by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hen you hear stories like Adrian McKinnon's, it's either from New York, L.A. or the movie theater. He's been on his grind as a singer, songwriter and producer for years, to mixed results. Playing gigs with other young artists -- the likes of Jamal Ali, Dallas P and Frijiea -- has created something out of nothing, basically willing a young fresh-sounding Spokane R & amp;B scene into existence. Despite that, his 2007 trip to the area's American Idol-mimicking Gimme the Mike! [sic] -- an event tailor-made for R & amp;B and soul singers -- ended before he could even post a blog on the contest's Website. By September, McKinnon had taken his hustle to the airwaves, with a blog on his MySpace page asking people to request his song "Temptation" on a number of radio stations, including Spokane's Wired 96.9.
The song was picked up by Boomer Davis, the station's drive-time DJ. "We were excited," McKinnon says, perpetually using "we" to represent himself and his management team. "They don't usually play local stuff."
"Temptation," a mid-tempo song about infidelity and guilt -- but mostly infidelity -- did well enough to stay in rotation at Wired. Then the calls started coming -- calls from record labels. "Within, like, two weeks my manager said he'd talked with three labels," McKinnon recalls. The third escapes him now, but the other two, Universal (the world's largest record conglomerate) and Asylum (an independently managed subsidiary of Warner Brothers Records), were both interested.
McKinnon ended up signing with Asylum, which sometimes acts as a feeder to Warner Brothers' larger Atlantic Records, because they offered him what he characterizes as "creative control" over his work. He didn't specify how complete that control was, but the advance they gave him, meant to cover all aspects of production, is encouraging.
It's an almost unheard-of ascent, from radio play to album advance in months. The downside is that McKinnon's put-up-or-shut-up date is creeping up just as fast. "[The album] will be released in March," he says, "I need to have it finished in January."
After January, things are less clear. Having creative control doesn't necessarily mean Asylum is going to put out whatever McKinnon gives them. What if he takes the record to the label in January, I ask, and they come back saying they don't hear a single? "I'll cry," he says, joking, "I'm pretty confident there's going to be a single or two or three or four."
He might be right. "Temptation," is slick as hell and has a great, cathartic breakdown at the midpoint. "Body Rock," which could use a re-name, is a dirty, sexy, slow grind that pulls out all the stops, from big bass hits to totally convincing sex moans that remind of Akon's raunchy playfulness. McKinnon isn't a hook-heavy artist like Akon, though, telling stories more than providing easily ringtone-able soundbites, so he can't expect easy hits.
The seeds of promotion for an artist looking for a hit, though, are planted in the studio. Older, quicker-paced tracks like "Elite Physique," though unfinished-sounding in both lyrics and production, prove that McKinnon can write the kind of cut that takes clubs by storm, but it also suggests those kinds of songs aren't his natural inclination. It'll be interesting to see how he resolves that conflict.
"This is the dream most people have," says McKinnon, of the ability to quit his day job and put his art first. From here until January he'll be in his bunker, on his grind, making sure it doesn't become a nightmare.
Adrian McKinnon with Jamal Ali, Dallas P and Frijiea at the BLVD on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 9 pm. $7. Call 455-7826.