top of page

Noel McKay

Was born and raised in Lubbock and the Hill Country of Texas. Noel has traveled the world, singing his songs and playing a self-built acoustic guitar on world stages from Nashville, TN, Austin, TX, California, Ireland, Spain, and the U.K. Noel has co-written songs with David Olney, Guy Clark, Richard Dobson, Becky Warren, John Scott Sherrill, and Shawn Camp. His songs have been recorded by Sarah Borges, Sunny Sweeney, and Guy Clark. 

Noel picked up the guitar around age nine. By fifteen, he was playing the beer joints and honky tonks in Bandera and the surrounding hill country. In the Middle of High School, he landed a job at Flying L Dude Ranch, which proved to be a great training ground. In his early twenties he met Guy Clark while playing at a festival in Kerrville, TX. They formed a friendship and Clark provided a mentorship that still resonates with Noel to this day. 

Forming a band with his younger brother Hollin was a no-brainer. The two enjoyed a long collaboration at one point finding themselves in The New York Times talking about grub on the road. The duo released four full albums (one produced by Gurf Morlix and the other by Lloyd Maines) and one EP between 1994 and 2003. Their songs garnered much attention from Texas radio and press. The legendary Ray Wylie Hubbard called them “absolutely phenomenal!” 

McKay took a break for about four years, spending time in carpentry and guitar building over at the famous Collings Guitars in Austin, TX. Noel found himself daydreaming about getting back on stage, and that’s when he recorded his first solo album, Sketches Of South Central Texas, in 2011. Around 2010, he met Brennen Leigh, and they formed McKay and Leigh, an alliance that took them around the world. They released three albums until about 2020 and were always an anticipated highlight wherever they played. 

During this time, Noel was still hanging out with Guy Clark in his guitar workshop when he built a guitar he still plays today. Sadly, Clark died before he could hear it finished, “the specific skills I learned from him are things I’ll treasure for the rest of my life,” smiles McKay. The guitar is modeled after the Martin 00-000 series, and it’s his number-one go-to acoustic. 

Moving to Nashville meant getting involved with the vast songwriter community. While he was off the road these past few years, he’s taken part in many songwriters’ rounds at various venues like The Bluebird Café, Brown’s Diner, Robert’s Western World, and his stint as host at the weekly songwriting in the round at the American Post Legion #82 in East Nashville. As many as 25 songwriters would show up to take part on a Thursday night. They would end the evening with a full show by an artist handpicked by McKay himself. 

Noel has shared the stage with the best of the best: James McMurtry, David Olney, Sunny Sweeney, Guy Clark, and Whitney Rose. Some of the stages and venues over the years have been the 30A Songwriters Festival (Destin, FL), Westport Bluegrass Festival (Ireland), Riquela Club (Spain), Hill Country BBQ (Washington, DC), Levon Helm Studios (Woodstock, NY), Gruene Hall (Austin, TX), and The Bluebird Café (Nashville, TN) and many more. He toured Florida with the late great David Olney a month before he died in January 2020.

Two cool facts about Noel: his grandfather started a radio station in Frío County, TX. KVWG (Pearsall, TX), “The Kind Voice of the Winter Garden,” a station that played everything from easy listening to country and western and Mexican music. Two songs he co-wrote with Guy Clark are now in the archives at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN. 

Noel spends time on the road and hangs his hat in Nashville, Austin, and Spain when he’s not. 

bottom of page