MACKENZIE JAMES CREGAN is an American singer-songwriter based in Liverpool. A few weeks ago he dropped his debut song “We’ll Be Here” that already made a debut on the Indie Top 39 earlier this week.
How would you describe your sound?
I like to just say it’s rock n roll. A newer approach to it of course. Taking traditions from the 50s, 60s and 70s, but serving it up in my own way. To be more specific, take Neil Young’s sound and fuse it with the sounds of Mac Demarco, Alabama Shakes, Chuck Berry, and a sprinkle of Tom Waits. That’s sort of what I’m going for.
When did you realise that music is what you want to do?
I had always had a love for music, since the time I was two years old. That came from watching my dad play the guitar in the house and on stage. He’s the one who inspired me to pick up a guitar. And it was my mother who inspired me to sing. It’s funny too because they never forced me. I just got lucky to have cool, artsy parents.
However, I made my final decision to be a musician when I first heard Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”. I was about 9 years old at the time. I think it was his guitar sound mixed with the imagery of his lyrics that struck me the hardest. There’s a reason why he’s a pioneer. Everyone in this business owes it to him to some degree.
Moving from the LA to Liverpool is a big deal. How did Liverpool show up on your map?
Well getting out of your comfort zone is essential. Leaving a place like LA is probably one of the ultimate ways to do that. And unlike a lot of people I know, I quickly learned to embrace that sort of change. I actually enjoy it in a lot of ways. But it definitely was challenging. Liverpool came up because of its history. This town changed the music world in a big way. So I knew it cause of that. Thanks to four awesome musical dudes that I admire! But a friend of mine from the States also told me about it. She got her start there, then went back to Nashville to continue doing what she did out there, and is now a very successful singer/songwriter. Hope to follow a similar path!
Did you already get used to the English customs?
I’m definitely used to some of them, based on my whole dad’s side of the family is from here. They’re all so lovely and are really supportive of what I’m doing here. They’re all down South in Dorset, so still getting used to some of those Northern social queues. But everyone I’ve met here in Liverpool has been so welcoming and friendly. Or in other words, they’ve all been “sound.”
What are the things (apart from the sun) that you already miss?
Of course, I miss my mom and my big sister. Two of the strongest women I know. Not having them right around the corner is definitely tough sometimes. Definitely my friends.
On a more fundamental level though, I absolutely miss my car. It’s just a little VW, but that thing gets me everywhere. Driving is essential in LA. I also miss the hills and the canyons, places like the Hollywood Hills, Laurel Canyon, Mulholland, etc. I have friends who live up in those areas, and driving up there can actually be magical. Especially at night. You can see all the city lights from there. It’s awesome.
Congrats, your debut single “We’ll Be Here” is already available on all the streaming platforms. What’s the idea behind the song?
Thanks. I just wanted to write a rock tune that would make people dance. It’s about going to a show. As a band, you want to play to a great audience. So the idea is just letting the people know that we (the band) are ready when they are, cause we’re gonna give it our all on stage, and we want them to be a part of it.
How do you feel finally having your music out there in the world?
It’s a blessing man. It’s always a good feeling for any artist who wants to share their work with the world. It’s a feeling of accomplishment.
What is the biggest challenge of being an independent musician?
Making my own money & being self-sufficient. I’m not in it for the money, but we all have to make a living.
If I’m going to choose the living, it’ll have to be music. Kind of the only choice for me.
But the thing is, I’m not the only one who feels that way. There’s so much talent out there. We all want the same thing to some degree. We all just sort of having to keep going, and what’s meant to happen will happen.
Close your eyes and imagine that you could meet one of your music idols. Who would that be and why?
It would be Paul McCartney. His music has been so special to me my whole life, but especially in the last couple of years. Studying him with a more mature mind is something else. The man’s a genius. He inspired me to not just be a guitar player/singer/songwriter. But to improve my bass and piano chops.
I want music to live inside me the way it does for Paul McCartney
Do you have a song that when you hear it, you’d say “damn, I wish I’d written it”?
There’s so many! Out of the old stuff, writing a song like “Satisfaction” would have definitely been great. That song rocks so hard! Supposedly, Keith Richards wrote the riff in his sleep. It’s a pop song with grit and attitude.
A more modern song I wish I’d written though, would probably be “One Another” by Mac Demarco. He’s one of those guys who uses simple lyrics so gracefully to create a super vivid image. Gotta take my hat off to him.
Music for me is the most essential art form there is
This is going to sound a bit hippie-dippie, but it’s mother nature’s art form. The world moves in rhythm. The way we communicate. Language. It’s melodic. None of us could live without it. Musician or not, all of us were given a beating heart.
What artists are you currently listening to?
Currently been listening to some Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Mostly stuff off of “Let Love In” & “Murder Ballads”. I’ve also been listening to Dan Auerbach’s newest solo record “Waiting On A Song” a bit of Beck, and tons of Dylan.
How would you define success in the music business?
I would say there are two types of success in music. Financial & pure joy. If you’re playing the music you love, whether it be in the studio, on stage, in your room, if you’re enjoying yourself and the people around you, that’s a success story on its own.
Passion is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
However, getting a hit is the dream for most of us. It definitely is for me. Whether one or more of my songs gets used in a movie or receives a million streams on Spotify. Would love something like that to happen for me.
What was the best advice someone has ever given to you?
My mom always tells me that enthusiasm is contagious. If you’re collaborating with other people, and you show passion for an idea or while you’re working, 9/10 times, whoever else you’re working with will respond passionately right back. If you want to get something done, something that you feel in your gut is a good idea, you gotta approach it with gusto!
What is your opinion on TV talent Shows – X Factor, America’s Got Talent, The Voice?
Not really my sort of thing. I think the only time I watched one of those, was when I watched American Idol. The year that Adam Lambert was the runner-up. That was incredibly ironic, cause he ended up being the success story. Like the rest of the entertainment industry, it’s a toss-up whether or not doing something like that will break you.
No matter what situation you’re in, you gotta just keep working and doing it for the love of it, and hopefully something great will happen.
Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
Touring, making records, having an awesome girlfriend, and surrounding myself with more intelligent, artistic people.
What can we expect from you in 2018?
Definitely more music. Got a couple singles that are about to be ready before the end of the year. One definitely in the summer, and another around the holidays. Might come out with an EP. You’ll have to wait and see! Will also have some gigs lined up here in Liverpool, and around the UK.