Jason Lee McKinney: Reitz Alumnus Music Star

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

“Sure. Well, I am Jason Lee McKinney. I was born and raised in Evansville. I lived near Burdette Park as a kid. Like my father before me, I am a proud graduate of the school on the hill. Go Panthers!
 
I have lived most of my adult life in Nashville, TN. Now I split time between Nashville and Memphis. I am married with 4 kids (3 boys and 1 girl). In addition to recording and touring with my band, I have a doctorate in Leadership and teach Music Business at the collegiate level. I also have started a podcast called Nashville to Memphis.”
When and how did you get started with your career in music? How did the Jason Lee McKinney Band develop?
 
“Music was always a big part of my household growing up. No one in my family was a musician, but it was a constant. My dad played rugby for the Evansville Rugby Club, and the team would serve as security guards for a lot of the concerts that passed through town, so I got to see a lot of music in action. My Dad was also a huge music fan and knew all kinds of music facts and trivia. I have a brother who is more than a decade older than me, so I also was exposed to the music he listened to when I was very young. All that sort of sparked the desire to pursue a career in music, long before I knew if I actually had any ability.

JLMB isn’t my first band, for sure. I had a couple of other bands that had record deals and that gave me experience and connections within the industry. I had actually left the music industry for 3 years before JLMB started. When I came back, I had no plans to make it a vocation again. We started playing a couple of gigs a month, but eventually it grew and grew, and now we are 5 albums in and have literally seen so much of the world. We have toured Europe extensively, as well as the Middle East and Africa. It has been a crazy ride.”

When did you first discover your passion for music?

“As far as actually taking steps to develop as a writer and performer…that all started in high school. I was in both choir and marching band, plus I played in a local rock band with some buddies. I always kept my focus on where I wanted to end up, not where I was at. I had a long list of achievements I wanted to accomplish from, really, my freshman year. Some of those goals I still have not achieved (and probably never will), but a large chunk of them I have. I always had this drive—part 

function and part dysfunction. It is a strange mix of always having something to prove and wanting to leave something meaningful behind.”

Outside of your work with music and your band, what do you most enjoy doing in your free time?

“What is this free time you speak of? Haha. Honestly, between touring, recording, teaching an average of 7 classes per semester, podcasting, and being Dad and husband I really have no free time. It is something I am working on; creating space and room to enjoy life a little more. My favorite things to do are watch and play basketball, and I love documentaries. I could watch docs for hours and completely lose track of time.”