Dan Mac: “Be Your Own Paul McCartney”
Dan Mac: “Be Your Own Paul McCartney”
For most people, the peak of the pandemic would arguably be the roughest time they’ve ever been through. The isolation, instability, and mundanity of life can be extremely unbearable. But for Dan McLawhorn, it turned out to be one of the most productive and inspiring times for his music career.
From Oak Lawn, Illinois, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dan McLawhorn aka “Dan Mac” began his solo music endeavor in his basement — which he’s nicknamed “the lab” — during the pandemic. Before starting his solo project, Dan was initially inspired by his mother, a gifted flute-player, who had him enrolled in music lessons since he was a little kid. After learning how to play a few instruments, Dan formed a band with his friends in high school called Sage. The band wrote original songs and even recorded some of them as they played locally.
Fast forward through Covid, heartbreak, going away to college, and we get Dan Mac’s latest single “Pawn.” Like many angsty teen musicians, Dan does not shy away from the topic of heartbreak and how his experience with it shaped him into the person he is now.
Of his four singles, “Pawn” is the most unique in its level of maturity and dance worthiness that is simple, yet effectively sounds like a cross between Wallows and Surf Curse. Dan has cited that his inspiration for his music stems from artists like Green Day and even some aspects of Weezer, specifically their song Buddy Holly — which makes a lot of sense given the major-key melodies and rather “emo” lyrics such as “You were the best part of my life / But you might like confessing with a bloody knife.” Granted, what teenager doesn’t feel that way after the love of their lives ends up leaving.
Now, since the release of “Pawn,” Dan has been working on a record titled M.I.A named after his dog Mia who tragically passed away. The record contains an “A-Side” which goes into depth about part of his sophomore and junior year as well as a “B-Side” which represents the final stretch of his high school career. M.I.A is expected to contain a mix of genres as Dan experiments with different sounds that break out of his usual indie rock sound.
The official release of the album is yet to be determined with his studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago at the front of Dan’s mind; however, we are all patiently waiting to see exactly what he has in store.
UIC Radio: Who are you and what inspired you to start music?
Dan Mac: I’m Dan McLawhorn aka Dan Mac. That’s my stage name. And what originally inspired me to start music was mom who was a flute player who had gotten into Juilliard and the Chicago Symphony, but she wanted to start a life so she was like f*ck that and ever since I was born, she’s just really influenced me in music and stuff. I took guitar lessons when I was in first grade and I took piano lessons for two years just trying to figure out if I found any of that interesting. So I took the piano lessons and the guitar lessons, kind of like, stopped for a while and then in sixth grade my jazz band needed a guitarist so I picked it up again. So since then, I’ve been playing guitar, the piano, learned how to play drums efficiently, and then over quarantine, I started to play in the basement and so like it’s evolved a lot since then.
How would you describe your sound at the moment and how has it evolved?
Probably alternative and indie rock but like I’m working on a lot of stuff right now that’s sort of branching out towards modern like r&b or hip hop. Initially, I started writing songs my freshman year when I joined a band with my friends. We both liked 90’s grunge and alternative so that’s what I was originally going for. Recently, I started to pick up the influence of some of my friends. They’re all into hip hop, rap, and R&B and they all love Kanye, Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, etc. so I’m sort of moving that way and I’m just experimenting with beats and stuff in my dorm.
So you have a newer single out called “Pawn.” What’s it about and what plans do you have for it?
So basically, I’m writing a whole concept record about my life in the last 3-4 years ever since my sophomore year of high school. I started gathering ideas sophomore year but I realized I couldn’t just write the whole thing about that year of high school because my life has changed so much since then. And so, “Pawn” is going to be on the B-Side that’s kind of near the end of the record because the first side is about myself going into junior year. The whole record is called M.I.A because I had a dog pass away sophomore year of high school which really tore me up, but this song in particular was about a girl I had met so this song is sort of bringing out how the relationship turned out like “you’ve got me out of control” which is one of the lyrics of the song.
As far as performing goes, would you consider yourself a performer? Have you performed live?
Yeah so me and my band called Sage in high school wrote a few originals and we recorded two of them and they’re not that good so we were more of a live band so we would perform live in different bars around Chicago and we started freshman year and went to senior year and I love performing live so much. I’m planning on finishing this album which has been in the process for two years and it doesn’t help now that I’m in college but once I’m done with that I’ve been planning a whole concept in my head with a projector and a screen in the background and I wanna have show lights and proper sound and a sound guy and plan a whole two-hour epic sort of thing. I want the show to sort of be like you’re watching a movie. The ideas are all there, I just have to bring it to life.
It sounds like you’re super excited to take creative liberties with your work.
Yeah, one of the reasons why my band in high school split up was because we started to have a lot of creative differences with how we play shows and write music. It reminds me of the Beatles documentary, because Paul McCartney’s in total control and has a clear vision and it was funny when I was watching it because me and my bandmate are just like Paul and George Harrison. We both have clear distinct ideas for what we want to do and sometimes they collide and so now, it feels great to sort of be my own Paul McCartney. I live by that: Be your own Paul McCartney!
Have you been given any good advice to keep you motivated to continue this project?
I would say don’t try to be 100% perfect all the time. I think that goes for most things but for me in particular, I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to recording. I have one song called Precious and it’s 7 minutes long because I had so many thoughts in my head. Listening back, the song is so overblown and loaded and I think with that, listen to your peers, because I sent that song to my friends and they gave positive feedback but they were also telling me about all the stuff that I do not need and I didn’t listen because I thought “this is what I want” but now listening back to it, they were so right. So basically, don’t be a perfectionist and listen to your friends.
Spotify: Dan Mac