Nationally known and Topeka-born guitarist Andy McKee has had a passion for plucking the strings since a young age.
He was only 13 years old when he got his hands on his very own guitar and took lessons at different guitar shops around Topeka.
The electric guitar first caught McKee’s eye before he transitioned to acoustic guitar around the age of 16.
"I switched to the acoustic when I heard steel-stringed acoustic guitar players like Michael Hedges and Preston Reed and Don Ross — these guys that were really trying new things that I had never seen or heard before," McKee said. "They inspired me so much to get into that style and actually write my own music, instrumental acoustic guitar stuff.
"I’ve actually always been into instrumental music as well. Music didn’t have to have words for me to connect with it, necessarily, so when I heard guys doing these solo acoustic guitar pieces that were really powerful and amazing, I just fell in love with it."
McKee’s style of music and method of playing the guitar is unique. Using altered tunings, tapping, percussive hits on the guitar and partial capos, watching McKee play is hypnotizing and unlike watching a traditional guitarist.
"Like 98% of all guitar players play in the same guitar tuning so that all the notes are on the fret board where you expect them to be, but I like to use different guitar tunings where you can come up with new chord voicings and different ways of playing the guitar if you tune it in these different ways," McKee said. "So I get inspired by playing around in these different tunings and finding new chords and then finding melodic ideas that could work with that. I also like to use unusual techniques as well to try to bring the music together so you have the melody and the accompanying chords at the same time."
Through the years, McKee has recorded several albums and EPs. He has also had the opportunity to work with Josh Groban and tour with Prince.
This year alone, McKee will put out four EPs, each featuring a different genre or era of music.
In addition, McKee will play a show at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, at McCain Auditorium at Kansas State University as part of the venue’s livestream series McCain Connected. The show is free to view online.
McKee will also perform Sunday evening during the Arty Awards.
The first EP McKee will release will feature cover songs, he said. He hopes to have that album out in November.
McKee hopes to release the second EP in December and its focus will be relaxation music that uses a synthesizer and keyboard.
"One of them is going to be ’80s-inspired music," McKee said. "That’s the music I first heard growing up so there will be synthesizers and electric guitar. Another one is going to be all original, new acoustic guitar music."
While McKee has had the idea for a few years now to record a variety of EPs, the COVID-19 pandemic helped facilitate and speed up that process, he said.
After touring around the world for the past 15 years fairly heavily, this year has offered McKee a chance to take a break and spend time with his family.
While McKee has two shows in the immediate future, both are local and will give him and others the chance to feel a semblance of normalcy again.
McKee said he hopes those watching him perform leave with a fulfilled feeling.
"My shows aren’t necessarily really bombastic or anything, but some of my music tends to be kind of introspective and people can almost meditate a bit when they listen to what I do or see what I do," McKee said. "I just try as a performer to give people a unique experience. It’s not like anything else. It’s not like you're watching TV or you’re watching a football game."
McKee said his shows offer a direct experience — a facet that drew him to solo guitar.
"You see an artist on stage just playing an instrument by themselves and expressing themselves," McKee said. "It’s really sort of a direct communication and that’s another thing that I like about not having words. There’s almost something supernatural about it. It’s like you’re feeling something but nobody is saying anything, it’s just music. I always thought that was powerful, so I hope to give that sort of experience when people hear me play."