During last week’s rainy Tuesday, I took to the streets for a meeting with the leader of Little Maker, a newer ensemble of local players reminiscent of a classic 60’s rock band. At our scheduled time I arrived at One Eyed Jacks to find Micah McKee sitting at the corner of the bar, settled in with some of his bandmates. He’s wearing a rather dapper Japanese vintage coat, legs crossed, sipping on a High Life. I introduce myself and ask about his previous interviewing experiences. He agrees they had all seemed somewhat short and contrived.
“That’s because a lot of interviewers are boring people. Not to say that they’re boring as individuals, but it’s just their job and they ask a lot of the same vague questions that have nothing to do with my mindset. But I don’t expect anyone to know what that is.”
This does not intimidate me at all.
Little Maker – Hiawatha
You say that New Orleans is your mother, and Brooklyn your mistress. What did you mean by that?
I’ve been all over with the cause of trying to make something happen but have always had New Orleans as my home base. There’s so much to do here, and so much that can be done. That’s what keeps bringing me back. I haven’t accomplished nearly what I want to accomplish in New Orleans.
New York is my favorite place in the world. My heart is there. I dream about it every day. It’s one of those places that grabs a hold of you. Brooklyn is jockin’ our DIY style, but they can do it because they just have the flair. I love it. I think about New Orleans in a different way. Like I love my mother. I love Brooklyn as I would love my special lady who is absolutely incredible and challenging in every single way.
I ask what a satisfying accomplishment would look like to him, and he pseudo-jests, “Stacks of hundreds, a pimp chalice, and a white tiger.”
Frontman of Empress Hotel, Little Maker, and Silent Cinema (RIP), McKee works every day networking, curating shows, and rehearsing. His AM efforts pay off each night, with performances of his work and a growing reputation as a talented young songwriter. He also hosts a singer-songwriter showcase at Banks Street Bar, where the configuration of musicians changes weekly.
Personally, I continue to question one’s loyalty when they wear a hat in several outfits. If one of your projects took you on the road for a year, how would the members of your other bands view your necessary hiatus?
I’ve been playing music for so long and I’ve learned how to balance things. You play with musicians who also know how to balance things. Every other musician I play with is involved in some other musical project as well. It’s in everyone’s best interest to give everyone the time that they want in whatever project that they’re in. And it’s maturity. It never grinds gears. Not anymore.
What’s your take on artists with a similar approach? Maynard (Tool, Puscifer, A Perfect Circle) is a musician who takes on three seemingly different personalities in his bands, with each endeavor contrasting the next. Do you feel like you’re doing the same in your genre?
I wouldn’t say I’m accomplishing anything like that, but I’d like to. I love that. Those are the people that I really admire musically. People that have their hands in everybody’s pie. These current projects are so young, and still there’s so much potential to perfect what I do with each one. I don’t think anything is perfect at this point.
Well, you must find it difficult to constantly be in promotion-mode. How do you overcome the battle of consistently getting people out to your shows?
I like to think that if you try to keep things interesting, constantly come out with new material, and expose yourself in interesting ways, I think it’s easy. I’m not gonna overcome that hurdle because at the end of the day, it’s gonna happen. People are lazy. You just have to play the odds. I work every day and I play music. That’s what I do and that’s what I’m gonna do.
We had decided on meeting here at the venue so that I could catch the first time this exact arrangement of Little Maker Ensemble plays together on stage.
I didn’t want to watch any live footage of you performing so that I wouldn’t go into tonight’s show with any sort of preconceptions or expectations. How do you feel you are perceived on stage?
I have great musicians that I don’t ever question in regards to their level of commitment and stick-to-itiveness. They’re awesome players. If anything, I doubt myself. I’m a little weird on stage. I’m not nervous, but I’m a very shy person. I may say something about one of the songs, but truly I don’t say much on stage.
Tell me something you’re not quick to tell someone. What is something quintessentially Micah?
I commit too easily with things that I fall in love with. I have that Achilles heel, so I end up in these projects, y’know, spread really thin. But it’s my life. That’s how I enjoy living.
It’s getting close to showtime, so I give him a little break. The ensemble’s performance was exactly what I had imagined from the tracks available online. Incorporating violin, horn, keys, organ, stripped down drum kit, country guitar, and McKee–the band filled the space with such a full sound, one that wrapped its heavy arms around you with a lighthearted smile.
McKee’s storytelling is very genuine, met by a soothing voice that occasionally corners a rasp. In fact, the music of Little Maker brings me back to living in Brooklyn, walking in the snow to the subway, enjoying the cacophony of the space between my ears.
The night didn’t end there. We drove over to a favorite haunt of mine, The Saint, for karaoke night. Apparently McKee attends often. Never heard his name being called from the mic? That’s because he performs under the moniker Claude St. Claude. He loves The Beatles and Cyndi Lauper. He wears ties so he’s always appropriately dressed regardless of the setting. The tattoo on his right arm stems from Van Morrison’s “Madame George.” And what is his inspiration?
“There’s two types of songs; love songs and drug songs.”
Catch Micah McKee at Empress Hotel’s performance this Saturday, December 17th at One Eyed Jacks for the Park The Van Holiday Soiree, also featuring a reunion of Giant Cloud and The Hawks (of Holy Rosary).