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Q&A with cellist Lindsay Mac

Alt-folk cellist will perform Saturday at Unity Music Festival

Alt-folk cellist will perform Saturday at Unity Music Festival

June 12, 2009|By NATALIE BRANDON / Special to The Herald-Mail

Q: Who or what first got you interested in music and picking up the cello?

A: In fourth grade they introduced me to the school's music program and the lessons they offered at school. All my friends picked up the violin, but I felt bad for the cello because no one wanted to play it. I also thought it'd be a challenge to play such a big instrument.

Q: What made you want to continue playing the cello as a nonclassical professional musician?

A: There came a point in my education where I graduated from college and during that time I left college and went to several conservatories and dropped out of them and eventually graduated with a liberal arts degree. I have always been really drawn to music, but the classical world wasn't for me and I knew I could play the cello well. The cello captured my heart.

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Q: How did you get the idea to strap the cello to your body instead of playing it in the traditional style?

A: It was an honor to open for k.d. lang. I decided, for that performance, if I was going to stand in front of thousands of people at the amphitheatre, I wasn't going to be sitting down. It was liberating to finally move around onstage. As a singer, I felt like that was what you were supposed to do. Now that I play with a band, for the most part, it's also easier to interact with them while I'm onstage.

Q: What advantages or disadvantages does your unique style of playing the cello give you as an artist?

A: I'm glad you asked about the disadvantages, because I think a lot of people assume there are advantages, because my technique is unique. When you stand up in front of a bunch of people, especially when no one knows who you are, you capture the room immediately. Whether or not you keep their attention is a matter of how good you are.

(Playing the cello this way) is also memorable. If you don't remember my name, you'll remember how I played the cello.

In truth, I'm just a songwriter. My technique is different and certainly sounds different. You have to rely on your body as a musician.

Q: How does your unique style appeal to today's young adults who are listening to more popularized music that doesn't include classical instruments?

A: The good thing about the radio and CDs is that you don't know what's going on. You hear the music. You don't see the music. Hopefully, the sound is what people really relate to as the younger population. As a young person, myself, I think I can speak to that audience.

Q: How would you describe your sound?

A: My goal is to make the listener feel something, whether it's joy, sadness or being pissed off. Music is a conveyor of emotion. I guess I'd describe my sound as honest. I don't write any songs where I'm trying to be someone that I'm not. It also may be complex. I think some of my lyrics can have double meaning or irony. I, personally, enjoy songs where you listen to a song and you like the first listen, but you get something new out of it with each listen after that.

Q: Where do your song ideas and inspiration come from?

A: I wish I knew, because I'd go there more! I think I gather inspiration from life. There's certain things that just hit you and then you try to figure out "what about that moment?" and you capture it. Like a line in the grocery store when the kid asks for a candy bar and the mom may not just say no, but she can't really afford it. I like to write lyrics with substance behind them.

Q: On your most recent album, "Stop Thinking," you cover "Blackbird" by The Beatles. Were The Beatles an influence on you or your music throughout your life?

A: Not really, because I was never exposed to The Beatles that much. I was exposed to classical music. Mom and Dad always had NPR on the radio at home -- they're really former hippies, themselves.

Q: What other artists inspire you, personally as well as musically?

A: As a young person playing the cello, I was really inspired by Yo Yo Ma. He personalized the cello and he's also a really nice person. When I was younger, he played with some of my orchestras, and I played with him again in college. He plays bluegrass, tangos ... he's not afraid to play (outside) the classical repertoire. As far as popular music goes, I'm inspired by a lot of people and it changes from week to week. I like artists who allow their music to be really honest and exposed. That's what drives me in music: emotional quotient. Music can really seep into parts of your soul that not many other things can.

Q: Describe your songwriting process.

A: I don't use songwriting to vent. I like the build-up with tension and its release. It's great when they both happen. Once the song is written and I get to perform it, I find that to be very therapeutic. Writing, for me, is very cerebral -- finding the correct words. Lyrics are from the head, music is from the heart.

Q: How were you discovered?

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