Jeremiah McKinley is a folk rock duo from Kernersville, North Carolina who plays what Jeremiah Christianlikes to call "dirty folk" - bringing gritty blues vocals and distorted guitars to traditional folk stories. The Penguin Rocks presents this interview with Jeremiah McKinley.
Tell me about your band. What type of music do you play? We are brothers Jeremiah Christian and Noah McKinley Smith. We grew up in a rural part of North Carolina, listening to a lot of traditional folk, bluegrass and country, as well as 60s and 70s rock. When we started writing our own music, those influences helped us begin to find our sound.
How long has the band been around? Is there a story behind the band name? We have been around since 2019. Jeremiah McKinley is a mashup of my first name and my brothers middle name. When we were younger we would create a player on our favorite football video game, and when we made him we always combined our name. When we started making music it was an obvious choice for us when we picked a name.
The song 'Senior Year' is a reflection of growing up in a rural town in the south, and young love. I think it is one lots of people can connect with, you meet someone and are on fire immediately, but the timing isn’t right or things don’t work out the way you had hoped, but like all things the refrain is the best things always take some time.
Who are the members of the band and what instrument do they each play? I am Jeremiah, and I play rhythm guitar, bass, keyboard, and sing lead vocals. My brother Noah plays lead guitar, bass, and background and some lead vocals as well. For a lot of shows I play a suitcase kick drum, but sometimes we can get Big Tim (Our Father) to sit in on drums for us. We are a family band that loves making music together.
Tell me about your latest record. Our latest release has been a group of four singles, Sing For My Supper, It Ain’t Easy, Same Old Heart, and Wedding Toast. We are really proud of all of our music, but these are the first that we have had a producers help to mix and master. We have a much better sound quality and are very excited about the direction that we are headed.
How many records, eps, or singles has the band put out in total? How has the band changed over time? We have put out one record, an ep and five singles up to this point. You can really see our progression from song to song. We had no clue what we were doing when we first started recording. A whole lot of trial and error to do a lot of the technical things, but with each song and day we have started to find our process and have learned some tricks. While eventually we would like to re record some of our older songs, we are still very proud when we look back and see where we started. One of the biggest changes we have made is to stop overthinking and accept some mistakes. Perfection is a lofty goal when recording music and the mistakes are what give songs life. We don’t use as many takes when we record now, because it seems like the further you get from the first takes the song starts to lose a little life.
What was one of your favorite gigs? What made it memorable? With the shut downs we hadn’t had much of a chance to play so we started holding our own little outdoor neighborhood shows. They are some of my favorite because it was a chance to get up in front of people again. They may not have been big shows but they had a lot of energy and everyone seems to have had a great time.
Where does the band regularly play shows? Where would you like to play if you could? We have three or four bars around our area that we play at right now. We are hoping to branch out to more cities and states now that things have started to open back up. We would love to Play The Ritz in Raleigh, North Carolina. We have been to a lot of shows there and it would be great to get to play there one day. But more than that we are excited to get to travel and meet new people all over. We would like to play at as many places that will have us.
What would be the “next step” that you’d like to see the band take? Playing in some festivals. We would love to be able to broaden our audience and that is a great way. We have this mentality that on any night if we can get in front of people we can win them over.
Finally, if the band does any cover songs. What artists do you cover? Who would be an artist you haven’t covered yet that you’d like to cover? So far we have covered The Marshall Tucker Band, Amy Winehouse, The Head And The Heart, Cage The Elephant, Ray LaMontagne, and The Band. We don’t do a ton of covers and try to do ones we can put our own spin on because when you try to play it like that artist you usually end up not doing them justice. We are working on some Jimi Hendrix covers for some of our upcoming shows. He is a big influence on us and we have always loved his music.
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