British singer-songwriter Lee MacDougall honed his skills in open-mike nights in London and has steadily grown his fan base by opening for the likes of Starsailor, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison. The musician brings his music to the U.S. this month, performing at South By Southwest and also in Houston at the Hideaway on Dunvale on Wednesday, 3.16.11.
I recently asked MacDougall some questions about his music, his influences, and coming to America for SXSW.
Houston Calling: What are you looking forward to most at this year’s South By Southwest?
Lee MacDougal: I can’t wait to sample some of the famous BBQs, and I’m hoping we can sneak into a few hedonistic parties. I’m also looking forward to doing a few guerrilla gigs out on the streets and doing some off the cuff stuff in between shows. After playing venues earlier in my tour in places such as New York and Boston, I am looking forward to throwing away my thermal underwear and soaking up a bit of Texan sunshine…and, of course, looking forward to some great music too.
HC: Any bands in particular that you’re looking forward to seeing during SXSW?
LM: I’m actually looking forward to discovering some new acts that I’m not familiar with. I like getting excited about new music and have heard that SXSW is the place to be. Katy Perry in a rubber outfit would also be nice. Is she playing?
HC: What do you consider to be your primary musical influences and how do they play into the music you make?
LM: The melodies of Lennon and McCartney, the lyrics of Ray Davies, Elvis’s hips and Jagger’s lips.
HC: I am a big fan of a lot of British music. What are some of your favorite British bands/musicians from the 60s to today?
LM: Like most musicians, I’ve always been in awe of The Beatles and the fact that two young guys could create so much incredible music together, and it’s always great to throw on some Rolling Stones when I’m getting roostered up for a night out. But I also really love the kitchen dramas of Squeeze and the Kinks, and then artists such as Rod Stewart and Duran Duran. These days I’m inspired by musical poets such as Pete Doherty and Carl Barat.
HC: What’s your favorite part of touring? Least favorite part?
LM: The best part of touring for me is just constantly meeting so many new amazing people and seeing so many new and interesting places. The worst part of touring is also the best part, I’m meeting all these great people and seeing so many great places – and then I have to leave the next day!
HC: How has digital technology helped you create your music?
LM: …I do, however, really appreciate the fact that it is possible to record and produce music entirely by yourself these days without the need for a producer and a big studio. I recorded my whole album, If Walls Could Talk, entirely in my bedroom in a tiny flat in London, and it’s pretty mind-blowing to think that it is now being heard all over the world. I love how the Internet helps to bring so many music fans together. I’m pretty active on Twitter and Facebook and enjoy hearing from fans and answering their messages whenever I can. Anyone who has been sucked into the murky underworld of the Internet can find me at twitter.com/leemacdougall and facebook.com/leemacdougall.
HC: A lot of people have heard your music because of the Twilight connection. How did that come about? Are you happy with the exposure it has allowed you?
LM: I was hanging out with Robert Pattinson quite a bit a couple of years ago in London, and I wrote a funny little tune for him called “How To Be.” Some of his fans caught on to what I was doing and really liked it and began spreading the word about my music. Word of mouth works really quickly these days on the Internet with social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and within a few weeks, I had fansites all over the world in places such as Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, Brazil, Canada, and the USA . Of course, I am happy with the initial exposure it helped generate for me, as it helped to introduce my music to a large number of people overnight akin to getting great airplay or a TV appearance. That was quite a while ago now though, and I think for people to be coming back to my shows again and again that by now they are coming for the music. If people didn’t like what I was doing I think that connection would wear thin pretty quickly.
HC: What are you hoping to get out of this visit to the States?
LM: I wouldn’t mind a similar level of fame to the Beatles first visit to the states, but I will settle for a few more friends on Facebook. And a pickup truck.
HC: Any music you’ve been listening to lately that you’d recommend?
LM: I think Paolo Nutini is great, and I like some of the stuff that Johnny Flynn has been doing. I also really like the new Beady Eye record.
Thanks to Lee MacDougall for taking time out to answer these questions for Houston Calling. You can catch MacDougall live in Houston at the Hideaway on Dunvale this coming Wednesday, 3.16.11.
Lee MacDougall plays an official showcase at SXSW at 10pm on Thursday, 3.17.11, at Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn.