P.E.I.'s Scott MacKay shows his Twin sides on new album

A lot of things have changed for Scott MacKay since leaving P.E.I. The singer-songwriter had put out one album while living on the Island, but when his fiancée got a job in Calgary, it made sense to pick up and go as well. He was able to work there as a teacher, and soon found his sound changing along with his address.

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"My influences have changed so much," says MacKay, back home in P.E.I. for the summer. "I was more into pop-folk on my first album, and soul. Now I've steeped myself more into the old country singer-songwriters like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and old gospel also."

"It's not even the musical side of things I was drawn to, it's the lyrical side," he explains. "When I got out there, I meant a bunch of people who were into the old country artists, so I started listening to that. The way they song write, you can listen to it, and you understand the song, but at the same time they weave in clever lyrics throughout the song, which I really like."

MacKay's second album, called Twin, reflects that change in his influences. It's a combination of soulful folk, and old-time message songs. MacKay has a vibrato, thanks to his affinity to crooner vocalists, which gives him even more of an antique feel, like he just stepped out of a bus straight from the 1940's.

The lyrics are especially direct, as MacKay has picked up on the power of those fire-and-brimstone country singers he admires. In Magician, he sings "With the devil I'd make a deal, one he'd take without question/I'd sell my soul for a wish come true/I'd burn in hell for life on Earth with you." At the same time, the music has a particular beauty and tenderness.

The beauty/darkness effect is felt throughout the album, something MacKay feels is the central theme. "Towards the end of the writing process I stumbled across the concept of duality," he relates. "I was writing both light and darker songs. I decided to market the album as Twin, because I am one, I do have a twin brother, but also because there are light and dark sides to us all. I wanted the album to reflect me as a whole, instead of one dimensional."

That twin is Ben, and the pair are still largely inseparable. The music goes way back. "My mom used to hold little singing competitions between me and my brother and sister," he laughs. "We used to always sing growing up."

But Scott MacKay's pro career started after brother Ben moved away for university. "We shared bunk beds, we did everything together growing up," says Scott. "Our friends never just invited one of us over, we came together, we were a package deal. He went to Ottawa for school, that was our first separation. Meanwhile I started doing music. But then he decided he wanted to be closer to family, he moved out to Calgary where I am. Then we said, it's stupid for us not to be singing and playing music together, so we started doing that. We play every possible show together. He'll be touring with me for all the Maritime shows."

Yup, the twins are now on stage together, and yes, they look identical. Scott MacKay is thrilled to be able to play the launch shows for Twin while back home, and with his brother. "I come home every Christmas and every summer, but in terms of doing shows and touring an album, this is my first time doing that." His lone New Brunswick date is at the Hollywood Star Room in Clarks Corner, near Grand Lake east of Fredericton, on Wednesday, July 22.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

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