REPEAT spent an afternoon getting to know Mac Wetha, the 24-year-old NiNE8 producer turned label-signed solo artist. We reflect on his journey from a teenage bedroom-beatmaker, touching on artistic motivation, vulnerability and feet pics along the way. A deep-thinker, and an avid tea drinker, Mac made great company.
“4/10” says Mac Wetha, squinting at his Turkish filled flatbread.
Apparently, the chicken isn’t chickeny enough, and it needs feta. Sauntering back from Portobello market, Mac – real name Lloyd MacDonald – recounts stories about his friends and youth, pointing out places of significance. He seems happy to chat, despite previously warning he wouldn’t be “bouncing off the walls”, having just got over tonsilitis.
Back at his manager’s flat, Mac settles into a rocking chair and inspects a Spanish book about Che Guevara. Before we begin the interview, he introduces himself to our camera – inspired now by the rocking chair – as the contented owner of a stately home in Herefordshire. He rocks and laughs and sips his earl grey tea. Occasional flashes of absurdism like this are partly what makes him so likeable.
The impromptu routine demonstrates a fundamental characteristic: “I need to be making something where I can perform on stage. That’s what I love to do,” he tells me. For years, Mac’s primary output was as the producer for the NiNE8 collective, which he co-founded with close friends in college. His hunger for live performance was satisfied by fronting rock bands, with his production and live work running parallel. When his band dissolved, Mac had to seek an alternative outlet for playing live. The natural progression was into solo projects, which so far amount to three EPs.
NiNE8 is the grass roots collective that Mac and his friends dreamt into existence to support each other when no one else would. Through a smile, Mac describes the group’s founding philosophy: “If we shine, you’re shining, and everyone’s fucking shining together.” And shine they have. Members of the group, which includes Lava La Rue and Biig Piig, are riding the waves of burgeoning solo careers, and as a collective NiNE8 continue to haemorrhage creativity. Their charming world view, and diverse catalogue of music, has attracted praise from the likes of Vogue, Clash magazine and the Guardian.
Mac insists that NiNE8’s success is not a surprise to him. “We did some fucking cool shit from young,” he explains, “and we were confident, and we did nothing but work on music. I’ve done nothing but work on music since I was 16, every fucking day. Hard work pays off. It’s very validating.”
Mac’s NiNE8 duties were mainly from behind a laptop screen, with the syrupy “You’re listening to Mac Wetha” tag crediting his productions. It had long been on his mind to release music as a more visible artist, he admits, but the band breaking up was the catalyst. In 2019 he pulled together the Mac Wetha and Friends EP – a triumphant showcase of various projects with mates. The EP was a stepping stone: his own baby, but still essentially collaborative.
A leap of faith over lockdown saw him begin to construct a fully solo EP, abandoning not only the stabilisers of collaboration, but also his signature role as a beat maker. Listening to 2021’s Make it Thru, it is clear that Mac reached for his guitar before anything else. Beat-maker-Mac still lingers, particularly in ‘Brace’, but the headlines are all wistful pop vocals and breezy guitar lines.
He’s frank about the challenges of launching a new sound: “I’m sure I’ve lost some people along the way, like ‘ah he’s not making these beats anymore, so I’m gonna tune out’, which is fine.” Similarly, going it alone left him more exposed. “Criticism and negative feedback are tough when you’re trying to be vulnerable and make stuff which is the best you can do,” he muses. “It gave me such a big admiration and new level of respect for all the people I work with.”
As is crucial for any artist breaking out in a new direction, Mac has clung onto clear guiding principles. “I’m just trying to make music that feels, not to be too wanky about it, true to me, and stuff that I really want to make in that moment… It’s no longer beats, it’s no longer making music for other people. It’s trying to execute my own vision.”
Cloud Paint, which came out earlier this year, tightened the screws on Mac’s solo sound. The latest EP is more self-assured, and notably crunchier. “I feel like Cloud Paint was less texture and production… it was more into song writing and lyrics”. This focus is felt particularly on ‘Pelican Freestyle’, where Mac sings “I am the author of this book / I put my hands up to the clouds / I'll paint a picture of this life and do so till I'm not around”. These lines reiterate the philosophy that Mac unfurls over the course of the interview, demonstrating his honest approach to song writing.
So, where do we find Mac Wetha now? ‘Play Pretend’ was released with new LA pal Spill Tab back in September – a floating meditation on false appearances set over beach-hut DIY instrumentation. And he’s just released a new track with much older friends Biig Piig and Lord Apex – ‘Don’t You Go Falling in Love’. I ask him if he’s enjoying the return to more collaborative work. “Very much so. Who knows what the future holds? Not me.” He cracks a smile. “I’ve got no idea. Don’t even ask me. Cos I’m not gonna tell you.” So that’s that.
He is willing, at least, to discuss his broad intentions. “I am hoping to kind of join the two paths, that’s my main goal for the next year or two, to join these diverging paths into one. I want to make sure that every song is inspired – and I’m also producing it myself, so the texture is still there. I feel like that’s the union of sound which is gonna bring it all together. From Mac Wetha and Friends to the rocky stuff, I feel like that’s gonna put a ribbon on it.”
It strikes me how clearly Mac senses an evolution to his work. For years he has been nurturing various shoots, and feels ready now to intertwine them. “It’s like showing my working – I feel like I’m getting closer and closer, and then the next thing I do will be the closest yet.”
When probed for his opinion on the media, and its increasing devotion to immediately consumable content, he fires back “Fuck that shit. I hate that,” with genuine flame in his eyes. “I hate that so much. I hate the churning out of music like it’s a Tik Tok… I think it’s a scourge on music and art in general. And I massively appreciate when an artist comes with a strong album. It’s getting rarer and rarer.”
Pushing the point, he recalls a recent anecdote from LA: “I took a picture of my girlfriend drinking a bottle of water with her feet, and that shit got like a million views in a day. And then I just deleted it, cos it was fucking weird. Just because it got a million views, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not like anyone listened to my music because of it. It’s just people scrolling through and being like ‘huh’. It’s passive consumption,” he concludes.
As we finish up, my enduring impression is of Mac’s appreciation for his situation. He acknowledges the privilege of being able to pursue the thing he loves. Key to this, he maintains, was his signing with Dirty Hit records. “It allows me to live my life and make music every day, which is my childhood dream, so that’s incredible.”
Reflecting on all that we’ve spoken about, he leaves us with some advice. “You gotta try and enjoy it whilst you’re still doing it. This is it. This is all it is. Just the journey, constantly. It doesn’t get any better than this, literally.” And then, before the air thickens too much, “I mean – here I am in my stately home. In Herefordshire.”