Memphis High

We’re getting pretty damn good at this – again, we bring you an act before they’re bigger than Oprah (or something like that) – Memphis’ own Grant Vogelfanger and Witt McKay, the duo known as Memphis High. In the land of soul hugging blues beyond Nashville in the great south of America, Memphis High is collecting a following most established artists would envy. Some of the best producers in the world have already recognized the talent… and the debut record has yet to even hit your local iTunes Store.

The plan is push the first EP out by this fall – McKay says “I finally feel like we’re putting together a record that represents us, where we are at in our lives, and where we’re from.” It’s going to spot on due to the unique way they’re creating the collection, writing and recording the material at the same time. And while artists like Elvis and Al Green inspire Grant and Witt, don’t expect a replica of that sound on the release: “If you want to categorize it, our first EP is undoubtedly a Pop record. But I don’t think it’s like other pop records out there. When we first started writing songs for this EP, we had no clue as to what type of band we wanted to be. 40 songs later, the music spoke for itself. Since we didn’t know what type of band we wanted to be, we just experimented and didn’t put any rules on what we could or could not do. So the EP doesn’t follow the conventional guidelines of a pop record. It has hooky pop melodies, our southern style of guitars, and simple, honest lyrics.” Memphis High has already established quite the fan base with their energetic live show, and they’re going to continue doing what they do best. Check out the schedule. There’s so much more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Memphis High (Grant Vogelfanger and Witt McKay)
PensEyeView.com (PEV): With influences such as Al Green, the Dire Straits, Elvis, and a series of old Motown records, how would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in yourgenre?

If you want to categorize it, our first ep is undoubtedly a Pop record. But I don’t think it’s like other pop records out there. When we first started writing songs for this ep, we had no clue as to what type of band we wanted to be. 40 songs later, the music spoke for itself. Since we didn’t know what type of band we wanted to be, we just experimented and didn’t put any rules on what we could or could not do. So the ep doesn’t follow the conventional guidelines of a pop record. It has hooky pop melodies, our southern style of guitars, and simple, honest lyrics. The songs also feel a little larger than life. And every song means just as much to us as the next one. I don’t think that’s a mix you see very often in pop records now.

PEV: Calling Memphis home, what’s the best part about the Memphis music scene and as well, life in Memphis in general?

The best thing about the Memphis music scene is its dedication to the blues. I mean you could swing a dead cat behind your back in downtown Memphis and hit a blues player. But every single one is seriously good at and serious about their craft. I’ll never forget walking down Beale Street one day and hearing a homeless man singing “ain’t no sunshine’’ better than anyone I’ve ever heard sing it; and then I remember seeing a band playing an amazing version of a Jimi Hendrix song that same night. It was an awesome day.

PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
Luckily we got our start as a band at a very young age. We have been together almost 8 years, which is more than most bands can claim. The beginnings of our band were unique because we started out not playing instruments at all. We were simply vocalists at first singing old Motown songs. One day, when Witt and I were about 13 years old, we got the opportunity to sing for an amazing writer/producer named Trey Bruce(Glorianna, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, SheDaisy, Trace Adkins, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Carrie Underwood, Randy Travis). He saw the potential in our band through our voices and harmonies, but he knew that we needed a lot of work as well; and we really needed to play instruments. Witt and I had already been strumming a few chords here and there on the guitar so we made a decision to become a real band. And Trey got us to start writing songs. But our first show that we played when we picked up instruments was kind of disastrous. We played at some country club in Arkansas. The only people there were adults over the age of 55. Needless to say I don’t think they got it…
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Memphis High show?
Lots of guitar and lots of energy…When we go on stage, we play like it’s the first time we’re playing those songs.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
I just try to calm myself and think about the songs.
PEV: At only 17 you have already done more than many people twice your age but what has it been like working in the business at a rather young age?
I think it has been an extremely humbling experience. We have worked with so many people that have had so much more experience under their belt. But at the same time we have to lead in writing sessions because we are the artists. So it’s an odd experience trying to learn from someone that you are directing.
PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?
Our inspiration comes from events in our lives. Without a doubt our best songs come from real emotions. Those songs come together almost effortlessly.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
I think about it all the time. It still amazes how much we have changed since the beginning of our band.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Memphis High?
I think people may be surprised to hear that we are just normal, awkward teenagers.
PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a goal for you?
I don’t really know. I have been singing on stage since I was 6 years old. Since then I’ve always wanted to do music and nothing but music.
PEV: Planning for a record release this fall, what can fans expect from this work? How is working in the studio on your album, going for you?
We recorded and wrote our ep at the same time. As soon as we had an idea or melody, we recorded it and started building on the track.  I think is the best and most entertaining way to record an album, and I think fans will have a lot of fun listening to it.
PEV: Tell us about the story behind the band name.
We spent months and months trying to figure out a name. These were two words that I put together, and people seemed to really like it. So we went with it. A lot of bands try to come up with a name that’s unique but most of the time it just ends up being pretentious.  Ours is simple, and it shows where we’re from; we’ll let the music tell the rest about us.
PEV: With all your traveling is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
I want to play in the UK. They seem to have a special appreciation of pop music, and I would love to experience that.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?
Our friends and family have all been extremely supportive. It’s always fun to play in your hometown for your friends and family.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?
A present artist I would love to collaborate with would be Citizen Cope. This guy is a true artist. Mick Jagger said that music is a language that is felt in the bones. And Citizen Cope records just feel good inside and out. The way his lyrics and melody flow together is really inspiring. A past artist I would love to have collaborated with was The Police. The songwriting by Sting is completely amazing. And he is possibly one of the best vocalists in the business. I also love that they only have three members in the band. The music is simple, and without a doubt they are one of the greatest bands of all time.
PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
There is a pop-folk band coming out of Memphis named Star and Micey. A producer we worked with handed me an ep that they did in a basement and it was one of the best pop-folk records I had heard in a while.
PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think each of you would be your career?
Who knows what we would be doing. I don’t think we have even thought of alternatives to music ha.
PEV: So, what is next for Memphis High?
We are planning on touring a bunch and all over the country. We want everyone to hear this ep. But we are always writing and looking towards the next step for our music.

 

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