You may already know Drew Mac from his role on the reality show EJNYC, or from his stint as a member of the boy band I Am Him, assembled by Grammy-winning producer Steven Russell. Now, the rising musician is gearing up for the release of his first solo single and album, and today releases the teaser for his new song, "Again," featuring the band Exes.
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We caught up with the singer to talk abot his transition from reality TV into music, coming out, and the sound he's going for.
Out: Have you always been a musician, or is this something you've become recently?
Drew Mac: I've always been obsessed with music. I started by competitively dancing, and training 40 hours a week, when I was 9. That's what got me into music and everything, and then I thought, 'Why don't I make my own music?' I was using GarageBand, and had Britney tracks on it and was singing over them. Without music I don't know what I would do. I'm completely obsessed.
Where were you competitive dancing? Kansas City?
Yeah, I started in Kansas City and travelled all over the U.S., and that got me out to L.A. and New York. And that got me obsessed with the coasts. So I always knew I'd come out to one of them and do my thing. And then I went to be a dance major at Loyola Marymount, in L.A. I trained with some really awesome people and that was such a great experience. Out in L.A. you get a lot of choreographers from the area, people from So You Think You Can Dance... and then New York has a lot of choreographers there, too, because it's obviously a huge hub for entertainment.
So how did you meet E.J. Johnson and get involved with reality TV?
I was going back and forth between L.A. and New York, but was based in L.A. And I kept running into E.J. all the time--we have a lot of mutual friends in our social circle. And then around his birthday we were all in L.A., about three years ago, and we were at a club, and it was my friend's birthday. E.J. shows up in a fur, and Beyonce was playing, and he and I immediately started dancing. We were the only ones dancing in our group. So him and I looked at each other, and thought, 'Wait a minute.' And we immediately became best friends and started hanging out every single day. To this day we remain best friends.
How long after that did the reality show start?
About two years later. He'd been on Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, and a lot of my friends were on that so I made a few cameos. And then he said he was getting a spinoff show, and he'd love me to be on it. And I thought it would be a really cool experience, and it made me move to New York, which I'd always wanted to do. I have a lot of friends in New York, and I wanted to work on my music in New York. So I jumped at the opportunity, and two days later the producers said, "You're moving to New York. Tomorrow.'" It was a lot to handle, but you do what you have to do.
When did you come out? Were you out the whole time these shows were airing?
I was. I came out my freshman year of college, so 2011. And I went to L.A., and it was Christmas break of that year when I went home to Kansas. I was out to all of my friends in L.A., and even in Kansas, and I'm so close with my family that it felt wrong all my friends knew, and I was still hiding this from my family. So that trip I came out to them. They were so supportive and wanted the best for me. And to be honest, they weren't surprised. They ask about guys now, and everything. I'm beyond blessed.
What about this album and new music?
The first single is called "Again," and I'm working with one of my favorite bands, their name is Exes. I've been obsessed with their music, and I'm actually really close with the singer, Allie--we went to college together and she used to sing me to sleep at night. She would come to my dorm and literally sing me to sleep. We just clicked immediately. And then she started this band with Mike Derenzo. They're amazing. I really wanted to work with these guys, their sound is similar to mine. So we got in the studio and wrote this pretty quickly. It was very organic. It's my first solo music coming out.
What's the music like? Pop? Folk?
My solo music is kind of Jack White meets Robyn. I love rock, but I also love pop, and I was raised on pop, and I was in a boy band. So I pull from everything. This first single with Exes is slowed down, and kind of a ballad, but has this rock feel. It's a breakup song. I write all of my own lyrics, and I draw from experience, so it's emotional. A lot of my other songs that I'm working on right now are more upbeat and rock n' roll. The whole album is written. We're just in the studio every day finishing it up.
It's based on personal experience? What experiences most influenced you?
As I listen back, sadness and stuff has a big influence on my lyrics. It's very therapeutic when I write. So alcohol and drug abuse--I fell into a hole for a minute and had to go to treatment for a month. I used to party a lot. Then there's also some breakup songs in there. That's been my experience. So a lot of the songs are kind of sad, but the beats behind them pump them up. You might be sad, but you have to keep going and turn up.
"Again" and Drew Mac's debut album are scheduled to come out next month.