Artist Interview: Mac Ayres – Long Island New Soul Artist and Producer Making a Name for Himself
From the first glorious, glowing sounds on Mac Ayres’ track “Easy,” it’s obvious that he’s got that something special. Soul music has its own character that Ayres clearly gets. If you haven’t heard the song yet, I invite you to first click play on this talented artist. Once you’ve heard the first four bars you, like me, will be dying to know more about him.
Contrary to what you might think, Ayres is not descended from soul royalty. He describes himself as a kind of “artist next door.” He’s currently studying at Berklee College of Music for Songwriting, but that life is pretty disconnected from his project as a soulful singer songwriter. What I discovered was a chill, humble guy who loves “basketball, eating, and sleeping.” His workaday manner and easy style seem to betray the depth and heart found in his captivating songwriting. But it works because more than anything Mac Ayres is true to himself.
When I asked about his music background, he talked about listening to music with his mom and singing pretty much his whole life. At the ripe old age of 11, his mom bought him a Yamaha keyboard. Getting right to, Ayres began gigging around age 12 on Long Island. From that moment, he was off to his start as a lifelong music performer.
So who were those early influences on Mac Ayres? Well, he mentioned Teddy Pendergrass, most of Motown, and especially the iconic Stevie Wonder. He even mentioned some hip hop artists like J Dilla and Slum Village. Those names were not at all surprising to me, having heard the art he produces himself. But then one name really stuck out; the defining artist for Mac Ayres was D’Angelo. Ayres explains that when he heard D’Angelo’s album VooDoo something exploded in him. “It felt like what music is supposed to be to me.” Anyone who knows the jazzy, rhythmic style of D’Angelo will hear it in Ayres’ music as well. What a legacy.
Once I had a sense of his background, I asked about his own creative process. Mac Ayres works in a digital audio workshop with the harmony he wants first. As the track unfolds, he adds lyrics to it. Then he explained the key; for music to really resonate, artists have to dig deep within themselves. Stories are one thing, but they have to emerge from within the artist. “You have to be honest. Artists have to pour themselves into it… and find that pure emotion,” Ayres explained. He definitely puts on a clinic for that in his own music.
I asked about his single “Easy,” which is gaining considerable momentum right now. The key lyric of the song is “I can say that lovin’ you is easy” and it focuses on that part of a relationship when everything is going smooth. But if you listen to the rest of the song, it’s also about how that honeymoon stage ends and life gets difficult again. As I tried to pull the “story” of the song out of Mac, he said you can’t overthink songwriting or the song itself. “With music in itself you can’t overthink; you have to do what feels right.”
That’s what makes Mac Ayres the real deal. He has an innate ability to express himself in ways that his listeners can connect effortlessly. No matter what he does, Ayres explains, he puts all of himself into it. “Things I love to do I do with every ounce of me.” That’s evident in his music for sure.
Here’s the other shoe dropping on the Mac Ayres story. Everything you’re hearing here was produced in his bedroom. Even though he’s attending Berklee, “this project is just me.” The quality, the passion, the clarity, and the raw emotion that make this artist who he is all come together on his own digital audio workshop. For any artists out there feeling like you need a fancy studio to make good music, allow Ayres to be an inspiration. Dig deep, be true to who you are, and sing with some silky smooth tones – it’s the Mac Ayres way.