Derrick McKee
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Derrick McKee

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Aug
30
Derrick McKee @ River City

Wheeling, West Virginia, USA

Wheeling, West Virginia, USA

Aug
30
Derrick McKee @ Snowshoe Mountain & Resort

Snowshoe, West Virginia, USA

Snowshoe, West Virginia, USA

Aug
23
Derrick McKee @ Flannagan's

Bellaire, Ohio, USA

Bellaire, Ohio, USA

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MORGANTOWN -- A new recording label and an arts supply company with an innovative easel design carried the day at the 2007 West Virginia's Open for Business Student Business Plan Competition finals April 14 in Morgantown.

It was the competition's fifth year but its first as a statewide event -- so for the first time, it featured 10 finalists rather than five.

"I was thrilled," said Mindy Walls, director of West Virginia University Entrepreneurship Center, which originated and hosts the competition. "It was much more difficult to determine a winner this year than it has been any year that I've been involved."

Last September, 50 teams representing nine colleges and universities across the state submitted written proposals in two categories: lifestyle and technology. Twenty advanced in October to second-round presentations at Flatwoods.

The 10 finalists, five in each category, competed Saturday for two bundles of startup cash and business services.

Among the 10 was lifestyle category winner Navway Records, proposed by Wheeling native and WVU industrial relations master's student Derrick McKee.

"We're going to discover and develop new artists," McKee explained in an interview. "We'll work with them to perfect their live shows and also get them in the recording studio and produce albums and market them on a regional level."

Navway's business model is to produce a fan base that is appealing to larger labels and then retain royalty rights when the artists are signed.

A singer/songwriter who is trained in the operation of a recording studio, McKee said he has been running Navway at a low level of activity since January 2005. With the additional motivation and resources supplied by the business plan competition, he organized as an LLC in Morgantown and created a complete business plan.

"There were tons of resources made available to us," McKee said of the competition.

"They assigned us business coaches, provided us with access to conferences that gave us training on developing your finances, marketing, whatever aspect of business you needed to polish up on," he said. "And the networking -- I just met tons of great people that are going to be great resources for Navway Records."

Taking first place in the technology category was Arachnovation, proposed by a brother and sister team: Marshall University fine arts student Will Starcher and WVU-Parkersburg computer science student Margie Starcher.

"Arachnovation turns the art world upside down with its revolutionary Spider Easel," said the entry in Saturday's program for the team, whose members were not available to be interviewed for this story.

"The patent-pending Spider Easel combines stability, portability and versatility in a lightweight, affordable package," read a description from an earlier round of the competition.

The Spider Easel can hold as many as four canvases of virtually any shape and size, it continued, and can tilt through a wide range to accommodate watercolors, oils and pastels.

Arachnovation has finished its last prototype, Walls said.

"They've had people using them."
The two winning teams each receive $10,000 in cash, sponsored this year by BB&T and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Walls said.

They also receive accounting services from Dixon Hughes, legal services from Spilman, Thomas & Battle, business card and letterhead printing from Signs Plus and real or virtual office space at the WVU Business Incubator.

Winners are required to establish their businesses in West Virginia.
"When we began this project last spring, our goal was to start two new West Virginia businesses: one technology and one lifestyle," Walls said. "I think our end result is that seven or eight of the 10 will move forward with or without the money." - The State Journal


Graduate school is tough. So is starting and running your own record label. So is being an up-and-coming musician. West Virginia University student Derrick McKee is doing all three.

As a solo artist, McKee released his first full-length album, "Ticket to Somewhere," in August. He describes his sound as "catchy pop rock" and places specific emphasis on telling stories with his lyrics.

"My lyrical style is conversational rather than poetic," McKee said.

McKee plays guitar and piano, and is currently working on learning to play the drums. He played all the acoustic guitar, most of the electric and hired a bass player and drummer while recording "Ticket to Somewhere." Scott Simon of The Argument played keys and synth on the album.

McKee has performed at a number of venues, from the Hard Rock Cafe to 123 Pleasant St. He also fulfilled a dream of his and opened for The Clarks.

"I've played with Avery, The Argument and The New Relics here in Morgantown," he said.

Some of McKee's biggest influences include John Mayer, Third Eye Blind and Billy Joel.

"I love the way certain bands will have six or seven instruments blended together, like the Counting Crows," McKee said.

Recently, McKee started his own business - a record label. Navway Records began last January when he received enough funding to get it off the ground.

"I love the business aspect of running a label as much as I love getting up on stage and performing," he said.

The first project on the label was McKee's own CD. He hopes to keep the label small and use it to help launch artists to larger major labels.

"I hope to have a new band signed by August," said McKee. "It's a developmental label. It's to get them on the road and market them."

Currently, McKee is being featured in the "Next Big Thing" competition on AlternativeAddction.com. The Web site exposes artists to about 2 million visitors each month. The contest is based on fan voting.

"It's definitely the biggest opportunity I've had," said McKee.

If voted the winner, McKee would be AlternativeAddiction.com's Artist of the Month in December and have his music played on its Internet radio as well as receiving a promotions package.

"It would be huge because I haven't had a ton of time to market my CD like I want to," he said.

McKee has high hopes for his career in the music industry.

"I hope to get signed to a major label. I hope to get CDs out and perform," he said. "I'd like to produce and develop other artists."

McKee's CD is available online at his Web site www.dmckeemusic.com, amazon.com, Rhapsody and locally at The Den. - The Daily Athenaeum


Not many college students graduate and put their degrees to immediate use in careers they love, but musician Derrick McKee is an exception.

Graduating from West Virginia University in May with a bachelor's degree in business administration and marketing, McKee will transition into becoming a full-time musician. But, more importantly, he will delve into running his own record label, Navway Records, which he started at the end of winter break.

McKee planned on pursuing a career in pharmaceutical sales, but his interest in music kept him from completely committing to the idea. Then, as his previous pop-rock band Blue Skies Mourning broke up due to members having different goals after graduation, McKee found himself wondering how to continue in music while not letting his background in business go to waste.

"(Music) is a business, and you have to treat it like one," McKee said.

His drive to continue playing music and to make money doing it resulted in a courageous decision not only to become a solo artist, but to start his own record label as well.

"Whatever I learn in class, I'm using it to start the record label," McKee said. "I always thought back on things with small regrets. If I don't pursue this for two or three years now, maybe I'll look back one day and regret it."

McKee's business education put him in excellent position to start a record label. He put together a 13-page business plan that highlighted the label's goals. He acquired a business license that enabled him to get bank funding to finish recording his album, "Ticket to Somewhere," which will be released toward the end of April.

During every spare moment between classes and working for the WVU Foundation, McKee has been recording and co-producing "Ticket to Somewhere" at Studio L in Wheeling, W.Va. But his goal is not just to establish himself as a musician; he wants Navway to become a successful "incubator" label, which would involve finding and developing young talent before moving them to the next level.

Along the way, McKee has gotten help from established bands such as The New Relics and his friends, namely first-year law student Josh Mullins, whom he met while working for the WVU Foundation.

"It just turned out that our plans and timetables worked together," Mullins said.

Mullins is the unofficial "vice-president" of Navway records, and besides helping McKee make contacts and perform at gigs, he hopes to incorporate some of his interests and career goals of entertainment law and video production in the future.

McKee's drive to be a businessman and musician is just the beginning as he will be focused on making "Ticket to Somewhere" as big a success as possible while beginning to tour this summer.

Derrick McKee is a man with a mission, and he has the know-how to make it work. With the start of his record label, blossoming solo career and impending graduation, McKee is doing just what his song "Carpe Diem (Down to Me)" suggests - he is seizing the day.

Music samples and additional information about McKee can be found at www.dmckeemusic.com. - The Daily Athenaeum


Derrick McKee is playing an acoustic show tonight at Fuel as a preview of the 12 tracks that will appear on his upcoming album, "Ticket to Somewhere."

"With the CD coming together, I wanted to give people a chance to hear these songs," McKee said.

Fuel owner Robert Lightner was also instrumental in getting McKee to put his new solo material on exhibit.

"Now that he's doing his solo thing, this will give fans of Blue Skies Mourning a chance to check him out," Lightner said.

Formerly the front man and guitarist of Blue Skies Mourning, McKee made the transition to solo artist at the beginning of January when the future of the band came into question.

McKee said that with all three members graduating in May, his goals were still grounded in making a career in the music industry.

He immediately set out to achieve those goals, and since Christmas break, he started his own record label and began production of "Ticket to Somewhere," which will tentatively debut near the end of April.

McKee has been recording the album at Studio L outside Weirton, W.Va., with co-producer Rick Witkowski, who has worked with artists such as Scott Blasey of The Clarks.

McKee said that he has been completely behind the recording process by singing and playing electric and acoustic guitar and bass - all while learning to do his own production.

He has also recruited the drumming services of Berkley School of Music student B.C. Taylor, the son of musician B.E. Taylor, and Dom Liberati, B.C.'s cousin, for extra bass.

Opening up for McKee at tonight's show is Shannon Jones, a singer/songwriter who regularly opens up for The New Relics.

"She's got a great voice," McKee said. "She's a talent."

Jones plays several instruments and will contribute to the laid-back setting that will be present at Fuel tonight.

There is a $5 cover, and the show is set to begin at 10 p.m.

"It'll be a stripped down, intimate setting," McKee said. "Just me and the guitar."

Additional information on Derrick McKee as well as some demos of the tracks he is currently working on can be found at www.dmckeemusic.com and www.myspace.com/derrickmckeemusic. - The Daily Athenaeum


Discography

SINGLE DISCOGRAPHY:
"My Biggest Fan Is My Mom"

*Received measurable airplay on 17 Music Row-reporting stations across the country including:

- WAAC - Valdosta, GA (heavy rotation)
- WPPL - Blue Ridge, GA (heavy)
- WBYZ - Baxley, GA (heavy)
- WKDP - Corbin, KT (heavy)
- KVVP - Leesville, LA (heavy)
- KGFY - Stillwater, OK (heavy)
- KFLS - Klamath Falls, OR (medium)
- WKKW - Morgantown, WV (medium)
- KETX - Livingston, TX (low)
- WXFL - Florence, AL (low)
- KDXY - Jonesboro, AR (low)
- KWCK - Searcy, AR (low)
- WTHO - Augusta, GA (low)
- WAAG - Galesburg, IL (low)
- WXCL - Peoria, IL (low)
- KAIR - Topeka, KS (low)
- WAXX - Eau Claire, WI (low)

**"When This Old World Breaks Me" is slated for a release to radio in autumn 2008

ALBUM DISCOGRAPHY:

Drive Until Daylight LP
1. Shift Your Gears
2. What Doesn't Kill You
3. When This Old World Breaks Me
4. We've Got a Warm Clear Summer Night
5. This Old Town
6. My Biggest Fan Is My Mom
7. It's Time For Moving Out
8. The Second Time
9. You're Ugly Now
10. The Valley

Photos

Bio

Derrick McKee is a man in transition, and it couldn’t be more evident than on his new LP, “Drive Until Daylight.” The eleven-track album, which was produced by McKee, Rick Witkowski, and Anthony Rankin, serves as McKee’s country-music debut as well as his first release on Navway Records. However, just because the 24-year old Wheeling, WV native is a new voice in the genre of country music doesn’t mean the genre is new to him.

"Wheeling, WV is a town that has a very rich and historical country background,” says McKee. “My grandparents and parents use to go in to watch Jamboree USA at the Capital Music Hall on the weekends, and they'd head out to Jamboree in the Hills every July for four days of fun. You could say that country music is in my blood."

McKee represents a new generation of country musicians who combine traditional elements of the genre’s past – banjos, fiddles, mandolins, and more – with contemporary, up-beat songwriting based around hooks and conversational-styled lyrics, sometimes with a dash of humor or sarcasm.

“Every time I sit down to write a song, I want to write the best song I’ve ever written and I want it to connect with as many people as possible,” said McKee.

It’s no wonder that “Drive Until Daylight” is filled with down-to-earth, nitty-gritty anthems about everyday life that the majority of people can relate to. Whether it’s the sure-to-be hit single about curing what ails ya’ via the bottle “What Doesn’t Kill You,” the slightly vindictive “You’re Ugly Now,” or the humorous/ridiculous near-bluegrass tracks such as “My Biggest Fan (Is My Mom),” and “When This Old World Breaks Me,” McKee packs a punch.

“I’m not one for taking life too seriously, so it’s my hope that people listen to these songs and laugh once or twice and make the live show incredibly entertaining.”

Despite not taking life too seriously, McKee manages to add remarkable depth to the album through the tracks, “This Old Town,” “The Second Time,” and “It’s Time For Moving Out,” three songs about lost love – albeit, different kinds of love – which should at least form a lump in the throat of those with even the coldest of hearts.

“This entire record is about all of the crazy things that could happen to you in life, the ways that you deal with each situation, and the lessons you learn. The opening track says, ‘You’ve gotta shift your gears while you’re getting where you’ll go.’ I truly believe that this is where I’m supposed to be right now: writing and singing country tunes. Hopefully, I’ll be here for quite a while.”