By Caroline Steman, citizen reporter
What do Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and 4 Non Blondes have in common? They are all inspiration for Netty Mac and her unique sound, described as a mix of great country music infused with a 50’s rock sound.
The Calgary-based singer, songwriter and composer is having a busy year, finishing up her debut record, slated for release early in the new year, as well as playing numerous shows around town.
If the key to longevity is having your own sound, she certainly has that. Her deep, raspy tone and passion give her songs an attitude that moves her audience and molds her trademark style. It’s the heart of the Netty Mac Band, Mac herself, who writes those great lyrics and tells stories of the happy and the not-so-pleasant realities of life.
The Netty Mac Band is made up of some great musicians with real world experience behind them. Guitarist, Mark Stauffer is an amazing guitar player who, according to Mac, “makes his guitar talk”, bassist Russell Boudrea, once toured with Rob Russell and drummer Greg Collins provided the beat for Canadian Idol’s first season top three contestant, Billy Klippert. Each of the band members also provide backup vocals.
Mac was in the studio this week, putting the finishing touches on the vocals for her debut album, You Rock My World, to be released in February 2012. The album is nearly complete, with only one and half solo vocal tracks left to record. All the session players are done, as well as featured instruments, including a mandolin, a dobro, piano and a full string quartet.
Mac got her first guitar when she was 12 and wrote her first song within two weeks; a sad, moody song about some things she was going through at the time. But it was then that she realized music was a great way to tell stories that mattered.
“The guitar is my catalyst,” she says at the studio. “Whenever I have something inside me, the guitar allows me to purge that energy.”
Back in 2008, after 20 years of playing for friends and family around campfires and at weddings and graduation parties, that a very dear friend, Paige Avery gave Mac a leg up.
“My Idgie,” says Mac, affectionately. “My youthful alter ego put a very large stack of bills in my hand and said, ‘now you have no more excuses, get it done’.”
The road to her 2012 debut album began days later, in June 2008, when she recruited her first collaborator, a young novice guitar player she had worked with before. They grew to a group of four and started jamming together in the studio. It was during their very first session that Mac became hooked. She knew she had found her place.
“This is where I want to be. I am going to make this happen,” Mac recalls thinking back then.
Additional funds to complete the album were raised in July 2008 during a concert in her hometown of Brooks. She was on her way.
Mac and her new band hit a bit of a rough patch in January 2009, when her original bass player left to pursue his solo career and just a short time later her drummer followed, to pursue her own career.
This led Mac to start performing at open jams in Calgary’s very strong and close-knit music community. It was during this time that she found her current band members, Mark and Greg, who brought their rock background and Russ, whose amazing country sound added to Mac’s own unique sound. Their music has evolved from the styles that each member brought to the band.
Talent is an important trait, Mac explains, when choosing the band members, but she says personality and chemistry is also a huge factor.
“It’s a pretty tough business out there, but it’s about playing for the love of music,” she says. Being friends with her band first is critical.
Mac was honoured the day Greg Godovitz, Canadian rock icon and namesake of the legendary Goddo, shook her hand and said, “I’m your new producer, the man with a plan.”
She says Godovitz also coined the phrase, “it’s a dog eat dog world and we all have milk bone underwear,” a line in one of the songs on her upcoming album.
Mac says she loves playing live and interacting with her audience and it’s starting to pay off. The band has been busy year round, growing a loyal fan base, adding their own upbeat spin to the cover songs they include in their sets to fan enjoyment.
The Netty Mac Band website features a wide selection of photos and videos of the band, a list of dates and locations of their upcoming shows, a place to get Netty Mac gear and a blog site that allows Mac to share not only what she is up to but her take on what other musicians are up to. Get on the Netty Mac Train and sign up to be a fan on the website.
This train is speeding down the rails now, with no end in sight. For Mac, taking the plunge is the real reward.
“It’s important that when I’m 90 and in my rocking chair I can say, ‘I went for it’!”