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-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...”