Meet Clyde McGee: Grand Junction musician passionate for street performance
Editor’s note: Who We Are features men and women who embody the unique spirit of Colorado’s Grand Valley. Email nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For 24-year-old Clyde McGee, making music isn’t about becoming famous or making millions of dollars. He just wants to make enough to pay rent and live off the land.
The Grand Junction native learned to play guitar when he was just 11. His parents signed him up to learn classical music, which he believes has helped the most in his musical career. He also pays homage to the music programs at Central High School and Grand Junction High School, which he believes are “awesome.”
Now, he plays music along downtown Grand Junction’s Main Street as his main income.
For the majority of the instruments he plays, McGee is self-taught. This includes banjo, accordion, violin and stand-up bass. His inspiration for music comes from his travel experiences and the friends he has met along the way.
“It’s reassuring to play on the street for strangers, and have them listen to your stuff,” McGee said. “Having a community with free art on the street — that anyone, from the homeless community to a banker, can enjoy — can only be positive.”
Since he was a boy, McGee has shopped at J.B. Hart Music store (417 Main St., Grand Junction), and Jan Hart, owner, can’t say enough good things about the young artist.
“He’s a good guy and fun to listen to,” Hart said. “He plays a lot of older-style music that young people might not have heard before. He is very dedicated to learning the guitar and different styles of music.”
According to Hart, McGee’s music sounds like a combination of “gypsy jazz, rag time and pre-World War II.”
McGee describes his music as “rag time and folk.”
For the past five years, he traveled the country playing in various cities like New Orleans and Portland. Now he’s back in Colorado’s Grand Valley full time.
“It’s easy here in Grand Junction to make money street performing,” he said. “ … I have a lot of regulars that throw me a buck. It’s a supportive community.”
He also enjoys talking with visitors, including recent ones from Germany who purchased a CD.
While McGee doesn’t plan or dream to become famous, he hopes to create a sustainable income — enough to continue to play music.
“My biggest goal is to play music and eat food I grow,” McGee said. “Anything past that is a total gift.”
McGee currently plays Thursday through Saturday — from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., if the weather permits — at the 500 block breezeway on Main Street in downtown Grand Junction.
Each year he also produces a CD, which is available for purchase for $10 during his performances. It includes original songs and covers.
“My style of music belongs on the street,” he said. “I can have a blast and there are no limits to how long I can play. It’s more real.”
Regarding other aspiring street artists, he encourages folks to not be afraid if first performances are bad.
“Best chance is you can only get better,” he explained.
To listen to McGee’s music, visit http://www.clydemcgee.bandcamp.com.
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