Meet the Artist
"Stretching across the landscape of American folk music is a highway paved by Guthrie and Dylan... now Virginia native Andrew McKnight takes his turn smoothing down the blacktop" - Performing Songwriter
Since permanently leaving his corporate environmental engineering career in 1996, award-winning folk and Americana artist Andrew McKnight's musical journey has traced nearly a million miles of blue highways, and earned him a wealth of critical acclaim and enthusiastic fans for his captivating performances and seven recordings.
The singer, writer, guitarist and storyteller usually tours solo, but also has spent much of the last decade with founding Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member Les Thompson fronting their genre-bending quartet Beyond Borders. His music is heard on broadcast and internet radio around the world, and he's been a featured guest on the NPR/PRI syndicated Art of the Song and River City Folk shows. He is an insightful essayist and poet, a gifted workshop leader, and a warm and thoughtful interview.
Taking his cue from the lyrics of his award-winning song "Good Things Matter", Andrew often shares his talents both on the road and close to home near northwestern Virginia's Blue Ridge to help "neighbors in need". Whether aiding people living on the margins with food drives at concerts, or singing for and about workers and communities displaced by mountaintop removal coal mining, he has seen the power of music to help others up close. His shows are as likely to include humorous songs written with kindergarteners as some of his powerful collaborations with combat veterans coping with PTSD.
His empathy and curiosity span a wide range of subjects, from the vulnerability of an illegal immigrant woman ("These Shoes") to imagining what words Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings might have written about their lives together ("Diary"). In addition to his passion for community causes, he is a longtime advocate for preserving American landscapes and heritage. Several of McKnight's songs are rooted in Appalachian history and culture, including the haunting Civil War ballad "The Road to Appomattox".
Those passions, and the thoughtful ways he expresses them, have drawn legions of fans who sustain his independent career. In the early 1990s Andrew grasped the power of the internet to grow and connect with a loyal listenership, and his career has blossomed largely through their "efangelism" instead of the traditional elements of the music business. Many friends and fans even host concerts in their homes for 30 to 50 listeners, venues he refers to as "safe houses on the folk underground railroad".
While no stranger to elite stages like the Kennedy Center, the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival or the Katharine Hepburn Theater, McKnight's music seems to spread most rapidly through many of the diverse causes that have embraced his music over the years. He's been profiled in a Wine Compass video episode with his friends at Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, his song "Made by Hand" is in Low Coal, a documentary about conflicts over mountaintop mining in West Virginia's Coal River Valley, and "Good Things Matter" was featured in a podcast of Bread for the World, a global faith-based organization working to end hunger.
Andrew has produced or performed on recordings by many different artists, been a contributing writer for Blue Ridge Country and Americana Rhythm magazines, and is a sought-after clinician for songwriting and music business workshops. He enjoys an artist endorsement with Fairbuilt Guitars and since 2002 with Elixir Strings.
Hear those songs right here: