Grateful Dead

The Dead Covers Project Profiles - Brandon McCoy

At a mere 23-years-old, Brandon McCoy is just starting to establish his presence in the local Lansing, Michigan music scene by performing at open mics and slowly but surely putting together his first official release. Around the headquarters, however, he's already made a big impression with his unique finger-picking instrumentals, his love for world music - specifically the Native American flute, and his, well, gratefulness (he wants to send a big thank you to all the musicians who participated and all who listened to his song and others)!

Learn more about Brandon in the exclusive interview below.

  • You can also visit Brandon here:

Did you grow up in a musical family? How'd you pick up the guitar?

I did kind of grow up in a musical family but I wasn't really around it. I didn't know my Dad until I was 14. I picked up a guitar when I was around 13 or 14. My grandpa plays guitar - mostly country. I would play friend's guitars at their houses, messing around with them, borrowing loaners. I obtained my uncle Brad's guitar, this real piece of crap - an Epiphone acoustic that kept breaking on me. Every time I took it to the shop, they'd say you just need to get a new one. I've never taken any lessons or anything like that - I just play by ear.

Tell us a little bit about your personal style.

I tend to play a little bit of everything because I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, but as for my personal style its very based around rhythm and percussive sounds with lots of muting of the strings. I kind of imitate flamenco and celtic stuff but make it a little more funky and keep it in the pocket. I'm still working on my singing voice, I used to write a lot in high school but currently I only have about three songs with words to them. Lately, I have been getting really into my native flutes as well and soon I will have a contra bass Native American flute that I can't wait to start recording with.

Do you play around town? That's a good way to get more comfortable in front of people.

In the past few months, I've started playing as many open mics as possible to get comfortable playing in front of people. Other than that, I've been pulled up on stage to play with friend's bands.

What originally got you into music?

When I was little I used to live with all my cousins, my grandma, and my aunts and uncles in a tiny house. Every night before we went to bed, we'd watch Disney movies. So I got into music because of the Disney movies for the most part. I always wanted to compose music for a Disney classic. They don't really make those anymore but I still wanted to go to school and learn composition.

What other music are you influenced by?

I listen to just about everything but the ones that influenced me early on were alot of oldies and classic rock specifically all of Motown and bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin. Then I was introduced to a lot more music from my friend Vincent Brady (the one who does the recording and photography) and his brother. They were the first ones to expose me to The Grateful Dead when I was in middle school and that really got me into jam bands and folk music. Today the ones that inspire me the most are people like Joe Hisaishi (composer for the studio ghibli films), Bela Fleck And The Flecktones, Goat Rodeo, Todd Snider, Keller Williams, John Prine and John Hartford. I could go on for days but I'll stop myself now. However, most of all I was influenced by my dad. I got in to world music because of my dad. When I met him, he was playing world music - percussion, all kinds of hand drums, djembes, doumbeks. Probably the only real music lesson I ever had was from him. "Bass open pop" was what he taught me - the three noises you get from a drumkit and I just applied it to guitar. So he got me into all kinds of world music and we'd go to pow wows every year on Father's Day. It was there I came across a Native American flute and I've been playing that for the last few years.

How did you choose "The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)" for the DEAD COVERS PROJECT?

My friend told me about the DEAD COVERS PROJECT. We were trying to think of a song that other people most likely wouldn't do. We went through a lot of songs, a lot of popular ones, some of my favorites, but figured that a lot of people would be playing those songs. Then we came across "The Golden Road." We had the annotated lyrics book which I always look through and read now and then. We read that it was actually the first song they recorded and that it doesn't get much recognition. So we thought that it would be perfect. I just used the words over a type of improv thing that I do.

Is that the first video that you've made?

We've made quite a few other videos but we're still trying to get used to it. We just bought a bunch of recording stuff to make better quality videos. There are some on YouTube though.