Former Sylvan Lake musician Matt McKay has been nominated by the 2018 Canadian Country Music Association in two categories. McKay is nominated in the categories of Guitar Player of the Year and Record Producer of the Year.
McKay is no stranger to the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMA) awards, previously nominated in the Guitar Player of the year category in 2016 and winning the prestigious award in 2017. His association with the CCMA dates back to 2007 when he was first approached to play with fellow Albertan, and CCMA award winner, Gord Bamford. Now enjoying a fruitful association with Brett Kissel, McKay’s career is in full swing.
It’s all a long way from McKay’s humble beginnings when he used to build his own guitars from hockey sticks until he received his first nylon strung classical style guitar at age eight.
After a few years of lessons McKay took it upon himself to learn what he could on his own. Immersed in music, his guitar playing skills quickly progressed as did his reputation in the industry.
A great interest in songwriting and recording has lead to a prolific writing and recording schedule that has resulted in three very well received albums for the country artist Brett Kissel.
Though McKay is renowned for his country guitar skills he is well versed in other styles including rock, indie and blues. Blues in particular is a favourite of McKay’s who names the late great Steve Ray Vaughn as an early influence. It was country through that first resonated with McKay, in particularly Brad Paisley, whom he first heard at 16 and exclaimed, “Holy… I want to play like that.”
McKay honed his chops by practicing between five and six hours a day.
“It was definitely a lot of hard work,” he said.
The practicing has paid dividends for McKay though as he now maintains a busy schedule playing and touring with Brett Kissel while recording and producing a number of other artists.
Always interested in songwriting, recording and producing McKay jumped at any opportunity to be in the studio.
“When an offer came, I was all over it,” he remarked.
“The studio is a really different game,” he said. “You have to play some tasteful parts; have to be able to execute stuff exactly; be fast, have great timing and be musically sensible,” McKay said adding, “if you do play a few takes it is crucial you play the exact same thing at the exact same spot each time through.”
McKay relishes the challenges of the studio but noted one has to play under stressful circumstance and “not choke.”
Since hooking up with Brett Kissel, McKay has played guitar and sung back-up vocals on Kissel’s past three album. He also co-produced “We Were That Song” (nominated for album of the year and producer of the year).
Currently, McKay is the musical director of Project WILD, a Calgary based professional musical development competition that pairs 12 up-and-coming Alberta country artists with seasoned pros who write, produce, and record a song together.
The CCMA Guitar Player of the Year and Producer of the Year nominees acknowledge not only his talent and skill, but his fortitude.
The 2018 CCMA will air Sept. 9 at 7:45 p.m. on CBC. The awards will be presented from the First Ontario Centre in Hamilton, Ont.