Hailing from Dublin, Nathan Mac is a rather special artist: debuting last year with ‘Better Without You’, he was able to instantly gather attention from playlists, radio and music publications, leading up to three follow up singles, ‘Domestic Wars’ being the most recent. Drawing inspiration from a particular style of Japanese-like animation, the likes of Studio Ghibli, Mac also uses his experience in circus environments to craft a very unique image, balanced between cinematic vibes and musical-infused vocals. Intrigued by Nathan Mac’s aesthetic outlook, we decided to sit down with the Dublin talent to find out more about his project. Here’s what we found out.
YMX: Hey Nathan, thanks for talking to us. How have these gloomy times been treating you?
MAC: I’ve been lucky as hell! I get to release music… which is something that I thought wouldn’t happen. Things have been slower sure but I’m not complaining. That being said, emotionally I’ve been up and down, and up and down like crazy. A lot of people don’t recognise themselves without a network of people around them. I definitely find myself in the people I surround myself with. So to go from seeing more that 20 people a week to the same 4 I live with… has had its problems. It took a long time to even do any writing, but I did manage to build my strength and circus skills back up. So I’ll be making some circusy music videos as soon as I get the chance!
YMX: How did you decide music was something you wanted to pursue? Are there any particular episodes that inspired you in doing so?
MAC: I don’t think anyone has one singular moment that sends them down the musical path. I originally wanted to be a circus performer, because after school it’s all I felt l could do. After an injury to my back at the age of 18 that career then felt impossible. It was only 3 years ago that I was sat down by my good friend and mentor ‘Trisha O’Keefe’, and was told to make a choice between the bits of circus I was still doing, and pursuing my songwriting… it’s been a beautifully successful struggle since then.
YMX: Here’s a fun game: name 3 artists, or bands, that inspire you and influence your work, and explain why:
MAC: Gorillaz always comes first (and Damon Albarn to be more specific) – As a kid, there was an attitude that Gorillaz had that gave me permission to act and feel ‘cool’. They pulled in artists from every genre and built a type of circus type band. Damon definitely inspires me because of his longevity. His musical checklist ranges from Chinese Opera to African choirs… that’s the dream right there. Imogen Heap has also been a big player for me over the years. – She introduced me to electronic music at a young age. She was doing things 20 years ago that I still find fascinating… she opened me up to the possibilities of what music could be. Not only has her music directly or indirectly every other musician in my genre, but she’s made such amazing strides with her Mi.Mu gloves! (I’m slowly building up a live performance to incorporate them) Recently I’ve become known as an Irish ‘Jon Bellion’. – Not an insult by any means I should say. A friend of mine told me to check him out in 2019 because we apparently write in a similar way… again, a huge compliment in my eyes. Since then he’s definitely become a major influence of the overall sheen that I’m looking for in my songs. He often used Pixar as a reference for the perfect execution of his songs and I’ve found myself going a similar route with the video game series ‘Kingdom Hearts’ (which played a huge role in my pre-teen life!)
YMX: You recently released a cinematic-infused project. ‘Domestic Wars’. Can you tell us how that project came about?
MAC: ‘Domestic Wars’ has been a fan favourite for a long time. My sister and I would play it live every time I could convince her to get on stage with me, and the combination of her outstanding voice and our energetic sibling madness would always grab the audience. I asked my sister to sing on the track initially because I thought she could bring an element of ‘attitude’ to the track that I couldn’t do myself. It definitely worked. We recorded it completely between lockdowns in 2020 so that was a whole world of trouble… but we have the greatest producer in Ireland. The ‘Brian Dwyer’ managed to get the best out of Emily in just an hour or so. The small windows we had for recording were extremely efficient! As the 4th song of my debut album “Start of Something Blue” it’s found itself in the company of other great songs. It’s nice to see the project fleshing out with new artwork and new fans.
YMX: How did the pandemic affect your personal music recording experience? Was it easy adjusting to working remotely?
MAC: It’s been functioning, so I guess I’m luckier than most… but I’m a physical guy. I like to move around the studio, and shake my producer… I’ll often use physical expressions to communicate the flow and feel of a part, which is hard to do on zoom. Also my headphones are skewed to increase the bass in a song, so when I’m trying to assess a track for mixing, etc… I’m always hearing more bass than I should. That took am awkward while to figure out. The worst part of working remotely is motivation. A mood will suddenly take me, and I won’t work. When everything is on my schedule then I have a freedom to delay the work and that means delays… which nobody wants.
YMX: Professional livestreams seem to be really taking over these days. Is it something you would consider doing?
MAC: My technical knowledge is so underdeveloped that I would find it almost impossible to compete for professional live streaming. In the future, definitely. What Dua Lipa did for studio 2054 was magical! For now, I’ve just set up my Twitch and my live streaming content will be all about writing and getting to know my fans (and letting them know me a bit more too)
YMX: Since pandemic began, online music promotion has become crucial for an artist’s growth. How important is that for you, and are there any strategies you are willing to share with our readers?
MAC: I dived in head first at the start of the pandemic, because I took it seriously when people said that this whole mess would be more than a year in the cleaning. So I’ve been learning a lot myself. Before all of this I really wasn’t able to tackle the online promotion of things. There are two major things I’ve learned. 1. Have a plan. Have three, four, or more pictures ready to share and plan them out. If you have any content, I’m sure it can be stretched into two or more pieces. This will give you the breathing room you need to enjoy social media, and actually pay attention/interact with your fans. 1. Find a very select few fans, or friends, or family. Ask them to be in a sharing group on WhatsApp or Instagram, or something. Then share posts, updates, competitions, etc with them to share on their own social media. Relying on the people closest to you is necessary. Just make sure to try to give them something in return.
YMX: Finally, what are your plans for the future?
MAC: Well 2021 is another year without gigs for me. So I’m putting my focus into finish my debut album with a new song release every two months. The next release will be in March (with a possible delay pushing it to the second or third week) To celebrate the full release of the album I will be producing a short musical-circus film, incorporating 5 of the songs from the album. I’ve just about finished writing the first draft and will have to start filming towards the end of the year. So with an insane amount of luck it will be ready before we go on tour in 2022. (hopefully with a pair of Mi.Mu gloves) There’s an awful lot of work in the “Start of Something Blue”. I’ll have dedicated more that 3 years of my life to it once the tour is over at the end of 2022… which feels like such a long time. That being said, there’s nothing else I’d rather be working on!