We heard that New Yorker BRIAN MACKEY was supporting RON POPE on his European tour and that he'd be stopping off in the UK to play just two dates, we caught up with him in Sweden a few days ahead of the tour kicking off to chat about his musical upbringing, videos and his singing cocker spaniel, no really! Read on to find out more....
Brian, we know that you're from New York, we also know that you stray from the trodden path of a typical singer-songwriter, please take a couple of minutes to tell us how you got into music and what music means to you...
I got into music as a means of therapy, letting my thoughts out, getting back at people. I don’t mean it in a sense where I wish harm to anyone, but there have been times in my life I never really had the opportunity to say how I felt. So it seems like it was best put to music.
London is a real melting pot of musical styles incorporating many cultures, I assume that New York is similar?
I would say it’s exactly the same in ways. Although in London they do talk fancier!
How would you describe the music scene in NYC right now? Are there plenty of venues that host live music?
Yes there are plenty of venues! Mercury Lounge, the Bitter End, Highline Ballroom, and tons of other ones. The scene is pretty filled with not only NY bands, but ones that come from other places to grab a slot and try to create a scene.
A few of your tracks have been used in TV, film and branding campaigns including The Disney Channel, please tell me more about how this came about and what show or feature it was used in...
My very first placement ever was on Naturally Sadie, on the Disney Channel. Since then tracks have been used in foreign commercials, domestic TV and film, The Travel Channel, etc and a probably bunch of other things that I don’t even know about yet. The songs get represented by companies with catalogs and sometimes it’s an obvious thing, and sometimes a total surprise.
I watched a few of your music videos (Learn to Be, Underwater, The Day), was it your decision to feature in all of them? Do you enjoy making them? Who produced them?
Each one of these videos were directed by 3 different directors. I worked the script of all of them with help from the directors and other members of my team. To be featured in all of them wasn’t my decision, but suggested that I appear and to put a face to the music. I really enjoy being part of the process. Learn to Be was directed by Caro Patlis, Argentina. Underwater was directed by Sandy Stenzel, Hollywood. The Day was directed by Greg Friedle, Connecticut.
Let's imagine you've been asked to put together your very own supergroup, who would be in it and why? (you are allowed to choose from dead/alive/ficticious members)
My version of a supergroup would be a trio. Jim Croce, John Lennon, and Harry Chapin.
You have been working on your next EP in Los Angeles with producer Jon Levine who has worked in the past with acts such as DUA LIPA, DRAKE and BONO, how did you get to work with Jon in the first place?
I was working on another project with his management company. I really love Jon’s work, so we reached out, sent him over some songs, he took a listen and it went from there.
The good old vinyl record has made a real resurgence in the UK over the past 10 years, this is largely down to events like RECORD STORE DAY which does a great job of promoting the format, do you ever think that it will die?
Ironically enough, I just did a European-Only vinyl release just for this tour to be sold at the shows. We’ve heard about this vinyl resurgence and we decided it’s a great idea because vinyl has a warmth to it that can’t be denied. It may wane and it may come back again, but don’t think it will ever be out totally. It’s just too good a medium from the tangibility of holding an album cover in your hand to putting it on the turntable from needle to vinyl. It’s just too romantic.
Being from England (and never having visited L.A.) how does NYC compare to Los Angeles in respect of the music scene?
The two are similar in ways. They are both looking for new sounds and they are both quite comfortable sticking to old sounds. However in LA there’s lots of “image” dependency whereas in NYC, it’s not quite that relied upon.
You embark on a 10 date European tour with RON POPE in Oct/Nov, you're playing some places you've never played before, which of the dates are you particularly excited about?
Right now I’m in Sweden doing this interview. My first show will be on Saturday (28th October 2017), so I’m excited for this Stockholm show. But it will be great to get back to the UK as well with Manchester and London. Germany is always fun!
Do you find that European audiences differ from ones back home? If so, how?
I think audiences abroad are more invested and grateful. Maybe that’s because I’m not as “usual” as their usual and the feeling is mutual.
You list a number of classic artists and bands as key influences, could you name a few lesser known bands that have had a real impact on your music?
I like World Party, old R&B + Motown, you would probably never hear the influences I like or what I’m influenced by. I really try hard not to copy my influences, to me it's sacred ground. However I feel that we all have touchstones that we rely on to go back for inspiration and sounding boards in the present that help us with creation.
You're from Florida but live in New York nowadays, is there anywhere else on the planet you'd like to live?
Well South Florida is nice for the weather, and NY is great for the food. So if I had a place to go it would be an island with good food and weather. So I’m thinking Italy (although is a peninsula, but close enough to an Island..) but then I'd become too fat and lazy.. maybe San Diego, CA?
Lastly, would you rather live with a singing dog or a guitar playing gorilla?
Well I actually do have a singing dog. He’s a cocker spaniel and his name is Charlie. When I play piano he runs in and starts howling along with the music. At first this is really cute right? But it’s a bit annoying, but I love him too much to do anything about it so I let him sing for a while until I put him outside so I can work. So does this gorilla play leads? Or just rhythm?
We'd like to thank Brian for sparing his time ahead of the European tour kicking off, we wish him every success and look forward to catching up with him in London on 5th November.