Todd Mack is clearly on a major creative roll. he is about to release a brand new CD, “Square Peg, Round Hole” with a brand new band, Star Alternative (who will be backing Mack this Saturday at his CD release party at Club Helsinki.)
His second children’s book, “Princess Penelope Takes Charge!” has just been published, with another book on the way that will feature tips on surviving the music biz.
Now Mack can add video star to his resume, after collaborating with veteran videographer Tim Newman (ZZ Top, Lou Reed, Randy Newman) to shoot “Already Gone and Only Halfway There” at The Old Egremont Club.
In his increasingly hard to come by spare time, Mack is a successful producer and popular disc-jockey whose show “Off The Beat-n-Track” on WKZE is about to be syndicated.
According to the ubiquitous singer/songwriter/author/DJ/producer, his diverse projects are creatively connected. “One thing feeds off of another. I am first and foremost an artist, and have been lucky enough to figure out how to apply the same basic skills and talents that I posess to different things. All of the things I do draw from the same well.
“Writing picture books and writing songs actually have a lot in common. They both require storytelling, imagination and a strong sense of rhythm and meter. being a DJ and producing other artists’ CDs have a lot in common. They both require a strong ear and the ability to be a good listener and communicator.”
Mack’s sixth CD is a rocking collection, one that deftly blends Replacements-like tenacity with some playful humor, reflecting Mack’s penchant for generating some serious fun.
“My songs reflect the different sides of who I am,” said the former Griswold front man. “I think hummor can be a very powerful too. It can serve the dual purpose of making a statement while making people laugh.”
A case in point is the sure-to-be concert favorite, “The More You Drink” (“The better we sound”). Mack, who has logged oover a half-million miles and more than a thousand gigs, explained. “I wroote it a few years back when I was living on the road, playing close to 200 shows a year, and away from home and my family a lot more than I was with them. Life on the road has a false sense of romance — great in the beginning but after a few years, it can start to lost iits luster.”
Mack, like many other club-circuit singer-songwriters, knows what it is like to face the kind of audiences that are more interested in their cocktails than his compositions. “With all the other sacrifices you are having to make to be on the road, it can start to wear you down. But that’s a hard thing to really complain about because most people haven’t lived that life and can’t identify with what it is really like. And let’s face it, there are more important things to complain about. if I’m gonna make a serious statement, it’s gotta be about something that warrants that kind of seriousness, sch as ‘Beautiful Angel’ on the last record. Otherwise, I try to find the humor in things.”
The indie-rock vibe of “Square Peg” is a departure from last year’s more rootsy-Americana sounding “Yonder [the] Big Blue Holler,” which included the contributions of more than two dozen players. Mack sees his more rocking approach as a function of a leaner, meaner supporting case. “When it came time to promote the “Blue Holler” it wasn't feasible to use all 25 players live, so I picked one of the drummers, one of the bass players, and a new guitarist, stuck us all in a room one night to play and wham, the band was born. it really gelled from the get-go.”
The energy and cohesion that Mack shares with guitarist James Bill, Matt Sermini on drums and longtime collaborator Will Curtiss on bass is evident on their funky cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s “Take The Skinheads Bowling” as well as Mack’s more poignant moments — like biting album opener “Tell Me” and the catchy and wistful “Bombs Away.”
Sometimes you just can't laugh,” said Mack. “You’re too pissed off, too sad, too concerned, or tooo whatever to laugh or joke about it. A lot of what I’m writing these days is actually more rooted in this direction, and I think the next CD or two, which I’ve already started recording, you’re gonna hear more of the serious side of what I do.
“The maing thing is to keep creating. Truly, that’s what keeps me going.“