Nation Music Alberta Awards: Kyle McKearney took a step again from music and located his greatest success


There’s a sure irony to Calgary-based singer-songwriter Kyle McKearney’s latest success.

It’s not that the singer-songwriter is undeserving, after all. However the accolades, a number of award nominations and different profession highs that adopted the discharge of 2021’s low-key gem Down-House got here throughout a interval when McKearney was taking a step again from the business after 15 years within the trenches. He was disillusioned and affected by burnout after touring North America as a guitarist for the Queen musical We Will Rock You, which had been the newest high-profile chapter in a profession that had taken him from Nashville to Kentucky to Vancouver and thru numerous genres in acts that always appeared geared for next-big-thing territory.

After six months on the highway with the musical, he missed his younger household. So he got here dwelling to Calgary and recorded a delicate album stuffed with shuffling nation tunes, together with many who carried what he known as “family-over-success themes.” It was, formally, his first solo report and was meant to harken again to his earliest musical recollections rising up in Fort St. John, B.C., alongside his mom’s musical Metis household. It could have appeared modest, however the business response was enthusiastic.

In 2022, Down-House helped earn McKearney two Western Canadian Music Award nominations, a Canadian Nation Music Affiliation nomination for Different Nation Album, two YYC Music Awards and three Nation Music Alberta Awards. He was named a SiriusXM High of the Nation semi-finalist and gained $75,000 after inserting second in Alberta Music’s Venture Wild. He warmed the stage for The Black Crowes at Calgary Stampede’s Oxford Stomp. He was named the 2022 recipient of the inaugural Henry Armstrong Award, a bursary and mentorship program created to develop skills within the Canadian Indigenous music neighborhood.

Earlier this month, he signed with the Sakamoto Company, one of many nation’s main artist representatives and expertise bookers. He was additionally nominated for 3 Nation Music Alberta Awards this yr, which will probably be handed out April 1-2 in Calgary. That features nods for Roots Artist of the 12 months, fan’s selection and one for his inventive visible staff of

Chris Cavill, Chris Doi and Jeff Ojeda.

It’s nearly as if McKearney needed to cease caring about whether or not the music business would embrace him earlier than the music business would embrace him.

“Yeah, very a lot so … shockingly,” says McKearney, in an interview. “It was loopy. I used to be positively probably the most nominated impartial artist final yr. I feel I broke a report, really.”

So there are clearly excessive expectations for his followup, A Traveler’s Lament, which comes out March 31. However that doesn’t imply he’s pandering to these expectations.

“I feel extra of my life, generally, is on this report,” says McKearney, who will play the Ironwood Stage and Grill on March 31. “I feel my final report was extra particularly transitioning into doing that form of music and the thought of not likely making an allowance for what the music business thinks of my music anymore and simply doing what I really like and recording it. That was my first report. With this report, I’ve discovered my place on this house and really feel assured right here now and nonetheless like it. This report is extra about journey tales and hardships and classes that I’ve discovered and concepts concerning the significance of household and residential. It carries that theme. That’s form of the theme of my existence.”

Whereas Down-House was largely an acoustic album, McKearney turns up the amps this time round to incorporate electrical guitar. That comes courtesy of Calgary producer/guitarist Russell Broom, who has labored with Jann Arden, Artwork Bergmann,

Iskwē and Lindsay Ell.

“There’s a good handful of songs which are leaning to extra country-rock,” he says.

There are nonetheless loads of ballads  — try River Rain, the old-school blues of Stoned and Whispering Pines – however there are additionally extra upbeat numbers, together with the bittersweet opener Grandfather, the bluesy Somethin’ Ain’t Proper and southern-rocker Mercy. It suggests McKearney is equally at dwelling with nation, blues, bluegrass, rock and roll and the odd flash of soul/R&B.

Whereas the songs cowl typical fare similar to laborious dwelling and heartbreak, household and residential are nonetheless main themes. That’s clear on the album’s opener and debut single Grandfather, which is about McKearney’s paternal grandfather who was additionally part of the household’s musical lineage.

McKearney’s great-grandfather got here to Canada from Eire and had been a fiddle participant. His son, on whom the music relies, grew to become a paraplegic in his early 40s after an accident however continued to make his dwelling as a musician. McKearney’s father, Lorn Wolf, was recruited into the household band on the age of eight and finally moved to Nashville. McKearney joined his father’s band straight out of highschool.

McKearney’s grandfather died of lung most cancers when McKearney was nonetheless younger.

“It was simply unhappy the best way that all of it went down,” McKearney says. “We had been very younger and didn’t get to be part of it, didn’t get to say goodbye, didn’t get to work together with him throughout that point. I feel that music, Grandfather, is my want for the way it may have been and the way I hope will probably be when my grandkids are saying goodbye to me.”

Kyle McKearney will play on the Ironwood Stage and Grill on March 31. The present begins at 8 p.m.

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