Making his way in L.A.: Judson McKinney ’08

Judson McKinney hopes he has just joined the likes of Elton John, James Taylor and Tom Waits. All three of them performed early in their careers at the legendary Troubadour club in West Hollywood, where McKinney had the opportunity to take the stage on June 20.

Unlike the alums who headed to Nashville (see p. 20), McKinney headed to Los Angeles with a degree in philosophy. He’s worked hard, pounding the streets with CDs, even living in his car on occasion.

But it’s paid off, as evidenced by his performance at the Troubadour. With a style that’s been described as Americana, the singer/songwriter/guitarist is playing regularly at venues in Los Angeles and beyond. His new album, “Drink the Wine,” released by Atomic Sweater Records, cracked the iTunes charts upon its debut. And one of the tracks, “People Grow Up So Slow,” is soon to be featured in Michael Rosenbaum’s film “Old Days.”

His reviews describe him as “both straightforward and oddly mercurial.” A reviewer from L.A. Record described the performance at the Troubadour like this: “Judson and his Americana crew rocked the Troubadour and got everybody’s hips shaking and faces smiling.” LA Times has called him one of “the more compelling live acts around.”

At Clemson, McKinney played in a band called Sum Yung Gai, later known as Everyday Strangers, which performed at the now-defunct Joint, as well as at the Handlebar in Greenville and at clubs in Charleston.

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