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Andy McKee is an American fingerstyle guitar player who has released five albums and been the subject of YouTube videos, garnering over 100 million views.
McKee played his first guitar, an Aria nylon string bought by his father, at age 13. Initially underwhelmed by his guitar lessons, McKee began teaching himself how to play guitar. He began learning shred guitar music, including songs by Metallica, Eric Johnson, and Joe Satriani. McKee's electric guitar-playing cousin inspired him to continue learning, taking him out for his 16th birthday to see a guitarist named Preston Reed perform live at a clinic. McKee later bought an instructional videotape from Reed and began to learn many of his acoustic guitar techniques from it. Later that year, with his mother's permission, he obtained his GED in order to quit attending high school and play more guitar. He began to be influenced by guitarists such as Michael Hedges, Billy McLaughlin, Pat Kirtley, and from Passion Session by Don Ross, as he continued studying the instrument on his own.
In 2001, McKee independently released his first album, Nocturne. That same year, he was placed third at the National Fingerstyle Guitar Competition in Winfield, Kansas. In 2003, McKee toured in Taiwan with Jacques Stotzem, Isato Nakagawa, and Masaaki Kishibe, and earned first place in the Miscellaneous Acoustic Instrument contest of the New Jersey State Fiddling and Picking Championships with a Ron Spillers harp guitar he purchased from Stephen Bennett in 2002., The instrument can be heard in a number of his songs on later albums, such as "Into The Ocean" and "Gates of Gnomeria". Only 1,000 copies of Nocturne were ever produced and the album is now out of circulation.
McKee announced in May 2009 that he was intending to finish touring in the second half of the year and concentrate on recording his upcoming album. He stated in July 2009 that it will most likely be titled "Joyland", the title track of the album which originally went under the name "Music For A Vacant Amusement Park." The song was inspired by an amusement park in Topeka, Kansas named Boyle's Joyland that was open from 1951 to 1988. The album was completed in November 2009 and was released in iTunes on March 23, 2010, and in stores on March 30, 2010 on Razor & Tie. According to McKee, "On this album I've branched out a bit and included some instrumentation on a couple of songs. There's also a new harpguitar tune and a couple of covers such as "Layover" by Michael Hedges and Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." The album also features a DVD full of 75 minutes worth of additional video material, including a documentary called Andy McKee: Joyland and four new performance music videos directed by Jeremy Osbern.
Self-described as "just this guy from Topeka, Kansas, who kind of blew up on the Internet about a week before Christmas", McKee became one of Candyrat Records' best-selling artists after their video of "Drifting" was promoted by users at Digg. For a time, three of McKee's videos were concurrently the three most watched on YouTube. In the wake of this exposure, he appeared by invitation on Woodsongs as well as Last Call with Carson Daly. He also contributed to Josh Groban's 2007 Grammy-nominated Christmas album, Noël, playing guitar on the song "Little Drummer Boy". Groban's album went on to become the best-selling CD of 2007 in the U.S., hitting #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200.
In 2010, McKee contributed to Lee Ritenour's CD 6 String Theory that also features guitarists like Steve Lukather, Slash, Neal Schon, Tal Wilkenfeld, and Mike Stern. In 2012, McKee played alongside Prince on his Welcome 2 Australia tour. He played with Prince's band during the concert on Purple Rain, Sometimes It Snows in April, Mountains, Dance Electric, and Love, Thy Will Be Done. He also kicked off the Melbourne concert with Ebon Coast, Drifting, and The Friend I Never met.
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