Paul Mac: Musical Therapy

paul mac

It’s a rich time in Australian music. Our artists manage to thoroughly transcend boundaries, meandering with ease through jazz, techno, indigenous, classical and pop. And at the helm for the last two decades, electro-pop musician, tech head, sometimes DJ and sampler, producer, keyboardist, organist, songwriter and man of the black & whites Paul Mac has solidly strolled a unique path. One thing that certainly emerges is his natural propensity to guide others. His previous musical education studying a Bachelor of Education at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music stays with him. “I really enjoyed that,” Paul recalls, “because you have a real connection. Music is a beautiful thing to help share with people. When I find somebody I like and believe in, I ask if I can collaborate with them. You just keep doing stuff with people that you love, and suddenly, you’re surrounded by amazing people.” 

Sharing music with people has worked in a variety of successful collaborations and projections for Paul across the years – certainly in his role of the keys player. His career reflects this divergence, from working with Daniel Johns in The Disassociatives to Andy Rantzen in Itch-E & Stratch-E, the Bangarra Dance Company, on the musical score for the Kath & Kim film or with DJ Jonny Seymour in Stereogamous remixing LCD Sound System, Kylie Minogue and George Michael. “I love that my brain is always wired to listen to what’s going on in the background,” Paul expresses, “always listening to different sounds and how things make sense together. I get bored with just doing it on my own which is why I love playing with other people – particularly untrained people,” he conveys. “They come up with wacky ideas, and my brain somehow has to make it work. And I enjoy that; the freedom those ideas bring together. It’s the one skill I have.”

Since his young Catholic days growing up in Sydney and playing the church organ, Paul Mac has managed to make his music work for him. “It wasn’t one of those situations where God gave me the gift to play music,” Paul declares. “I’m super happy and grateful for what I have,” Paul proclaims. “I never ever wanted world domination. All I’ve ever wanted to do was have a career in music – which is what I’ve done. I’ve been lucky to study. I recommend it to anyone that’s thinking of doing it, because you have to be able to do lot of things. I really enjoyed the freedom and options to work with people. All I’ve ever tried to do is work in what I believe in.”

In spite of being an artistic chameleon, there does remain an indelible stamp. No matter what project he takes on, the signature sound of Paul Francis McDermott persists. You never think you’ve got one sound until someone else points it out,” Paul muses. “There’s a certain choice of chords there, a certain sense of melancholy to it – even when it’s upbeat and meant to be dance music. There’s always an element of heartbreak or heartache in it, which it’s trying to transcend; certain shapes to some of the melody. It’s literally the DNA of your personality: all of those things describe how I think and feel. I do feel deeply,” Paul reveals. “It’s going back to my church organ days. Some of my tunes are like a hymn. It might be minor key and sad, but it’s rising up and trying to explode and get happy and transcend the darkness. I think that’s what my music sounds like, because that’s what my music feels like. It’s gotta come from somewhere,” Paul explains. “There aren’t that many well-balanced happily-adjusted amazing musicians. Anyone who is seriously good is a bit mental. You’ve got to express it. It’s musical therapy.”

It seems 2015 will be Paul’s year to return and saturate our world – similarly as he did with albums 3000 Feet High and Panic Room. His new album Holiday From Me is set for release in April and featuring an array of artists – some new, some not. “I started this eight years ago,” Paul discloses. “I took a couple years off after the last album but started writing again and trying out with different singers. Lyrically, it’s in a much more mature place. In that period I had a five year relationship,” Paul explains, “so there was loads to write about. I was trying to come at it from a perspective of a mature way looking at emotions and relationships without it being a tantrum. It was more: I understand your pain and hope you understand mine. It’s beautiful. I’m really proud of it,” Paul proclaims. “I try not to think about what everyone else in the world is doing and focus on what I’m doing. If people don’t think its great it doesn’t really matter. I would not change one note on this album. Everything‘s is there for a reason. I’ve cut it down to the core of what a strong, beautiful album should be.”

Paul plans to introduce parts of this new album at his Brisbane show for Big Gay Day. Artists from Kira Pura to Sean J Wright,who are featured on the album, will also be joining him onstage, alongside Sarah McLeod and other premium names. And whatever happens at Big Gay Day, Paul will no doubt, give it his all – stinting with his music, isn’t his thing. “Brisbane always seems to go mental for me,” Paul acknowledges, “so I’m looking forward to this one. They’ll be surprised at how techno I’ll play. Expect a party, up-for-it techno, mixed in with all my melodic stuff. Come and find out.”

From the archives: This is from our original site, MyCityLife, posted back on 11 March 2015

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