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Arts & Culture(Archives)


Ross Chapman Interviews…

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Opening Act…
with Mackenzie Walas

I’M PRETTY MUCH WIDE OPEN TO ANY TYPE OF MUSIC, AND THAT INCLUDES some pretty messed up s—t. There is, however the side of me that loves the stuff that got me interested in the first place, most of which came out of Seattle in the early 90s. Mackenzie Walas evokes that spirit in his original music, and he’s good. Really good. I’ve heard a few of the tracks from his soon to be released first album and its going to be a must have for my collection. His voice is deep, penetrating and controlled. He surrounds himself with some truly excellent musicians. His songwriting is brimming with intellect and emotion. What else can I say? I’m in.

Go check out some of his stuff at and hear for yourself, and make a point to go see him live. You’ll be glad you did.

I caught up with Walas and guitarist Joe Howes at the Tavern on Main in early March and discussed music, Fort Mcmurray and the release of his as yet untitled debut album. Here’s the stripped down version of that conversation.

YMM: Let’s start with the basics: tell me who you are and where you’re from.

Mackenzie Walas: I grew up in Southern Ontario, Brighton ON, actually. I moved to Fort McMurray the day after I graduated high school. I’m 25 now and have been in McMurray for just over six years.

About two and a half years ago I started performing at open mics.

I started getting some gig opportunities and always wanted to give it a shot, started getting some really good feedback. Started rolling with it. From there started some social media stuff. Slowly but surely, got some better gig opportunities in Edmonton and started meeting some local musicians.

YMM: Tell me about the album you are currently recording.

MW: We are looking at releasing between five and seven songs... not sure if that is considered a full album or not (laughs) but that’s our goal and we want to have it done by June.

YMM: What do you write about most of the time?

MW: Most of the time I wrote about ah...girls...but ah....

YMM: That’s not necessarily bad (laughs)

MW: …Not only past relationships but like fragments of relationships. But I try to write songs vague enough so anyone can still kind of relate and then a lot of times I try to bleed out frustration in songs. The song The Masses is kind of a mix between being upset at a female but just because they’re kind of like everyone else, right? I think I reference that a lot in my songs. The Masses, y’know? I mean, I’d hate to call people “sheep” but I sometimes feel that there’s this long line of people being led in a certain direction and I like to voice that I don’t want to stand in that line.

YMM: Describe Fort McMurray.

MW: Land of opportunity. You know, I don’t think I’d have the opportunity to do what I’m doing in my work career, but also musically you know? The sky is the limit for whatever you put into whatever it is that you want to do. You can look at examples of it all across the board; small business owners, people following career paths, people following their dreams - photography, music, even the arts and culture that’s growing here. The only negative thing I have to say about living here for six years is that I wish it had been seven so I would have been able to buy a house! (laughs)

YMM: This town might still have its “quirks” but it’s really moving away from the reputation it’s been known for in the past.

MW: Exactly! I’ve been up here for a while and met a lot of great people.

Joe Howes: The thing I find funny is a lot of people say ‘I don’t stick around town on my days off because there’s nothing to do,’ which doesn’t make sense to me because there’s so much stuff here, so much happening that people just don’t know about.

YMM: Who would you compare yourself to? Who have you been compared to in the past?

MW: People like to focus on the rasp in my voice I guess…

JH: I would say you’ve got a Chris Cornell thing happening, I can hear that he was an inspiration.

MW: Yeah for sure, Chris Cornell was a big inspiration, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, I like to call it Seattle music. Anything out of that 90s era was pretty much what I grew up with. But even oddball stuff, some country like Keith Urban and also John Mayer, those are the guys I learned how to sing from. They’ve got a different way of singing. Oh yeah, Dave Mathews is a huge influence. That’s what keeps me partially acoustic. My dad was a funeral director and I grew up in a funeral home so I’ve always had to play acoustic music because I could never really blare it, I could never really turn it up so I’ve always kind of leaned to that acoustic side.

YMM: So your plan is to someday make music your full-time career?

MW: I’d like to absolutely, but right now I compare a Canadian music career to playing in the CFL; you still need to have a second job (laughs).


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