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Gifted singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley will release his debut solo record at age 40 on John Prine’s Oh Boy records – after he almost gave up on music altogether, his story is one of hope and sincerity, and he is living proof that great songs will reach the right ears eventually, even if it takes time.
McKinley’s Oh Boy Records solo debut, Die Midwestern
, is deeply rooted in street soul, country, punk, and gospel and draws on personal stories, set against the backdrop of his hometown of Cincinnati Ohio. It was crafted downriver, in Memphis’ legendary Sam Phillips Recording Service, produced by GRAMMY award-winning Matt Ross-Spang, with an all-star Memphis band of Ken Coomer, David Smith, Will Sexton, Rick Steff, Jessie Munson and Reba Russell. There, McKinley recorded ten remarkable songs – some dating back fifteen years – all penned with a weight, honesty and gritty-hope that comes from living in the rustbelt city where his songs were born. Matt Ross-Spang, stated, “I am in awe of Arlo’s songs and his dedication and embodiment of each one when he performs them . His willingness to bare it all on this record was more electric than the equipment used to capture it.”
Arlo McKinley is the last artist John and his son Jody signed together to their label Oh Boy records. Jody Whelan shared, “John was reserved in his praise for songwriters. I played him a couple of Arlo’s songs and he heard Bag Of Pills and said, “that’s a good song” which for him, was very high praise. He loved Arlo’s voice, this big guy with a sweet, soulful, gospel voice. He loved the dichotomy of the hard life lived, presented through such beautiful songs and John was very excited about the promise of the album’s release.”
McKinley stated, “The feeling of knowing that a hero of mine took time out of his day to come see me perform is such an accomplishment in itself to me that if it all ended the next day and I found out music just wasn’t in the cards for me, I would’ve still considered everything I have done as a success.”
On Die Midwestern
, McKinley’s songs bleed truth and emotion from a heart scarred by wild nights and redeemed by soulful Sunday morning confessions. His lyrics are laid bare, stark and arresting in their honesty, and often penned from real-life experience. “Bag Of Pills” is an autobiographical and frank account of the drug issues which affect his hometown, “ I wrote it after I sold some pills so I could take a girl out. Those were rough times and also right around the time I started seeing a real drug addiction very close to me. After watching so many friends die from drug abuse it turned into me praying that it doesn’t get any worse while knowing that it will resulting in my writing of the lyrics, ‘life I don’t want it if it’s so easy to die.’”
McKinley’s Die Midwestern remains an album of hope and he knows first hand how his music can connect with his growing audience.
“I had a guy who was dealing with brain cancer walk up to me and say that he was done with it but something in my songs resonated with him and made him get out and start living even though he knows what is ahead of him. Nothing is more important than that. That’s why I write songs like I do. I’m just another lost, hurting person in this place – I just like to sing about it.”