Were he born 10 years earlier, Mac Kennedy may not be a musician today.
The 18-year-old from Oklahoma City recently released a full-length debut album through the online music service Soundcloud. Under the name Hare Tracks, Kennedy — now a freshman at the University of California at Santa Barbara — recorded and produced it almost completely by himself, while a student at Heritage Hall.
“I tried taking guitar lessons in middle school,” he said. “But it was too technical for me. I gave up on it.”
Discouraged, but also inspired by successful, DIY home recorders like Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, Kennedy learned bass guitar from an older brother, took a few chorus lessons in school and picked up on rudimentary piano. His status as a novice is evident on the disc, also called Hare Tracks, but there’s one instrument he plays well beyond his years: Ableton Live, a software program on his laptop.
“Looping’s my creative tool,” he said. “You can write the song on one instrument and have the song’s primary instrument be a different one, not necessarily the one you wrote it with.”
A decade ago, he would’ve had to use a bulky, expensive tape machine to build these songs. Instead, Ableton allows users to create repeated patterns with any section of sound material, which he layers with instrumentation.
For $9.99 on iTunes, Hare Tracks is a well-polished first effort with understandably juvenile lyrics and a “jack of all trades, master of none” approach to instrumentation. Kennedy isn’t a singer, either (“It’s something you have to work at,” he said), but that doesn’t stop him from achieving remarkable effects with his voice.
What sets these 12 tunes apart is his impressive command of a wide instrumental range. For a kid who was “learning how to produce” as he did just that, Kennedy’s come a long way from scribbling lyrics at age 16.
“I’ll probably start working on [a second album] in the next few months,” he said. “I’ve already got a decent album’s amount of songs I’ve been writing.”