Michael Green Interviews... Fraser Mackenzie
Updated: Nov 9, 2022
Here is a Q&A with singer-songwriter Fraser Mackenzie. He talks about his experiences in music.
Where did it all start for you getting into music?
I didn’t get into music until quite late, I was maybe around 14 or 15. It was shortly after American Idiot by Green Day came out, before then music was something my sister liked and I didn't really get what the fuss was about. This only changed when I discovered punk rock. Within a year of that I was learning guitar and writing songs.
Who are your influences?
The big ones would be indie rock bands such as Pavement, Modest Mouse and Built to Spill, as well as The Moldy Peaches, Bright Eyes and Death Cab For Cutie. In my head these are the artists I try and sound like, although the main comparisons I seem to draw are Jilted John and the B52s. I like those guys too, but the similarities are mostly coincidental.
With your music where do you tend to get your inspiration from e.g., how do you start your songs & what's your process?
I find a song works best when it’s rooted around a central idea. But usually, I begin without much of a focus, I'll end up with a first draft and then it's like 'oh, here's the most compelling part of this, this is what the song should be about.'
So from here the draft will need completely reworking, which is most of my process. I’m very ruthless at this, a lot of what's there always gets discarded. I spend a bit of time writing songs and then a lot of time rewriting songs.
In terms of inspiration, I usually draw from my own experiences but I find it important not to limit songs to factual events. I've found that a good balance is to start out with something real and then make up a semi-fictitious story around it.
How important is it do you feel it is to listen to current music as well as music from the past?
I think it’s important to stay up to date with the current trends, for sure. And at least in the last 5 – 10 years there’s been a lot of really amazing new music that’s come out, but I must confess that more recently I’ve been following it less.
Music from the past has a bit of an advantage as only the good stuff is remembered. It's weird actually, as now even stuff from the mid 2000s can be described as old. Recently I played Feel Good Inc. with a couple of kids at a jam night and one of them described it as 'old school'. I remember when that song came out, it was 2005, which really wasn't that long ago. But the guys I was with were 16 or 17, so from their point of view it was released before they were born.
Anyway, it's interesting to see what's getting remembered from that period. Like how Mr. Brightside is now the flagship Killers song, where as at the time I swear that Somebody Told Me was the one you'd hear just about everywhere. I'm not totally sure what from right now will stand the test of time. Music in general feels a bit more ephemeral, I guess that's just a side effect of how easy it is to record and release stuff now.
Do you feel it is important to watch other acts perform and to watch other live music?
Yes, watching live music is probably the best way to feel inspired to play more music yourself. As a musician there's a lot that can be learned by observing other people's styles and techniques.
Finally what tips do you have for anyone starting out when it comes to making music & performing live?
I’d recommend investing in good equipment. Rather than buying for the level that you’re at, buy for the level you aspire to and then grow into your gear. Guitars and amps may be expensive in the first instance, but they're good value for money when you then get decades worth of use out of them.
For playing live, my advice would be to find a local open mic or jam night so you can specifically practice playing on stage. This is a skill in itself and one that will only come from repeatedly getting up there. And what's great about these types of events is that no one really minds if you mess up. I know that for the first few months playing I sounded really bad. But I was able to slowly improve because I was in an environment where no one got offended or said I was terrible. At least not to my face.
Find out more about Fraser at https://linktr.ee/frasermackenzie
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