It’s endearing to hear humble words spoken in a voice that has made an impact in the music scene in Juneau, Anchorage and beyond. Meg Mackey is a singer songwriter who has some love songs that have been known to leave an audience member or two breathless, but even in conversation she’s all about love.
Mackey has been in Anchorage since June of 2011, after living in Juneau off and on since 2002, during which time she gained a lot of her confidence in her musicianship while playing acoustic shows in dimly lit bars. She moved to Anchorage to make music professionally in the big city’s burgeoning music scene, though she still considers Juneau to be home.
“That’s the place I fell in love with on my own,” she said of Juneau. “I chose it.”
Having grown up in a military family, born in Guam and moving much of her life, that means something.
Juneau has been a source of support and inspiration for Mackey, and she’s looking forward to returning for a few days of shows, friends and interviews.
“I’m really glad to come back home to Juneau, It’s always been home for me. Most of these songs were written in that space,” said Mackey, “I just want Juneau to know that that’s how I feel about it.”
Music is Mackey’s life, now more than ever, though it may seem sort of inevitable.
“Growing up, my parents were pastors — I was always surrounded by gospel music. Strong women and strong voices.” shared Mackey, “I was a shy kid, but music was always an outlet.”
Mackey recorded a five-song EP last year and production is nearly complete on her first full-length album, both containing songs she had written mostly while living in Juneau.
She recorded the EP with the help of Anchorage musician Evan Phillips of The Whipsaws, who she sought out to help with recording and production.
“I kind of found a random person,” Mackey said of working with Phillips, “but it turned out to be the right person.”
The EP is a collection of intimate acoustic tracks and is titled “Rendered Useless” after one of her earlier songs included on the EP.
During Mackey’s time in Juneau, she mostly performed solo acoustic sets, though she occasionally collaborated with other Juneau musicians. The excitement in her voice at having a band to support her was tangible.
The band is made up of musicians from the aforementioned burgeoning music scene in Anchorage. The soon-to-be-released full-length album was produced by Phillips and James Dommek, Jr., also of Anchorage’s indie sensation The Whipsaws. Dommek also is part of the Meg Mackey Band, playing drums, keys, synth and contributing vocals. James Glaves took on the role of lead guitar, also contributing keys, drums and vocals, in addition to fronting his own band, Ghost Hands. Marty Severin is the bass player, who also contributes guitar and vocals and plays in the band Jack River Kings. Phillips and Mackey have collaborated musically in the past, but he is currently focusing on his solo career.
Mackey describes the music scene in Anchorage not only as being impressive, but also a great community.
“You can go to a live, homegrown show here anywhere and just be blown away.”
She also describes a nurturing support system.
“Shows like ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ have made it a competition, but here bands help other bands.”
The collaboration suits Mackey well and she’s excited to share her growth with her friends and fan base in Juneau come April. Mackey and her band will be performing at Folk Fest and also plan to have an album release party.
Making music one’s life, even with support from friends, family and fans, can be difficult at the start.
“I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that I’m calling myself an artist.” Mackey said.
As Mackey works on her development as a professional musician — recording, hiring a manager and putting out records and merchandise — she’s found herself both inspired and in debt, but the affirmation she receives from friends and musicians she admires keeps her positive.
During Mackey’s visit to Juneau, she will be on public radio and holding a couple performances downtown. Mackey appeared on Tideline with Angelina Ahrens on Wednesday on KRNN 102.7. She’ll also perform two live shows, tonight, March 1, at the Hangar on the Wharf, starting at 8 p.m. and Friday, March 2, at the Rookery Cafe at 7 p.m., coinciding with the First Friday gallery walk. During her shows, she will have for sale her EP, as well as merchandise. The money raised on this trip will hopefully help Mackey and her band fund the April trip for Folk Fest and the album release party.
For more information on Meg Mackey, visit megmackey.com or her facebook.com/meg.mackey.music, where you can listen to some of her songs.