Down The Road With Mac McAnally
You don’t have to be country to know or love the music that Mac McAnally has written over the years. He has written six number one songs in his career including “Down the Road,” performed by Kenny Chesney, toured with the coolest man alive, Jimmy Buffett, and was recently invited to perform at the Land Shark Stadium owned by his band mate, Jimmy Buffett. Mac’s itinerary was packed for his Florida visit where he appeared at the “Snowflakes in the City” Tree Lighting and Snowfall Ceremony at City Place Plaza in West Palm Beach, Florida. He later performed at the Landshark Tailgate Stage where he had a Fin’s reception and actually passed on some good luck to the team, as they emerged the victor over the Buccaneers.
This year Mac’s career has been a blooming success. He was recently awarded the CMA’s Musician of the Year Award, second year in a row, released his new album “Down By the River,” and was named in the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame 2007 and Mississippi Music Hall of Fame 2008. Premier Guide Miami had a chance to catch up with the dad of three girls who pretends to be tough but who is really a softie. He shares with us his experience as a writer, missing his dad and playing the tambourine on tour with Jimmy Buffett. _Daedrian McNaughton
PGM: Sorry I missed you in West Palm Beach…
MM: That was fun….
PGM: Was it?
MM: Yes I couldn’t believe the crowd they have for ….I guess, I am more accustomed to tree lighting ceremony right there at thanksgiving weekend, and that’s the earliest one I have seen and it was really a great crowd.
PGM: Wow…Well congrats on your 2nd CMA Awards for Musician of the Year.
MM: Well thank you very much. I have been playing so long I don’t think about any one year being different from another. I am always playing music, but ahh I have been very blessed over the pass couple years it seems like.
PGM: Most country songs are about pain and heartbreaks, what inspires your writing?
MM: Well, you know what I love most about music? You can take anything and make it positive and you see that. Like you said a lot of country music is about pain and heartbreak, but it turns into something positive because it becomes a shared experience between the singer and the listener or the writer and the listener. Something that you went through to get it becomes a positive thing. That’s one of my favorite things about not just country music, but music in general, as it can take the worst aspect of life and turn them around into a positive thing. That’s why I wake up thinking about it everyday. Music is in my head every morning when I wake up.
PGM: How was your experience performing at the Land shark Stadium?
MM: I’ve never been to a Dolphins game; I’ve never seen the whole ahh….the experience out there was amazing. What a fan base the team has. They have a big celebration going on out there at the stadium, and I was just tickled to be a part of it. I learned more from them than they learned from me, probably. It was my first time there, but I really enjoyed playing, and the people couldn’t have been nicer, and the team won which was nice.
PGM: I think you brought your blessings to them…
MM: Well it was a lucky week for me, so maybe I had a little luck left over to share, maybe. They did come through and win I was really happy about that.
PGM: With your recent success, what was your proudest moment?
MM: Well you know, that particular award, the musician of the year award was. You vote in the category that you work. It really means to me that the fellow that does the same thing that I do has respect for the way that I go about my business. The music community in Nashville is a fairly tight nit music community we all know one another pretty well, and we all root for one another even though showbiz is competitive and it’s suffered through the recession just like everything else. In country music people really do root for one another. I have guys that I support for that but my pals sort of rallied around and voted me into that position 2 years in a row. I am very proud of that because I am a big fan of the guys I get to work with, and a lot of them had to vote for me to give me that award. That was my most proud moment recently.
PGM: So, were you country when country wasn’t cool?
MM: I have been country when it was as uncool as it possibly could be… uncool, cooler and back a forth again. We sort of are how we are. I grew up in North Mississippi, even when I play rock n roll I sound country because that’s the way that I talk…I can’t really help that. I do like all forms of music and I enjoy all forms of music, but I have been thriving in the country music field for the last 15, 20 years. I also go out on the road with Jimmy Buffet and produce his records and he sort of ….country music…special core of what he does. He has assimilated all this island stuff, European stuff and Jimmy, all his influence is from his travels which ends up working their way into his music. I benefit from those influences as well as I get to travel with him and feel the same thing. We enjoy adding some different ingredients to our country music as well.
PGM: How does it feel to be traveling and touring with the coolest man on earth?
MM: Well I do not take it for granted and I cannot tell you how many people are on a waiting list to play tambourine, and come along on the road. Some of these people have really good jobs, and they are ready to walk away in a second and come out on the road with us. It’s a blast. He is the ambassador of fun for the whole country and we really feel it. I mentioned the recession earlier this year, you wouldn’t know there is a recession at a Jimmy Buffet show except for the fact that people are more intensely having a good time this year. I think that the one day we come through town its sort of a concentrated weeklong vacation. They kind of dialed it down to taking 2 days off of work and coming to see us, and relaxing at their own home for a sort of a staycation I guess, in their home city. It is a much needed good time for these people who are coming to see us this year and we are happy to bring it to them.
PGM: What goals have you set for yourself over the next year?
MM: I am not so much of a goal person as a direction person. If you set a goal and you reach it you potentially get complacent. If you set a goal and you don’t reach it you parsley judge the progress that you’ve made towards where you are heading. I just try to have a general direction. I just want to get better. I want to be a better guitar player, better father, better brothers to my sisters, and better friend to my friends, sing a little better, and write a little better. I want to keep going in that direction if none of it was not qualified, I would never asked to win the musician of the year award, and I would have never asked to be put in the song writers hall of fame. Those things have happened in the last couple of years but ahhh its just part of the direction I want to go in. I want to get better.
PGM: You are a dad?
MM: Oh yes I’ve got 3 daughters. This is where you get all the heartaches and pain that goes in country music. No they are wonderful girls. I am the luckiest dad you will talk to in a very long time. I’ve also been a dad when dad wasn’t cool; that comes in and out of fashion. I am kind of cool now I am enjoying that time of fatherhood as well, momentarily cope with my children.
PGM: How are you dealing with the guys?
MM: I speak in a lower voice and I sound meaner than I actually am when talking to them but I can conjure up a big scary voice if I need to.
PGM: Outside of music, what is your next greatest passion?
MM: Well, umm I’ve always been a reader but in the last few years I have just to try to stay active I’ve taken up golf and my standard line is, “I’m so lucky because I do my hobby for a living I had to go find a hobby that’s as frustrating as a job.” Golf gives me a lot of grief and music gives me a lot of joy, so it’s a nice balance.
PGM: Through your hard work, struggles and success, what has been the greatest lesson you have learned?
MM: Well…it’s one that I learned very young and it has just been reinforced. My father, his version of the old golden rule was to treat people how you wanted to be treated and my father wasn’t just a great businessman, he was a great man. I’ve always tried to do that all through life and I’ve had a wonderful life so I can recommend that not only in theory but in practice to anybody. Treat people the way you want to be treated and its very simple and basic but it’s manifested into a really enjoyable time here on earth and I am going to pass that along, I recommend that.
PGM: Who do you admire the most?
MM: There are so many. There are literary figures, music figures but in my case my dad. He passed but I pretty much think about what he would think about the things that are going on in the times that we are living now. I know for a fact if he knew I was paying money for bottled water he would be extremely upset with me. He would have to sit down in a chair and think about that for a couple of days. We used to drink water out of a spring out of the ground, so the notion of paying for it would be very foreign to him.
PGM: Tell us a little about your new album.
MM: My albums require 3 or 4 years of living and I condense whatever lessons I have learned in those 3 or 4 years. I try to make them appear in those songs and remind me so I can implement them into the remainder of my life and hopefully they are of use to someone else. I get letters occasionally that some songs have helped someone through a certain time of their life. This particular piece of time has been a good one for me, so this particular album is going to always make me smile, because it’s representative of 3 or 4 really nice years of my life.
PGM: What was your experience like working with Kenny Chesney?
MM: Kenny is just top notch. He treats his people really well. He is a big fan of Jimmy Buffet and I think how he runs his organization is to a certain degree influences from Jimmy. Jimmy takes good care of his people and he is fiercely loyal to his crew and his people. Kenny has been that way. This particular year, I have been with Jimmy and when he goes off the road, I have been jumping on to Kenny’s tour and playing with him. You are not going to talk to any guy in the touring category luckier than me. I am very blessed that way. Kenny has been a great ambassador for me ….couple of the best songs I’ve ever written and because of him it got to be a record number one this year… and because of him I got to participate as an artist, I got to be a duet partner with him on that, and that’s the first number one I’ve ever had as an artist. I am very grateful to him also.
PGM: What happens when you sing a country western song backwards?
MM: Well…you get your job back, your wife back and your money back, everything turns out good. We used to joke a lot about that. I think because country comes from the old Irish Celtic ballads…and stuff where you sing about things that have gone wrong. There is an aspect of that into country. As I’ve said it ends up turning itself into a positive so I am happy to be part of it.
PGM: I hope you come back to Miami to perform for us.
MM: I am not retiring; this is too much fun to stop, so I will continue as long as we live.