Brian Mackey was back in town a couple weeks ago to support the release of his latest single, “America.” I hated to miss it, but that’s the way the old Ford bounces sometimes. We did get time for a bit of an interview, though.
Sorry we missed each other while you were in town. We had some things we wanted to talk about. It’s been a while, so let’s catch up a bit. The last really big news we got was with your last album and of course some cool shows that have happened since then, including a great trip to Nashville, last year. [ed: Click here to see all Brian Mackey content on Mid Tenn]
MT: So, what have you been up to?
Brian: Hey nice to speak again with ya Bret thanks for giving me an ear 🙂
I’ve been working on finalizing the new album which has been really way too long in the making! With this one I switched gears and stopped production of it in July of last year and went in with the former producer of Honest Love, Sam Ashworth, to re-record all of the 10 tracks in August.. It’s been a really strange ride getting this completed but a very educational one and well worth the wait 🙂 [ed: Get a copy of the pre-release single here]
MT: What was strange about it?
Brian: Delays, setbacks, bumps in the road running out of gas, no money for gas, crazy scheduling, wrong direction, no direction, on medication, off medication, but in the end it was an education, and fun.
MT: OK, we get that… so what’s strange about making a record like that? 😉
Brian: Anytime the inertia of anything is interrupted, it can effect morale. It’s like racing in nascar and puling over to take a piss. you just dont do that. Although in the end the break worked to our benefit.
MT: Did you wind up using unusual techniques? Tell us a little about working with Sam.
Brian: Unusual recording techniques on this album included utilizing different instruments such as the banjo and mandolin. Playing with some really great studio musicians, Jeff king who’s worked with Dave Matthews and Reba and Mark Hill on bass. Sam and I produced this album together and we utilized pretty basic recording techniques, and even two tracks on the album were played live, Maintence Man and Philadelphia. The engineer is Richie Biggs (civil wars) who always gets a great sound and always knows the best places to eat while I’m in town.
MT: For some reason, I thought I had heard banjer and mando on your songs, before. Did you pick up any good tips for recording those instruments (it can be a bugger)? What about part arrangements?
Brian: No, on previous songs, cello was used. that could have been the strings you heard. That was Matt Slocum on the strings, he’s pretty amazing. Recording banjo and mandolin I learned the mic placement and proper isolation rooms with really good acousitcs work well. Part arrangements were actually done on the fly. I always find it better to do things on the fly.
MT: What studios were you working in? How did they compare with past studio experiences?
Brian: 90% of all instrument tracking was done at the The Chapel, and the rest was completed at Arthouse Studio, which I recorded at previously with Honest Love, and some others – It’s always a really great place to record, and always get a great sound there.
MT: Was it frustrating going back to scratch?
Brian: Well it was frustrating to get to the point of scratch, but then scratch felt good. It felt like we had another chance to do something good it was really a relief. Sometimes setbacks are a funny thing. They almost seem necessary and sometimes they really are, although they do piss me off when they’re not.
MT: Did you make major changes?
Brian: Yes. Major changes were made. We omitted a few songs and added some others in their places; changed musicians, studios, and arrangements on some tracks entirely.
MT: What kind of energy developed from that and how did that come out in the final product?
Brian: The energy was more of a natural fit. Instead of a contrive orchestration. More sonically soulful than plutonically planned.
MT: Obviously writing and gigging have been a big part of things, what kind of “extracurricular” stuff has been inspiring your music, lately?
Brian: I’ve been flying kites remote control helicopters and small aircraft, it seems like I have an obsession with flying objects and things that move in the air 🙂 So with flighty things come airy songs I’m in the mind set of openness and free ideas when they come ..
MT: That air comes across in the single “America” (which I feel privileged to hear before release) do I detect just a hint of Nashville?
Brian: Maybe more than a hint. We were actually drinking moonshine while recording, and if you catch the wind just right you can smell it coming from the speakers. The players on this album have vast experience with country music but are also very well rounded and versed in all genres which I think comes across very strongly.
Yeah, he really gets down to Middle Tennessee on occasion. Here’s a recent video from the world famous Bluebird Cafe
MT: yeah I thought I smelled corn mash. I also think I’m catching a sense of really enjoying working with the Nashville crowd. How is it different from working up north?
Brian: Yeah, I really enjoy working in the South mainly because of the pace and the intuition of the musicians, and the desire to stay as late as we need to, to get stuff done. While there are studios like that in the North, they are very few and far between – usually it’s a more rushed environment.
MT: How the heck did you wind up getting your song “Color Blue” into three movies, and just how cool is that?!
Brian: It’s really a wonder to me .. One of the lessons I’ve learned is not to expect anything and when something does come out of your work , look at it as someone’s kind mistake 😉 no really I don’t have a clue how or why they chose it but it’s nice to have it included in the films plus now I can pay the light bill..
MT: Are you still thinking about landing somewhere in the Middle Tennessee area?
Brian: YeAh I think it would be a great place to have a home with lots of land, and maybe I can have enough room for an airstrip.. What do you think Bret want to go flyin with me? We can be neighbors but be forewarned I do tend to borrow shit.
MT: That sounds cool to me. My dogs only use the next yard over…
Brian: Oh that is awesome… my pet panther loves dogs 🙂 Just kidding, I love dogs!