Mac McAnally does it all and he does it really well. He’s in demand as a studio musician, session singer, guitarist for Jimmy Buffett, song writer, producer and manages his own successful solo career. How does he juggle it all? “On the surface they can be construed as different jobs, but I look at it like every day I get to be in the service of music.”
Incredibly and well deserved (despite his humble protests), Mac McAnally won his 8th consecutive Country Music Award for Musician of the Year this November. An award voted on by his peers, the recognition from them is what is most valuable to McAnally. Mac’s modest personality is apparent as he gives great accolades to his fellow nominees while trying to curtail talking up his own talents too much.
We talked about his “day job” (as he called it) referring to life as a Coral Reefer. Mac’s been working with Jimmy Buffett since the 80’s and joined the band in the mid 90’s once his kids were older. He affectionately calls them his second family and this year, his oldest daughter married Mike Utley’s (Coral Reefer keyboardist) oldest son. Now they truly are related.
Mac’s fan base stretches across different demographics from the southern fans who’ve been with him since his early days, the country music fans who’ve found him through his songwriting and of course, Jimmy Buffett’s fan base, AKA Parrot Heads. Mac appreciates Parrot Heads noting how accepting and supportive they’ve been of his music. “The fact the Parrot Heads started with Jimmy [Buffett] as the core and followed each of us [Coral Reefers] out our individual song lines is remarkable.”
New Album: AKA Nobody
Mac’s latest album is titled AKA Nobody which isn’t one of the song titles, it comes from his modest personality. Referencing his guitar strap which reads “Nobody,” it’s McAnally’s wish for people to focus on the music, not the person.
The stand out Trop Rock song on the album is “Island Rain” co-written with Kenny Chesney. So far, they’ve written several songs together, two of those have found their way on to an album. McAnally explains the essence of the song is “appreciating what you have, although often not what you expected.” We all find ourselves in a moment where we expect one thing, but get something different. Explaining how in the islands, we are inclined to expect sunshine, but sometimes we get rain. In “Island Rain” McAnally and Chesney remind us to appreciate the current circumstances even if it’s not what we envision. It’s all about perspective.
Chesney let Mac know his excitement about the song appearing on AKA Nobody, “Kenny’s funny in that he seems as excited about having a Mac McAnally cut as someone should be about having a Kenny Chesney cut. He’s very pumped about this.”
Mac hopes Chesney will cut the song in the future. “Because he’s got a longer throw as an artist. I think people will benefit from hearing this song and he’s got more people to sing to than I do. So, I hope he cuts it one day. But in the meantime, I had a blast singing it and hopefully it will resonate with Parrot Head fans.”
Upbeat and optimistic, “A Little Bit Better” is the feel good song on the album and striving to be a little better every day is something Mac applies to his own life. “Loser Gumbo” is the story of a rumored restaurant / bar down in Louisiana who’s dinner menu included the loosing chicken from the nightly cockfights.
The unexpected song on the album is “Zanzibar,” a throw back jazzy gypsy sound unlike anything you’d expect from Mac. It’s fun, upbeat and quirky. Mac reveals “I’ve never done anything like it, I don’t who else has done anything like it. It’s pretty different.” This song reminds him a little of his father, a WWII veteran, who loved geographical travel type songs and big band music.
“As a guitar player, I’m a fan of the gypsy jazz sort of sound from Django Reinhardt. And the fact that we go all over the world with Jimmy [Buffett], my passport is pretty exotic looking for a kid from Mississippi. I haven’t been to Zanzibar yet, so obviously I need to go.” Mac jokes that maybe he could shoot a tourism commercial for the island. “The jest of the song is about going to the ends of the earth and Zanzibar alphabetically is pretty much at the end.”
Adding to the unusual song is Mac’s trickery in getting his three daughters to sing background harmonies. Ranging in age from 26 to 33, none of his girls are studio singers. He says “I brought them in one at a time and said ‘try this’ now ‘try this’ and I put it all together after they went home. They didn’t realize they were singing the harmony part until it was finished.”
In the humble style Mac only knows, he’s offering his AKA Nobody album for free to everyone through January 4th. In his open letter to fans, he writes “I am not a man of great wealth but I can at least offer you something that I value and hope it brings something good to you and yours.”
– See more and download the entire album here: Mac McAnally AKA Nobody Holiday Special