Understanding the Misunderstood McKinley James

All About Eric Church’s Teenage Video Star

When a 14-year-old walked in to the press room at last week’s CMA Awards, my first thought was he’d snuck backstage. And how cool was that?

But then he had kind of a shy swagger about him as he walked up to the microphone, and that’s when I realized he belonged.

“My name is McKinley James. I am 14 years old, and from Webster, New York,” he said. “I’m one of 80,000 that Eric Church gave his new record to today. He decided to treat us as one. As music fans. The record is called Mr. Misunderstood, it’s out now, and yes, I am on the cover.”


Church’s team handed out the surprise CD, along with calling cards with James’ name.

McKinley James


That still didn’t explain much. He was a Church fan, sure, but aren’t we all?

You have to hear the “Mr. Misunderstood” song, and see the video, before you get to know more about James.


Like the song says, his buddies are getting their rocks off on Top 40 radio, but he is listening to his daddy’s vinyl.

“I listen to different things than other people do at school,” James explains in a new video on his Facebook page. “They listen to EDM – dance music, newer pop like Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus.”

James says his tastes lean a little more rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues, and that he does indeed prefer vinyl.

“The last thing I played on my record player was Link Wray, and all of his Swan 45s he did,” referring to the rocker’s string of singles throughout the ’60s.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.