At the site we get hundreds of emails a day, but this was a bit like finding a gem in the midst of all the dross: we were introduced to MacKayla Hunter via one of those emails, and we just had to find out more about this young talent. After speaking to her publicity people, we thought the best way to do that would be through an interview where you can really get to know MacKayla and her music. Also you can check out some of that music at www.mackaylahunter.com–which one is your favorite? MacKayla Hunter is currently unsigned (yeah, I cannot believe it, either), but I think once the word gets out someone will scoop her up quick to a label.
So tell the readers a little about yourself and the EP you are releasing.
Well, I’m 15 and have been writing music since I was 12. This EP is made up of 6 songs, all written by me. Other than a garage recording I did when I was thirteen, this is the first studio work I’ve ever done. It’s been quite the adventure, and although it’s been a lot of work, I have enjoyed every minute of it. I am truly grateful for the opportunity. Not many people have an opportunity like this.
How did you first get started in music? Any funny family vidoes of you singing when you were a toddler? What is the first song you remember singing?
I have taken piano lessons since I was six, but I didn’t really singing and writing until I was twelve. My dad showed me a few chords on his old guitar, and I remember just falling in love with it. I started singing along, just making up words. Three weeks later I wrote my first song.
Oh, yes, there are probably quite a few old videos around the house. My sister and I used to pretend like we were The Cheetah Girls. We made up dances and sang along to the music. We performed every night for our parents, and even for our elementary school talent show. It was so much fun!!
The first song that I remember actually sitting down and learning to sing was “I Wonder” by Kellie Pickler. I fell in love with her on Americal Idol!
So you write and perform all of your songs yourself? Do you have any help?
Sometimes when I’m really stuck on a melody, I’ll gather everyone in the living room and just say, “I need help!!” My family is very opinionated so I can always count on them giving me their two cents.
How would you classify your music? Country? Pop? A mix of different styles?
I definitely want to stay true to country, because that’s what I love. But sometimes I find myself writing more of a pop song, which isn’t a bad thing. I have a lot of respect for pop artists. So, I would probably classify it as a a mix of country-pop.
Any fun stories to tell us with your studio work? What was your favorite song to record and why?
When I went to Nashville to record, the owner of the studio that I was working in had a “wall of fame” that everyone who has done work in his studio has to sign. When he asked me to sign my name next to Keith Urban, I don’t know what was funnier, the look of shock on my face, or the fact that I nearly peed my pants!
I don’t know if I have any one favorite song that I recorded. The fact that I got see the things that I write on paper and play acoustically in my bedroom come to life is absolutely incredible. The musicians that played on my EP are some of the best in the industry and have played for some of the greatest artists of this generation, and I feel so blessed to have been able to meet them, and have their names on my record. Heck, Hank Williams mastered my CD; he had just finished Taylor Swift’s last album. That just blows me away.
Have you tried out for any of those reality singing shows? If not which one would you want to try out for?
No. I have never tried out for anything besides athletics. I am a huge fan of American Idol and have watched it religiously. I remember voting 33 times for Carrie Underwood (I think my votes made her win!) on the Season Finale, then my dad took the phone away. 🙁
Of the current artists out there who would you relate to the most and why? Who do you feel you are most like musically?
I can dream of a vocal range like Carrie Underwood, but I think musically I am most like Taylor Swift. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Wow – who wouldn’t love to be compared to her. But I love Miranda Lambert’s lyrics and her style of music. If I were a guy, I would be John Mayer. 🙂 There are bits of pieces of my work that have been inspired by a lot of different artists.
Do you prefer songs that tell a story or evoke a mood?
Honestly, a good song is a good song. I tend to listen to more of the songs that tell a story, but I appreciate both.
When you listen to music, do you tend to focus on the words or the music?
Words, definitely. To me, that’s what makes a song, but maybe that’s because I am a songwriter at heart. Good music easily flows with good lyrics.
Do you think it makes a difference in how you approach your own songs?
Yes. When I write my own music, I always seem to write my lyrics first. Once I have written the lyrics, I know exactly how I want the song to sound, including the instruments, melody, vocals, etc. It’s kind of like painting a picture. You have to start with an outline, and for me, that’s the lyrics.
Do you sit down to write a song about a particular moment/person/story or just write what comes out when inspiration strikes?
I can’t ever just sit down and write to write. I have to be inspired. Sometimes my family will find me running across the house. When they ask me what’s wrong, I just say “I got another song!” Then, no one sees me for a couple hours. Everything I write is from the words of my journal. I mean, I write things down, but sometimes am not inspired until a few weeks later to make it a masterpiece, if that’s what you’d call it. I know I do. 🙂
What’s your songwriting process like?
Well, I have to be inspired to write. If I don’t have an inspiration, it’s hopeless for me to even try to write a song. If I am inspired, I tend to go straight for my journal or whatever else will work as a substitute for paper. One time I wrote a whole song on the back of my science test! This song is actually on my EP (“Dear Diary”). I don’t know how I could be inspired by love during a science test, but hey! It works.
What has been the hardest challenge for you as a singer so far? How has your family dealt with the time you spend working on music?
Time management, definitely. It’s been a big challenge for me to focus on staying a straight A student in school and my normal responsibilities, while my music career is beginning to take off! Don’t get me wrong, I love it! But it’s definitely something I need to work on because education is a huge importance in my family, and to me.
My family has been wonderful! They are so supportive and involved with every aspect of it! I have four siblings and feel so blessed that they are so supportive of my chasing my dreams.
If you could perform a concert for charity what would it be? What country would you like to tour in? If you could sing at the Super Bowl or the World Series which one would you choose and why?
I am very involved with a local charity called Camp River Run. It is a non-profit camp put on for kids battling life threatening and terminal illnesses. I have performed for the last two years at the benefit dinner and was a counselor at camp this last year. It has been life-changing for me and has made me realize how fortunate I am, and taught me to live life to the fullest! I am excited to see what else I can do to support this great cause (www.campriverrun.org).
I am laughing at this question. I’m still working on the United States. 🙂 But if I’m dreaming big, which I usually am, I’d love to tour Europe!
I am HUGE football fan, and am watching the Boise State football game as I’m writing this, so I’d love to perform at the Super Bowl. P.S. for those still in controversy about the Nevada vs. BSU game, the field goal was good! 😉 (wink wink)
So when you become famous, will you still want to stay in a regular school?
This year I actually started homeschooling. I am working on graduating early so that I can focus on my music career. I do miss the everyday social part of school, but I still keep close with all my friends!
What is your most prized possession currently?
Right now, definitely my journals. I journal every day, and all of my inspiration come from my journals, and I don’t know what I’d do if I lost them.
Okay, boys or music–what is more important for you right now and why?
At fifteen, definitely music. Boys are good too, though. 😉
What other hobbies do you have besides music?
I guess this may still count as music, but I love collecting old records, and any chance I get to go rummaging through a record store or someone’s garage sale, I take. You’ll find Patsy Cline, Neil Diamond, and Brian Adams all hanging on my bedroom wall. I love vintage things. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure!
So what is next for you now after the EP? Are you already working on some new songs?
I am working on my EP release concert right now, and part of that is getting my band put together. This event will not only promote my new EP but will also raise money for Camp River Run, the charity I mentioned earlier.
I am always writing new songs! I’m super excited to get back in the studio to work on another album. But for now, I need to focus on releasing the one I have. Unfortunately, they’re sitting on a UPS truck… stuck, due to the icy roads. 🙁 I can’t wait to open the boxes!
A special thanks to MacKayla and the rest of the people that made this interview happen. We should have some more MacKayla posts on the site coming soon, so stay tuned! If you are part of a record label you need to sign this girl!
MacKayla Hunter is a 15 year old singer/songwriter from Idaho. Her newest EP release Bitter and Sweet reflects her passion for singing and song writing, by reaching into her soul through the pages of her journal. Visit MacKayla Hunter at www.mackaylahunter.com