If you haven’t heard of Arlo McKinley yet, you should know he comes with John Prine’s seal of approval. Before Prine’s heartbreaking death this spring, the legendary folk singer handpicked McKinley to join his Oh Boy Records label, an honor granted to only a handful of musicians over the last couple of decades. This August, McKinley released, Die Midwestern, on the independent label, and his follow-up to 2014’s self-titled debut has been receiving high praise from music media and fans ever since. Before McKinley was releasing sad country ballads on one of his musical hero’s labels though, he was playing in Cincinnati punk and hardcore bands and teaming up with one of his buddies in projects that spanned more than a decade.

McKinley recently joined My First Band host Tyler Maas (remotely, of course) to discuss his first exposure to musical performance as a boy in his family’s Bapist church, digging through his dad’s extensive vinyl collection as a kid, and forming his first band, Mourning Child, as a teenager. Over the nearly hour-and-a-half-long discussion, McKinley also talked about being recruited to join a punk rock band that he sang in, as well as how he talked himself into becoming the bassist in a hardcore band before he even knew how to play the instrument. A chance conversation with fellow Cincinnati musician Jeremy Pinnell led to McKinley joining a band called Latter Day and then playing with Pinnell for more than a decade in a handful of projects, including a memorable run as an indie folk duo called The Great Depression. Finally, McKinley revealed how he slowly made the transition from Tim Carr, his birth name, to the alter ego performing moniker of Arlo McKinley, and how that endeavor has grown beyond his wildest dreams.

My First Band is sponsored by Mystery Room Mastering and Lakefront Brewery. The show is edited by Jared Blohm. You can listen to My First Band on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and wherever else you get podcasts. Music used in this show comes courtesy of Devils Teeth (“The Junction Street Eight Tigers”) and Arlo McKinley (“Die Midwestern”).