Ken and Thomas, better known as McKay x McCourt are no strangers to the blog, in fact you may remember me gushing about how great they are in a recent review of their EP 1157.
Naturally I was really excited to do this interview, so here’s what happened when I spoke to the duo about how they met and the new music they have on the way.
How long have you both been doing music?
McCourt: I started playing the guitar at 9 years old but I would say I first started taking it seriously at age 14 when I started writing and producing. I always enjoyed singing though! I thought I was Chris Brown for a good while until I heard myself back and realised I needed a bit more work and that.
McKay: Yeah I literally match up exactly with what Tom said, but I’ve been playing the piano and studying music theory as well. Growing up in Azerbaijan also meant that I was exposed to a lot of traditional street music, which at a young age gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of music as a universal commodity.
How does being in a group compare with being solo?
McCourt: It definitely makes a difference having more than one input. I like the sense of validation that comes with working with another person because you are both pushing and learning from each other especially in the studio – which means that the outcome is always better. That in itself is really important – I personally feel like I’ve been able to get to a whole new level by observing someone else and how they work within a creative environment.
McKay: I feel that when everyone is genuinely into the music and the energy is up in the studio it makes a world of difference. It’s nice to have a balance of character and technical skill in the room so that the productivity and the vibe never dies. Also, I don’t mind the thought of solo but being in a group is definitely a lot more fun when performing live.
Describe the moment where you realised the two of you worked well musically, what did that feel like?
McCourt: It was crazy. We had been chatting over Facebook messenger for a good few months before we even met each other and so we were sending each other music back and forth and thats when I started to get excited because it was all similar artists and songs that we were listening to. But Ken sent me over a beat one day which ended up being “Come Through” and as soon as I heard it, that melody for the hook just came to my head and I knew like this was gonna be one of the best tracks I had ever had anything to do with up to that point – the feeling was too good.
McKay: Yeah I actually heard about Tom through a discovery and development session that he played at. He was labelled as the next Craig David, and I love Craig David so I thought I had to send this guy some of my beats. The melody’s that he came back with were so different to how I had imagined them and I rated that so much because he really put his own stamp on those songs, I can’t wait to see what this boy can do in the future.
Moving on to your EP, what was the inspiration behind it?
McCourt : The EP as a whole is sort of like a phone call. *57 is what you add to a dialled number to trace a phone call within the UK, but it’s 1157 on a rotary phone and we’re old school so thats where the title comes from. The tracks themselves are ordered in such a way that makes the EP quite a dramatic project going from a happy and lighthearted mood which is “Talk To Me” through to a darker feel that is “Come Through” via “Cellular” which is probably a more attractive and relaxed space in the project. Its cool to think of it sort of like a conversation that gets more intense throughout and ends quite sharply almost as if someone has hung up or the signal has dropped – leaving the rest of the conversation to pick back up somewhere in the future…
With only 3 songs on the track list how were you able to chose which ones to put out there?
McCourt: Before the release of the EP those three songs were the only ones that we had really made together so it was an easy choice! They all fitted the theme and what we were after for the project as well which was a blessing because it meant that we could focus on the release right away. However, we do have more in the works but we’ll probably save that for after we’ve gained a bit more momentum from putting on shows and performing it.
The EP was clearly just a taster of your capabilities, what can we expect for future projects?
McCourt : A lot of variety. We’re still working on our sound as a duo but trust me, theres always that consistent feel present in every track, and that will carry on in our future projects – its just a case of honing in on it.
McKay: I feel like bold, clear and consistent productions are the way forward in this day and age. Being able to capture and create an emotional message and place it in a song that people can dance to is also definitely something that we will be looking to do.
Is the a release date for the album?
McCourt: Not yet! But we will be sure to let everyone know as soon as we’ve got it down.
Have you ever performed your music live and do you have any upcoming performances?
McCourt: We’ve never performed as a duo before BUT, we have our first live show in Southampton on Saturday 26th May at the Loft so to everyone who can – make sure to save the date and come on through! It’ll be one hell of a night we promise you that.
What makes you guys stand out from all the other R&B artists out there?
McCourt : I’m the first artist in RnB to sing in an American accent and burst out into a Scottish one when I speak. McKay doesn’t have the accent but he’s even more of a Scottish mink than me. Our music is alright too.
McKay: Aye, I feel that we make conscious, thought-provoking, music that still bounces with a certain swagger that makes you feel good. We’re not preaching politics, but we’re not exactly about the money and cars either. We’re real and people can relate to that.
With you both being able to produce and sing, does that make the creative process easier or harder regarding your roles in the duo?
McCourt : It makes it more interesting and just means we can communicate better when expressing ideas or things that would sound good in the studio! Since we both have knowledge concerning production and singing, we can both be very flexible and versatile in any environment.
McKay: It would only be harder if we got in each others way, but luckily we listen to the same kind of music so we generally share similar ideas when we’re being creative.
Any last shoutouts or plugs?
McCourt: Shouts to the whole Lovemade team for their continuous backing and support. We wouldn’t have been able to release “1157” to the standard we did without you lot so thank you. Also love to Fin Wakefield – if it wasn’t for him we might not have even met and none of this would have happened and I’m too glad that it did. Also a special thanks to you Ray for your interest and all the exposure, help and attention that you’ve given us over the past few weeks, it means more than can be expressed.
And to those who know – Fleet Rule.
McKay:I’d like to shout out mutant Mike the mastering wizard / engineer for yet again an amazing job. I’d also like to shout out Tyrell Trey for showing interest in doing a Talk To Me remix, can’t wait to hear what he’s got in store for it. Finally, thank you for the interview Ray, it’s been a pleasure answering your questions.