Not only can Mac McAnally carry a tune, he can write a pretty good one too. The prolific career of one of America’s most respected names in country and roots music began with this musical prodigy playing in churches and state line honky tonks before penning his first hit tune at the age of 15. From there, McAnally netted steady gigs and recorded his debut album in 1977.
In 1981, his success continued with “Old Flame” a hit Mac penned for Alabama. In 2008 his duet with Kenny Chesney, “Down The Road,” found him atop the charts again. As a session man he has recorded with several artists, including Billy Joel, George Strait, George Jones and Dolly Parton, while also producing albums for Ricky Skaggs, Sawyer Brown and Little Feat.
For over four decades, McAnally has released 13 albums and been named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association for eight consecutive years. He also is an inductee of both the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
As McAnally describes it, music has always been a driving force in his life. “I’ve heard music in my head all my life. I don’t think I have ever considered doing anything else. At this point, I think of myself as a singer and songwriter, and I’m very blessed that people have gotten happy via me singing and writing. I appreciate the fact that when I wake up every day in some form or fashion, I’m going to be in the service of music.”
Firmly entrenched as a go-to guy with a passion for writing great songs filled with catchy melodies, Mac’s fate was sealed when he crossed paths with Jimmy Buffett, with whom he wrote in the 1980s before joining his Coral Reefer band in the 1990s.
McAnally commented on his relationship with Buffett. “He heard some of my early stuff and took me under his wing. He’s been a great supporter over the years, and it’s a great pleasure for me to still be riding around with him and playing music with him and still getting to do what I do on the side.”
This month, the venerable McAnally pulls double duty, visiting St. Louis with Jimmy Buffet on July 6 at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre and headlining his own show on July 20 at Delmar Hall.
Cut from the same cloth as his idol William Faulkner, McAnally carries a piece of Muscle Shoals with him everywhere he goes. As he returns to St. Louis he reflected on how the city and his Mississippi home share a musical heritage shaped by rivers. “I can’t tell you the science of it but there is something to it. The Indians who lived in Muscle Shoals said there was a lady who lived in the river that songs came from. They felt that their most important songs were connected to the river. I get that. I’ve always had an easier time writing and recording down here.”
McAnally also discussed how St. Louis measures up to Nashville as an important location for America’s musical legacy. “The amount of music found in St Louis is definitely something special and Nashville is also known as a musical city too. These places are unique, not just because they are bigger markets and gathering places for people, but also because they are places for talent as well. It’s one thing to be on the river and be a harbor, but it’s another thing to collect specific high level, talented artists, and St. Louis has done that. So has Nashville.”
McAnally’s next album is a career retrospective recorded with an orchestra with all of the proceeds going to Extra Table, a nonprofit that delivers food to the hungry in Mississippi.
For more information, visit macmcanally.com. M