Photo's: Trudy Bellinger
It's hard to believe it when you look at the video for "The World She Knows", but up until just under 12 months ago D Mac was content to take a back seat and shun the whole concept of being an artist. It's understandable, after all here was a person who wrote some of the classic lost pop tunes of the 90s with Motown legend Lamont Dozier only for Simon Cowell to hedge all his bets on Girl Thing and decide that Mero were no longer RCA's priority act.
What was Simon Cowell (and sadly as a result the world of pops) loss turned into a positive when D Mac was asked to travel over to New York to work with the people that were penning hits for the likes of Anastacia, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and after several months in the States, it took a lecture by Dozier for him to get the artist thing out of his system and since then he hasn't looked back.
We caught up with D Mac to discuss the fame game and the continual conflicts between being a young gifted songwriter and the throwaway disposable pop market.
Q: In 1999 Mero were tipped to be the next big pop act. A fantastic debut single with "It Must be Love" was released and from what I've downloaded over the past few weeks the album was even better....then you just disappeared off the face off the earth. What happened?
A: Mero was really really good fun and being back in Scotland you get the what really happened questions? And you know the truth is I was really young when I joined and I got to travel the world, have a really good time and make some really good money. Then I got the offer to go to New York for a year and work with the people who were doing Anastacia, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion...but as a writer and for me I couldn't say no to that.
Q: I've heard this story several times over the years whenever the name Mero crops up. Is it true that one of the reasons Mero didn't make it was that Simon Cowell and RCA put all their time and money into the ill-fated Girl Thing project?
A: Well, yeah. That's kind of true and that's what I was lead to believe. But I thought Girl Thing were a great band and that Simon Cowell is a really good A&R man. And I learnt an awful lot from him respecting me as a writer and just learning how to write a chorus because he was so demanding that even if the hook was catchy in the first 2 bars, it was like it's not hooky enough, make it hookier!!!
One of the problems with Mero is that I had so much input and I was 16. So giving a 16 year old an awful lot of input into what they wanted to do and letting them basically approve the budgets and allowing me to do anything I wanted was really quite dangerous if you think about it. I actually feel we made a good record so it's good that people can go out and hear some of it on the internet.
Q: And I guess bringing it up to the present day. Those closing teenage years are really life changing in terms of your ideas and opinions you have of things, so in a sense D-Mac is a reflection of what you're listening to now as opposed to say 3 years ago with Mero. Would you tend to agree with that?
A: I really did write "It Must Be Love" when I was 15 and we didn't release it until I was about 17 or 18 so it was an awful long time and i'd changed a lot in that period. I don't think anyone else really took that on board!!! But the album is really eclectic and it jumps about a lot, but the main feel is that it's pop. The first single is a lot harder R&B, the second one is very Anastacia and we've got some really old skool soul ballads on it as well.
Q: So what's it like being out there on your own as opposed to being one half of a duo?
A: Actually were taking the live band to a lot of things, but it causes mayhem when you want to do a roadshow. So for the smaller ones where we can't do it live I have my dancers. Being part of Mero was a really good grounding for me and really good place to start, but I just feel more comfortable just being me.
Q: For you from Mero to the present day with you're solo material, you've always written your own material and it's really important to do so. From that respect it must seem strange for people to aspire to be these Karoke Pop Idols?
A: The whole time I've been away has been the whole Pop Idol thing and that's been pretty mad to watch especially as seen as I missed so much of it. And you just end up thinking would these people really be Pop Idols without a TV Show!!!
didn't want to release the best single first just because I was really really scared that I wouldn't have anywhere to go after it and "The World She Knows" was one of the first tracks I wrote. I knew it was a good track and even though all the different songwriters had gave me so much respect for doing the track it's very Urban, the beats are hard and there's a really messed up guitar sample on it.
I just really just wanted to use this single to relaunch as something new and let everyone know this is a different project and this is really me. I think there's too much pressure on people to have this huge hit with the first single and I said to EMI that this was just an introduction for the album, which is really the market I want to get into. Anyone can sell singles, but it's all about selling albums for me!!!
Q: Do you find yourself struggling with the concept of being an artist and songwriter continually?
A: To be honest I wasn't convinced that I wanted to be an artist again for a long time because I was in New York doing the writing thing and it was going really really well. And then Lamont Dozier gave me a call and asked me to come over and do his tribute show with Beverley Knight, Misteeq and a whole host of other artists.
I wasn't convinced that I wanted to be an artist again so I told him I was going to stick to the writing. And he gave me this big lecture that I was still very young, only 20, so if I wasn't going to be an artist then I probably never was so I should get it out of my system.
Q: As you were saying before, a lot of the album you co-wrote with American writers. As a Scottish guy who is going for that Urban sound can you understand why we are so accepting of the American Urban artists and yet really talents British Urban artist find it such a struggle to break the states?
A: Ms Dynamite had so much critical acclaim and I don't think it did as well as what everyone really did expect. You take the really Urban sound out of London and Birmingham and you try and put it on a roadshow and you try to get them to perform anywhere else - I don't think the crowd really get it. I was just really aware of that, i'm not from London and the fact that I'm not much of an Urban kid, I was always more into pop growing up and I think that really shows on the album.
I understand that it takes a long time to break that States and I'm just really waiting for the right single. I think we've probably got it with the 3rd single of this album, which will maybe be the 1st single over there. I think you just have to make that real American Radio track, otherwise you're just not going to make it in the States.
Q: We've mentioned "The World She Knows" single a few times already in this interview. Would you like to tell our readers a bit about behind the story?
A: The single really did come about when I lost my first deal - my ex-girlfriend was really just a bitch, but I didn't realize that at the time and I don't think any guy ever does. It's when you wake up in the morning and you find all her clothes are gone for no apparent reason other than you don't have a deal or that tiny little bit of celebrity anymore.
When I did start writing the album it was literally the first track that I wrote and when I went back into the studio the next day it was really like this is definitely the first track out of the album. Usually it never happens like that and usually there's a lot of different interruptions and people with their opinions but it seemed to go down really well as the first track.
I wrote the script for the video as well and when I was doing it I knew exactly how I wanted it do be. We did the first half in Miami and then we stopped off in Mexico to do a photo shoot for the album and the single. And the other half was done in Cuba. There's a line in the song where it goes "the Benz you drive" so Mercedes gave us a brand new SR500 2 months before it came out anywhere in the world. We were back of the trailer driving around and we had all these police cars everywhere because we blocked off Ocean Drive. I kind of felt like Jennifer Lopez for a minute!!!
"The World She Knows" is out now
Catch D-Mac live at Feel The Noise 2002
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