In a moment when lots of music is beginning to feel repetitive, predictable, and a bit mundane, Mac Ayres comes along feeling like a necessary breath of fresh air. The New York native is a 20-year-old singer, songwriter, and producer who recently released his debut Drive Slow EP earlier this month—and it’s an impressive introduction, to say the least.
In just nine tracks and nearly 30 minutes, Ayres showcases his range in style, vocal ability, and musicianship. Blending elements of soul, R&B, jazz, and hip-hop, Drive Slow creates an atmosphere that is intimate but inviting. Tracks like “Easy” and “Calvin’s Joint” seem as if they could have easily been made two decades ago yet still manage to feel modern and refreshing as a whole.
Though still a newcomer, Mac Ayres is already making waves. His singles have been in rotation on Soulection radio and featured on the Instagrams of celebrities like Joe Jonas. He recently toured with HW&W signee Pomo, and now he’s got Fete Records behind him.
Listen to Drive Slow, and get to know Ayres better below.
Tell us a little about yourself, when did you start making music?
I started singing early on but I only started making music when I was 11. At the time, I couldn’t stop listening to Stevie Wonder and I basically begged my mom to buy me a keyboard that year. I only started to take songwriting seriously about three years ago.
How would you personally describe your own sound?
If I had to decide on one genre I would say it’s soul music, but it has elements of other genres, like R&B, jazz, hip-hop, etc. So it’s kind of hard to pin it down.
When and how did you link up with your label, Fête Records?
I linked up with Fête Records around February 2017 through my manager and Fete co-founder, Robert Augustine. I had posted a song called “Easy” on Soundcloud and they reached out and really helped me believe in myself as an artist. They showed love before a lot of other people did. I’m really appreciative of those guys. They’re family.
What are some of your favorite contemporary artists?
Guys like Gabriel Garzon-Montano, DJ Harrison, Kiefer, Mndsgn, Anderson .Paak, Knxwledge are most of what I’ve been listening to recently. You can find more tunes that I’ve been listening to through my Spotify playlist!
Who would you say influenced your music? Artists? Relatives?
I have a lot of musical influences, but my biggest would have to be Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, and J Dilla. None of my family members are musically inclined, however they’re incredibly supportive. I’m definitely fortunate for that.
Your debut EP seems to have recurring car themes, what's the story behind that?
The Drive Slow EP is supposed to be a metaphor for life. Too many people are rushing through life, and it’s important to remember to appreciate where you’re at in any stage of it. I hope the records on that EP inspire people to enjoy life.
What's the significance behind the minivan? It's on the cover and referenced on "Should We Take The Van?”
The minivan that you see on the cover is actually my mom’s car. We had shared it ever since I started driving. I have a lot of great memories of that van.
You collaborated with another one of our favorites, Innanet James. How did you two connect?
Innanet James and I met through Fête Records, actually. He’s been on Fête a few months longer than I have. The original version of “Should We Take The Van?” was just me. I had sent the track to the guys at Fête, and they ended up showing it to Innanet. A couple days later I got a text from him saying he wanted to throw a verse on it. I told him to go for it, and the rest is history. He killed it!
Who else do you hope to collab with soon?
I’m not really hoping for anyone in particular, but I’m always open to collaboration. I have a few exciting collabs in the works though.
All your songs feel really personal but still inviting, what's your songwriting/creative process like?
Music is just something I love to do. I produce and write the majority of my songs—the only track I didn’t produce on Drive Slow was “Devil’s in The Details”, which was made by my homie Paul Castelluzzo. I also do a lot of writing with Chris Anderson, Jack Dine and Mobocracy.
What instruments do you play?
My main instruments are piano, keyboard, and my voice. But I also love to jam on the guitar and bass. I try to incorporate as many live instruments as possible.
What do you want people to take from your music?
I don’t necessarily want people to feel a certain way when they hear my music. I just want them to feel something. I think a multitude of things can be taken away from my music, it’s just about how the listener interprets it.
What plans do you have for the rest of 2017?
I’ll be heading out to L.A. for my first time in October to do some writing and play a couple shows. Afterwards, I’ll be hitting the road for the Fête Records European tour in support of Chris McClenney.