Do you ever wonder about that pivotal moment in your life that led you to where you are today? For up-and-coming artist and producer Rob Mcleod aka Mac Lloyd, that moment was the first time he watched School of Rock.
While under the spell of Jack Black’s over-exuberant guitar-playing antics and comical portrayal of a rockstar wannabe, ten-year-old Mac Lloyd. He took no time in getting his hands on a guitar, and from the sounds of things, he’s not put it down since. It’s a crime for a musician of McLeod’s calibre to have flown under the radar for so long, but it looks as if the tables are about to turn triumphantly in his favour.
Writing, recording and producing music of his own, McLeod is never afraid to experiment and encompass a range of different sounds. A master of a style that he describes as melancholic soul, Mac Lloyd has dipped his toes into the realms of more upbeat R&B and indie music styles with his latest EP, ‘Sweetheart Soul Jam Tracks’, released on May 1st via Green Brick Records.
Constantly adapting from release to release, Sweetheart Soul Jams exhibits a sullen, yet optimistic quality that makes the listener feel that something good is always around the corner. These tracks offer a more upbeat take on Lloyd’s traditional sound, while still encapsulating the raw and honest style to his music. The result is a passionate thrill ride through McLeod’s psyche, which, like the world’s oceans, is mostly undocumented, but open to explorers.
McLeod hopes that these new releases have helped to distract listeners from some of the world’s current tensions. And if that wasn’t nearly enough. Mac Lloyd’s latest single, ‘I Guess (That’s The End) is due for release on August 1, so keep an ear out, y’ hear.
As McLeod continues to explore his sonic exploration of different styles, and with new releases on the horizon featuring a unique variety of producers and rappers, it’s impossible to know what he will do next. But whatever the case, we are seriously excited about it. Dewey Finn AKA Jack Black is undoubtedly raising devil horns and strumming out a tune or two in his favour right about now. And who could blame him?
Having reviewed several of Mac Lloyds earlier releases, we wanted to chat a little more in depth about how he’s been affected by the recent strains on the music industry to his thoughts on Blackout Tuesday and his reasons for writing Sweetheart Soul Jams.
Can you tell me about your musical journey up to this point? How did you get to where you are now?
Well, it’s a bit of a disjointed journey, but I started playing the guitar at the age of ten and spent much of my time admiring (ripping off) guitar ‘gods’ like Hendrix, Clapton and Angus Young. After years of playing in local punk and metal bands, I decided to study music production at Bath College so that I could get a better understanding and control over the recording process. While I was there, I was learning music production, getting into sampling and making hip hop through recycling and sampling Soul, Funk and Rock records I was brought up with. I was also singing/screaming/yelling in a band called Sell Your Sky.
After a few years, I decided to leave the band and focus solely on the beat making as my tastes had shifted quite a bit over time. I ended up launching Beat Bandit Recordings and running that for a few years until some personal issues got in the way and we called that a day. I was at a bit of a loss creatively and having any direction in my life. I had a bunch of songs that I had worked on slowly over time that had elements of all of the above, and I felt like I sounded more like myself than I had ever done before. It wasn’t that amazing, but it was quite raw and honest, I guess.
What is the story behind the Sweetheart Soul Jam tracks?
The Sweetheart Soul Jams were kind of just a random selection of more upbeat tracks, as my usual sound was on the more minor, sadder side. Sweetheart Soul Jam 3 (& 5 if you’re on Bandcamp) were both written and recorded a year before the first one. So I just decided to package them together as they seemed like a neat fit.
I was messing around at home playing guitar, and I started playing the chord sequence and then recorded the vocals in a couple of hours. And to me, the title describes the vibe of the track, at least the first one, pretty perfectly. It’s got that indie R&B mixtape kind of feel to it, and I just ran with it.
I wrote a LOT of sad songs, and I didn’t wanna just be pigeonholed as a super sad guy, because in real life I’m actually pretty alright, most of the time. I just went through some shit and wrote loads of songs about it all.
Do you have any new music in the pipeline? What should we expect from you next?
Ah, I’m so excited about how much music I get to release soon! On August 1st I’ll be releasing my first collaboration with Berlin-based beatsmith George B. This one’s on the soulful side, so it should follow on from the recent Soul Jams nicely. I’ll also be releasing a collaborative project with Green Brick head honcho, Res One very soon, we’re just ironing out the creases, as they say, and finalising a few last bits and bobs.
I’ve also got a project that’s coming together really naturally with producer James Tsoi, a serious top-dog on the instrumentals. Oh, I should also mention that I’m working on something unique with my mate Dutchie, she’s a badass DJ and producer, runs with Hold Tight Collective and is based in Bristol!
What’s it like writing, recording and producing music of your own?
It’s both liberating and tormenting at times when I’m writing alone. It makes you hate yourself and believe in yourself more than anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life. There are parts that I cannot do myself, like playing live horns or whatever, so I call in some pals to fill out those gaps. But for the most part, I like to have complete control over the direction of the song. Greedy, I know. As the songs were so incredibly personal to me when I first started writing under the Mac Lloyd moniker, I wanted to be able to express in the right way, I guess, and it’s sorta been that way since the start.
There are a lot of artists that inspire you in one way or another. If you had to choose one artist to collaborate with, who would it be and why?
Right now, it would be Norah Jones. 100% no questions, we could write one of the softest, greatest love songs ever. Plus I’ve been crushing on her since I was a kid. Norah, respond to my DMs, please?
Just kidding, I’m not harassing Norah Jones. But I do think that we would complement each other well on a duet of some kind. If she said no it would be someone like Flatbush Zombies or Danny Brown. Mix it up a little bit.
The music industry is obviously under a lot of strain at the moment due to Covid-19. How have you been handling things as an artist?
I’m honestly quite lucky in the sense that music is not a primary income (yet). I was put on furlough from my previous job and then an old employer reached out to offer me an IT job from home. So in complete honesty, I have been quite lucky in that regard. However, I have many friends and collaborators that are really struggling to make ends meet in these times. Many who work in the events, arts or catering industry as a backup, have essentially been shut down for the best part of three months. It’s scary, man. It has been good to see so many artists create so much new amazing work though. There is that upside.
How do you think the music industry should move forward?
I think at this time, the government must provide some actual holistic support to the music and events industries. There have been minimal grants and schemes to support people in these areas that have been hit hard by the pandemic and lockdown.
Unfortunately, I’m not that surprised that the government has failed to support these industries but going forward I think there needs to be an absolute shift in perspective toward the arts. I think for a long, long time artists have been incredibly undermined for their input to society. If we were actually to take away art itself, we would then have to remove so many forms of entertainment. The ones that almost all of us rely on in some capacity to keep us occupied and content, the ones we turn to when we feel like crap. I think with the shift in perspective we’d see a lot more long time support toward the entertainment industries, where these industries can be protected and properly nurtured so that they can survive unexpected instances like this.
Read about the latest government support for the music industry here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/157-billion-investment-to-protect-britains-world-class-cultural-arts-and-heritage-institutions
In light of recent events and the Black Lives Matter movement, the music industry kick-started a global event called Blackout Tuesday (June 2) inviting anyone and everyone to “disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” to “provoke accountability and change”. What are your opinions on the event?
I think it’s incredibly necessary and I hope to see industries of that magnitude continuing to nurture and support communities that need it, especially in times like these.
It’s great to see a snowball effect from Blackout Tuesday and the BLM protests worldwide, now we’re seeing a very large amount of pressure being put on those who have the power to bring justice to those who deserve it. Hopefully, we can re-evaluate and rebuild communities that actually serve all its members, instead of a selection. Hopefully, the snowball effect continues, and we can see some radical change for the better!
To keep up to date with Mac Lloyd’s released be sure to give him a follow.
Photos by This and That Media