Chance McKinney: “Stay true to you”

…#PlayTogether. Think about it, if we could all #playtogether be it sports, music, games, off-roading, whatever… we’d worry more about “what’s next” than worry about “what happened.” When people have something to look forward to, there’s absolutely zero time to hate. As a part of our series about ‘Nashville’s Rising Stars’, I had the distinct pleasure […]

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…#PlayTogether. Think about it, if we could all #playtogether be it sports, music, games, off-roading, whatever… we’d worry more about “what’s next” than worry about “what happened.” When people have something to look forward to, there’s absolutely zero time to hate.

As a part of our series about ‘Nashville’s Rising Stars’, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chance McKinney.

High on ambition, his steely determination thickening in his voice, McKinney always goes big — and never goes home. His latest EP, Take It From An Ex, is a testament to his unwavering spirit, charm and impeccable talent behind a microphone. Music Row isn’t ready for what’s about to happen.

Thank you so much for joining us Chance! Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

Simply. I grew up “simply” around the mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers of Montana. We didn’t have a lot of extras, but we had everything we needed. We had sports, school, sports, friends, sports, fishing and… sports, again. My folks kept my brother and I on the go so we’d stay out of trouble. We still managed to find a little (trouble, that is) but we both ended up going to college on Track & Field scholarships, so I guess they knew what they were doing.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

This one’s a little weird. See, I went to Washington State University on a track scholarship where I ended up as an All-American and qualified for two Olympic Trials. I wasn’t able to compete in either due to injuries/surgeries/etc. so I got picked up by the Seahawks and moved west to Seattle to work for them for a year. I had just moved to Seattle when a Motown Revue group heard me sing one night and asked me to join. Within 2 months, we were touring up and down the West Coast, into Canada and as far as the Virgin Islands and Australia.

I began writing music, but it kinda came out country music. I cut 9 of my first 13 songs and walked the CD into the 7th largest country radio station in the country. Two weeks later, I was opening for Kenny Chesney. Ha. Isn’t that how it works for everyone? From there I won CMT’s Music City Madness and BAM… I was touring with the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan and more.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

So… we have this thing in the band where the guys will challenge me to work a word or a phrase into the show each night. Sometimes it’s during a song or sometimes in the stories between songs. I remember walking on stage with Darius Rucker one night and Little Spoon (our lead guitar player at the time) wanted me to use the phrase “hot dog in a hallway” at some point in the show. It took me about 3 songs before I figured out an “appropriate” story to use it in. When I landed it, the guys on stage literally fell down. It took us about a minute to compose ourselves and continue on with the show. I ain’t tellin’ you some of the other stuff they’ve challenged me to work in… guess you’ll just have to come to a show to find out.

Can you share with us a few of the best parts of working in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.

“Live” shows. Hands down. 2020 has literally slapped me in the face with the fact “live” shows are why I do what I do. Yes, I love writing… but singing songs I’ve written at “live” shows is a high nothing in the industry has topped for me yet.

Watershed Festival… if you’ve never been to the Gorge Amphitheater in WA for a concert/festival put it on your list. Willamette Country Music Festival… even the hangover spot from the main stage, there was 1/4 mile worth of people waving their hands off the front stage… Sandy Amphitheater… August night concerts, unbeatable.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made so many mistakes. Probably the biggest mistake I’ve ever made is walking my first CD into that super huge radio station. I sat across from the PD as she listened to maybe 7 seconds (in some cases… less) of each song. She threw the CD back across the desk and told me to come back when the writing, singing, production and presentation was better. She literally liked nothing about it. However, she was the person for calling me back 2 weeks later and asking me to open for Kenny Chesney… so there’s that, I guess.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Wow. Tough question. See, there are different people along the way that have helped lift me up to the next level. Darren Wayne, produced my first ever CD. Lonesome Steve Mitchell, taught me chord structures and songwriting. Kevin Lawson, produced every single project since. Becky Brenner, told me I sucked and then hired me to open for Kenny Chesney. Matt O’Brien, made the video that won the CMT Music City Madness. Sean Spain, hired me for 100’s of shows. Carol Tingstad, booked me over 1000 times. My band kept me going through some of the roughest of times. The Troy’s, they run my life on the road (and more). I could name 100 people and still have 10,000 more to go. Artists aren’t just a single person… they’re the best parts of 1000’s of people.

What exciting projects are you working on now?

I just launched a new EP, Take It From An Ex on October 2nd. It’s got NOTHIN’ BETTER TO DO and RHYTHM OF YOU singles on it that came out earlier this year. There’s already another EP that’s almost done coming soon thereafter. It’s not like any of us have “live” shows to get in our way so we’re all just crankin’ out new studio stuff as fast as we can. It’s crazy how 2020 has affected all of us in the music industry.

What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Share a story or example for each.

1). Stay true to you. Don’t try to copy Aldean, Shelton, Gilbert or Owen… just be McKinney.

2). Live for the experience, not the paycheck. Music can be lucrative, but most of the time… the experiences outweigh the money. I remember festivals, backyard parties, rodeos, charitable organizations, etc. I rarely remember how much we got paid.

3). Always do new. Be the first to try something… you can win big or crash n’ burn. Either way, it’s memorable.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Write and sing “a lot” but do a “little bit” of everything else. Too much social media, too many videos, too much partying, too much of anything (but writing and singing) and you’ll get lost. Stay true to the course… and your music will find it’s way to the people who need it.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

#PlayTogether. Think about it, if we could all #playtogether be it sports, music, games, off-roading, whatever… we’d worry more about “what’s next” than worry about “what happened.” When people have something to look forward to, there’s absolutely zero time to hate.

Can you give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” — Jimmy Doogan (League of Their Own). My dad used to say the same thing… “if it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s the challenge that separates the good from the great.” I’ve never found anything that comes easy to have much value. Anyone can do the easy. It’s the hard that makes what you do so rewarding.

How can our readers follow you online?

Stream Chance’s latest EP, Take It From An Ex, here:

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