Artist Interview: The Other Favorites – Josh Turner and Carson McKee prove to be clever songwriters, not fools at all

From the moment I accepted Josh Turner’s call for our video interview, I felt a sense of talking to someone important. Having corresponded with Carson McKee, the other half of the famous duo The Other Favorites, I was excited to digitally “meet” them both. We’ve covered their journey as emerging young YouTubers to musical forces in the New York City live music scene. Their new album Fools will get a full review on our site in short order, but before that I wanted to chat with these gents about their lives and music. Here’s the argument in a nutshell; both Josh and Carson come across as eloquent speakers, self-admitted “word nerds,” and aficionados of an amazing array of music.

To be perfectly honest, I felt like we hit it off right away, spending a tad too much of our (probably too long) interview chatting about the Beatles. The funny thing is, it seems like we could have talked just as long about any number of artists from bluegrass, folk, or rock worlds. These talented artists play music really well, sure, but they also have a penchant for finding the small detail in something that can turn an experience into a song. That keen sense of observation and delight (or sometimes lament) about the world around them is what makes their original music so satisfying.

Josh explained, “You’d be surprised the extent to which we backed into a career in music.” His comment was a response to my leading question about the sort of grass roots “rise” of The Other Favorites from popular YouTubers. Turner studied music at Butler University in Indiana, but was not planning on having YouTube provide the full time work in the industry. However, over time and increased numbers of plays, the special offers from brands came rolling in. Through that platform, he has found himself playing music internationally and getting other lucrative offers.

But the story of the Other Favorites is not just a YouTube story; it’s a story of a few music lovers who root their creativity in a well-worn appreciation for the genre we all now call “classic rock.” Names like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Eagles, Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac make the list of influences for both. Then there are of course the bluegrass influences like Allison Krauss and Doc Watson. You take these combined with Turner’s guitar inspirations like Leon Kottke, Davey Graham, and John Fahey. Add in a recent obsession with modern greats like Ryan Adams and the neosoul revival (Kendrick Lamar, DeAngelo, etc.) and you have the recipe for some really remarkable new music. Seriously whether it’s iconic imagery or creative chord progressions, all of these styles can be heard in some form on the Other Favorites new music.

When it comes to how they wrote the album, though, there’s another layer to the story. While Turner is the one with the guitar solos, it’s McKee, an English, creative writing, and French graduate of the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), who pens the majority of the songs. His expressive vocal style is something that continues to garner lots of positive comments on YouTube, but the earnest lyrical content is what makes this Other Favorites album take the next step from their formative work. The songwriting process is ever evolving, but often McKee writes the basis for the song and then Turner comes alongside him, playing the “producer” role with tweaks here and there. Sometimes these adjustments are small and stylistic, but in the case of one of the great songs on the new album “Angelina,” it involved completely reimagining the rhythm and style of the song. This kind of songwriting tandem seems more cooperative than their inspirational Lennon-McCartney competition, but it suits these Other Favorites quite well.

One characteristic of the band that needs to come through in this interview is how they craft a sound and style that is timeless. Whether it’s a lyric on “New York Town” that pushes back against modern life or even their intentional old school stylistic influences, it’s clear that McKee and Turner are willing to exist outside of the “pop music” box today. Turner admits that it’s part of his mission to get excited about music that he enjoys and then introduce other people to it. That certainly happens on the YouTube channel, but I would also suggest that it happens through the beloved Americana blend of the Other Favorites originals. You’ll hear country, rock, bluegrass, and jazz laced through nearly every track.

I couldn’t help but ask them about the music industry today, which they treaded carefully. Finding themselves with an emerging career, people commenting in the thousands on their original work, and purchasing at a surprising rate, they were not willing to come out with the negative assessment that many in the “traditional” industry are doing. It’s a wonderful contradiction; musicians seeking to preserve classic music styles end up being a part of a musical renaissance that is reinventing the music industry. But Turner explained that the music industry is “a little bit fraught.” He explained some of their run ins with the traditional industry where most are interested in working with “already profitable groups.”

What I found most interesting, other than the witty banter and blatant love for just chatting about music, was the humility that these two artists convey. They have, by all counts, “made it” in the industry, but they still see themselves as emerging. We had a great discussion about things like promotion, but then McKee plaintively expressed that he’s just “grateful to have an audience.” He talked about how wonderful it is to have people know and sing along to his songs and that he doesn’t take that for granted. What a great place to be as an artist. There was a bit of the spirit of Jackson Browne in that comment, I thought.

As for a concluding sentiment, McKee described a desire to “plumb the depths of the 70s sound” in a way that brings “something new in our own circumstances.” This “constant search for authenticity in music” like their inspiration artist such as Dylan, the Beatles, or Eagles, seeks a heartfelt emotional connection, not an artifice. In a more succinct comment than I could ever paraphrase, McKee said the Other Favorites songwriting is about “filtering timeless ideas through your own experience.” They’ve certainly captured that on the new album.

If you’re looking to check out their ample back catalog of YouTube recordings of covers and originals, check it out. If you want to hear the new album, you can buy it on CD Baby or stream it online. If you dig the album, consider buying it instead of just streaming it. These are the types of musicians we want to be supporting.

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