Once a Bluebird, always a Bluebird? Joey McGill has gone from being a Highlands Bluebird graduate in 2006 to a Crook. McGill plays stand-up bass for the Austin, Texas country band, Crooks.
McGill explains, "I moved to Austin, Texas in the fall of 2010 with a few college buddies who were looking to pursue creative interests that had nothing to do with our degrees or our professional upward mobility. We were all recent college grads who had played in various ensembles and projects together throughout our college tenure. We moved to Austin on a lark to pursue music while we still had the time and the freedom to do it."
Fast-forward a couple years to 2012 and McGill became a part of the thriving creative community that makes Austin world-famous. This is were the Crooks came into play.
"Being part of an act that tours nationally requires equal parts networking and happy accident, which is what ultimately brought me to play bass for this current project. The guitarist in my previous band was in another project whose bassist also played for Crooks. Once that project's touring schedule began to ramp up, he had to choose between one project and the other. Lucky for all party's concerned, I was available and willing to hop on board with Crooks, and I've been a part of the project ever since."
Always keen on creative expression, McGill always had mentors in his life that encouraged him to take risks without regret, which has been a huge factor in the way he has lived life to this day.
"My teachers, Cyndy Noran and John Williamson, nurtured that mentality during my middle school years by getting me involved in drama productions and other creative activities such as poetry slams and talent shows." said McGill. "My high-school mentor, Teri Foltz, was an incredibly supportive, creative, and nurturing soul as well. She challenged me to take on more responsibility in drama productions and improve myself as a creative writer and thinker, which ultimately led to me pursuing such a creative path. I owe a lot of who I am today to these folks."
McGill also found inspiration through other kids that shared his drive and passion.
"I was also very lucky to be a part of a group of creative souls in high-school...kids who preferred jamming out in their basements and being expressive above anything else." McGill adds, "We were always producing something musical...be it a Christmas album, a rap album, a rock album, what have you. Being part of a creative group of people like that during those formative years is very important because it gives a certain level of honesty to the music you make in later years. You aren't just picking up a guitar and playing "Wagon Wheel" at parties anymore. It's a lifestyle that you let consume you. Ultimately, I consider creative expression a lifestyle I have chosen to pursue regardless of my insecurities or fears about the future. Because if you can't embrace your passions and surrender yourself to them, what's the point? That is to say I see my creativity being the primary compass that dictates the direction my life goes henceforth."
McGill is currently seeing where this project takes him creatively. The sky is the limit in Austin where he can devote a lot of time to a touring act but also have other creative outlets on the side. Austin is a community of artists with many ways for an artist to express themselves.
"I never fear for the life of a project because the community is so supportive and accommodating. Other artists always got your back in Austin." McGill said.
McGill manages packing operations at a local brewery which allows him the flexibility to pursue music while still being able to pay the bills.
"So in that regard I'm a far cry from your typical starving artist, which is nice." McGill expressed with a laugh.
McGill has played in many large venues, including the legendary Austin City Limits. Crooks are nationally syndicated on NPR and is getting a lot of traction in the industry.
"It takes a lot of hard work to build a life like this, and we still play to empty rooms when we're in towns that know nothing about us. That's just the way it works. The empty rooms are always overshadowed by the packed theaters filled with fans singing YOUR song lyrics. It's a cool way to live life."
Crooks will be playing at the Southgate House Revival in Newport on August 21st. The new release, Wildfire, is now available at http://crookscountry.com/store/ and any major online retailer. For more information on Crooks, visit their website or Facebook page. To watch the video for their single, "Fork In The Road", visit YouTube.