In 1993, Noel McKay (along with his brother Hollin) caught the eye and ear of legendary singer-songwriter Guy Clark. Impressed with McKay's ability to blend heartfelt, honest lyrics with wit and humor (a trademark of Clark's own songs), Clark became a mentor to the Lubbock-raised artist. The two even co-wrote "El Coyote," featured on Clark's final studio album My Favorite Picture of You.
Now, nearly three decades since he first crossed paths with Clark, McKay is sharing another co-write with the late poet. "Flying and Falling," from McKay's forthcoming album Blue, Blue, Blue (out Oct. 8), is an ode to perseverance, something McKay says has taken on new meaning since Clark's 2016 death.
"This is one of a couple of songs where Guy sent me home with some lyrics he'd written on graph paper," McKay tells Wide Open Country. "I remember him saying, 'I don't really like it like it is, see what you can do with it.' So I took it home and reworked it. He liked the chorus and first verse right away but we tinkered a while with that second and third verse. The inspiration for this one was Guy's. He had an accident while he was working on his mailbox one time and ended up in the emergency room. It was like him to have a sense of humor about that sort of difficulty. I remember that when we had the song at some level of finished, he made me record it five different times on five different guitars that he had built. Those recordings are in the Country Music Hall Of Fame along with the rest of the stuff from his workshop."
"For a long time I performed this song at face value -- that is, as though it was a simply song about picking oneself up and continuing in the face of adversity," McKay continues. "It definitely is that, but, nearer to the end of his life, as Guy became more ill, his will to live never waned. He wanted to keep going, keep fighting, keep making life plans. I began to see that it was as much about the very strength of one's life force."
Watch the video for "Flying and Falling" below.
McKay, who splits his time between Austin, Texas and Nashville, also performs with singer-songwriter Brennen Leigh in the duo McKay & Leigh.