British keyboardist and singer Dave Mackay has been making a sonic splash here in his adopted home of the United States. He's as comfortable ripping sinewy synth solos as he is perched behind a Steinway grand piano (see the below videos), and his regular employer, legendary singer/songwriter Art Garfunkel seconds the emotion, calling him "the best he's ever worked with." That's why Mackay is our TALENT SCOUT discovery of the week.
NAME: Dave Mackay
HOMETOWN: Leicestershire, England (although Boston, New York City and Los Angeles have all been home since).
MUSICAL TRAINING: I studied classical and jazz piano at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and writing/production at Berklee College of Music.
FIRST GIGS: I played my first pubs and wedding gigs when I was 13. And I vividly remember my first “real” jazz gig at the 606 Club in London when I was 16 or 17.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: Esbjörn Svensson Trio had a big impact on me as a pianist, but I’m most inspired by non-pianists: Michael Jackson, Devin Townsend, MuteMath, Jeff Buckley, Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Big Wreck, The Dear Hunter, Toto and pretty much anything from the ‘80s
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: Elbow’s new record is on repeat lately and a friend just introduced me to Chad Lawson, whose Chopin Variations record is mesmerizing. I also go through hardcore phases of listening to the classics - currently on a James Taylor kick.
INSTRUMENTS PLAYED: I’ve played piano the longest so it feels like home, but I spend a lot of time playing keyboards/synths and I sing too.
MY BIG BREAK: So far I feel like I’ve had a series of “mini-breaks” that get slightly bigger and more exciting each time. And I’m a dreamer, so I’d like to think they’ll just keep getting bigger forever. That said, headlining the acoustic stage at Glastonbury Festival with Art Garfunkel was a milestone.
LATEST ALBUM: I just released my debut record as a singer-songwriter last year. It’s called Restart and was crafted with some very dear friends in New York City.
FAVORITE KEYBOARD GEAR: The Nord Stage is my workhorse - always dependable, and my preference for creating on the spot. I use a Korg Kronos for pop gigs and lately I’ve been digging the Dave Smith OB-6 for fat analogue satisfaction.
WHAT’S NEXT: I’m writing for several new projects at the moment - a solo piano record, a new album of the rock vocal stuff, and I’m making an EP of ‘80s retro-pop happiness with a friend in LA. I’m also looking forward to touring Europe again with my band.
ADVICE: Surround yourself with people who challenge you. Never get too comfortable - if a path is hard, you’re meant to be going down it. Create something every day if you can. Be a constant stream of ideas. Learn how you work. Identify what really moves you. Know who your heroes are, and why they captivate you. There are no mistakes. Only you and your limitless imagination. Oh, and turn off your phone - it’s hard enough to write a good song…harder still when you’re trying to snapchat the experience.
For more info visit www.dave-mackay.com