Photo: Chris Doi
Photo: Chris Doi

Essentials… with Kyle McKearney

Each week, Essentials allows Canadian musicians to share the things that have helped get them through the pandemic, and why they still can’t live without them.

Born and raised in small-town northern British Columbia, Kyle McKearney grew up immersed in country and bluegrass music, and is now poised to carve out his own place within the Americana music scene with his debut album Down-Home, out Oct. 1, and produced by the renowned Russell Broom (Jann Arden/Leeroy Stagger/Joe Nolan/Mariel Buckley).

McKearney has taken an interesting path to get to this point, first moving to Nashville upon finishing high school, where he absorbed the city’s atmosphere and learned how much of its classic music was made. Taking these lessons back home, where he’s now settled near Calgary, he began applying them to his work on stage and in the studio, all while honing his skills as a singer/songwriter.

From there he formed the alt-pop band The New Electric with his brother Shade, finding success at radio in 2016, which led to a Canadian Radio Music Award nomination and a national touring spot with Backstreet Boy Nick Carter. The New Electric evolved into the band Krowns in 2018, with its harder edged sound attracting the attention of Queen drummer Roger Taylor. Kyle’s relationship with Taylor resulted in the pair writing a song together and Kyle being tapped to join the touring cast of Queen’s musical theatre show We Will Rock You in 2019.

Following that six-month run, Kyle returned to his Americana roots, launching a series of cover song videos that have tallied over 600K views on Facebook alone. From there, he gathered the best musicians he could find to help craft his new signature sound, one in line with the current revolution underway in country music spearheaded by artists such as Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell.

McKearney’s Down-Home is available on all digital platforms, and he plays The King Eddy in Calgary on Oct. 1. Go to imkylemckearney.com for more info.

Essential Album: Sturgill Simpson, Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1 & 2 (High Top Mountain/Thirty Tigers, 2020)

These are my current favourite records. I’ve always been a bluegrass lover and these are some great songs, ideas and sounds. I think Sturgill has such a unique way of storytelling and writing lyrics that makes us question what we just heard every fifth line or so. Sierra Hull plays mandolin and she’s brilliant, I love listening to her. I find the sonic quality and mix to be exactly how I like to hear bluegrass.

Essential Website: YouTube

This might be an obvious answer, but I spend most of my online time searching YouTube learning how to fix this and build that. I’m really into DIY house renos, building campers and refurbishing guitars. I’ve learned most of what I know by watching someone else do it on YouTube.

Essential TV: Yellowstone (Paramount Network, 2018-present)

This may be my favourite TV show ever. It reminds me so much of where I grew up, how the people look and sound, and the atmosphere of the ranch life that we had. I mean, minus the casual murders and sinister plots, of course! Also, they only use Americana music in the show and I’m a big fan of that. 

Essential Movie: Luca (2021)

I have to admit that I haven’t watched a grown-up movie in a long time. My wife Sarah and I have a five-year-old and a newborn and don’t get a lot of movie time these days. But I can tell you my current favourite kids movie is definitely Luca. It’s super cute and touches on some important issues like accepting diversity, as well as strength and friendship. It’s a solid watch for the entire family.

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