Much could be (and has been) said about the music of Chaz McKinney. At times, it is explosive, yet at others it is subdued. At times, it is raw and at others it is polished. Often, it is satirical in nature — criticizing and mimicking the shallow market of modern Pop with contempt while blending within its trappings seamlessly. At all times, though, the music of Chaz McKinney is hook-exploitive, avant-garde, and above all, intelligent.
At 18, he’s worked with multiple Grammy-nominated and winning writers and producers to hone himself in both fields. Pop by genre, but entirely indie rock by modus operandi and by aesthetic. Everything about McKinney is a counter-statement to celebrity culture and yet, when listening to his music, one can easily imagine them topping the charts with the likes of Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, and Katy Perry. His melodies are crafted like fine jewelry and his lyrics with the precision of a Hemmingway novel. What, the listener might ask, has prevented the music from reaching it’s appropriate heights, then?
Chaz McKinney is a ticking time bomb ready to eviscerate and completely remodel what it means to be a pop artist. He says that “People criticize radio so much for becoming so homogenized and they constantly reach for this nostalgia of the 70’s and the 80’s, but the artists that keep struggling to fit that mold don’t have the same spirit that [artists like] Bowie or Michael Jackson did. They can’t hold a candle to that time period because they’re not doing it intelligently and they’re not doing it genuinely. Those artists had a deep appreciation for art and for counterculture and bringing that to the masses and it’s…dead now.” He adds that “every artist is so focused on trying to make an album that will change pop music that they forget to actually change it”.
On his new EP IDENTITY, McKinney — a Nashville resident — eschews the status quo of the city’s and created everything on the record from scratch. “With the exception of the actual production of the record”, he says, “one guitar part, and about 25% of the songwriting, everything you hear is me.” The record was written over a six-month period while the artist struggled through a deep depression and a caffeine addiction and came about almost by accident. “I’d been releasing singles here and there, but it hit me once I moved that I had to get this out”. “I had so much on my mind I’d written during probably the worst winter of my life and I had to get it out somehow”. Gathering his wits about him, he put the finishing touches on a group of songs that “really just fell into place with one another”.
When asked about the concept of the EP, McKinney reflects that he didn’t think of one at the outset, looking at the songs, he notes that what strikes him is the common thread amongst the collection: The idea of letting go of the past and giving yourself to the present.
His lyrics are reminiscent of early Springsteen, and his music shows obvious influences from every decade: the experimentalism of the 70’s, the bombast of the 80’s, and the vocal harmonies of the 90’s. Regardless of how you label him, it is obvious to even a casual listener that Chaz McKinney is a force to be reckoned with. [+]