PopCrush Presents: Mack Keane
Every week at PopCrush, we’re putting the spotlight on one up-and-coming act you need to know about. Why? So you can get on board early before everyone else and their mother jumps on the bandwagon…and so you can be that one friend in the group who’s always like, “Um, actually, I prefer their earlier work.”
When Mack Keane decided to become a musician, he wanted to get started as early as possible. However, he also wanted to know how to do more than just craft a song: He wanted to learn the business side, too.
"I just thought the opportunity to go to New York for school, music and music business and get more educated in the field I was entering was a more intellectual thing for me to do instead of just jump into the music scene," the 20-year-old singer and producer tells PopCrush.
Raised in Los Angeles, Keane has been studying at New York University where he created his new EP, 2107, which is named after his freshman dorm room. Released May 5, the seven-track record is filled with pop-R&B tunes that explore his experiences in NYC, love and growing up. He also recently finished a new video for his single, "Imagine," which he is premiering exclusively on PopCrush, below.
"The video is a journey into my imaginative mind, thinking about the girl and what could have been," the artist shares. "Through psychedelic and silhouette inspired visuals, the dancing represents the endless thought of when an emotion consumes your for a period of time."
To celebrate the video's release, we spoke to Keane, below, about his upbringing, his new EP and the first song he ever wrote.
You come from a musical family. Did that have any influence in your decision to pursue music?
Music has been around me my entire life. My dad has been playing piano throughout the entirety of me being born. My mom sang and was an actress and dancer. So naturally, I gravitated towards that stuff. They were introducing me to Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind and Fire, the classics, when I was four years old. That was my lullaby, and I still listen to it to this day. It definitely impacted me a lot. My brother is a musician, and my sister is a singer and dancer. It's just a big artistic family.
Let's talk about the first song you wrote and what it was about.
The first song ever? Oh, man. So I was six years old, and I had just learned a few chord progressions on the piano. And the first one was "Heart and Soul" [sings some of the tune]. Then I wrote this song called "Caroline." It was a super cheesy song. "Caroline, oh you'll be mine." It had a old school '60s vibe, and my siblings would make fun of me all the time. I'd sing it for friends and stuff like that.
What inspired you to go to NYU first instead of just jumping into the music business?
I just thought the opportunity of going to New York for school, music and music business to get more educated in the field I was entering was a more intellectual thing for me to do instead of just jump into the music scene. [At NYU], I can train and be better. So I can grow as an artist, and I wanted a change of scenery, too, and experience a different kind of lifestyle.
I love Los Angeles, and I'll probably move back there after school. There's also more creative space. Here it's impossible for me to produce all the time because I have roommates. They'll always say, "Mack, put on your headphones." But I love it here. It's a different vibe. I'm having different experiences in New York than I could never have in Los Angeles, and I think music is about translating those experiences into sound.
Do you feel being in New York has changed up your sound and how you approach music?
Definitely. Here I approach it in a more business kind of way because there's more of a business aspect in New York City. Musically, I approach it in an appreciative way because I think the business side of music can bring you down and defeat you as an artist. And here I learned that it's all about the music. That's what counts. That's what matters.
Can you talk about the significance of the EP title, 2107?
It was my dorm room during freshman year. I wrote those songs when I was 17 and 18, and I wrote about all the experiences I've had and the long distance relationship I was going through and mental things I was thinking about.
What song off the EP do you most enjoy performing?
The ones I enjoy performing are "I Would" and "Remember Me." "Remember Me" is more soulful. I love the chords in it.
What's "Imagine" about?
It was a relationship I had. It was a back and forth relationship. It's being together and not being together, and that point when we're not together but still have feelings for each other—even when she's already with someone else. It's like, "Can you imagine what we would be if..."
Who would you want to collaborate with?
All the people I would love to collaborate with are Pharrell, Malay, Frank Ocean's producer. I love his work. Anderson .Paak. Justin Timberlake. D'Angelo. Although D'Angelo would never happen, that would be a dream of mine. I saw him live, and it blew my mind.
You produce your own music. Would you be opening to producing other artists?
I want to do it all. I definitely would love to produce other people in the future, but it would happen when I get established as an artist because that's what I want to do mainly.
How do you balance school and being an artist?
It's so hard. It's hard to go full-force into music, but it's better to start now than later. It's a slow process, and I understand that there's something about being patient and growing into something steady, especially in today's industry. It's so different. So I just thought I would start now and build a small following. And then by the time I'm out of college, I somewhat have a basis to start my music on. But it's hard to balance the two because the schoolwork gets in the way of the creative process. I just try to pick my battles to keep it balanced.
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