Southern musician attracts fans in Sunnyside pubs

By Bill Parry

Few Queens musicians can boast that a Masters golf champion watched him or her perform, but Sunnyside resident Will McCranie can do that after Sandy Lyle caught his show Sunday night.

McCranie was headlining at the Surrey Tavern in his hometown of Augusta, Ga., when the Scottish golfer stopped in to see him play. The 29-year-old singer, songwriter and guitarist is booked at several music venues in and around Atlanta during the lead-up to this weekend’s PGA major.

McCranie is something of a big fish in a small pond when he returns to Augusta, drawing big crowds at clubs like The Caddyshack Lounge.

“I love my hometown, but I moved to New York five years ago with the intentions of being a rock star. I wanted the challenge of going big,” McCranie said. “It was either New York, L.A. or Nashville, but at the time I wasn’t terribly interested in country music, but ironically I’m drifting towards that now. I figured New York fit me best.”

His brand of music is hard to define, somewhere between Southern rock and jazz funk.

“Think Dave Matthews Band or what might happen if you throw Ryan Adams into a Phish concert,” McCranie said.

He usually spends the summers touring mid-range music venues in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. During the winter months McCranie works on his recording career from Sunnyside, where he lives with his wife Elaine, a producer for CBS’ “48 Hours.”

After finishing his fifth release, “I Know I Didn’t Know Anything,” McCranie began preparing for this summer’s tour by performing in the pubs of Sunnyside and Woodside.

“I’m trying to build more of a hometown base right here in Queens,” McCranie said. “I usually cover the hits but work in some of my original stuff. Sometimes I come up with a new song while I’m performing.”

McCranie calls The Courtyard, at 40-18 Queens Blvd., his homecourt playing there on most Tuesday nights. “It’s right down the block from our apartment,” he said.

He has also played at The Copper Kettle, at 50-24 Skillman Ave.; The Cuckoo’s Nest, at 61-04 Woodside Ave.; and The Greenpoint Lounge, at 43-22 Greenpoint Ave.

“The funny thing about playing Queens pubs is each one is so different than the other. At the Copper Kettle you have young families with baby strollers and a few blocks away you have a crazy crowd like at the Greenpoint Lounge,” McCranie said. “They are so crazy and rowdy you’d think you’re playing a roadhouse down South but minus the accents.”

He said he liked playing The Greenpoint Lounge so much last month that he booked another show there April 26.

“That’s great news,” bartender Cassie McCloughlin said. “He’s fantastic, you don’t hear that kind of music around here too often, plus he’s really, really nice.”

McCranie has another significant date on his schedule for June 21 when he is booked at Banter, at 108-22 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills. McCranie will entertain the after-party following the Zac Brown Band’s performance at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.

He is aware that many of the movers and shakers in New York’s music scene will be attending the Grammy Award-winning country band’s show and McCranie admits to having an inside track in getting the gig.

“Zac’s mom has become a fan of my music so she hooked me up and I got a few dates at his club last year,” McCranie said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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