Photo by Gabe Ford
While we may all enjoy a variety of different musical styles, we each have our sweet spots of those that are extra special to us. One of mine is the intelligent singer-songwriter who writes simple lyrics so strong they don’t need to be sung by the prettiest of voices. My big four in this category have always been John Prine, Loudon Wainwright III, Todd Snider and Steve Poltz. Well. I’m here to tell you that if you love these guys, like me you will add a fifth in the name of Nashville’s Mac Leaphart. And if you think I’m fooling, listen instead to those smart people at the Kerrville Folk Festival who named him a “New Folk” winner in 2018.
Mac has just released “Music City Joke,” his third LP which now sits in first place in the race for my favorite record of 2021. Produced by Nashville wiz Brad Jones, Leaphart is also accompanied by some of Music City’s best players including Fats Kaplan, Will Kimbrough, and Matt Menefee. Although you should listen to all of it, I’ll let you start here with “That Train,” the second single from the record.
Mac’s also a funny guy and has just started a monthly show on “Gimme Country” called “Left of the Dial.” It’s on the first Thursday of every month and you can tune in at GimmeCountry.com or through the Gimme Country app. You can also see him on the morning of June 5 at Moxy Nashville Downtown hotel at 10:30am. Thanks Mac!
Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?
I grew up in Greenville, SC and moved to Nashville in 2011. Before the move, I had spent a number of years playing three-to-five nights a week in various Lowcountry SC bars, kind of the “Margaritaville” Circuit. That circuit was kind of wearing me out, so I figured I’d give Music City a shot and I’m glad I did. I’ve bounced around for years, and Nashville is the first place outside of SC that feels like home.
What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? Were they CD, vinyl or digital?
The first records I purchased with my own hard-earned money I believe were actually cassette tapes. My first car didn’t have a CD player, so, tapes were the best option. If I recall, one of them was the self-titled debut of Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds which I really enjoyed. The other was the Del Amitri album that had “Always the Last to Know.” I dug that song, the guitar riff in particular, but not the rest of the album so much. The last record I bought? I can’t remember. It was either John Moreland’s Big Bad Love, Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color, or Bobby Womack’s BW goes C&W. Man, it’s been too long since I’ve been to the record store.
First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?
My first concert was Ray Charles at the Freedom Weekend Aloft hot air balloon festival in Upstate South Carolina. I think the last concert (not including “shows,” I guess) was Dawes at the Ryman.
Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame?
Man, there sure are a lot of great artists that don’t have a star on the Music City Walk of Fame. I guess the first person I can think of would be Willie Nelson. He’s one of my Mount Rushmore guys, and has certainly done a lot for country music and beyond. He kind of transcends “just” country.
Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?
I live on the West Side, and I’m kind of old school, so I like to go to Sir Pizza on Charlotte Ave. It’s been there for years and has a bunch of black & white pictures on the wall. Cool vibe. I’m a big coffee drinker and I brew at least two pots a day. So, I usually get my coffee at home. But, if I’m meeting someone for a cup, I’d probably go 8th & Roast or Thistle Farms. Rebecca Stevens is a saint.
What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?
Oh man, I only get one? That’s tough. It’s hard for me not to say Blonde on Blonde because it’s such a seminal album. But, that’s not even my favorite Dylan record. Same with Neil Young’s Harvest. I really like Waylon’s Dreaming my Dreams. It’s got the Cowboy Jack production, and a whole lot of great songs on that album. But I think I might have to go with Don Williams’ Visions. His voice just floored me the first time I heard him sing. And if you go to the used record shop, you can usually find a whole lot of Don’s records, so for a while I was just buying one every time I saw it. In the end, though, he’s a little bit of a greatest hits artist, if that makes sense. So, most of those records I bought kind of live in the sleeve. But Visions, particularly side 2, starting with “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” has become a real staple on the turntable. Especially for coffee and Bloody Marys after church. It’s kind of perfect for that.
Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?
I’m not much of a late-night eater, but I would choose Hermitage Cafe, hands down. That place is super cool. Mama TT is a character, man.
The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.
I really dig playing the Bluebird. Working the door there was one of the many jobs I had when I first moved to town. If they called and told me to put a round together, I think I would ask Aaron Raitierre, Tim Jones, and Davis Corley.
What are your favorite music venues to play in town?
I’m a fan of the small venues. I’ve had some great shows at the 8th Ave Basement, the High Watt, and Springwater. I also play relatively frequently at Neighbors of Sylvan Park. Before the shutdown, I had a monthly residency (second Tuesday) called “Southpaw Social Club” there that was really cool. We had a house band (a bunch of songwriters and me, all kind of swapping instruments) and we’d play a set, and then we’d back up a monthly featured artist. The crowd was usually made up of a lot of musicians like Adam Wakefield, JB Straus and Quincey Meeks, Them Dirty Roses were all regulars, and it usually became a free-for-all jam. I hope that starts up again really soon!
Name a musician who you’d like to see move here.
Hmm. A musician I’d like to see move here, huh? Do you think Ringo would show up at jams and tribute nights if he lived here? That would be pretty sweet. There’s a band out of Charleston, SC that I’m an occasional member of, Guilt Ridden Troubadour. Great band, great group of guys. If they were hanging around Nashville, we’d have a lot of good times and jams.
Finally, what’s in your musical future?
The future? Well, my new album Music City Joke came out on February 12. It’s getting great reviews, and I’m itching to get out on the road to play all the songs Iive! I miss live shows something fierce. It’s been way too damn long. I have to crank my van every day or the battery will die. So, hopefully a whole lot of live shows are in my future!