Interview: Mata Macdonald

Mata

Mata Macdonald is a talented multi-instrumental dynamo! Breaking the charts on MySpace, Amazon, and iTunes, Mata’s country-folk music is making a huge impact on the music scene. If you like the mandolin and I find it hard to believe that anyone wouldn’t, you will dig Mata’s Celtic Americana Folk music. Pour a pint and pull up a chair!

OCR:  You used to only perform for close friends and family members and only starting recording your musical arrangements in 2010. Was there something holding you back from sharing your music to unfamiliar faces? Humility? Fear of reception?

MM: I think it was just a lack of self-confidence, especially when I was younger. It’s funny how things change as you grow older. But, if anything, I think playing on my own for so many years was perhaps good for me – it helped me to develop my own style.

OCR:  You’ve topped the charts on Amazon, iTunes, and MySpace! In such a high-tech world where trends come and go so quickly, how does it feel to have lasting stain power in the Country and Americana charts?

MM: It’s a great feeling to know that people are listening to my music. It still surprises me when someone tells me they like one of my songs, so it feels pretty incredible that people like it enough to buy it!  I think the internet has really made my music accessible…it’s an essential tool, especially for musicians who live in more remote and rural areas of the globe!

OCR:  You grew up in the beautiful country of Scotland. Do you draw artistic inspiration from the natural splendor that surrounds you? 

MM: Yes, but more so from the unique and traditional culture of the Hebrides. I’m from a small group of remote islands on the west coast of Scotland, known as the Outer Hebrides. Gaelic is still widely spoken on the islands, you can still conduct business with a cheque, many of the roads are single track, and you can still find a great ceilidh with real Scottish country dancing at a community hall. Music is an important part of our culture, whether it’s traditional, folk or country music.  Much of what I write is typically drawn from my surroundings, my upbringing and my experiences. I’ve also gained a lot of inspiration from my travels in Canada, both in British Columbia  and Nova Scotia.  

OCR:  Celtic root songs like “Ruby’s Daughter” and “For Days Gone By” make me want to jump up and dance…I think the mandolin does that to me. What draws you to traditional Celtic sounds? How do you manage to combine that with modernized elements of Americana, Country, and Folk genres?

MM: I think I am drawn to traditional Celtic sounds because it’s a very popular style of music here. When you go out to a pub or a ceilidh you will more often have an accordion playing than a bass guitar. There are many brilliant traditional musicians in the islands and it is probably the most accessible form of live gig to go see!  I think the different genres (e.g. Celtic, Americana, Country, Folk) combine easily in my head when I am writing because they are the sounds I listen to!

OCR: The music industry measures success by the number of units sold and the millions made off an artist or band. When it comes to your musical journey, how do you measure success?

MM: In terms of music, I think so long as you’re enjoying yourself and the bills are getting paid you are a success; happiness is success.

OCR: Who are your musical influences? Was there one momentous experience that you can trace your love for creating music to?  

MM: My parents used to listen to a lot of folk music when I was young and I grew up listening to John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Simon & Garfunkel and Dougie Mclean.  When I first went to Canada (I was about 16), I started listening to artists like John Mellencamp and Tracey Chapman. Right now my playlist has Tom Petty (my wife loves him!), The Civil Wars, The Boy Who Trapped the Sun (Colin MacLeod), and Mumford and Sons.

I don’t think I had any one experience or an epiphany that made me love music or want to create it…I just started playing guitar when I was about 16 – my dad also plays guitar. I didn’t take any lessons and I never really learned to play covers when I was younger, so I just started writing my own songs as I learned.

OCR: What’s next for Mata McDonald?

MM: I’m working on some new songs at the moment; I’ve put a few live videos, recorded by Uist Film, on my website to gage the response to some of the tracks before I decide where to go with them. I’m also interested in working with a label or distributer in the future.

Check out Mata’s website at http://www.matamacdonald.com and be sure to give his music a listen on iTunes!

Connie Bio

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