We chatted with Mark about his recently released debut album, Trials & Tribulations and food & tour favorites!
You just released your debut album on May 1, 2017, Trials & Tribulations, how are people responding to it along the road?
Thanks for chatting with me! Everyone seems to love it! I think there is honesty to it that people can really relate with. There’s some upbeat, some mellow, some deep, some stupid… it’s all in there. Live, you can see people singing along and smiling as they “get it.”
Favorite lyric/song from this album.
1. The thrill is in the chase, from “I’ve Already Won,” and 2. Life is short, ride a hog, if you get lonely at night get a dog, from “Settle for a Small Town.”
What was it like working with Phil Dixon?
He’s nuts! He hears things, and I have no idea where he’s going with it. You do as he says, and then it all comes together… I just sit there jaw-dropped sometimes. He is a real producer, not someone who just tells me what I want to hear.
You are currently on tour with Joe Nichols and Jackie Lee. Talk about what their influence and guidance have meant to you/done for you.
Jackie is an amazing human. I wish him nothing but the best. Great dude. Joe is a legend. Watching Joe just go out there and sing his songs so well and connect with such a dedicated fanbase is so inspiring. He is the nicest guy too.
You have an impressive fan following online. What is it that keeps your fans engaged the most?
HA. Probably when I play guitar or sing snipit’s of classic songs. My following was built on touring, and I love seeing the fans so excited that we are coming to their town again.
What else can fans look forward to from you in 2017?
More gigs, more gigs, more gigs. We are going to tour as much as we can and engage them all in any way we possibly can. I love them all! I’ll keep writing and, who knows, maybe there will be a Christmas album in the works.
Now for the Food Questions!
Do you like to cook at home, or prefer to eat out?
OUT!! Home is ok, but I love going out to good restaurants. It’s the most relaxing part of my day.
Which four things are always in your home refrigerator?
Hard boiled eggs, Oreos, gala apples and RED BULL!
What food is your food vice? You know, one you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking.
Oreos x 60,000
How does food play a part when touring or being in new places?
I love hearing about the great restaurants in the town that we are in and hitting it before the show or on a day off. Sitting down for dinner for me honestly is a time to reflect and get excited about what’s next, have good conversation, etc… When I was in Omaha on our last run, the lady at the hotel told us about a seafood restaurant, literally the last thing I would have thought of in Omaha, but it was AMAZEBALLS.
You played over 230 shows last year, earning a well-deserved slot on Music Connection’s “Top 100 National Live Acts,” tell us about one memorable meal you’ve had during your travels. What did it involve?
We had been cranking on the road, so I took the guys for a night off to my favorite Chicago style deep-dish pizza in my old neighborhood in San Francisco called Patxis. It was fun to show them around all the bakeries and bars and delis that I used to frequent. Also the pizza was awesome (as always).
Is there anywhere you have wanted to travel or a restaurant you have always wanted to dine in that you have not yet?
I’ve always wanted to have that ridiculous top % Wagyu steak. I love all food, but my #1 is a good filet mignon. I can never bring myself to spend the 150$ on it, but I’ve heard it’s so amazing and like butter to eat. Maybe I’ll get one after my show on Wednesday in Nashville.
How do you maintain a balance of eating healthy while on the road? Anything you avoid or try to avoid so you can keep fit?
I’ve had to cut back on sugar a lot (Side note: I actually cut out all added sugar for 60 days and lost almost 20 pounds). I work out every single day because if I stop, I’ll stop for a month. I’ve gotten into healthy smoothies and good protein bars to help keep up with that. I try to eat more salads and less bread. I don’t want to be over the top about it, but I love to eat, all the time. For example, I was bored in the airport today and ate like seven snacks in an hour. Ha.
Finally, If you could eat or have a drink with one person, who would it be, and what would you have?
Jon Bon Jovi. He’s one of those guys I was such a fan of when I was young. He’s done so much beyond music. I could probably talk to him for hours, especially if we were at his giant house on the water. HA.
ABOUT MARK MACKAY:
A blazing guitarist, an evocative vocalist and a songwriter steeped in authenticity: At the crossroads of country music and rock and roll is where Mark Mackay makes his stand. Fronting a powerhouse band, he rocks the room with rowdy charm and persuasive conviction.
From Hollywood to Nashville with multiple stops in Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming — in a recent 12- A month period Mark played 230 shows, headlining festivals, concerts and clubs and opening for country stars like Frankie Ballard, Eli Young Band, Cole Swindell, Tracy Lawrence and Old Dominion, plus legendary rockers The Marshall Tucker Band, 38 Special, Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi) and Orianthi. Forthcoming new destinations include South Dakota and Illinois. “The more we keep pushing the more it opens up,” says Mark of his expanding touring territories.
Free thinking, fast moving and restlessly creative, Mark exemplifies a wide screen Western perspective. He grew up south of San Francisco enthralled by country music and trained as a classical pianist. “When you come up playing classical piano and you have to worry about dynamics and feel, and have the teacher slapping your wrists when they drop down, that stays with you for life,” he remembers. Transitioning to guitar, he studied the blues-rooted electric masters of the craft and joined up with a series of local bands.
Mark says that moving to Hollywood to study at Musicians Institute was a giant milestone in his journey, not only for expanding his knowledge of guitar and voice, but also to observe how the music business works. “I learned this was not going to be a narrow approach,” he recalls. “You have to throw darts at everything until something sticks. And you have to be a little loud to make your presence felt.”
Enlisting a solid band and tracking two EP’s, Keep Your Headlights On and 11 Miles Out of Nashville, Mark hit the road as Music Connection magazine named him on their annual list of the country’s Top 100 National Live Acts. His largest audience to date is the over 43,000 Giants fans who witnessed him sing the National Anthem at AT&T Park for his beloved hometown team.
On his new eight song collection, Mark ups the ante. In his songwriting he concentrates on sharing stories with listener-friendly themes. But he notes that he sometimes experiences “…outrageous writer’s block. But then I hear a new or old record, or a life event happens.” In a secluded house in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, it all comes together. He references a new song, “Settle for a Small Town” with this example. “I tried to write that song 10 times, but on one of those days it was working. I try to find themes that have happened to me without being too autobiographical.”
With the expansion of his audience through relentless touring, Mark, who is based in Hollywood, chooses to not have a formal place of residence. He’s bored if he stays in one locale for too long and the promise of the road is too alluring. “Touring doesn’t make you jaded,” Mark professes. “It becomes more fun.”
Between the introspective journeys and boisterous shows, Mark locates the magic alchemy that defines his artistry. “Somewhere in Utah, between Moab and God knows where, the transmission fell out of our van,” he remembers. “It was a beautiful night in the middle of summer. The stars were bright. I got out of the van and began to write a song…”
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