BY BRITTANY NADER
Known by some as the drummer of the promising Canton-based band Husbands & Wives, and by most others as the mysterious Hurdy Gurdy Man, Brian McCoy enters Napoli’s Italian Eatery sans instrument and settles in to enjoy a pepperoni, sausage and green pepper pie.
It’s rare in America to see anyone playing the weird and wonderful hurdy gurdy, especially someone is in his early 20s. Here, McCoy is just another post-collegiate dude escaping the rain to enjoy some quality Italian eats. On stage, he is a wizard with that bizarrely cool instrument, and through bites of pizza and jalapeno poppers, he speaks of it with passion and heart.
“My goal is to really play anything and be in a category where I can make [the hurdy gurdy] diverse,” McCoy says. “If I had to open for a metal band, that would be a lot of fun, or whatever bar-rock band or anything would be great.”
It’s clear Canton’s Hurdy Gurdy Man aims to make the instrument hip, and he’s definitely got an edge on introducing it to audiences who may not have seen such a strange-looking object on their typical dive-bar stages. He plays around with pedals and looping to change the tone of his musical toy, and he’s put plenty of blood, sweat and tears – not to mention dollars – into its restoration and upkeep.
There is a notable lack of hurdy gurdy parts and teachers around Ohio, which has forced McCoy to venture out to Michigan and Canada, all for the sake of his prized possession. He even got a little crafty and honed his skills via YouTube tutorials and messaging European hurdy gurdy masters via Facebook for tips.
As McCoy dashes his last pizza slice with a generous amount of crushed red pepper, he excitedly shares the story of meeting the woman who inspired him to pick up the instrument more than four years ago. Just last week, he came face to face with his idol, celtic artist Loreena McKennitt and her hurdy gurdy player. He even scored a lesson, along with an autograph, after their performance.
“I kept telling myself, ‘Keep it together. You’re 24 years old. You can’t be like a little kid at a Justin Bieber concert,’” he says. “But it was kind of like she blessed my instrument.”
With this new blessing, McCoy will crank his uniquely cool alto hurdy gurdy solo on stages across Northeast Ohio and alongside his Husbands & Wives bandmates as they prepare for their much-anticipated July 14 album-release show at The Auricle.