Behind the Scenes with TK McKamy

Behind the Scenes with TK McKamy

by Lisa Valentine

A behind-the-scenes look into the life of 2018 CMA Music Video of the Year Award winner TK McKamy as he shares his passion for film, storytelling and Country Music.

Tell us about your career path. What made you want to become a director?

I started loving film when I was in high school. I got to make content for the morning TV announcements; commercials, sports spoofs and all kinds of fun things back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sometimes I would stand in the hallway and listen to my classmates’ responses echo through the halls. It was a boost of creative confidence that young creatives don’t necessarily get. When you’re a visual artist, sometimes it’s hard to build your creative confidence without a platform. In today’s world people can post on Instagram and YouTube to get instant feedback on their work, but back then it was a rare thing. After high school I jumped around colleges and ended up playing soccer for the University of Kentucky. I didn’t focus all my attention on film until my mid-twenties. The reason why I do film, the reason why I make movies and make compelling art is because I love telling stories that emotionally impact people. I love connecting people to events and emotions and giving them feelings and experiences, making them cry and laugh, entertaining them. As for music videos, there are many different variations and ways you can translate a song, but what I get to do is define one way to translate a song that connects with the artist’s brand and connects with the viewers in a way they can relate to it. It’s wild to consider there are over a billion people out there who have seen my work. I wouldn’t be able to do that without those musicians. I’m very thankful for that.

What is your creative process when directing a music video?

My favorite way to collaborate with the artist is to get personal and hear what they love about the nuances of the emotions the song gives them. I then go into a creative cave and think about how that correlates with their audience and how it correlates within the current market. I treat my career like a micro ad agency in that I study the artist, their character, their personality and capabilities in front of a camera, because those are all important factors. I factor that in with where the market is currently, what other music videos are out there, and how the audience is receiving content right now because styles and tempos change. There are so many things that are evolving in the world of art because art is an ever-evolving organic creature that never goes backwards. It can complement something from the past and use it as inspiration, but art will always evolve stylistically in music and film. It’s shaped by culture and culture shapes it.

What has been your favorite project that you’ve worked on or are most proud of?

I can’t really pick one because they’re all iterations of my style and personality mixed with the artist’s style and personality. There are some projects that are really close to my heart. RaeLynn’s “Love Triangle” will always be a very special music video for me. We didn’t have a big budget to make the video, but it was one of those songs that is just important for people to hear (and see). It’s a beautiful song about a love triangle between a daughter and her two divorced parents.

Now, I’m not from a divorced family (shout-out to Knox and Lynn for holding it down 45 years strong), but my wife is and I got to dive into that through her to provide a piece of content that impacted people deeply.

That’s the stuff that really inspires me because I want to make art that inspires people into healthier lives. Thomas Rhett’s “Marry Me” is another one that’s really close to my heart and also Florida Georgia Line’s “May We All” with Tim McGraw. I really like telling stories and I like showcasing artists in beautiful ways but for me, as a storyteller, I love telling stories that matter and that’s what I try to find in every song.

Is there an artist or band that you’d like to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?

Garth Brooks. Hands down. Garth was my first concert. I bought the classic Garth checkered button-up shirt and a felt hat to wear with my lived-in Adidas Copa soccer shoes and jeans. He’s an incredible storyteller and he pulls you in with his energy. I’m inspired by that in my own personal growth as an artist.

Let’s talk about winning your CMA Music Video of the Year Award last year for Thomas Rhett’s “Marry Me.”

That video is another special one. It’s a play off of TR and Laur’s story mixed with Hollywood drama and poetic twists. It’s the perfect song to illustrate with a moving narrative. As for the award, winning CMA Video of the Year is an incredible honor and I proudly share that with the 100-plus people it takes to pull off what we do. My name may go in the record books but nothing I do is done alone. A few people who are especially responsible for this video are producer Dan Atchison, DP Kris Kimlin, Richard Jones and Chandra LaPlume-Pereia. I’m very thankful for all their hard work and creativity. I can’t help but pinch myself when I consider the opportunities this life has granted me. I get to work with my friends AND win a few CMA Awards along the way? The word “grateful” doesn’t really grasp the depth of it.

Any exciting projects coming up that you can tell us about?

I’ve got a new George Strait music video coming out that I’m really excited about; it’s another beautiful narrative about family bonds and values. I have another Thomas Rhett video, for his new single “Look What God Gave Her,” that just came out. It’s a fun song paired perfectly with an artful performance video that highlights inspiring women in Thomas’ life. I have some feature-length projects I’m developing for Netflix around Country Music, which is extremely exciting! It’s time to have some great country movies again like Walk the Line, Urban Cowboy and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Oh, and I just launched my new production company, Rowboat Pictures! Buckle up and join me for the ride