Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Jim McKee: the Musician, the Artist, the Man

I lie on the ground and look up. Cotton-candy clouds float overhead as if by magic. With grace and randomness, they move in slow motion. Wonder, peace, and sheer relaxation envelope and carry me away to a special place in my mind; a place with no worries, no anxieties, no stress, no negativity. This is the place Jim McKee’s music carries me to. As soothing as a warm breeze, as elegant and frail as butterflies’ wings, as soft as a flower petal, as poignant and heart-tugging as a newborn, as hopeful as a child, as desperate as unrequited love, and as strong as steel…it’s all in his music.

Jim McKee’s voice cuts with exact precision a razor-sharp path through the silence, through the past, through the troubles, in a subtle, energizing, and hypnotizing manner. Whether he sings about Uncle Pete, missing a familiar face, or a goldfish named Picasso, his voice is angelic and powerful. It soothes you, excites you, and sends chills down your spine simultaneously. It transports you, uplifts you, and even makes you cry. 

My Webster's II, Riverside, New College Dictionary (1995 ed.) defines juxtaposition as: "To place side by side, esp. for contrast or comparison." 

Jim McKee is a master of juxtaposition in his music. For example, the happy, hopping sounds in "Gone Fishing" is actually the backdrop, the background, the wild contrast of a very sad story, a story full of regret and sorrow. Another fine example is the contrast of the hauntingly beautiful and magical music in "Homeless Piano Man." The music is angelic; whereas, the words rip your heart out. 

The songs above express the juxtaposed contrast between music and lyrics. However, "But the Truth" blends the sounds and lyrics together to reflect an absolute broken heart; a fine comparison in the flow of past to present. Phrases of, "...give a man enough rope...," "...try to be a better man...," "...helicopters in the sky...," and "...gimme back my childhood..." scream volumes of hidden ghostly skeletons in the closet, skeletons of a past filled with yearning and personal tragedy.

The distinct contrast of soft musical notes against vivid, precise, clean, and cut-straight-to-your-heart words leaves one breathless. His voice, his art, and his instruments are as comfortable, safe, and inviting as home. A whisper, a dream, a yearning, an angel’s voice… those are words which come to mind when I hear Jim McKee’s music. If you want to be moved by slow, melodic, romantic, simple, inspiring, relaxing music which floats you on clouds of hope, love, despair, and wonder, I urge you to take a listen to "Uncle Pete".
Join me as I get to know Jim McKee: the musician, the artist, and the man. All the pictures are courtesy of Jim's Facebook page and are used with permission, except for the cloud in the beginning and the two of Ireland at the end. I snagged those from the internet. Since Jim is Irish, you may notice words spelled differently; like favourite and honour. I left them spelled his way since the spelling is still correct here in the US.

1. You are a multi-faceted artist. You sing, play music, and paint. Which came first, and how did the other aspects evolve? 

Well, as long as I can remember I’ve had a natural love of music. Our first record player and record was sent to the house by my aunty from Canada: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and The Shadows, 22 golden guitar hits landed and that was it. Then, Elvis. I would act out the songs with my sister as a kid night after night. I could learn a melody after one listen. I wrote my first song at 7. I used to watch my uncle play guitar and sing for hours and torture him for chords. He had a folk group called Sprig. I got my first guitar for my 6th or 7th birthday. I suppose I am what you call musical. I could lift an instrument and knock out a tune. I’ve always had an ear for music and loved a good groove. After music, like, what else is there? Really people in Ireland are all very musical and full of stories and adventures. Let's face it, we've had plenty to write and sing about. Ireland I guess is a landing pad and melting pot, but we don’t know that, heee [we think we’re just Irish haa]. My father was a brilliant artist. I only ever saw two paintings of his and I remember being blown away by them. He used to bring me art materials all the time as a kid and I'd just draw, paint, write, and create all the time. Then when I went to school, it was noticed, my singing and flair for music and art. But my music teacher put me out of class for carrying on. I was a bit wild and giddy I guess. I left school early, at 15, to go working full time as a milk delivery man. My art teacher came on the milk float one day, when I was 15, and asked me to come back to school to pursue my art, school exams, and studies, and not be off working; he wanted me to get to university and study art. When I look back, he saw something that I didn't back then. I played flute in a flute band also when I was 9 years old, and was exposed to marching tunes and marching bands in the town I grew up in. From early on, I've always loved the flute bands and pipe bands and live music scene and still do to this day. I love to hear live music no matter where...

2. In addition to harmonica and guitar, do you play other instruments?

I play tin whistle and flute a bit as well.

3. In your experience, why do so many people migrate from Ireland? Is it the economics, politics, geography, or a combination of all three?

People leave Ireland* for opportunity, employment and work and I'd say to get away from stuff, I believe. Also many of us had to leave. Where I come from, lots of my school friends are now in countries like Australia, England and the USA. Most of my friends have all lived at some stage away from home. We had a choice, we could either sink or swim. Growing up the north of Ireland wasn’t always easy, not that I’m complaining. I knew nothing else. It was great fun too but it was also like growing up in Lebanon, in a war zone** with soldiers and loaded guns on every street corner, check points, police, all armed bombs and riots. When I look back I wonder was it all a dream really. Wages were low and there were not a lot of opportunities. Folk music wasn’t always a safe music to play or be seen to be playing because there was a certain label that used to go with it…thank God that has all changed now. I first left home at 12 believe it or not.

*What astonishing statistics on Irish migration. Alarming!

**For a little background into the conflict of Northern Ireland, read this 2010 article from Simon Rogers in The Guardian, in addition you may want to watch this this video.

4. Tell me about your participation in the new Irish film Songs For Amy. What was it like to film in Ireland?
Well I was singing in a pub called Tully's in Kinvara Co. Galway...a well-known little west of Ireland music bar with my band, when a lady called Fiona Graham approached me after the gig and wanted to hear my songs. She heard me sing a song I wrote called "Soul Friend". She told me she was making a film and needed songs and liked the song. I thought nothing of it. Then she came to visit me at my house. I gave her my first solo album and let her hear a few new songs I’d written. At the time, I sang them to her and she loved the songs called, “Greatest Best Thing” and “Show Me the Love.” She then asked me to write a title track called “Amy” which I did…and she asked me to audition for the part of Rory. I auditioned and although I didn’t get the part I was offered to do a small cameo part of Tom the Busker, or Busker Tom, which I did and sang the song “Galway Bay.” I got on the big screen for 15 seconds! During the filming I had to play some guitar and work a little with the lead actor Sean Maguire as he was singing my songs in the film. I played the guitar on “Soul Friend” as he acts it...it was fun being on set. I loved every minute of it and enjoyed the film-making process. I was very at home on set. I also got to work with Ultan Conlon. He has a lot of songs in the film also and he scored the film music, so I had to sit down and record my songs for him to work on. Ultan was great. Also on the song “Amy,” he wrote a chorus middle 8th piece so it’s a co-write. I ended up having 4 songs in the film and have been flown to California, Newport Beach Film Festival, and Cannes Film Festival in France, Glasgow Film Festival, Galway Film Festival, and to London for a showing where Ultan and I got to sing the songs from the film. It was a lot of fun, and I met some great people along the way. During the filming, I even met the band Alabama 3 as well. The actors and film crew were fab! Filming was so much fun - a 6-week party to be precise, in the small village of Kinvara which was our base. There were parties every night, and we played gigs every night in different pubs. It was a great opportunity and it raised my profile a lot, I have to say. The film is coming out around the world and was released in Ireland on 1st of May 2014.

A scene in the movie with Sean Maguire and Jim

5. Within your art and singing/songwriting, what has been your most proud moment?

Well, there have been so many highlights, I don't know where to start...

Having a beer with Willie Nelson in Harstad, North Norway was amazing.

Hearing my music in a film on the big screen; those little ideas of songs I had many years ago coming from a poor large housing estate with nothing is a moving experience...

Lately, my son started playing guitar and I was over the moon about that - he's good. Also, when he first started playing saxophone and played a full tune - I hope he picks it up again. That's priceless.

Selling my first two paintings to Mary Coughlan, (a famous Irish jazz singer) was an amazing feeling. I met her on the street randomly and she stopped me as she liked the painting I was carrying and wanted to buy it. She didn't realise that she was making my first painting sale. She bought two that day...and then the sell-out art shows followed.

Meeting the President of Ireland through my music, and giving him a painting is a big highlight.

Singing my songs and stories to my hometown theatre was an amazing feeling.

Travelling to California with my songs was a nice feeling.

Hearing my songs on the radio the first time.

Seeing my paintings years later in people's houses is some feeling, or getting an email or a call to do a piece for someone's 50th or something is still, and always, a buzz.

Also, I saw a piece the Bank of Ireland bought while standing in a queue [line] one day in Galway - that was a quiet and nice moment to myself.

Also, every year I raise money for many charities with paintings and music gigs, that's a great feeling to be able to do that.

I also gave a song called "Homeless Piano Man" to a Boston charity album that raised money for the homeless...things like that mean a lot.

But probably one of the biggest things ever to happen to me was once when I was contacted by a mother about how my music comforted her daughter before she passed away at only 37 years old. Her daughter died of breast cancer. The funny thing is, I had given the girl a free cd, my first solo album, one night at a gig and there were only 7 people at the gig, and I was losing hope. (One of those nights that you wonder why you bother bringing your music out the door or why do you do these gigs at all?) A few years later I was glad I did when I was contacted to say they played a song I wrote for my son "Like Angels" at her funeral... funny how things work.

6. Your life experiences are reflected in all your creative works: music, song, art. Can you comment?

Yes, I write about my life mostly and paint stuff that jumps out in my environments I am living in. Writing my songs has been a big healing for me and helps me let go of the past and hurt at times. I also simply write when I am happy too, but it took a few years to do that as I had a lot of crap to get off my chest. I also like to write as honestly as I can, sad and happy and tell it as it is and as it comes sometimes and let the public edit. It doesn't always have to make sense. I remember Donavan, the singer-songwriter, telling me that one night in a conversation at a singer-songwriter event at Winkles Pub in Kinvara, Co. Galway. It's like painting. I remember doing a painting called "Fishbowl" once. It was about living in the north of Ireland and all I had witnessed. I painted it one night after a visit north and in a rage when I was upset and returned west. I painted it by candle light in a small caravan I was living in at the time. The beauty of painting it, was that no one could argue with it, just look at it. As Patrick Kavanagh, the Irish writer once said, "Write as if you're dead and turn your suffering into royalties," so that's what I am doing, not by choice. I just can't help it and it has turned out that way. I just do it...no big deal, no big expectation, but a bonus when it touches someone, or ends up in a film or soundtrack, or when a painting ends up on someone's wall it is an honour. To be honest, I enjoy creating songs and ideas and paintings. I don't care much for the rest, the bullshit and bullshitters in the business. But I guess it takes all sorts...I love painting places I find, and people I find interesting. I won't have enough time or life left to paint and write and sing all that I see and have ideas for. Every day something jumps out at me and I picture it and paint it when I can. My son Dualta gives out to me for stopping at random times. I've nearly caused car crashes when I see something and just stop to take a picture. I love to sit among nature and paint, it's my favourite thing to do in the whole wide world. It just fills me up and makes me happy to be among nature and colour. Magic always happen if you sit still long enough...

7. As a boy, was music or painting a part of your life, or did you just “pick it up” one day?

Cherry Blossom by Jim McKee
As a boy, music and art have always been a big part of my life. I used to sing myself to sleep out loud and imagine I was on a big stage. I've always been drawing and keeping sketch pads and I wrote my first song at 7 years old on 2 strings on my guitar. It was called "If You Know What's Good For You, You Better Leave Me Alone." Around this time, I also joined my first boxing club...Ha how funny when I look back. Where I lived there was a lot of bullying and trouble. The large housing estate was rough. Lots of fights and fighting. That was a release I guess. 1977 was the year Elvis died, I remember I was 7...I played the tin whistle and flute then also and I loved listening to music a lot. I also loved to scribble and draw a lot.  

What a sweet-faced little boy!

8. You were a boxer, right? Tell me about that. How did that happen?

I joined my first boxing club around when I was 7. A neighbour brought me. I went to toughen up as I was getting bullied and beat up a lot on the lane ways. Coming from school and going to school there was a lot of tension at the time where I lived and my dad used to send me back out to fight my own battles. As well as a record player coming from Canada from my Aunty Anne, she also sent me a Muhammad Ali doll one Xmas. I remember being very taken by the doll in white boxing shorts...I was terrible at the boxing at the start. I used to cry in the bucket and turn my head when sparring, but for some reason I kept at it and won titles. Locally for my county, then province, and then I went on to win 2 All-Ireland titles and lost 1 All-Ireland final. I won an Irish title in 1987 and 1989. The Cup I won in '89, was the same cup that Steve Collins (World  Professional Champion) won in 1983. I represented Ireland 6 times and won a Silver medal at the Gaelic Youth Championships  (a competition with boxers from Canada, Scotland and Wales) and represented Ulster teams 4 or 5 times. To be honest, I was a gentle soul - a creative artist and musician more so, but I stuck at boxing for 13 years. I boxed from when I was 7 until I was 20 years old consecutively. I had 112 fights and won 91 or 92. I met many great people. Some of my boxing friends my same age - my Irish team friends - became professional world champion boxers: Wayne McCullough, Eamonn Loughran, and Eamonn Magee. Boxing saved my life. It kept me out of trouble and from joining the IRA at the time. To be honest it was a great focus, it taught me a lot of discipline and how to be dedicated to what you're doing. Boxing got me respect and notice and away from the crap I was living in. One of my great trainers was a man called Frank Gervin from Clonoe a.b.c ...also Frank "Chubby" Quinn was my first trainer...and John "Tam" Heagney my last ever trainer. I made a come back in the ring when I was 28. I had 4 come back fights. I lost 1. I got my jaw broke on both sides in the National Senior Boxing Semi-Finals 2nd round. I was winning the fight on computer at the time. It sickened me that I never really went back to the sport after that, but it was good to me. At a time it gave me stability, I guess. I had many travels all over Ireland, England, Wales and one trip to the USA. I made some great friends for life, but I always had my guitar and journal and art with me. I also trained in many gyms around the world. After I quit at 20, I trained in South Africa when I was there and in Norway as well when I lived there for a few years, in Southampton and in Birmingham gym, and in a small health Bronx gym....it was a great lesson for life, boxing, and still stands to me. To be honest, I hardly ever talked about it for the past 10 to 12 years. Not many people know I boxed. It kinda leaked out in an article...during an art show.

9. Was there any time in your life that you second-guessed yourself and your talents, and wondered, “What the hell am I doing this for?”

Aah yeah. There have been times I've doubted myself, but not for long. I have a deep self-belief and determination. Things take time. I never listen to experts that much. I listen to the inpert, it's like an inner voice gut feeling...an angel whispering. I take what I need and what I feel is right from the experts, little bits from everyone at the end of the day, we're all guessing and trying. But in a way, I've always known what I was doing. Even when lost and homeless I had a sense of what I was doing. Following music at the time and easing pain. I won't go into that chapter, but one boxing slogan I kept for life is "Losers are quitters and winners don't quit." I stick at things. I remember when I released my first solo album and was doing a tour of Ireland. If your heart is good and pure and honest and you don't push anything. I tend to wait to be asked to go places and do things. I prefer it that way. I wouldn't invite myself to a wedding...I like to be asked. I like to let things happen. At the end of the day I am not trying to be anything. I am who I am, an artist. I know who I am and what I am about... When that penny drops, you're sorted for life and will be truly happy I feel. Follow your passions and dreams. Someone once said to me, "God smiles when we pursue our talents. He smiles on us." I like that. And fine magic always happens when I paint and sing. Another thing, I was once told by a nun, "The man who invented music invented it in a cave in order to be heard." She said, "The man had to come out of the cave." I used to be very shy about performing in front of people, but I've challenged myself all my life and over come that. I remember once, driving around a city with fear when very young before going busking, after driving 200 miles to get there in the first place. But I got out of the car, busked, and made 68 Irish punts. At the time, I ended up staying in a great bed and breakfast in Galway City and eating well and buying loads of music record tapes the next day and driving home so happy. The sense of freedom, independence, and dignity was liberating. The money you make busking, or on the street, the experience can't be bought. The street is a great learning place, 10 percent music and 90 percent psychology. Also music should be fun. A famous fiddle player, Cathal Hayden, once told to me, "Spell music." He spelled it...m.u.s.i.c.f.u.n.

10. Have you ever received bad advice as a musician? If so, what was the experience?

I've never really received bad advice from musicians or as a musician. Well in fact, I once was destroyed by an older musician in my hometown as a boy for singing a song a bit faster and in a different version. In fact, the version I sang of the song was sung by a very famous gypsy band. And funny now, the man who destroyed me as a boy singing on guitar in a pub session, recently was so nice and friendly to me, and was delighted I was doing well. People change towards you as you succeed and climb the ladder and play your hometown theatre I guess. Ha, I waited a long time for that, but I'm good at waiting. Boxing and life and where I'm from has taught me patience. It wasn't always easy being from the north of Ireland with my accent living and working in England. I have always kept going, believing in myself and writing my songs and recording them with little money at times, but getting there and getting it out there breaking through. I'd never let anyone put me off anything. I met a lot of jealousy in the music but musicians are jealous bitches. I feel the true greats, like Willie Nelson, have nothing to prove. The real deal are in it for the right reasons I guess. In fact, all my life I've been copied...but then again we all copy each other. But I find being copied a compliment really...I just smile inwards. It gives me power really. Recently, I got a few doors closed in my face with my art in Martha's Vineyard, but to be honest it made me more determined. But it was interesting to watch the rich...the experts! Heee. One gallery took a piece I painted there and that's not forgotten. I hate asking or pushing, it's not my style. But I was there trying to break into the USA art world as a lot has changed here in Ireland and things are down. I've been around a few galleries and learned the hard way. In Ireland, I had a very large check bounced on me, which put my lights out. 8 years work, but I bounced back and always will...it's good to be humbled. It makes you better and more reliant and makes for great work...

Jim and Emma

11. How important is encouragement, motivation, and positive energy to you now, as an adult artist? Did you receive those praises and energy as a boy?

I won't be around negative people or low vibrations for one second. The first rule of Buddha is beware of fools. To be honest, my dad and mum encouraged me as a kid, but to be an artist or musician wasn't heard of or considered a real job, [it was] something you did as a hobby. Artists and musicians are treated like shit 90% of the time and live in poverty. I have always listened to myself and had deep self belief, you need to. And never let anyone put you off or get in the way of an idea or dream. I always listen to that inner voice and the outcome is always good. It takes courage at times to be different. In a way, good artists have suffered for their art, suffering makes good real art I feel. It's like healing and a release, creating. Positivity is everything. Seeing the bigger picture and hanging on no matter how hard it gets, something always happens later down the line...it is really important to be true and honest. It all takes time and experience and learning by your own mistakes. It takes us all our life to become the person we are. I've had much good advice from people along the way and take something from everyone I meet. I observe people all the time. Should it be on a bus, a plane, a new city, a singer on a stage, a child playing on the grass, or an older person coming close to the time to leave earth. I listen and watch. Before my Aunt Anne died, I asked her for advice. Her dying words to me were, "...always do something for others and don't think of yourself too much. And do an honest day's work, it's good for the soul." So I never refuse charity work and helping others, or pass a homeless person. I have some great older relatives from my father's side that all left home in Ireland and made lives around the world in Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, who I really looked up to. They inspired me to travel and look at the world in many different ways. I love creating and don't care much on outcomes, but it's a bonus if I get paid or liked. I don't take it too seriously as there are a lot of people unhappy and only happy to pull you down, as they're not living their lives as they really wish they were. Follow your passion is the trick of life and happiness, true freedom and happiness. To hell with dead-end jobs and being unhappy. Life's too short to be unhappy and walking to work to pay the bills at some job you hate. Go do what you're meant to be doing: singing, writing, painting, building, running, laughing...whatever it is, acting. Be who you really are meant to be and listen to the "inpert" and not the experts. We're all experts...

12. What influences your creative process?

My son Dualta and everyday living inspires me, and traveling to new places. Watching a lot of people. Going to new places and trying new things. I get inspiration everywhere. Everyday things jump out. I won't have enough life left to paint and write and record all the songs I want to. I've so many ideas. I just keep putting them out and recording. Sometimes when I'm very happy and very sad I get my inspiration...I always go to bed with pen and paper. I've written some of my best songs on napkins and one even on a sick bag on a plane and on the back of cigarette boxes. I've drawn things on paper to remember things and run home to paint. Ya never know when the dog will bite and the light is turned on and inspiration and ideas flow like a river. I think it's important to get up out of bed and grab the world with both hands and simply LIVE. If you're not making mistakes, you ain't living, you're existing...

13. How can people buy your music or your paintings?

You can buy my music on iTunes or at a gig or contact me on Facebook, Jim McKee. I'd be happy to reply. I can post [mail] my albums to you. I also have a new website coming shortly. My art can be seen and bought directly via Facebook or at my studio in the west of Ireland in a village called Bellharbour, County Clare in the Burren. Many collectors and buyers call, year in and year out and my work is on occasion in Kenny's Gallery in Galway City. I've stopped using galleries lately, as a lot have closed and some have ripped me off...or you can email me on jimmckee2012@gmail.com .

14. How can supporters contact you? Do you really reply to email?

Supporters can contact me on Facebook or email jimmckee2012@gmail.com. I reply to everybody and if I don't, keep trying as I've overlooked you. Nothing personal. Sometimes I'm busy and people get overlooked down the line. Never on purpose. Everybody is important to me. No difference if someone likes my work. I am delighted and will always be overwhelmed but I'd never not reply to anyone. I am honored when people contact me.

15. We all have a bucket list. What’s on your list? Skydiving? Visiting the pyramids of Egypt? Anything you’d like to share?

Well, I'd like a world tour, just me and my guitar for my 50th birthday. I am 44 now...Also, I'd love to drive across America...and bring my girlfriend Emma Heatherington to Nashville...and I'd love to get lost in India for 3 or 6 months...I love America, I'd like to go to all the art hot spots east and west. I'd like to visit Toronto, Canada and Australia, and visit a few cousins. Basically, I'd like to visit as many countries as I can with my music and art and even just go and take it all in. I visited Martha's Vineyard in Sept 2013. I'd love to return there again, it's a magical place...I have also a longing to go to Mexico. My dad never made it. And one other place on the list is Cuba with a hometown friend. We had a friend who died there so we said we would love to go to Cuba, find where he died, and crack open a beer from two Cookstown lads from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland and drink it in his memory. Our friend was a very socialist and republican freedom thinking person. There are many more places but that's a few. I've been a lot of places, some I'd love to return, like Chicago. I love that city also and California...I've a fondness of America, North and South. I've had many good times there.

[Speaking of California, here's a funny video of Jim and his talented fellow Irishmen Kevin Ryan and Aindrias de Staic driving on the California freeway. It's great craic, and I don't think you guys realize the combined talent riding around in the SAME CAR.]

So...I just HAVE TO share Kings of Ireland!

16. How long does it take you to finish a painting, hours, days? Or a song?

Peter Horan 1926 - 2010
A painting can take 6 minutes to 6 years or longer, same as a song. I sometimes come back to them. I wrote a song recently just before I was about to go to bed. Fell out of the sky. I didn't have to change a word. That can happen in like 20 minutes and they're normally better than the forced ones. It can happen with paintings also. Sometimes I have an idea brewing for weeks or days or hours or even in a minute and I just strike and do it. A good composition paints or writes itself. This can't be taught in university. I've no explanation for it. It's like nature. Returning seasons come every year, no explanation. Sometimes people ask how long did that painting take or song take to write, and I answer 44 years...that's how long really.

17. Which artists would you like to play and/or collaborate with that you haven’t?

I would love to do a song with Ray Lamontagne or Willie Nelson or Glen Hansard or the band Alabama 3 or The White Buffalo, and maybe do art exhibition with Irish artist J.B.Vallely or Enos Ray from Virginia who lives on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Maybe they'd do something with me, ha.
Jim and Emma

18. What is it like knowing your music touches people, that it resonates with them, all across the world?

It's the best feeling in the world when you touch someone with a song. To be honest, I never expect to, but when you do it's the ultimate compliment and a feeling money can't buy. I am only a channel...songs are bigger than me...and for sharing. It's a very humbling experience when a song touches someone. I can never believe it. For me, writing a song and singing is just like washing my hair or doing something I do everyday. Nothing special and something I just do. I don't do it for attention...

19. Is there anything you would change about your personal or creative journey?

No, I wouldn't change a thing. I look forward to leaving the earth. I am doing my best and have done my best always...and have given my best effort in all I do and have done...I've done well and lived well, all things considered...

20. For those of us who have never been to Ireland, what is it like?

Ireland is sincere, green, wet, musical, and full of Guinness and drinking. There are fun-filled parties and full of talented people that have magical old souls with depth and great spirit no matter what they've been through. I sometimes think Ireland is the capital of the world, God's capital. Ireland and its people and landscape have something I can honestly say I've never seen anywhere in the world. Something old and very real and beautiful is in its music, arts, and poetry. I love Ireland. Come see it yourself. I bet you will love it.

21. Last question: Is there anything you’d like to add? Any final thoughts or comments?

I'd like to dedicate this interview to my rock, my son DUALTA, and to his wee brother or sister on its way, and also to Emma and her kids: Jordyn, Jade, and Adam...Love Jim X

Jim and Dualta
I'd also like to say THANK YOU, Sherry, for taking the time to do this write up and interview and thank you for helping me and supporting me. It means a lot. And I'd like to thank anyone who reads this. I hope it inspires you either way and I wish you the greatest art and healer of all... LOVE. Besta luck, Jim. x

P.S. I'd love to hear from anyone.

Photo by Shannon Rynd-Ray
It seems Jim has come a great distance from his youthful, turbulent past of Northern Ireland. His music and art touches people all over the world, even down here in LoUiSiAna! Thank you, Jim. Keep painting, keep sharing, and keep jamming, brother! 

One last video to share. Enjoy! 

This is a good wrap!! So fun, funky, silly, and such a happy, hopeful, joyous song.

If you enjoyed the video, here is the amazon link for the album



Kerry Burak
When asked if I wanted to contribute to a blog about singer/ songwriter/ musician and artist, I didn’t hesitate. To say that I’m completely blown away by the talent of this man is an understatement.
I first heard of Jim McKee while surfing YouTube for videos of short films by Kevin Ryan when I came upon a live sing along of "Kings of Ireland."Thought to myself, “hmm interesting” not thinking much more about it until someone shared Jim's "Goodness Comes From the Heart" video. I think that did it! I instantly loved the beat, the words, it was a fun song yet I could tell it what a tribute.
Not long after that, I downloaded the album Goodness Comes From the Heart from iTunes, and I’ve listened to it just about every single day. Upon a recommendation from Jim, I downloaded his album Just A Piece Of as well. There are great songs on both; however, I have my absolute favorites, like "Beautyiful Storm," "Soul Friend," "Picasso’s Still Swimming" and "But The Truth(slow)."
When I listen to Jim’s music, it makes me happy. My favorites are ones I go to many times when I’m having a bad day or feeling stressed, because they are calming, and beautiful songs. I feel very fortunate to have come upon his music, and am so thankful for it.
I’m blessed to have recently purchased my very first piece of artwork, which happens to have been painted by Jim himself. It is one in a series of Cherry Blossoms where the colors pop out on the canvas.
I can’t say enough things about Jim McKee’s music or his paintings. He is a blessing. So very talented, and I know there are even greater things ahead for Jim.
Joe Gleeson

Jim's music can stand beside the best in the world, and the way you know is, when you buy a cd of any of the top bands there are always a few songs you will skip but Jim's one is better then the next. Very few attest that can be said about. His live music rocks the house every time, any time we can go to hear him we go, as well as all that, Jim is such a sound guy always has time for people matter who they are.

Fiona Graham

Jim McKee's music reflects some of the best of Irish singer-songwriting talent. It is both eclectic and timeless and his songs are not just about love and loss but often about the interesting people he has met like 'Uncle Pete' and 'Homeless Piano Man.' His songs combine his skills of music and storytelling.

Jim McKee's gigs have a fantastic energy about them and draw a following from those hearing him for the first time. We chose a number of his songs for the film Songs for Amy as we were looking for songs that were authentically timeless, that could have been aired at the same time as Dylan or John Martyn and yet also contemporary, appealing to an audience who want more from their music than over-produced synthetic pop music.

Ronnie Graham

First and foremost I am honoured that we accept each other as 'friends'. I do not use that accolade freely and I don't think Jim does either. I do not put his music top of my list....I respect him most of all for the type of caring father that he is. This is big on my list of priorities. And his art? A 'natural' and he is one of the very few individuals that I would repeatedly exhibit alongside. (We have managed 5 Rough Diamonds' joint shows to date. ) And his music....Jim is ridiculously full of talent and his songwriting is just one of his talents. I particularly like 'Gone Fishing'....story of my life too. Father, friend, painter, musician. That's my list in order.

 Emma Heatherington 
Irish author, see her amazon page right here!

Jim McKee's music will take you on an eclectic journey through his very colourful life – from poignant memories of growing up in the troubled North of Ireland, to the rugged wild of Ireland's west and to many cities and countries of the world to which he has travelled. He sings of people, places, love and loss with a unique approach and through observations which are naked, raw and as honest as you will ever hear. He plays guitar with fascinating ease but his best instrument is his voice with its haunting strain and a sense of vulnerability that leaves you wanting more. 

AS a painter, he is a self-taught natural, creating masterpieces in a mix of reality and impressionism which result in creations that grace the walls of the homes of everyday people and many famous faces. He creates art which is addictively collectable, highly personable and which breathe life into the viewer at every glance.
Jim graces every role in his life – in his music, his art, as a friend and as a father - with loyalty, grit and effort but most of all with love. He is a one off. He is a truly unique and talented person and once he comes into your life, in whatever sense of the word, you will never forget him. 

Shannon Rynd-Ray 

I was talking about Jim McKee the other day with some people from the vineyard. I was saying how he was so open and kind to every person. Judgment didn't seem to be part of his vocabulary. He is just one of those people that brings fun and light to a gathering! An all-around really good person. We quite like him here on the vineyard.

Heather C. Rynd, R.P.P.
  Check out Heather's Facebook Page here!
Jim McKee's music deeply touches soul and heart. Raw and organic. A eclectic mix of his Irish music roots and his own unique style of voice and sound. A pure gift to receive. We were blessed to have Jim's art and music come to the Vineyard fall 2013. We are looking forward to his return.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Blog Hop...tag...I'm it!!

My friend, and author of the blog www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com, Sylvia Ney recently asked me to participate in a blog hop. I’m answering the four questions below then tagging another blogger / writer friend to keep this going.

Q. What are you working on?

Oh good grief, I STAY busy. In addition to this blog piece, I’m editing ANOTHER blog piece to be posted soon. Just finished a novel edit for another writer. Started another screenplay. Submitted some poetry to publications, am working on a grant PLUS putting the final touches on a feature / profile for an international publication. So…I’m very busy. And, just today, I submitted a piece on editing to another writer friend’s blog.

Q. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Since I’m all over the map with my work, I have no genre or specific category of work. I write and publish it all: blog posts, poetry, short stories, fiction, nonfiction, flash fiction, brochures, pamphlets, press releases, and most recently put together a portfolio for someone. However, if any of my writings ever touch someone, then I'm elated. Or, if I can help just one writer in the editing process to produce better work, then I'm just as happy. I am also confident in my individuality. That I don't fit in the cookie-cutter mold, that I'm different...just wish more people were secure in his/her oddness!

Q. Why do you write what you do?

I write what I do because I HAVE to. Every since I was a teenager, I have had an overwhelming desire to put words on papers, whether they turn out to be a story, a poem, an advertising brochure, or even a full-length screenplay, it doesn't matter. My mind never seems to shut off. See next question!!

Q. How does your writing process work?

I have no process. Inspiration comes at random and odd moments. Some days I’m very productive at writing pages upon pages of material. Other times, I may wake up at 3:00 in the morning and write out a poem on a pad which I keep next to my bed. I don’t have a set schedule to write. I work full time and squeeze my writing in when I can. My writing is like Cinderella, the mistreated step-child. Sometimes it’s very overwhelming but I do it because I have no choice.

Now, I'd like to pass these questions to award-winning mystery writer, and my friend Linda Todd, who blogs at "The Incurable Itch of LF Todd" here:  http://lindaheberttodd.blogspot.com/

Look for her answers soon!