Finding new Maine-made talent is always fun and such is the case with singer-songwriter-guitarist, Bert MacDonald — a.k.a. Earl Mac — who will perform Monday, May 7, at Slates in Hallowell. Not being familiar with Mac, I checked out his website to get a sampling of his music that graces the “Derelict” CD that’s currently out to find out more about him. I also scheduled a telephone interview to get a little more insight into the quiet, self-effacing artist before his Hallowell gig, which began with a confirmation question.

Q: This interview is for a gig at Slates, correct?

MacDonald: Yeah, I’ve got a couple of others booked, but this one is Monday, May 7.

Q: How many albums do you have out, or is this the first?

MacDonald: Well, this is the first one that’s got only my name on it. I’ve played on a couple of other records here and there, which has kind of been my role, honestly. I’ve been with Joel Lockwood for a while, played lead guitar for him. In my spare time I write my own songs and do my own thing. It was actually Joel who kind of prodded me, saying, “Your songs are really nice, you should do something with them.” He basically made me book the studio time and I’m happy he did.

Q: Oh, where did you record this CD?

MacDonald: Right up with Bob Colwell at the Root Cellar. That’s pretty much the go-to place for all of us up there. The main thing with Bob is that he doesn’t try to impose his own influence. He really likes to get the best takes out of you and it’s just a really comfortable (experience). He’s just a great guy, I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Bob. I grew up in Belgrade so my first exposure to live music was a lot of those guys playing down at the Weathervane.

Q: Where are you now, still in Belgrade?

MacDonald: No, my dad is still up there but I’m down in the Portland area now, I actually live in Old Orchard and I’ve moved probably a dozen times in the last two or three years. It’s been one change after the next, really, which has been kind of nice because as I’ve been putting this record together. It’s been kind of like therapy up there. Everything else has been chaos, but going up to Bob’s for a few hours it’s all you really think about, so it was a nice break from the stress of everything else.

Q: When you do the Slates’ show, is it going to be solo — you and a guitar?

MacDonald: I’ve got a couple of guys down here that I pretty much always play with. I know that I’m going to be bringing at least one of them, Justin Bureau. He plays bass guitar. I find that it makes the show more full without having to bring in a drummer and everybody else. Also, it’ll present the songs pretty much as they were written, which is a very raw format where you get to hear the bare bones of the song. There’s a piano player I would like to bring with me as well, I just have to clear it with Katie (Daggett). Originally it was just going to be me and a bass player, but I think the piano would add a lot without taking up too much space or adding too much volume.

Q: Is what we hear on “Derelict” pretty much representational of what folks will hear that night in Hallowell?

MacDonald: Well, they’ll hear those songs but a little bit stripped sown and not so much ear candy going on. It’s more, like I said, almost how they were written: me on an acoustic guitar. That’s what they’ll hear at Slates. In fact, a lot of the songs that you hear on the record were live performances in the studio that we kind of polished up a little bit. I think it’s a pretty fair representation of what they sound like.

Q: When did “Derelict” come out?

MacDonald: It officially came out at the end of February of this year. Folks can hear it on my website, as well. There’s a little calendar in there with some of the shows that have been booked. I plan on being able to sell some merchandise directly off the website and I’ve been thinking about adding a blog or something to keep people up-to-date on what’s going on. You know, the intent was never to go and win a Grammy and tour the world, I hope, this being my first effort, that it kind of lays the groundwork for everything that comes next. I would love to be able to record another one sooner than later, and I hope to generate some interest and some more opportunities to play them in venues. That’s the other thing — the main goal with this group is not to be in the bar rooms. I want to play on nice, formal music stages: there’s a few of them in Portland, there’s a few of them in New Hampshire. I would like to branch out eventually but not at the cost of sacrificing the venues. I want to make sure we’re on good stages and it’s presented as original music and not just some background music for a bar.

Q: And Slates is the perfect venue for that, people go there to listen and enjoy good music, you don’t have to compete with a bar or anything.

MacDonald: And the sound is immaculate! I’ve played two different shows there and I’ve gone to see a few and the sound they get out of that room is really pristine. You can hear every little pin drop.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

MacDonald: Well, I released the record and it’s a scary endeavor because, to be honest, it’s not an overly up-beat record. I’ve been through some colorful things over the last few years so when I hit “enter” on the internet and uploaded everything and put it out there, it was a scary moment. But when I woke up the next morning and discovered over 200 likes it was extremely humbling and I’m very appreciative of people taking the time to let me know how they felt — it was very encouraging and I want to thank them for that support.

Lucky Clark — a winner of the 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award — has spent 49 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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