By: Todd Davis
QUOTE: “Regardless of subject or circumstance, if you are a human being you will always be judged for some reason. Now, you can revalue yourself with the currency of public opinion. Or, you could realize that scrutiny is proof that you’re doing something meaningful and substantial enough to be criticized. Once you’ve accepted that and embraced yourself, you shut the critics down. That’s what ‘Actin Like You Know’ is about.”
Following her successful introductory single, “Actin Like You Know,” Strange Music artist Mackenzie Nicole, née O’Guin, has been steadily working in the lab creating more and more music, making as many appearances in the media as she possibly can, and also shooting a number of soon-to-be released music video clips. Her brand new offering, “Deleted,” revolves around the issue of dealing with negativiy in one’s life…
Listen Here: https://youtu.be/xgjxqbPCMOs
Tell me your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested in it? And, how did it all begin for Mackenzie Nicole?
I can’t point out a specific instance in which I adopted my love for music, because it’s always been a part of me. Singing and instruments came naturally to me; I hummed before I could talk, and I read sheet music without ever being formally taught. I was also raised in the music industry, as my parents founded and own the largest independent label in the world. This afforded me a unique education of the industry from the inside out, and the resources that later fueled my continuation of life in the industry through my own career.
Now your are a native of Kansas City, MO, correct? So growing up in ‘KC,’ who all did/do you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
I am a KC native! Of course, I have always been inspired by my labelmates, but that’s obvious. Growing up in the urban music core of the City, I’ve always been influenced by old school classic rappers like Tupac or former KC resident Eminem. However, it wasn’t all rap. Everyone at Strange has incredibly well-rounded tastes that introduced me with the art of Prince and The Doors.
At what point in time, specifically, did you opt to pursue music on a professional level?
Again, growing up in the industry with this all-encompassing love of music, I always knew I’d at least attempt a professional career. My first recorded feature was at the age of nine, on labelmate Tech N9ne’s song “Demons.” “Actin Like You Know” was my first released track.
That being said, how do you classify your overall sound and/or style?
This is difficult; my career is still so young, and I am still in the process of discovering my sound. So far, I’d say my music is on the edgier side of mainstream, and you can definitely hear the influence of my hip hop background translated into pop music. My goal is to expand my genre in the same way Strange has notoriously re-imagined rap; by synthesizing music of all inspirations into an original final product.
“Actin Like You Know” — Tell me about this particular track? How did it come to fruition?
My upbringing in a perceived “gangsta” rap label has warranted the wrongful assumptions and slander of many. What other people don’t realize is the thugs and gang-bangers at Strange are the most loving and familial people in my life. They just assume my parents are horrible for keeping such company around me. This was especially true at the conservative Catholic grade school I attended as a child, where I had such wonderful experiences as a teacher telling me at the age of seven that my parents were damned to hell for perpetuating satanic worship. This song was my way of shutting critics down.
On it, of course, you teamed up with rapper Tech N9ne — How did this collabo even come about?
When we were creating Strangeulation Volume II, our label-wide collaborative album, my producer Seven said, “Okay, we can do this one of two ways. We can have you feature on another Tech song, or we can have Tech feature on your song.” Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to turn the tables and release a track of my own, rather than doing what would have been my sixth hook for Tech.
You are the very first “pop” artist signed to Strange Music; that being said, and since your father is the label’s co-founder, what particular string of events actually led to this inking?
Strange Music is a truly empirical label seeking footing throughout the industry, not just in hip hop. This has been the vision since the beginning. I was born in Strange, raised in Strange, and became an artist through Strange. When plans for my professional music began, it seemed nonsensical for my career to manifest anywhere other than Strange. And, if that means I get the honor of spearheading our pop sector, then I am beyond thrilled to take on that task.
Because of your dad’s lengthy experience in the music business, initially was he all for or a bit against you venturing into this industry?
My dad has said a thousand times that he will always support me, but he hates the thought of his daughter becoming a part of the industry. I understand. Any of us who have been in the industry for long enough have seen enough to know it’s a monster. I would have the same reaction if my little brother grew up to want to be in the industry.
What do you feel you bring to the music biz that we don’t already have in other performers?
I’m a pop artist who was classically trained to be an opera singer and raised in a rap label. The diversity of that background alone would give anyone a bit of a unique edge.
Have you encountered any problems in getting to this point in your career?
The main issue I’ve had is proving myself in a situation often written off as nepotism. Yeah, my father co-founded the label I’m on, but if you think for a second that he’s a careless enough businessman to waste time, resources, and money on sparing my feelings, you’re mistaken.
What do you want people to get from your music?
This question always trips me up, because I’ve never made music with the intent to spread some message to others. My art and the creation of has been strictly in the interest of expanding my own understanding of the world through music. So I suppose if anything, my music to be as enlightening for others as it is for me.
If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
AH! This is a toss-up between Tupac and Prince for me. But, I ultimately have to choose Prince because I feel like I would learn more from him artistically.
If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
I have never really thought about this, but now I’m going to have to really consider this. My experience in visiting venues has primarily been in the States, so out of everywhere I’ve been I think I’d have to choose Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. It’s absolutely gorgeous any time, but at night when the stage lights hit the rocks, it’s epic.
One track of yours that you think defines you and why?
Well, my only released track right now is “Actin Like You Know,” but even if I had other music released I would probably still say “Actin Like You Know” is the most exhibitive of myself. It’s my four minute mini-autobiography.
In terms of longevity, what do you feel it is that will continue to sustain you in this grueling recording industry?
I learned from the best here at Strange that you need to evolve, grow, and learn constantly, while still maintaining your identity. Don’t focus on manufacturing hits. Continue to experiment and remember to focus on making every track you do your best work. The hits will come.
Do you have any other outside/additional future aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
Yes! I’m (a) high school senior, and I still totally plan to attend college while continuing my music career. I’m in the unique position to continue music alongside the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, all the while creating a realistic safety net in the event that my music doesn’t thrive the way it must to sustain a career. If music works out, wonderful! I can go to school because I want to, not because I have to.
On a more serious note, would it be fair to say that you are happy with the current state of “pop-ular” music?
I don’t understand how any artist can claim to be completely satisfied with the state of their genre, because if you don’t feel compelled to innovate it in some way, why are you doing music? I think pop is on one of the more promising upswings I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, so my feelings right now are more positive than negative by far.
To date, what has been your biggest career moment, at least thus far anyway?
The filming of the “Actin Like You Know” video was my biggest career moment because it was the first time I actually viewed myself as an artist. To describe myself with a title previously reserved for my idols motivated me to start experimenting artistically and trying to adopt the same head-space that made their work so iconic.
Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
I don’t know where I’m going to be a year from now, nevertheless five or ten! Ideally, I’ve done my job well and Strange Music’s pop sector is thriving…I’m not worried about our rap division, it’ll continue to do just fine. In a perfect world, I’ve finally tapped into that plane of brilliance that the Prince’s or the Jim Morrison’s were on and I’m making really transcendent art like they made.
As for the immediate, what’s next for Mackenzie Nicole?
I’m working on my album right now! So, that’ll be my next be release presumably. I can’t say when it will be done precisely, but it will be soon.
Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?
Not necessarily. You really skipped over more superficial questions and went in for the more substantial material, which is awesome. However, in case you wanted a random superficial fact or two to throw in there, my favorite number is ten and my favorite song right now is “Say It,” by Flume featuring Tove Lo.
Any “closing” thought(s) for our readers?
If you ask me these questions a year from now, I’ll probably be a totally different artist. I hope everyone stays tuned in long enough to see if this rings true.