McClain Sullivan Interview
McClain Sullivan Interview
By Norman Mayers
Meet McClain Sullivan, a Southern belle with the voice of an old soul. Fresh off her mesmerizing performance at Nu-Soul Magazine’s Strictly Social, the lovely Ms. Sullivan is ready to drop her eclectic EP My Machine. Bouncing from drum & bass to deep house to neo-soul to folk pop, but anchored by gritty jazz vocals, the EP is a solid introduction to the enchanting world of McClain Sullivan, a wonderful place you just may never want to leave.
Nu-Soul: You have such a unique vocal style. Who are some of your musical heroes?
McClain: Let’s see, my musical taste is really all over the charts. I grew up listening to a lot of Jazz so that had a huge influence on me. I loved Sarah Vaughn and Nina Simone. Then on the other end of the spectrum there was Ani Difranco and Liz Phair. They told stories that I could relate to. They gave me strength and in a way taught me how to write about my own life. The of course there is Stevie Wonder, The Pixies, Sia, Adele, Chet Baker, Diane Reeves, and the list goes on.
Nu-Soul: Do you have any formal vocal training?
McClain: I started training at a young age. My mother was like ” Get this child in a choir!”. I was one of those kids who was constantly singing and wouldn’t stop despite the social situation. So I joined the Seattle Girls Choir. Then I trained in a gospel choir and took private lessons, but I didn’t really open up until I joined jazz ensemble in High School. I felt at home, and continued on going to the jazz conservatory at New School University in NYC.
Nu-Soul: You seem to jump around into various genres. How would you describe your musical style?
McClain: True Story. My producer (Atlantic Connection) asked me that the other day and I buckled. I’ve always floated around in so many types of genres that it’s been hard to for me to pin myself down. It wasn’t until we did this EP My Machine that I really felt like I could define myself. I’m soul with pop and jazz in the mix. You like how I did that? New music style Soul/Pop/Jazz.
Nu-Soul: How did you link up with Atlantic Connection?
McClain: Atlantic Connection and I started working together when we were both still living in Wilmington, North Carolina. I remember going over to his house and watching him work. It was amazing. He was so fast and had such a good ear. It wasn’t like he was just producing “a beat” he was playing chords putting in samples and creating a mood. It was one of those “aha!” moments. We’ve been working together ever since.
Nu-Soul: Tell me about your EP, My Machine. What were you trying to accomplish musically?
McClain: We were trying to put something together that told our stories, and brought the listener in. I wanted to show who I was as an artist. That we could put a drum and bass track in there and it would work. I’m really proud. Usually when I hear myself I’m full of criticism, but we took our time and gave the tracks room to grow.
The true test is always when you put it in your car and drive your usual route. If it makes you want to get back in your car then you are gold. If you find yourself biking the next couple days then it’s back to the drawing boards. I was happy with this one. I let it relax in the “disc 2 spot” in my CD changer (you can’t have it as the first CD. That’s just way too self involved).
Nu-Soul: You also have a project with rapper Fuzz Jackson. What is that project all about?
McClain: Well, the project is called Fuzz and Mac. We are a hip hop duo, and have been playing for a few years together. We started off with a live 8 piece band,and then branched out together. We just finished our second album and have been playing shows on a pretty regular basis. I love working with Fuzz. We both push each other and keep each other level when times get rough. You should hear him freestyle. It is truly ridiculous.
Nu-Soul: You recently did a tour on the West Coast. How was that experience for you? What did it accomplish?
McClain: It was so great!! I did not want to leave. We made some great connections and we got so much love from the audiences. We are actually coming back in a few days and playing some more shows. I’m hoping that I can keep coming out a few times each year and build on the fan base. What can beat the Cali sun?!
Nu-Soul: What can we expect from you next?
McClain: Why more music of course! I love finishing a project and getting to start on a clean slate. Right now we are in the process of promoting and then recording a follow up. Hopefully soon you will see me so much you won’t be able to take it anymore. You’ll be like, “McClain on another billboard…sheeesh!”
Look for My Machine coming soon!