After breaking records and dominating charts, it’s now time for MacKenzie Porter to cross the pond and delight UK audiences for the first time.
Duet ‘Thinking ‘Bout You’ with Dustin Lynch saw MacKenzie sit at the top spot for six weeks, a place she is all too familiar with in her native Canada – she was the first woman since Shania Twain to score three back to back number one singles. Appearing at Country 2 Country this weekend sees the Canadian make her debut over here, ahead of a new album that she’s been hard at work on.
MacKenzie took some time to chat to Cait Watters ahead of her trip to the UK.
Hi MacKenzie! Thanks for finding the time to chat with us, especially this close to Country 2 Country! How excited are you to make the trip over?
I’m so excited! I’ve been there before to travel but I’ve never played a show ever in the UK so I’m pumped to come visit, come play shows, come meet people and see if they know my music. Yeah, so excited!
What do you know about the UK audiences that are waiting for you over here? What have you heard?
I’ve heard it can be a little bit shocking to see how many people know all the words and how they show up for artists over there. Not having been before and not having been in the scene or seen how country fans are, we all kinda think ‘oh maybe people won’t know my music or they won’t react that well’ – from all my friends that have done it before, they’re like ‘oh no, these country fans know the words, they show up and they bring it!’. I’m excited for that.
A few months ago you played down under, in Australia. Now you’re crossing the pond for C2C – that’s a lot of air miles! Do you enjoy the traveling aspect of this career?
I love to be in different places! The actual physical traveling? I don’t like it. *laughs* I don’t love flying – I’m not scared of flying, I just don’t like that part. Once I get places, I love to see new places and experience new cultures and food – I love that aspect of it. I’ve definitely come to accept airports and airplanes *laughs*
You grew up on a cattle and bison ranch in Alberta and your brother, Kalan, would go on to win Canadian Idol. Is it safe to say your family was a very musical one growing up?
It really was! My mom grew up playing piano. She didn’t really play it when I was younger, but my dad would play guitar and was in a band. They put such an emphasis on having us, me and my siblings, learn music and be able to read music and have that be a part of our lives. I don’t think they ever thought – all three of us do music, my brother doesn’t really do music now but me and my sister do – I don’t think they ever thought we would do it as careers. I don’t even think my parents, from where we are from, knew it could be a career – they had no connections to the industry. But because we grew up playing music – I grew up playing violin, piano and guitar – it was a natural fit.
They’re so supportive. If I let them, they would literally come to every single show. Even when I told them about this trip, they were like ‘we’re gonna come!’ It didn’t work out timing wise but I fly home and play a show in Phoenix and I think they’re coming to that one. They come to so many shows.
Obviously we see many who choose this genre move states to move to Nashville but, of course, you moved countries to chase this dream. Was that an easy decision to make such a big move?
It felt natural. I really like, like I said, new places – I could be happy in any city, I think. But I knew Nashville was the place because I wanted to do this. I wanted to play country music and write country songs.
The first year when I moved here was definitely a little hard. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any connections or any friends. But, quickly, I met people and now it’s home and I love it so much.
Some people will be familiar with you from your duet with Dustin Lynch, ‘Thinking ‘Bout You’ – it was a number one song for six weeks! For anyone that hasn’t had a number one, nevermind a six week number one, what was that moment like, to find out you hit the top spot?
It was so wild! You can see it climbing so you know it’s at number three, it’s at number two and then you’re just waiting and getting phonecalls from your team and his team. Everyone is like ‘is it going…is it going…?” Usually you don’t know until, I can’t remember what time here, but like midnight on a Sunday or something like that. I was at home with my husband and my dog and I got a call that it went number one. And it was over the holidays and it kept staying there and every week I was like ‘it’s gotta fall off now’ [but] it would just sit there. It was so cool. It’s hard to really wrap your brain around it – I don’t even know if I still have.
How did that collab come about?
It was during Covid. I got an email or call from my manager saying ‘Dustin is looking for a featured female for his new song and people are auditioning if you want to audition’ – of course, yeah, I would love to do that! I put down a vocal with my producer, Joey Moi, and we sent it in…and I heard nothing for weeks. Then, one day, [Dustin] followed me on Instagram and I was like ‘that’s a little weird, the timing of it…maybe it means something’. I screenshotted it, I probably still have the screenshot. But, then again, nothing. Then two weeks after that he called and left me a voicemail asking me to be on the song with him.
You mentioned Joey Moi, your producer. You met him while working on another duet, a duet with Dallas Smith. You worked with Joey on your 2020 EP Drinkin’ Songs: The Collection and you’re currently working with him again on your upcoming album. What’s it like working with him?
It’s amazing. He is one of the most talented people I know. He’s so good at finding songs and hearing what we say [are] hit songs. He’s definitely my biggest champion at my label and really cares about me and my music. He’s also brutally honest and tells me ‘no, not that song, that song sucks’. It’s a good relationship because he’s so honest all the time [so] I really, really trust him. I really trust his opinion. When he says something’s good [then] I believe him on that, and when he says something’s bad… then I sometimes believe him on that *laughs*
That EP, your debut American release, couldn’t have come out at a more unique and challenging time…
I wanted to keep going. Nobody knew what was happening or how long it was going to go on for. I was like ‘we need to keep living and making art’ even though I couldn’t tour it. We put it out regardless. It probably didn’t make as much of a splash as it could have if I’d been able to get out and toured it. We had a single good to go for radio but I had to pull it because I couldn’t go out and meet people and sell it to radio. But that’s okay. I still gave music to my fanbase and people could hear my stuff and now we have a full record coming this year.
It must make you all that more excited to get that next record out there, right?
Totally. I wish it was all happening faster. I do believe in timing and that everything happens for a reason so, when it comes out I hope the timing is perfect and it does everything that I hope it will do.
You’re still hard at work on it, as we can see on your Instagram as you document the process, so what can you tease about it right now?
The majority of the record leans super, super country. Then there’s a couple of what I would say progressive pop-country songs on there. I think it’s the best stuff I have ever written. There’s a couple of songs that are super honest, and I have a piano vocal that I’m really excited to [put] out. A lot of attitude-y type of songs…I think it’s the best songs I’ve ever put out!
Can we expect any new songs to feature while you’re here at C2C?
Honestly? I haven’t even decided on my setlist yet! I’m rehearsing this week with my guitar player so I gotta figure that out! I think I should play something new…I don’t know!
For those not yet familiar with you, what do you want people to take away from listening to your music?
I hope they can find their stories within my stories, and lyrics that can connect with them. Or, if it’s a fun song, that they can have fun and dance. I always want people to feel like we’re friends when they’re hearing my music.
You’ll be here in a matter of days…besides C2C are you getting to do much sightseeing before you fly back for your next show?
I get in a day early and have a day to recover from the jetlag – I’m definitely going to go shopping and go for dinner that night! After we play Glasgow, we’re going to go to Edinburgh for three days and just chill before flying home for that show in Phoenix.