Artist interview and show review with The Other Favorites — Sitting down with Carson McKee and Josh Turner

If you’ve been around ETTG for a bit, you’ll know that we have covered these guys several times and even interviewed them a while back. For this feature, we got a chance to actually meet these beguilingly handsome and suave troubadours. Okay, but seriously, they’re great. Let’s talk about what we talked about:

It turns out that 2019 was quite the year for these gents as they collaborated on some pretty amazing work as well as each pursuing some of their own work. The duo toured with Reina del Cid and Toni Lindgren throughout Europe with Last Triumph Management. Carson McKee took a bit of time to tour regionally (around the northeast of the US) with Kami Malz.

The European tour wasn’t Turner’s only trip overseas, as he also did some work touring with a Paul Simon show featuring the iconic album Graceland. Turner had worked with Maple Tree Entertainment on a production of Simon and Garfunkel previously, so the Graceland show was a nice opportunity for more performances of classic music. It took Turner about a month to shift into gear to “enter into the world” of Paul Simon. He described the experience as “incredibly positive.” For those of us who have been comparing him to Paul Simon for years, it was nice to hear him cover a few of those great tunes.

I was able to catch the guys on a fall tour in the US that brought them through The Winchester in Cleveland. Having watched the guys for years now, it was great to see them live in person. They struck me as the amiable gentlemen who invited me (figuratively) into their apartment for jams and singalongs over the years. It’s this intentionally approachable style that makes them feel like best friends (or kids!) of the audience members. Wholesome, talented, and infectiously entertaining, the duo only continue to get better in their perfomance, arrangements, and overall presentation.

The gents shared a drink with me (thanks again, guys!) while we talked about the past year. There was a tangible sense of relief in the room – they were glad to be winding down a busy year of tour. While they seemed a bit road weary, they were certainly thankful for the chance to be there. We chatted a bit about the heterogeneous nature of their audience, the depth of their styles covered, and of course a bit about the status of their YouTube channels.

Turner continues to grow his impressive audience with some unique collaborations involving other YouTubers and artists. I also asked McKee about his channel, which continues to grow and show us another part of his personality. Although McKee does a lot of the writing for The Other Favorites, it’s great to see his style come through on his own channel. He has plans to roll out a new Patreon as he creates a direction for his content. He plans to do a bit more in terms of covering classic country music (he mentioned Willie Nelson and Guy Clark – yes!) as well as making the channel a vehicle for original music as well. If you’re not already following him, now’s a great time to drop that sub on his channel.

I had a great time chatting with Josh about how he finds the incredible collaborators on his channel. It’s one of those comments I see regularly on the videos, “where do you FIND these people?” I naively assumed it was his music school connections, but I am so glad I asked because his answer was much better than my assumptions. Turner explained that in the early days of his channel he invited artists that he knew, but now that he’s in New York he does a lot of networking through social media. He developed an argument about his “mixed feelings” for social media, but it has been a successful tool in helping him create this incredible network. For example, he found Reina del Cid because she beat him to the punch on several really great covers (it’s fun-filled competition, he insists). He found Haley Blais and Allison Young both on Instagram. The key, for Turner, is that the artist must have a personality that will make the recording enjoyable. Of course they have to be quality musicians in their own right, but for the mood of the channel to work properly, the collaboration has to feel natural and like a couple of friends making music together. In the best outcome, as with Reina and Toni, they really become friends and the collaboration is a free expression of that chemistry.

Turner’s 2019 also included releasing his first solo album, As Good a Place As Any. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s definitely worth giving a spin. He spent time on tour writing the album so that in early 2019 he was able to record and produce the album in his apartment. He mentioned, “I want this for myself.” For someone so addicted to challenging himself, it’s not surprising that he made this choice to pursue writing and producing his album. I’ll spare you the full review here, but suffice it to say “Ladybug” is my personal favorite on this album. If you only have time for one, start with that track.

As for their plans for 2020, they already have half of the year booked so look for announcements about whether they’ll be in your city! They also plan to have a new album coming in the next year. If you’re curious about what this duo is like live, I invite you to check out the Live in London album.

My personal reflections on the duo’s performance could be a whole other article, so I’ll try to be brief. The connection between McKee and Turner is just as lively – if not more so – in the live setting as it is on their myriad videos. The string work is in sync and the vocal harmonies are fabulous. Josh’s banjo playing is as iconic as ever while Carson’s vocal is even better in person than I imagined. His tone seems to cut right through the room, at times like a classic crooner and other times like a lonesome country baritone. The ability to bounce between genres and styles makes this duo a real treat, harkening back to the variety shows of the mid 20th century, where people would sit around the television and sing along with their favorite artists to American standards. I got chills several times throughout the performance, but the first came in hearing their duo’s original song “Angelina.” The overall sound is quite full, with the guitars filling the room really well. The sincere expression of Lefty Frizzell’s classic “Long Black Veil” was chilling in its hat tip to the original. Carrying that great American standard theme, they also included Hank Williams’ hit “Hey good lookin’.” For me, though, the performance of Dylan’s “Don’t think twice, it’s alright” fulfilled my wildest dreams of hearing it live. It’s my favorite recording of theirs, so I was ecstatic when they played it live. It made my night and is a moment I will remember for many years.

It’s hard to write something like this with some feigned passive “media observer” style. I’m not just media; I’m a fan as well. I can’t thank these guys enough for taking the time to talk with me. But more than that, thanks for putting on such a great show for a crowd of people in a Rust Belt town in late fall. It was truly a delightful evening.

Make sure to follow Josh and Carson on social media so you can catch their announcements for their new The Other Favorites album in 2020, as well as tour dates coming soon.

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