When most people think of Seattle they think of rain, the Space Needle and Starbucks coffee. People living outside of The Town don’t realize that it has its very own, very vibrant music scene. I recently spoke to Macklemore, an emcee from Seattle, on the phone from his house after a late night studio session.
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Some of us are lucky enough to know what we want to do from a very young age, Macklemore was one of the fortunate few, “I definitely always had a personality that wanted to perform and give people a show,” he explained. He has loved music ever since he was a little kid, “I think that I had a knack for since I was a kid. I still remember performing on the couch in front of my grandparents and my parents and family members at family reunions. You know, seven years old and putting on a show. I was a crazy kid, I always wanted to be on stage whether it was music or acting.”
Macklemore, who was born Ben Haggerty, got his alias while he was a junior in high school, the name wasn’t originally intended to be his though. He was working on project for his junior year graphic design class, “our assignment was to name a superhero, we had this superhero in plastic completely wrapped up in it’s original packaging and he had no logo, no name and I gave him ‘Professor Macklemore’.” That summer he traveled to New York where he decided to get creative with his wardrobe, “I did some thrift shopping. I would buy these outrageous, crazy costumes; like plaid golf pants and crazy furs. Every time that I would wear these outfits I would call myself Professor Macklemore and then I’d go out on the town and kick it. Eventually I dropped the ‘Professor’ and just became Macklemore and my friends started calling me that, it kind of just stuck,” he explained.
He didn’t stop wearing his original outfits when he dropped the ‘Professor’ from his name. He has always been interested in clothing and putting outfits together; “I love fashion, I’ve always loved clothes. I’ve always just loved trying to be a little bit different from everybody else. Like, using conventional styles but then also putting your own spin on it,” said Mack. He has even created a name for his unique look: “thrift shop luxury.” He explains it as “ a mix of thrift shop and you know, a little bit of ‘streetwear-esque’ stuff but I try not to lean too heavy on that. I try to keep it as original as possible… and I have to have gold. I like gold.”
The songs Macklemore writes have a tendency to walk the spectrum from funny and lighthearted to serious and moving. Mack can find inspiration in almost anything, “I try to be aware and go through life as aware as possible. I think that there is a song waiting to be written in pretty much any situation in life… A lot of the time we go through life and don’t really pay attention to what’s surrounding us. There are stories constantly in front of us it is just a matter of being in tune with them and putting the pen to paper at the right moment. It’s real life situations, it’s real life experiences, it’s just trying to express myself as honestly and as vulnerably as possible.”
On top of all his music accomplishments Macklemore has been sober since 2008; it was a long battle that threatened his creativity and other aspects of his life, “probably the single most important thing that I’ve done in my life was get sober and if it wasn’t for that then there would be no career at this point… I’m just the kind of person that can’t do both, I can’t be smoking and drinking then all of a sudden making music. I have no moderation when it comes to it. I’d go through periods of life where it would completely shut off any sort of outlet and output of music. So when I finally got sober at the start of 2008 it really changed.”
It was really hard to not only get sober but to get back into the mode of making music and to rekindle some of that desire to put myself out there and to be vulnerable. It definitely wasn’t over night that any sort of success happened. It was a lot of grinding but my sobriety is first and foremost the most important thing in my life and without it everything else kind of falls apart.
During the rare times that Macklemore isn’t in the studio, writing, or performing he spends his time relaxing, “me and my girl will watch a movie or just kind of chill. I do like to shop and go thrift shopping a lot. I like to get exercise but for the most part my life is based around music.” Most of his days are spent doing things music related, “I’ve put so much of my life into music, I’ve been rapping for over half my life now and it’s something that I not only love but take great pride in, the hours, the work and the struggle that goes into being an artist. It’s being a creative individual and to be able to have this be my job– It’s crazy,” said Macklemore.
The dates haven’t been announced yet but Mack is planning on hitting the road this fall for a nationwide tour. Keep an eye out for listings and in the mean time check out his latest video for “Wings” below:Follow @RosaB213