We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark McKee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, the decisions we make often shape our story in profound ways. What was one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make?
In 2013, I moved to Los Angeles from Raleigh, NC. The most difficult decision wasn’t actually moving to LA, it was STAYING in LA and not retreating back home. The first 2 years are some of the most brutal you will go through. I struggled to make my way through it all, but persistence is key. I wouldn’t have the life and opportunities I enjoy so much today if I hadn’t stuck with it.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a music producer, songwriter, musician, and recording engineer in Los Angeles. Not always in that order, but those 4 things swim around each other in any random day of my life. The thing that perhaps sets me apart from others is that I think of myself as a swiss army knife-type creative. In the live setting, I play multiple instruments – keys, synths, guitar, bass as well as programming and sound design. A lot of modern music relies heavily on sampling and programming, which I certainly love, but being able to really dig in to a guitar or piano part on a recording and treat it like a performance rather than just a sonic layer is something I am proud of but it also has a tactile use in the world in which I operate. One thing I try to live by is just to keep making great stuff that you believe in and love, serve the song along with the artist. You may sit and wonder when your moment of more success and winning will come, but your moment is always right here and right now. I try to remind myself of that all the time, and it makes for life as a creative person much more rewarding to focus on the craft and the quality of your work rather than the acclaim. Another thing that I have learned is that anything can inspire you wherever and whenever. I have written songs in the drive thru at starbucks, in the shower, etc. I have to frantically grab for my phone and voice memo things while they are fresh and don’t escape me. Don’t wait to be in the studio to come up with great stuff. Songs can start off with the tiniest of ideas – a hook, a line, a riff, a lyric. It’s like a tiny seed that can grow a whole tree. If it’s good, it will find its way.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is my non-pandemic LA visit list. When things open up again, hopefully this will be useful! Make sure you have a car because this city is massive and public transportation is very lackluster. Here’s an idea of what a week in visiting could look like: Day 1: Hollywood. Touristy stuff first, just to get it out of the way. You can see most of it within a couple of hours and a few blocks. It’s usually underwhelming, but people who haven’t seen it before REALLY seem to want to, so knock that out and then get dinner at 25 Degrees by Roosevelt Hotel (great burgers, great vibe for that part of town). Maybe see a show at Hotel Cafe, then end the night with a cocktail at Minibar on Franklin. Day 2: Beach cities. Park at Santa Monica Pier (lot stays open til 2am). Do the pier, the Promenade, take an Uber over to Venice beach. Start with the boardwalk, then watch the Sunset on the rooftop of Hotel Erwin. Make your way over to Abbot-Kinney and some evening window shopping, head back to Santa Monica for dinner. Day 3: Go to the actual beach, but go to somewhere slightly more chill like Marina Del Rey. Park there for the day and just relax. Head back to the city that night and check out Sunset Junction/Silver Lake. Great spots like the Black Cat, Buttonmash, Silverlake Ramen, etc. Day 4: East LA – Start with an early hike in Altadena or Eaton Canyon. Night time, head to Highland Park – any of the fantastic bars and restaurants on York Blvd or Figueroa are amazing. Bowling at Highland Park Bowl, then check out Good Housekeeping, The Blind Barber, The Hermasillo, or the York. Also, my favorite coffee spots around there are Civil Coffee, Kumquat, and Go Get ‘Em Tiger. For pizza, check out Triple Beam or Town Pizza. Day 5: Museums. The Getty, LACMA, The Broad, Huntington Library are some of my faves. Other spots I love for live music: Bootleg Theatre, The El Rey, The Wiltern, Regent Theater, The Lodge Room, Teragram Ballroom, and Moroccan Lounge.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
It may be cliche, but I owe so much to my parents who are music educators and always supported me even though I got myself into a very risky and unstable career choice. They taught me not just the fundamentals (piano lessons starting at 5) but also provided a very supportive environment for me to try different things, have LOUD band practices at our home in the bonus room, and come to shows when I was younger. That stuff is so crucial, no matter how tough the journey is knowing your own family has your back has gotten me through some of the darkest days.
Other: I play for an artist named morgxn – @morgxnofficial
Live Photos: Ben Zucker Studio Photos: Joe Moralez