn’t familiar with The Who.
I remember slow-dancing to the Prince ballad “Purple Rain” in eighth grade and can still feel what it’s like to wish a song would never end.
My older brother Hugh remains the influence regarding my love of classic rock and all the greats—Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Eagles, Jackson Browne, JT, Allmans and Willie, while my sister gets credit for instilling my love for 80′s music. From REM and David Bowie, to artists like The Clash and the legend that was Bob Marley.
All of this influences peek their head up throughout each of my albums, will continue doing so with every song I eventually write and the experience will always take me back to listening to vinyl on my basement floor, imagining what it’d be like to someday play in a band.
I still firmly believe that live performances are king and should be respected above anything a musician can do in their career. Because of that, I’ve recently endeavored on a destination concert and vacation experience like none other, aptly called “Down The Hatch”.
Fans and a handful of talented singer / songwriters take over a resort—most-recetnly in the Outer Banks of North Carolina—and share a love of travel, local attractions, wine, cuisine and the camaraderie that comes from being with like-minded music enthusiasts.
It’s the type of experience that only a touring artists can uncover after decades of travel and life on the road—combing the backstreets of big cities and small towns, searching for the best America has to offer—and D.T.H. is proving to be an exceptional way to share those experiences.
As an artist, I feel a welcomed obligation to connect with my listeners, so they can really get to know me as an artist, allowing them to relate to the material on another level.
When you know where someone is coming from, it helps you appreciate how much they mean what they choose to sing about.
When I approach an album from artists that I’ve grown to know personally over the years, I listen to their songs in a completely different light and I want my fans to share in that intimacy when listening to my catalog.
In closing, I hope you enjoyed reading my long-winded bio, courtesy of two decades on the road, and I’ll look forward to the next twenty with you guys along for the ride.
See you on the road,