Back in January, we were lucky enough to have Tim McNary (he goes by McNary on stage) as our first featured artist for a new project we started called Amplify Sessions. Amplify Sessions are live video sessions that we record in front of an audience in an intimate location. We filmed our first session on January 21, 2015 in the Bongo Java After Hours Theater in Nashville, TN, and for an entire hour McNary captivated a small audience of friends who arrived mostly not knowing what to expect.
Our first Amplify Session was the fruition of nearly a year spent planning and working countless hours, so having our friends there to celebrate with us in a night of incredible music and storytelling was purely magical, to say the least. Tim shared his music and the stories behind them with us, and I think we all left that night with a deep sense of wonder for those stories and for all the stories yet to be told. While Tim's performance was one of the most intimate performances I have ever experienced with any artist, I also had the opportunity to ask him a few questions after the show. Tim is not only a talented singer-songwriter, but he is also a very humble and insightful person as well.
FB: I know you're originally from the Atlanta area, so what made you decide to move to Nashville?
TM: I'd been in Atlanta since returning from living in South America and desperately needed a change of scenery. Sometimes the energy a city you've lived in for a long time begins feeling a bit heavy. I also figured I might find more camaraderie along with a more chill atmosphere in Music City– I was right.
FB: Do you think Nashville presented you with any special opportunities that you may have not had in another city?
TM: To be honest, the jury is still out on that for me. Nashville is certainly a music business hub, and there are more people here who see the music business as a viable career. I'm optimistic about the chances of leveraging those factors as my career develops. No matter what happens, it is more of a personal fit than my former home.
FB: I'm curious to know what influences your songwriting. I remember you saying at the show in January before you played "The Heist" that you lived in South America for a brief period of time following college– do you feel as if that experience significantly impacted the way you approach writing music or viewing the world?
TM: My biggest influences have been my travels and my reading or inner journey. Lately I've been digging into the Sufi poet Rumi and American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Beautifully inspiring stuff…
Regarding South America, the two years I spent there changed my worldview and creativity drastically. I got to see both third-world poverty and third-world wealth and began to realize just how f– up so much of US foreign policy has been. Catching a glimpse of the world through South America's eyes changed my worldview and, I would like to think, made me more empathetic in general. I also had many adventures like hitchhiking on a river boat in the jungle between Mexico and Guatemala and doing volunteer work in a favela in Brazil, all of which inform the subject matter of my songs. It was then that I began to write and play in earnest. Generally there is a strong yearning for both understanding and adventure that was stoked during that time as well. I'd like to hope that comes through in some of the songs I write.
FB: You mentioned briefly that you were raised in the Church and that there were some good things about it and some bad things about it. Are those experiences something you take with you in your music? How (if at all) do you think religion or spirituality affects your music?
TM: While I don't attend church any more or consider myself to be a Christian necessarily, I continue to see music as a powerful connecting force. Worship at a church was when I first felt that inexplicable feeling of connection and transcendence one feels while listening to or performing some songs. A genuine connection was happening and music was the catalyst. That longing and appreciation for that kind of connection is something I hope for when performing and has become the fodder for several songs.
FB: With all this being said about what influences your songwriting, do you think there's a specific message you want listeners to hear in your music?
TM: It depends on the song to some degree, but if there were a general message it would be, "You are not alone."
FB: If music has meaning (which I firmly believe it does), do you think there's something lost–a sort of communication breakdown– with recorded music versus live music? Obviously recorded music speaks strongly to people, but do you think there's something special about live performances that you can't always convey with a studio album?
TM: Most definitely. The best thing about live recordings is capturing the unique, imperfect, and beautiful energy of that take and those moments. It's tougher to achieve that magic in the studio, and is why many artists leave their recording experiences disappointed or don't deliver the same feeling in their recordings as at their live shows.
FB: Kind of building off the last question– we have the technology today to make recorded music sound just about perfect. If people could always just listen to a recording on an album and hear it replayed perfectly every time, why do you think people still go see artists perform live?
TM: They want that feeling that only the live show provides. That feeling like the worship service I mentioned earlier. For the most part, they are looking for that feeling of connection and being part of the music and the energy. Most are not as concerned with perfection as with the connection they are feeling. That magic cannot be underestimated.
FB: Last question. This is a tricky one that probably doesn't have a clear answer, but what do you see as the biggest obstacle facing artists in general today, and what do you think could be done about it?
TM: Wow. That is a tough one. I think it's probably a couple things. The first obstacle is taking the time to turn off our phones, get quiet, and work on our craft. Creation has to stay one of the primary focuses of our existence if we want to continue creating genuine and beautiful work that resonates with others. This aspect can be quite challenging these days.
The second obstacle is related to the first. It is knowing how to balance time between the creative and business sides. Marketing and other business aspects must be given importance in order to see career progress, but in my opinion, should come second to the artistic process. This is a strange dance that many of us struggle with.