By James Dillon III & Adam Mac
Each writing assignment I’ve embarked on with Country Queer has been an introduction to a musical act I’d yet to discover on my own. And each of those introductions has led to a new and exciting musical relationship that keeps my personal playlists growing and keeps me ever grateful. This Q&A with Adam Mac was no exception; the lead-up to our exchange found me bopping around the streets of my hometown in Portland, Maine to songs from Mac’s musical catalog old and new. From “Anymore,” off his 2016 album ‘Horizon’ to my ongoing obsession with one of his latest singles, “Disco Cowboy,” it’s clear that Mac is a gifted addition to the CQ fold who’s blessed with charisma to spare.
This cool and clever Kentuckian has more new music coming—2023 looks to be an exciting year in the career of Adam Mac, and I recently had the pleasure of picking his brain and getting to know my newest musical obsession a little bit better.
Take it away, Adam Mac…
Your two latest singles “Disco Cowboy” and “New Vibration” seem to mark a distinct departure from your previous material. How would you describe this shift? What are you embracing musically or artistically that maybe you weren’t before?
I think that I’ve just given myself the freedom and permission to create without limits. Instead of focusing on making myself fit into any specific genre, I have just wanted to tell my stories in ways that felt like me, however that ended up sounding.
Who are some of your inspirations? In country music? In music in general? In queer culture or art? Whose work consistently makes you pause and think “Wow. They’re really DOING their thing.”
So for country music I would say it goes anywhere from Chris Stapleton to Brooks and Dunn, and honestly, any and all ladies of country, old and new. As far as queer culture, I am constantly inspired by queer icons like Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Laverne Cox and other trans women who are just exuding grace and breaking down barriers. I LOVE to see it.
Are there any daily rituals or practices that you must do each day?
I really don’t think so? Is that a red flag? I mean I always need coffee first thing, and recently I have started using this gratitude journal my boyfriend got me. You basically just write three things you’re grateful for each day and then an affirmation to yourself. It just kind of jump starts your brain to be nice to yourself today.
Do you feel you have any expectations to abide by that come with being a male country artist— expectations about masculinity, or subject matter in your songs? Or maybe even performance style or public persona?
Like I was saying earlier with the music, even with the “Disco Cowboy” video, for instance, I just gave myself permission to be 100% myself. I chose every outfit, and created the choreo and the storyline and really just wanted it to be a representation of queer celebration—without holding back—and I’m proud of that. As far as facing stereotypes within the genre, I have come to terms with the fact that criticism over what I look like and who I am just comes with the territory, and all I can do is be a beacon of light for others who need it and if it’s not for you, then that’s totally fine.
Is there a specific goal you’re working towards right now? Professionally? Personally?
I have honestly found myself in such a place of peace both personally and professionally. Letting go of things that do not bring me happiness, and holding tight to those that do… I’m just so happy to be making music I love, surrounded by people I love.
I’m so sorry. Halfway through writing these questions I had to listen to “Disco Cowboy.” I’m back now. Let’s continue…
How much (or how little) has your queer identity played into your work thus far? Is it something you’ve either been compelled personally or advised professionally to play up or play down in your career?
I think with this new album I have gone deeper into telling stories that show what it means to be raised in the south and be queer. There is so much beauty to being raised in the south, I certainly wouldn’t trade it for anything. There is, however, a specific perspective when you are queer and raised in that environment and I really want to tell those stories.
What role did religion play in your upbringing in Kentucky? What role does it play now?
Oh, it was the thing that you did your whole life without question. I think in this new music I really dissect my relationship with religion in a way that’s a little tongue in cheek at times, but still shows how it shaped who I am today.
What’s been your favorite performance experience thus far?
There have been many awesome ones that were special to me, but recently I played a full band show at a block party for Lipstick Lounge’s 20-year anniversary, which is my favorite bar by the way, and it was the first time I had performed a bunch of the new songs with a full band for a big crowd, and it was such an electric feeling.
If you had to choose one thing about yourself that sets you apart from other country music acts, what would it be?
Well, I don’t see a lot of them wearing rhinestone leather harnesses but… y’know, that’s only for special occasions.
What’s something you’d change about the music industry if you could? How would you change it?
I would love to see artists given a better pathway to being discovered and to see truly talented people given opportunities regardless of their social media following.
Is there anything about your relationship with the creative process that you’re trying to improve? Anything you’d like to tell fellow artists who might be struggling to create?
I would say don’t over-edit yourself. Tell the story, all the ugly parts too, because those are the bits people are going to relate to.
Your Instagram bio mentions spirituality and sports a crystal ball emoji. And the cover art for “Disco Cowboy” looks like a card from a tarot deck I’d very much like a reading from. This all begs the question: What’s your sign? Sun? Rising? Moon?
Amazing catch! I’m just a pretend witch, I love to blame shit on the universe from time to time, but I know it’s my own damn fault. LMAO. I’m Aquarius Pisces Pisces. That’s good, right?
James Dillon III is an artist living in Portland, Maine. A self-styled Renaissance Queer, they use photography, writing, and performance art to explore, celebrate, and challenge the world around them.