by Silke Hartung

Connor Mac: Pending Return Of This Mac

by Silke Hartung

Connor Mac: Pending Return Of This Mac

Remarkably early on in his recording career, Palmerston North’s Connor McLaughlin, aka Connor Mac, racked up hundreds of thousands of streams for a single recorded with Karmadella, who are fellow Palmy brothers Taine and Rory Noble – the latter now having credits for working with Kanye West, no less. Had things gone to plan, Connor would be back in NZ right now, but weeks and various cancelled flights later, he’s still stuck in Switzerland where he has spent a lot of time working as a musician at ski resorts during the European winter. Home or away, Covid-19 or not, he still went ahead with the release of his silky smooth new single Spacemen.

One thing that makes you stand out this very moment is that you’re actually stuck in Europe due to Covid-19. What took you to Europe in the first place?

My dad took an opportunity to spend a couple of winters supporting a close Kiwi friend with a ski business in Switzerland, and during this time I went to visit him. I quickly discovered that there was an opportunity to earn enough money as a solo performer to help support my original music plans. 

What’s the visa situation for Kiwi artists in Switzerland?

For Switzerland they offer a seasonal permit for musicians called an ‘artist permit’ which is valid for three months. It covers the bulk of the winter period for me! Fortunately, I have both NZ and a UK passport which makes it a lot easier to work in Switzerland, however the neighbouring countries (Italy, France, Austria) all have fantastic ski resorts where Kiwis can gig in with no problems at all!

During the winter months I am a full time travelling musician gigging in bars, hotels, and for private events (weddings, birthdays, chalet parties). There is a really sweet collaboration of musicians where we often share ideas, equipment and work together to support community events.  

Being surrounded by so many holiday people, and often incredible wealth, any special opportunities that have come up?

I have been invited to perform at some really cool events. I had an awesome experience performing for Bear Grylls and his family at his wedding anniversary, which involved singing and playing guitar in the middle of a snow storm… Not ideal but it was very fitting considering what Bear does. He even got up and sang a couple of songs!

Other private events include performing on a superyacht in Monaco during the Grand Prix, which was absolutely epic. Playing for numerous Saudi Princes in chalets across the alps. I’ve also played weddings in some exotic locations I wouldn’t have imagined going to… Sylt in Germany, Porquerolles (France), Corfu in Greece. These were all amazing experiences for me. 

I also developed a great relationship with a producer/songwriter called Jake Gosling who I met in my travels. He’s most commonly known for producing Ed Sheeran’s ‘+’ album, and also Thinking Out Loud from ‘Multiply’. He’s been incredibly supportive of my music so far, and actually gave some great advice for tweaks on my next single, See Through. Funnily enough last time I saw him he had just had a couple sessions with Mitch James in Sticky Studios (London), and said they had a lot of fun working together. 

I have learned a lot from these experiences about professionalism, playing to your audience, understanding their tastes in music and about their expectations. All of these things have helped develop my performance skills.

Can you tell us about the moment you found out Covid-19 would be more of a problem than maybe you’d anticipated? 

I was in Verbier at the time, which is one of the first big ski resorts to be hit with Covid, probably because of its proximity to northern Italy, and on account of being a holiday resort where people are coming and going constantly. 

We heard rumours that there was Covid in town and realised that many of us were actually already unwell with it. Everything suddenly stopped. Everything closed. The visitors all left. We didn’t realise it was going to be such a big deal and I decided to ride it out here due to all the travel restrictions.

It has been a very difficult time with my income stopping immediately with no compensation, but it’s been a tough time for everyone… I have managed to stay positive and used the time to focus on writing original material with a good friend of mine while there has been little distraction. 

Your name has popped up a few times in NZ On Air Music Singles funding outcomes, and you’re now starting to release those songs. For people not yet familiar how would you describe your sound?

I would describe my sound as ‘organic neo-soul with pop melodies, driven by guitar riffs and layered keys.’

It must have been hard to promote your new music while being so far away! What’s your approach?

I have been promoting through social media, and I am about to start running ads for Spacemen which should hopefully give it a nice boost! I have had some radio play and blog posts also after sending out a bunch of emails with the press kit. Most of my friends (and surprisingly a lot of old friends / guys I knew from school) have been overwhelmingly supportive sharing the song across different platforms.

I think if you don’t have your friends willing to share you work, then you really are screwed. It’s such an easy thing to do, sharing or liking someone’s art and it goes such a long way! I think the NZ music community is very good at supporting each other though. 

Who did you work with on Spacemen? Is there a story behind it?

Spacemen was a massive team effort, as I invited a lot of musicians to jump in and add their own flavour to the track. I built the bulk of the song in my home studio and then had some fellow Palmy mates come and play on it.

Hayden Lauridsen laid down some epic drums for the explosive outro of the song. He has contributed his craft to a load of my tracks, which will be coming out throughout 2020.

I had Jacob Pritchard add some silky neo-soul guitar chords which immediately added maturity to the song. Jacob is an old friend who I have been in numerous bands with over the last 10 years. We went to Huntley School and PNBHS together so it’s pretty special to me to have him on the track.

Steve Papworth, who is the keyboard player in my dad’s band, layered some glorious Hammond in the outro which I absolutely love. I feel deeply humbled to have these guys support. It is truly incredible to have such talented musicians at arm’s reach.

I wrote the track late last year with a good friend of mine, Giles Nuttall.  Lyrically it describes the feeling of completely safe, where the rest of the world recedes and just the two of you remain. We thought it was very fitting that this one came out during the Covid quarantining period! I had an awesome session with Paddy Hill at Roundhead tidying up a few things as well. I can’t wait to be back in that studio!

What’s on the cards for you next?

Now that my gigging is over I can’t wait to get home and start pumping out some more music and diving back into the NZ music scene. I am releasing a couple more singles funded through NZ On Air as soon as I’ve shot the videos with Taine Noble – we have some really exciting plans for the shoots. I am also working on a plan with Rory for a media launch concert in Auckland later in the year!


Made with the support of NZ On Air Music.