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Ken Wallis Chats With Spencer MacKenzie



Spencer MacKenzie may only be 23, but he’s been playing and performing for years. His unique sound has captured numerous awards along the way. His latest album exhibits tremendous growth and he is already becoming a household name. The future of blues needs up and coming stars, and Spencer Mackenzie fits that bill.


Ken Wallis interviewed Spencer MacKenzie for the radio show, BluesSource Canada. The following excerpts from that interview were edited for brevity and clarity.




Ken Wallis

We're featuring a new album by Spencer McKenzie. It’s called Preach To My Soul, and I've always said about Spencer, he may be young, but, he plays like a veteran. This is his third studio album and we're thrilled to have Spencer here to talk about it.


Spencer MacKenzie

Pleasure to be here.


Ken Wallis

So, first of all, I’ve got to ask you, what's the meaning of the title?


Spencer MacKenzie

Well essentially, Preach To My Soul is a song about influences, like in Blues, it's always about influences and where you take influences from, and that's what that song's about. It's kind of about me paying forward, what I know and my influences, whether or not it's directly or not. It's just a song about really being thankful to have that, and then paying it forward. Preach To My Soul, some of the lyrics in there like “play through me from the past to today” kind of things like that. My guitar from the future to the tomb, like paying homage in a sense. It's a big song about my influences really as a musician.


Ken Wallis

I’ve followed you from the beginning of your career and this album to me, really shows tremendous growth.


Spencer MacKenzie

I appreciate that.


Ken Wallis

How would you compare yourself as a musician now to the musician that first started.


Spencer MacKenzie

Mainly people have told me with years of experience, I've become more of a performer. I've gotten a lot more comfortable with playing on stage. At first it was a lot more form, but now although I'm still pretty young, I've been probably playing for about seven or eight years on stages, and people have told me that I’m more of a performer. After Covid, people were like wow, you can really kind of hold a stage and give a performance, instead of just per se, just playing some cool guitar. In my band, I’ve grown too, and we're just a lot more comfortable.


There's not a lot of second guessing on stage, there's not a lot of dynamic issues because it's all coming a lot more naturally now. I just keep watching musicians, and I keep learning from musicians and then sooner or later, it trickles into my playing.


Ken Wallis

I think it's quite different than your previous two albums, would you agree with that?


Spencer MacKenzie

I agree, it's definitely more blues-rock, which is what we're going for. I tell people it's kind of a blend. I like listening to Gary Clark Jr and Joe Bonamassa, that heavier guitar focused album. There are two tracks on the album that aren't so much that, but you have to have variety in every album. But yeah, definitely a more blues-rock focused. It was a simple production with a guy named Ross Hayes Citrullo, he produced the album and he works with Gypsy Soul Records doing bands like Samantha Martin, Bywater Call. He had a direction that we were talking about before we even started. I was really interested in going that way, so I went under his wing.


Ken Wallis

And there's a special song on there that I really like, Paranoia Blues, featuring a guy that we know quite well.


Spencer MacKenzie

Yeah, Steve Strongman agreed to play a solo on that tune. It was in the midst of Covid, so we weren't allowed to all be in a studio at once, but you're allowed to track vocals with the engineer, or track guitars. The year prior I came off playing some shows with Steve. I got up with him in Mont Tremblant, I did a couple of his vinyl releases at Hugh's Room, and the Busholme in Erin Ontario, and then even his legendary Christmas show. After looking up to him for so many years, I thought this would be my shot. I got a hold of him and he was like man of course, I would love to, and he did it remotely because he has his studio at his place. He sent it to Ross, and we put his solo at the end. It was kind of a dream come to have him featured on that song, because I've never even done a feature before.


Ken Wallis

You've got a great video out there, Don’t Wanna Be Your Dog. That's a really professionally shot video.


Spencer MacKenzie

We're fortunate to work with a really good production team, the director, her name is Lisa Mann. She works with or has worked with people like Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Hedley, and a lot of great bands especially Canadian. Through the connections that I had with Ross and some people at Gypsy Soul Records, they were like, hey you should use her on this video. We fortunately got a Factor Grant, so we were able to really upscale the production. It was shot in Toronto.


Ken Wallis

How do you go about writing your songs? What comes first, the lyrics or the music?


Spencer MacKenzie

Well, I still co-write with my dad, Richard Mackenzie on a lot of these songs. I actually wrote a song myself with full writing credit, Can't Do Right on this album, the shuffle. I primarily get lyrics first, but what happens with me, is my dad will write a lot of lyrics and stockpile them and so will I. I'll come up with ideas and I'll put them away. Then what I'll do is also stockpile a lot of melodic ideas, rhythmic ideas, especially on the piano. I come up with a lot of things where if I hear something that I like, I play it and then I evolve it and then what happens is, I have this huge pile of music and I have this huge pile of lyrics and then I kind of start seeing what will fit where.


Oftentimes for me, I have music and, that music persuades a kind of lyric, but oftentimes if I'm writing something not even near an instrument, then I'll go okay, I know this feels like this, so when I go to the piano or the guitar, I go to whatever I'm gonna feel this certain way.


So, I do both, but it depends on the day. I could sit with a notepad all day or I could sit and not write a lyric all day.


Ken Wallis

So, what does the future hold for Spencer McKenzie?


Spencer MacKenzie

People say you sound great, get touring your new album, and I always thank them, but I say wait 'till next year when we're playing the tunes and they'll be even better. We're still going to be touring all over Canada and especially Ontario, but next year the big news that's coming out, is still kind of exclusive right now, but we're doing a European tour next year. It's about a month long starting at the end of April roughly, and there's still a lot of things to be figured out, so hence, not an official announcement yet. But we're gonna be going to places like the Netherlands, Germany. We've been doing really well with the album over there and I have a publicist, his name is Hans, and I can't thank him enough for the amount of great work he's done. So, I'm excited to just really dig my teeth in over there


Ken Wallis

Most importantly, where can music fans get a hold of your album?


Spencer MacKenzie

The coolest way is to come see me live, I'll sign it, the whole nine yards. You can get it on my website spencermackenzie.ca or like everyone now, you can go to Apple Music, Spotify, anywhere you listen to music, especially if your car doesn't have a CD player anymore,


Ken Wallis

Well it's a great album, and again it’s called Preach To My Soul. Spencer McKenzie thanks so much for coming on the show.


Spencer MacKenzie

Thank you Ken





Website: www.spencermackenzie.ca

Facebook: www.facebook.com/spencer.john.mackenzie

Twitter: twitter.com/smackenziemusic

Instagram: www.instagram.com/spencermackenziemusic