Hey music lovers! Lisa here, and I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the talented and multifaceted musician, Kevin McGeary. From his beginnings in rock bands to his current genre of comedic and anti-pop music, Kevin’s creative process and dedication to his craft truly shine through. His music is characterized by formal innovation, linguistic vitality, and emotional truth, and he constantly challenges himself to stay fresh and innovative. Kevin’s favorite part of the creative process is brainstorming, and he loves to sit in coffee shops and jot down ideas that eventually become his catchy, funny, and thought-provoking songs. Kevin’s musical inspirations range from Debussy to Jim Steinman, and he admires artists who are unapologetically over-the-top. With a PhD in Creative Writing in his sights and a passion for continuing to innovate and grow as an artist, we can’t wait to see what Kevin McGeary has in store for us next!
What first got you into music?
I got my first guitar at age 13 in 1997. I was in bands in my teens, and our heroes
included the big names at the time, Oasis, Radiohead, and The Manic Street Preachers.
By the time I had finished university, I was focused on the classical guitar, a solo
Having moved to China, I started writing songs in Mandarin-Chinese when I was 24,
and eventually found that musical comedy was the genre that turned my weaknesses
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
In the academic year 2003/04, my creative writing teacher Archie Markham told us
that good writing is characterised by three things – formal innovation, linguistic
vitality, and emotional truth.
I release songs as The Kev, and the genre can probably best be described as comedy or
anti-pop, but those three principles are what I aim for the most. My The Kev songs
tend to fall into four categories:
- I play a character that behaves in a way that I never would but people find amusing.
Examples of these include ‘Cheap Hotel’ and ‘Romance Tonight’
- A whimsical story that is uncomfortably close to the truth. Examples of this include
‘Bucket List’ and ‘Voice of a Generation’
- A monologue in which I say exactly what I really think, put it to an upbeat melody
and hope people don’t get too annoyed. These include ‘Epiphany’, ‘Glorious Times’,
and ‘Someone Somewhere’.
- Meta takes on popular genres. These include ‘Wiggle Your Hips’, ‘The Great
British Indie Song’, and ‘My Favourite Bunch of Millionaires’.
What is your creative process like?
My favourite part of the creative process is the first one, brainstorming. That is, sitting
in a coffee shop with a pen and paper and writing the seeds of ideas. Eventually, these
start to come together, and once an idea is in place, it can take a matter of minutes to
finish a song.
Even so, I rewrite my lyrics all the time to keep them fresh and surprising for
Can you tell us a bit more about your favorite song and what inspired you to make it?
It may not be one of my best, but the most signature piece I have written so far is
‘Romance Tonight’. It contains my usual elements, contemporary cultural phenomena,
for example the expression ‘woke snowflakes’, social problems in the form of
homelessness, and after a seemingly very conventional premise, it eventually descends
into both the surreal and the obscene.
As for which piece I would most want to be remembered for, probably the Chinese-
language version of ‘Hope It Might Be So’, 《希望会这样》, which I finished in
2022 and was the last song on my last Chinese album.
Which famous musicians do you admire?
The composer that I listen to most is probably Debussy, for his mixture of the familiar
and the ethereal. The songwriter of recent times that I listen to most is probably Jim
Steinman, because he is so unapologetically over-the-top.
Film scores are still a relatively young artform, so it is too early to say how culturally
significant the best of them are, but my favourite film composer is Ennio Morricone,
with honourable mentions to Dimitri Tiomkin and Elmer Bernstein.
As for musical comedy, the family-friendly The Arrogant Worms are great, as is the
decidedly family-unfriendly Jon Lajoie.
What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
When it comes to getting into trouble for my creative work, you would think that
writing satire in China, the largest authoritarian state in human history, could have got
me into serious trouble, but it hasn’t yet.
I had an English-language comedy song called ‘She Said’, which I wrote in late 2012
and long thought was my best English song. However, when I performed it in Salford
in 2019, it quickly became obvious that the humour no longer held up after the Metoo
movement, so I removed it from my sets.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
That as I approach middle age, it is imperative that I stop accepting advice from every
jerk I meet. This was an unfortunate habit I had through my twenties.
What’s next for you?
My tutoring business is chuntering along contentedly, and I have been
creatively fertile for almost four years now. However, both of these situations
are built on sand, so I am still looking for a game-changer. There is a good
chance that within the next five years I will start a PhD in Creative Writing
which, under the best case scenario, could bring both paid work and personal
passion projects together.