Country rocker Mark Mackay returns to his old stomping grounds this week.
The Hollywood-based Mark Mackay Band will perform 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Nevada Museum of Art, 160 Liberty Street, Reno. Friday at 9 p.m. the quartet will dish out a free show in Vinyl at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Stateline. Concertgoers must be 21 years old.
Last year, the band released the album “11 Miles Out of Nashville,” a follow-up to the group’s initial E.P., “Keep Your Headlights On.”
The six song album draws heavily on one of Mackay’s primary sources of musical inspiration: life on the road. But Mackay’s muse is not just that of a homesick touring musician.
“Before I was a full-time musician, I traveled as a sales manager, and have years and years of traveling experience,” Mackay said, recalling 10 years of work in ski and snowboard and medical sales.
“The first album, ‘Keep Your Headlights On,’ it was meant to be a collection of songs about being on the road,” he said. “Your headlights on the freeway was this metaphor about looking to the future and new experiences, as well as being a retrospective on the past.”
In keeping with this theme, “11 Miles Out of Nashville” was named after a trip to the Tennessee town, during which Mackay visited a recording studio, 11 miles outside of town.
“The name just sort of stuck,” he said.
Formed in 2014 after Mackay quit his job in the Bay Area and moved to Los Angeles, the band is Mackay (guitar, lead vocals), Joe Langham (guitar), Matt Carter (drummer, vocals) and Des Brewer (bass). Mackay met Langham shortly after moving, and the two played a show together in San Jose. Mackay knew Brewer through a friend, and added Carter shortly thereafter, and the Mark Mackay Band was born.
“The chemistry is just unbelievable; I call us the core four,” Mackay said. “We have kind of a cool thing going. As weird as this sounds, everyone in this band is believers in good quality music. We all come from different backgrounds.”
Brewer is steeped in Southern California country rock history, having been the bassist for a band called the Long Ryders in the 1980s.
“This genre of sort of country rock, alternative country that we play in, one of the bands that was kind of credited with creating that movement in Southern California, was the Long Ryders,” Mackay said. “They’re credited with sort of creating that environment in Southern California that allowed Dwight Yoakam and Emmylou to prosper there.”
With an eclectic group of influences informing its rock-country groove, the group is committed to straightforward, no frills music.
“It allows us to throw a lot of flavors into making a unique sound,” Mackay said. “The intention of the music is to be really honest and a little bit raw-sounding. We’re a very polished band, but it sounds like four really good musicians got together and just started playing together, behind the scenes backstage.
“They’re just very honest songs, about life experiences, about love, and being on the road and meeting new people and discovering new places,” Mackay said. “That’s where all the songs start, and that obviously fits very well with this genre of rock country music that we play.”
A UNR graduate and a five-year Truckee resident, Mackay is pleased to be back on mountain turf, describing the Truckee-Tahoe area as “always home to me.”