My Town My Music’s Local Artist Spotlight
We’re throwing the spot on local artist Annie Mack, Rochester’s foremost blues vocalist. She spends much of her time between here and the Twin Cities, performing at numerous venues and festivals in both areas. Ms. Mack is a wearer of many hats: “mom, wife, musician, booking agent, marketing executive…and psychiatrist,” she adds with a laugh.
Mack is currently pushing her newest project to the masses, a four-track EP titled Tell It Like It Is. “I have been very fortunate to work with some very talented artists that I respect and admire and that push me to work harder.”
Though it is her foundation now, Mack wasn’t always drawn to the genre. She truly believes the blues found her at a time in her life when she was ready to appreciate it. Growing up, her home was filled with the sounds of soul, R&B, funk, and country. Blues was in the mix, just not the main focus. “I always associated it with ‘grown folks’ music,’” she says, laughing.
It was during the time of her mother’s death that she was looking for a creative outlet, and a friend turned her on to the blues. “I felt like I had come home. I listened with my heart and felt a connection. It’s the same feeling I have with gospel or any other music that tells the truth. My spirit was looking for truth.”
Who/what were your musical influences growing up? Have they changed as you age?
So many growing up for different reasons! I love the panache and delivery of Ella [Fitzgerald], the storytelling of Johnny Cash, the melodic soul and dynamics of Bobby Bland, the falsetto of Prince, the truth of Bob Marley, the unapologetic fierceness of Nina Simone. For me, it’s more than just the music. It’s the depth and humanness the artist brings. My taste has changed as I age, absolutely. I think it’s the same thing I look for when pursuing a friendship at my age: realness, relatability. Am I challenged to be a better person? Does this feed my spirit in a positive way? What can I learn from them? Organic beauty. Depth.
Name one person who has been crucial to who you are as a musician/performer today:
I would have to say God. My story of music is not really the norm. People who have no training or connections typically don’t accomplish what I have been very fortunate to achieve. At some point, it was revealed to me that this was a spiritual journey—God taking me and getting me to work through some very heavy and important things. The things that have led up to my greatest moments really have come from a Divine place. My desire to help others and to be transparent through music is beyond me. There are so many who have been my strength and encouragement. I could not honestly answer with just one person.
When did you realize your passion for performing live?
When I experienced making a genuine connection with people.
What has been your favorite performance experience?
I guess it was finding a home away from home. I appreciate the heart and respect of the talent buyer at Buddy Guy’s [Legends blues club in Chicago], Mr. Maddox. He gave me a chance when my own home market, for whatever reason, was not working. I decided to have some faith and step into some opportunities. I went where people wanted me, where they made a place for me. One of those nights, Buddy Guy himself was in house, and it was the coolest thing. He had some pretty positive things to say! I would repeat them, but there were a lot of F-bombs…and, yes, they were positive F-bombs!
What’s the funniest/strangest thing that’s happened to you while performing?
See above story.
What artist would you love to meet?
I would love to meet Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes. I think she really is in a league all her own. It would be all shop talk—I would pick her brain about her multiple Grammy-winning album Sound & Color. It is a brilliant album that keeps company with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill or U2’s Joshua Tree. It’s really quite beautiful and powerful. To me, one of the most obvious things was that the album showed how much growth and raw talent this group has. They are all about longevity and getting better as artists. Don’t even get me started about the production and Brittany’s vocals! Seriously amazing.
What is it like to hear your music getting airtime on The Current?
I am humbled and, of course, proud at the same time. A lot of my musical inspirations are played on The Current and Heartland Radio. It means that something about the music is resonating with folks. I’m not able to tour extensively to get my music out there, so getting played on The Current allows me to reach a new listening demographic and reach folks that would normally not hear me. It has been one of my goals for the past year or so to continue to build my home market and gain support locally.
Tell us about the creation of your new EP, Tell It Like It Is.
I had just ended working with my longtime band, so I wasn’t committed to anyone or anything. I had continued to write and was sitting on some songs when I was introduced to established musicians/production team Jon Herchert and Joel Sayles. My husband and I had worked up a majority of the songs, and we brought them to Jon and Joel. They took them to the next level. I was very inspired and motivated to prove that I had my own voice and was ready to really establish myself as a writer and vocalist.
How did you select tracks for the EP? Do you have a personal favorite?
Well, it sounded good and felt good! I have been working with two very talented producers, Joel Sayles and Jon Herchert and my music director Paul O’Sullivan. We all agreed that my blues foundation is just that—a foundation—and that it was time to build on it and challenge myself to try new things vocally and musically. As I was recording, I realized how much I LOVE so many styles of music. I don’t ever want to limit myself again simply because I’m afraid to be different! No one grows by doing the same thing over and over again. I have so much that I’m ready to tap into. I’m really excited to get back in the studio to finish the full album.
My personal favorite is “Closer”.
What music/artists are you currently listening to?
Classical music. Go figure!
Name a song, artist, or genre people would be surprised to know you love:
Genre: I really enjoy old Country Western Swing…I have been to the Grand Ol’ Opry and Nashville.
Song: “She’s No Lady” by Lyle Lovett. I really dig his versatility and also the way he sings…out of one side of his mouth!
If you could choose to perform with any artist, living or not, who would it be?
Whaaa?! There are too many! Oh man…hmmm, I think Betty Davis. She still blows my mind, decades later! Raw power soul.
What do you see as the strengths of the Rochester music scene?
I have seen it develop over time. There is a genuine mutual respect and support amongst the musicians. There are beautiful souls in Rochester. These folks understand the art of support and want to be a part of something organic and cool.
What aspects of the local scene do you feel could use improvement/growth/more attention?
I think just being willing to take a chance and listen to something outside your norm and really embracing the experience, as well as respecting the practice, e.g. paying a cover charge, the importance of buying merch, etc.
What is your idea of a perfect venue, as a performer and/or fan?
A listening room with space for interaction, a space that is full of creative energy and love.
What is the best concert you’ve seen in Rochester?
Haha, there have been so many. I’m really digging my good buddy Brianna Prudoehl’s pop-up venue at Fox and Fern Floral.
What artist(s) would you love to see come to Rochester?
Alabama Shakes, so I don’t have to drive to Chicago to see them!
Catch Annie starting things off for the Amanda Grace CD release party Dec. 2nd at The Jive Mill. Details >>