WHETHER YOU’RE BLUE COLLAR OR WHITE COLLAR, WE ALL WORK.
It’s a universal thread connecting us together. It transcends cultural heritages and upbringings, and there is a respect and understanding that comes with it. Montana-born and raised, Chance McKinney delves into our relationships to work and how we perceive the act of making a living with his most recent with his most recent “industrialized country” projects, I and I².
“Industrialized country” is a term not easily defined, as even McKinney grasps for the right words. “The musical approach is geared towards those who appreciate the things they’ve earned; it’s not an inherited music,” he says. “Industrialized country is a country lyric and a country vocal mixed with metal guitars, pop structure and industrial layers,” he adds. The vague qualifiers, shrouded in mystery, let the music do the talking.
With the return of producer Kevin Lawson, who helmed much of McKinney’s former duo project Nathan Chance, Mckinney’s music aims to initiate not only a whole new subgenre of country but an unheard of business model. Of course, he remains tight-lipped about exactly what the next couple years hold, but his spirits are up. “You have to be pretty cutting edge to create an entire sub-genre,” he admits. Embedded within these ambitious stylistic parameters, there is only truth.
It hasn’t been an easy journey to this moment. “My whole process has been in response to bullying. Everything I’ve done is to prove people wrong. I know you’re supposed to do it for the love of music, but I’m cut from a different cloth. I don’t mind being told what to do, but I don’t like being told what I can’t do.”
Bullied in his early years, McKinney employs his pain as fuel to propel him forward. Before he even finished high school, he became a three-time National Champion javelin thrower and an All-State basketball player, while also holding down a 4.0 GPA. His college studies at Washington State University brought more triumphs as he went on to take a Division I All-American title and graduated Summa Cum Laude in Mathematics.
It was a bit later that he seriously pursued his songwriting craft. Upon relocating to Seattle, he befriended local musician “Lonesome” Steve Mitchell who taught him a bulk of various skills, including song structure and chord patterns. That was just the beginning. Another musician by the name of Darren Wayne took those foundations and was able to unlock McKinney’s full potential. The two worked tirelessly on his debut album, 2006’s Hittin’ the Road, which set the pace for one of the greatest underdog stories in country music.
Along the way, McKinney teamed up with a slew of other regional musicians, including drummer and friend Brian Bujucich, to form a duo called Nathan Chance. Things seemed to be chugging along nicely, and their work together Brought opportunities beyond their wildest dreams. They went on to share stages with the likes of such country staples as Kenny Chesney, Big n’ Rich, SheDaisy, Martina McBride, Little Big Town, Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Loggins and Gary Alan.
2009 was another transitional year, however. Nathan Chance disbanded, and McKinney had a choice to make. Prompted by a close friend out of Nashville, he submitted one of his songs, an evocative piano ballad titled “Be Real,” into CMT’s Music City Madness competition. The weeks whizzed by, and soon, he rose victorious, taking the title that December with more than one millions cast across the country.
The doors flew open for him. McKinney began booking more and even bigger opening gigs. In the following years, he toured with and shared stages alongside Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Sunny Sweeney, Alan Jackson, Ronnie Dunn, Darius Rucker, Dwight Yoakam, Creedence Clearwater and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among others.
His second album, Think About That, arrived in 2013. At that point, he continued pushing forward, a one-man machine, a jack of all trades. The project debuted at No. 63 on the country albums chart. That small victory led to even more high-profile engagements, including an appearance at the 2013 Watershed Music Festival. He returned to the open road, as well, often performing upwards of 90-dates across the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
2016 rolls around, and once again, he was on the fence about making another record. One early-spring songwriting session changed everything. “Down to Get Up” struck a chord in him, and he was reinvigorated to hit the grind again. Heading back down to Nashville, linking up with Kevin Lawson, his third record, Down to Get Up, took shape. This time, the album debuted at No. 41 on the country albums leaderboard. Still unsigned and unrepresented, McKinney as on to something big.
Mckinney’s most recent release is an EP called I², which he teases is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming. The release blends self-penned tracks and outside cuts, which “should not have been pitched to a guy like me,” he says. “So much stuff has lined up. Everybody outside calls it luck.”
He continues, “I had every reason to stop. Everyday, every year, I’m approaching this as if I’m going to be on the radio. Publishers came out of the woodwork and gave me stuff I had no right to, at all. Why? I don’t know.”
Whether the will of some higher power or just from the sweat of his brow, he is see the returns of his labor, owed in large part to his daring to forge his own path. Even his approach in the recording studio was untraditional. “We cut all the vocals first to a click track and an organ pat. As soon as I was done cutting final vocals, we erased everything else,” he explains. From there, the band will build the arrangements around his vocals, something that’s rarely, if at all, been done.
High on ambition, his steely determination thickening in his voice, McKinney always goes big -- and never goes home. His latest music is a testament to his unwavering spirit, charm and impeccable talent behind a microphone. Music Row isn’t ready for what’s about to happen.