Pat McGee Band w/ Keaton Simons - 9/27
at City Winery New York City
Since my first CD “from the wood” in 1995 to my latest album No Wrong Way To Make It Right (my 9th recording) in 2011, I feel that I have allowed too many publicists who don’t know me to write my bio. Who knows Pat McGee better than I, right? Selling music is different from selling any other product because the music along with live shows are so much a part of me. Maybe it’s the fact that I am now 38, a father of three beautiful girls, living in Rhode Island, and in my heart in the best place I have ever been in my life, but in this bio I want to share a little of what goes into my life as a touring and recording musician. Reflecting on the last eighteen years of recording and touring, more than ever, I look forward to the next eighteen and feel that this release is my strongest work to date. Eighteen years, eh? When I counted it out on my fingers, I can’t believe it has been this long . . .I’m enjoying now more than I ever have, and that’s saying a lot!
The songs on my new album, compiled over the last few years, evoke emotions that I previously shied away from. Deeply personal pain, pleasure, regret, bliss, discouragement, resentment, love, anger, fear, and peace of mind all pour out of each track. The light-hearted title track “No Wrong Way To Make It Right” reeks of my teenage years cruising in “my grandmother’s ‘70 convertible Cadillac” and spending summers on the Jersey boardwalk, yet relates to my current life. “Juliet,” written from the mindset of 15-year-old boy, is my vision/hope of what it will be like when my now-5-year-old daughter repels all the boys gunning for her love and leaves them broken hearted. The closing track on the record “They Think We Are Not Going To Make It” tells the struggle of other people working to accept a new relationship, while also being a very intimate love song about a hopeful future. The use of folk instruments that I grew up loving — acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro, fiddle and bazouki — all seem to showcase perfectly the sentiment in each song in a way that brings me back to the tones I adored combing through my parents’ record collection. The material on this album includes some of my hardest-rockin’ and at the same time most delicate arrangements that I have ever tracked. Dating back to my earliest recordings, I was often labeled as “country” in album reviews; so it’s no surprise that this record goes 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, 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 violinist Gabe Witcher from Punchbrothers all shared their talents in this process, some both as co-writers and 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 been fans of.
The road to recording this latest album started on an exciting path that suddenly turned to a very dark place and 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 recently reconnected after being label-mates at Warner Brothers in the late 90’s and were focused on working together on this project. We had both been newly divorced, and both proud, dedicated dads as well as working musicians. We 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. Sadly, Will took his own life and left so many of us with endless questions and deep sadness. I am grateful for the time we had just spent together and I look back on the WBR years as such a hopeful time for both of us.
Knowing I had a batch of tunes that must see the light of day, I picked up the pieces and moved on. I needed a producer. I called the one man I had always wanted to work with since he pressed record on my first demo in 1991: Doug Derryberry. He 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. This CD is 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. 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. It brought a vibe of relaxed and calming support with unbridled drive to the sessions to make this one a reflection of all that I had learned to date, surrounded by musicians who all truly respected one another.
In the winter of 1994, I wrote my first song “Rebecca,” still a crowd favorite, and put out my first real deal CD the following spring just before leaving college life behind me and diving headfirst into the touring singer-songwriter world. I would play every night if I could and most of the time did. In the spring of ‘96, I founded the official Pat McGee Band to back my acoustic-driven shows. I went on to sell over 300,000 records and counting, some out of the back of my trailer, some through what we used to call “record stores.” Remember those? Sigh. I called each “mom and pop” store myself and greatly valued their role in the music business. Now you can find my entire catalog on the online mega-store iTunes.
We were a touring machine, I lost count once the band did our 3,000th show. I recall in one 103 day stretch, we played 98 gigs. That was all before tour buses and cushy hotels, and we loved every second of it. In the fall of 2006, my band suffered our greatest loss when our drummer Chris Williams passed away suddenly. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it changed everything. To this day it feels like one of my best friends just took a vacation and hasn’t returned yet. Like most bands I know, many of my backing musicians have come and gone, but I still surround myself with talented artists night after night to share the stage with. We have had the fortune of selling out venues such as the Filmore in San Francisco, The Troubadour in LA, 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 have also had the joy of sharing the stage with some of my musical heroes such as: The Who, The Allman Brothers, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Buffet, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan.
Being the youngest of three, my siblings and parents showed me the light to great music at a very young age. In 5th grade, I recall getting in a fight at school because some kid didn’t know who The Who was. I remember slow dancing to Purple Rain in 8th grade — I can still feel what it’s like to wish a song never ended. My brother’s influence lead me to a love of classic rock artists ranging from Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers and the Beatles to James Taylor, Willie Nelson and the Eagles. My sister instilled in me a love of 80’s music from REM and David Bowie to The Clash and Bob Marley. It all somehow peeks its head up throughout each track on this new record of mine and takes me back to listening to vinyl on my basement floor, wondering how cool it would be to play in a band.
I firmly believe that live performance is king and should be respected above anything you can do in your career. I have recently endeavored on a destination concert/vacation experience like none other called “Down The Hatch”. Fans and the band take over resorts and allow me to share my love of music, travel, local attractions and cuisine that only a touring artist can uncover after nearly two decades of traversing all over our beautiful country, combing the back streets of big cities and small towns for the best America has to offer.
As an artist I feel a welcomed obligation to connect to my listeners so they can really get to know the artist and relate to the material on a different level . . . when you know where someone is coming from, I believe that you then appreciate how much they mean what they sing about. When I approach an album from artists whom I know well, I listen to their records in a whole different light. I want fans to share in some of that intimate feeling when listening to my songs.
In closing I hope you enjoyed reading this and feel like you know just a little bit more about me.
ABOUT KEATON SIMONS:Keaton Simons is truly what the Los Angeles Times called “a triple threat.” He captivates audiences with his compelling, soul-baring songs, masterful acoustic and electric guitar playing, and authentic voice. The energy and passion that Keaton brings to his work, whether in the studio, performing solo or with his full band, is as infectious as his lyrics and as stirring as his melodies.
On April 30, 2013 Keaton Simons released his sophomore full-length album, Beautiful Pain, co-produced with Mikal Blue (Colbie Caillat, One Republic), and mastered by Gavin Lurssen of Lurssen Mastering. The highly-anticipated album will release on Best Revenge Records, Keaton’s newly formed label with Croshal Entertainment Group (Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills & Nash). Beautiful Pain includes co-writes with Jason Mraz, Jason Reeves, Glen Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket), and Mikal Blue among others.
With the exception of the drums on Beautiful Pain, which are played by the United Nations’ Musical Director, the incomparable Robin DiMaggio (Paul Simon, David Bowie), all instruments are played by Keaton Simons. Additional featured artists on the record include Alex Al (bass), Lenny Castro (percussion), Zac Rae (keys), Tyler Hilton (piano, vocals), and Tower of Power’s Bill Churchville (trumpet, trombone) and Sean Hill (saxophone).
A regular in The Hotel Café singer/songwriter circuit, Keaton Simons has been recognized by Examiner.com as achieving cult-like status in his hometown of Los Angeles, CA. He’s far from just an L.A. guy though, let alone a new artist on the mainstream map. Keaton released his 2004 EP Currently on Maverick Records, 2008’s debut full-length Can You Hear Me on CBS Records, and has toured nationally and internationally since, including opening slots for Coldplay, Train, Guster and REO Speedwagon. He’s also worked as a writer, musical director, singer, bassist and guitarist with notable acts like Gnarls Barkley, Snoop Dogg, Josh Kelley and Tre Hardson (The Pharcyde).
Keaton’s music has been heard in dozens of feature films and television shows, including Sons of Anarchy, Private Practice, NCIS, Malcolm in the Middle, Numb3rs and Hollywood Heights. He’s also performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Last Call with Carson Daly. In 2011 Keaton appeared on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew alongside stepfather, actor Eric Roberts, who was a patient. A performance of his song “Unstoppable” on the show resulted in over 10,000 iTunes downloads in only two days.