Mac Ayres On His ‘Drive Slow’ EP & How D’Angelo Shaped His Sound
To call Mac Ayres’ debut EP, Drive Slow, bedroom music would seem limiting, but to not give the R&B singer credit for his perfectly crafted late-night mood music would be simply unfair. On his ten-track project, the Long Island, NY singer’s voice is purely meditative, lending his listeners no choice but to glide into a trance.
Drive Slow, released in August, is a strong project — and a vulnerable one, at that. Channeling influence from D’Angelo’s Voodoo, which he discovered only a few years ago at Berklee College of Music, Ayres emulates the ‘90s icon’s knack for effortlessly smooth, time-altering sounds. And this makes sense for Drive Slow, an EP not just fit for romance but for those rare moments of phone down, computer off relaxation.
“The concept of Drive Slow is supposed to be that people are not driving slow through life,” Ayres tells TIDAL. “Nobody’s stopping to smell the roses.”
So long as he keeps putting his soulful, jazzy voice and keyboard combo to work, Mac Ayres will keep making us stop in our tracks. Below, the rising R&B act talks about the making of Drive Slow, his love of performing and the time in his life when he “really wanted to be like John Mayer.”
Tell me about yourself. When did you start getting into music? what was your upbringing like?
I’m from Long Island. A small, one-square mile village called Sea Cliff. I come from a non-musical family, but my mom bought me a keyboard when I was 11, and I sat at it for the next nine years. And here we are.
Was it a daily routine for you?
It was less of a routine than like, ‘Oh I have to practice piano.’ When I got home from school, I didn’t want to do anything else. I just sat in front of it and hashed it all out myself.
When did the singing come into play?
The singing has always been there. Since I was a baby, I’ve been singing. I’m loud.
I remember my music teacher in second grade called my house and was like, ‘This little boy is singing really loud in front of his class. I think he can sing.’ I feel like I’ve been singing forever.
Tell me a little bit about your new EP, Drive Slow, and anything else you have in the works.
Drive Slow is a collection of tunes from the past year of my life. I lived in Boston for most of last year. I was at Berklee [College of Music] but I left. The concept of Drive Slow is supposed to be that people are not driving slow through life. Nobody’s stopping to smell the roses. The way a lot of the tunes that were made were just me in my bedroom. There was no real [feeling of] ‘Get in the studio and come up with a project.’
Has this always been your sound?
Definitely not. When I first got into songwriting, I was 17, and I really wanted to be like John Mayer. I wanted to play guitar. I wanted to make faces on stage when I played songs. Then, my freshman year of college, my friend, Zach, showed me D’Angelo. The first album was Voodoo, the songs ‘Playa Playa‘ or ‘Left and Right.’ I was not exposed to anything like that before. I mean, I’m from Long Island. Everybody listens to Billy Joel.
Growing up in a small town, did that have any influence on your music or did you go into your own world and create your own excitement?
Coming from a small town, I got the opportunity to perform a lot, playing at restaurants around town instead of getting a summer job. It doesn’t really change my creative process, though.
More tunes always. I’m always writing, I never take a break from that stuff. Just tryna play more shows, trying to get out there in the world a little bit instead of at my desk. It’s tough because I really really care about the music. It’s hard for me to be like ‘an artist’ and put on a face a bit.
How is performing for you?
I have a great time performing. I’ve been playing at little clubs ever since I got that keyboard when I was 11. I feel like I’ve been doing it a long time, so it’s not a big deal.
Do you prefer the performing and music-making to the branding and all that?
Yeah, I’d rather be at a studio session than a photoshoot. I just really care about the things I really care about, you know. If the other stuff comes with being able to have my own creative control, then I’m down. I’m not trying to be anybody that I’m not. Basketball shorts and all. Just tell people to come to the show and they can come if they want.
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