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The One Man Show of Mark Macri

He plays keyboards, guitar and sings. Mark Macri stays busy for good reason. His setlist is varied from retro to current hits, groove bumbers and a lot of songs where you find youreself singing along. I particularly dig the way he handles the New Orleans thing, and when he’s working in funky electric piano-oriented sutuations. Of course, selections from The Meters to the Goo-Goo Dolls, there’s more to his act than that. He’s comfortable and has an air of ease about the way he connects with his audience and this is part of the fun that exudes from his performances.

Mark was kind enough to take a few minutes with us here at Sounds of Syracuse to chat about music, his highlights along the way and the music community here in Syracuse.

Chuck Schiele: How long have you been playing music? How did you find your way into it.

Mark Macri: When I was around 5 or 6, my mom bought me one of those little organs with the buttons that played chords. I was also singing on pitch at an early age. Once in high school, it seemed to really accelerate from there.

CS: You’ve had quite a career as a musician.
MM: My 1st professional/paying gig was with a band called “The Allnighter’s,” doing a few gigs in the tri-state area before we toured military bases in Japan for 5 months, from December of ‘86 to May of ‘87.

I was laid up for 9 months when I broke my back (L5) in April of ‘88. Shortly after that, some friends took me to a Danny Holmes show, where I started singing harmonies with him, eventually becoming his side guy in The Danny Holmes duo. Then on May 24th, 1991, I went solo. 31 years later, I’m still at it, full time.

CS: What came first: Chicken, piano, egg, guitar?

MM: Keyboards for sure. I played acoustic bass in high school for symphonic band, percussion in marching band and it wasn’t until I went solo that I thought to myself how to play acoustic guitar (just strumming chords really, I’m not sure I call myself much of a guitar player).

CS: Please share with us about your solo work these days, and those with whom you collaborate.

MM: As stated, I went solo in ‘91. In October of 2004, I moved to the Celebration/Orlando area, where I eventually secured a residency at The House Of Blues/Orlando for over 13 years. I also played from Melbourne to Tampa, even the main lobby stage at The Hard Rock in Tampa. I basically played 8 months in Florida and 4 months home yearly. Guitarists Tim Boehlert and Bill Harsma both were in The Mark Macri Duo with me for brief stints. The band TRAINWRECK came to be in 1997 with Tim Boehlert, Lenny Milano and Creamo Liss. This September 9th will be our final show at Shifty’s. I’m also in the band “Mood Swing,” led by Danielle Rausa, I joined 2 years ago. This coming November 25th will be the debut of a new band called “Mark Macri And The Funk Junkies,” featuring Robbie Spagnoletti, Jake Capozzolo and Ed Gorham. I’ve also done studio work mostly with Case and Davidson as well as a few others, and 3 full albums/CD’s of my own.

CS: Your CD features an impressive array of Syacuse talent in the liner-notes. Tell us how that came about and the inspiration behind it.

MM: That CD, “Still Human,” is almost 6 years old already! 27 musicians/artists on it, with the sole purpose of celebrating the beloved CNY music scene that I love and respect so much. The 1st CD, “A Day At The Human Races,” was released August 25, 1996. The 2nd, “A Better Place,” was released February 29, 2004 and “Still Human,” October 2, 2016.

“Still Human,” revisited some songs from the 1st CD, as I grew in a studio setting, and to take my 1st attempt in producing, I wanted to revisit some songs with different visions that came later, again, as I grew, along with newer originals, 2 about the loss of my mom and a couple others.

CS: Share with us some of the better highlights along the way.

MM: Well, Japan so early in my career for a 22 year old at the time was pretty amazing. When you’re that young, you don’t really care about working/traveling like a dog, for not much money! Lol.

Joining the Danny Holmes Duo was a real education that definitely prepared me to go solo. Danny wasn’t afraid of anything and I can say “some” of that rubbed off on me, as well as most of the clubs we played graciously took me on when I went solo.

2004 was a big year, traveling to England for the 1st time for some gigs, then later making the move to Orlando. The residency at The House Of Blues afforded so much exposure obviously, domestic and internationally. Working and recording with Paul Case and Billy Davidson certainly had some highlights. Besides the recording, one of the biggest was doing a show with The Subdudes in Wisconsin, who are a BIG favorite with us, as we played a lot of their music.

I’ve opened up for a few great acts, Orleans, Little River Band and notably, REO at The Hard Rock Live in Orlando in April 2018, sold out show.

In all that, the biggest highlight to me is having the most loyal, loving and generous supporters that ANY musician could ask for, hands down, in many states. I easily have over a million miles on the road.

CS: Every musician has stories. I love the stories. Any cool stories?

MM: When you’re a full time, seasonally touring musician, you see a LOT! Especially when traveling with others. Being the sober guy (the majority of the time) you’re painfully aware that you’re a baby sitter for your not so sober friends, basically the driver and perhaps preventing them from getting arrested. Letting “less than sober” celebrities sit in, mostly in Florida, where I was fortunate to work with some higher profile charity events, hanging with other celebrities, performing for many, even getting to break bread and spend time with them.

With all this, sometimes you have to share in your supporter’s grief as well. You don’t always get to perform happy occasions. Sometimes you perform at funerals and memorial services, because they’re part of a giant “extended family.”

Being flown to The Almafi Coast to be a surprise performer at a wedding reception clearly didn’t suck! Lol.

CS: Advice for budding musicians:

MM: Don’t ignore the seasoned players. I think some don’t feel as though us older guys have much to offer, but what they don’t realize, is that it takes the rest of your life to get better. Some have freakishly natural talent for sure, but for most of us who don’t, it takes time and experience. Try and leave the egos outside the rehearsal room, etc. Most importantly, try and play with people that are way better than you. That’s great motivation, if again, you can put ego aside to learn from someone else. Don’t be opposed to playing more genres than your favorite.

CS: What are your thoughts on the CNY music scene and community?

MM: The CNY music scene is sacred to me. Because of our northern climate, our opportunities are significantly more limited than say Florida (as I witnessed for 15 years). The result of that is CNY musicians have to really hone their skills to be able to gig up here, which is the downside, but the upside is, since you have to work so much harder to get a paying gig up here, when you go to a place like Florida, (where again, because of the climate, any guy can get a gig whether they’re good or not), a CNY musician will stand out in a sea of mediocrity.

A lot of friends who travel and check out live music in other regions of the country most assuredly report back about the lack of wealth of good musicians while they were there, compared to us up here in CNY.

CS: I imagine you have forthcoming plans for your music?

MM: Yes! A new recording project is in the planning stages presently. This new project will be all duos with the absolute cream of the crop vocalists from CNY and one from the Orlando area that I had the pleasure to collaborate with. I don’t do deadlines. “Still Human” took 5 years to record, mostly because of me living in Orlando, but wanting to record exclusively at SubCat, with Pat MacDougall at the controls. The new project is tentatively titled “Great Company.”

CS: Where do we stay in touch with you and your music?

MM: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. My website is MarkMacri.com.

CS: Thank you Mark, for taking some time with us here at Sounds of Syracuse.

MM: Thank you Chuck, for the chat.

 

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.