Of all the successful University of Wisconsin alumni, Pat McCurdy strikes a chord with many UW students. McCurdy graduated from UW with a degree in communication arts and has been performing for audiences since his days as a high school student in Brookfield, Wis.
Although he began his music career playing with different bands, in 1989 McCurdy decided to try it alone and has since brought his solo act to audiences throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Of the 340 performances McCurdy gives throughout the year, 52 of them take place in Madison at the Regent Street Retreat and Annex. Every Tuesday night for $5, Madison residents can enjoy three hours of McCurdy’s trademarked songs and comedy.
Ryan Johnson, a veteran bartender at the Regent Street Retreat, says McCurdy’s shows include crowd involvement.
“He basically sings the same songs, but because his act is crowd-based, it always changes,” Johnson said. “The better the crowd, the better the show.”
Johnson, who describes McCurdy’s show as “one gigantic sing-along,” has worked at the Regent Street Retreat for nearly every one of Pat’s performances. He is featured on one of McCurdy’s songs, called “Hi-way Robbery.”
Although McCurdy has eight albums that can all be purchased on his website, Johnson says his live shows offer more than the music on his CDs.
“Pat makes up songs on the spot,” Johnson said. “Whenever he sees ‘Pat virgins’ (people who have never seen McCurdy), he brings them up on stage and sings directly to them. It’s kind of like an intro to Pat.”
Johnson said that although there are always hardcore “Pat heads” at the shows, the crowd varies from week to week and there are always some “Pat virgins.”
“We’ve never had a crowd under 100,” Johnson said. “Most nights there’s around 200 people and sometimes as many as 500. Pat has done a lot for this bar.”
In addition to being a full-time performer, McCurdy is also the father to a two-year-old son. McCurdy says he gets his inspiration from anything and everything.
“The song ‘Sex and Beer’ came to me one night as I was listening to National Public Radio,” McCurdy said. “There was this woman minister giving a five-minute sermon, and I thought it would be funny to write a dumb anthem with a bunch of different historical references.”
McCurdy says that although he is against the war with Iraq, he prefers to keep political statements out of his music.
“I love my son very much,” McCurdy said. “If any two-year old Iraqi dies because of this war, then it’s not worth it.”
As far as being influenced by other musicians, McCurdy says he admires anyone who can write a good melody.
“I like all kinds of music,” said McCurdy, who at the time was listening to six different CDs ranging from reggae to Bruce Springsteen. “Unless it’s homogenized pop music, it’s all right with me.”
At the age of 20, McCurdy signed a major record deal with his band Yipes! However, bad experiences with the producers have given him bad feelings about the record industry’s control over artists.
“It was the worst three years of my life,” McCurdy said. “I didn’t want to write songs for other people. I hated the lack of control over my own destiny.”
McCurdy’s advice to aspiring musicians is to “just do it.”
“Don’t just talk and dream about it,” McCurdy said. “If you’re going to do it, then do it.”
McCurdy’s newest CD, My World of Love, will be available this summer.