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#026 - Interview with TIM MAC FEED THE DOG Fiddle Player by Sandi Millar Lesson Pros


Timmy Mac with Feed the Dog

by Sandi Millar

Enjoy this interview with Tim Mac from Feed the Dog band! Thanks for reading. 

Tim Mac 1

SANDI: When did you first become interested in music?

TIM: I started playing the violin when I was 3 ½ in the Suzuki program. I played classically in orchestras and took private lessons through high school, and received a performance degree from UW-Oshkosh. I did it because I was good at it, and I had put in so much time but I never felt the true passion for what I was playing until I discovered an outlet in bluegrass and alternative music when I went to the Chicken Town music festival in Iowa a few summers before I graduated college.  

SANDI: Tell us about your music. Styles you like and play.

TIM: I like to play original music of all genres. The more creative control I am given, the more I enjoy myself.  

SANDI: What was your dream career when you were young?

TIM: For the longest time, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I was really into playing ball and following the Milwaukee Brewers. It became clear in high school that my athletic talents were going to keep me from that dream.  

SANDI: I know you mentioned you play in six different bands. Do you play fiddle in all the bands, and is playing music your full-time career?

TIM: I play fiddle in all of the bands. For the most part, music pays 75% of my bills, depending on the season. I have a few 1099 side jobs where I am my own boss to cover expenses if I'm not playing enough gigs or have a few too many exposure gigs.  

SANDI: How do you balance all the different bands and keep the arrangements straight for each band?

TIM: I have one main band; Feed the Dog, which I make very clear with other projects that it takes precedence. I keep a personal schedule that is shared with Feed the Dog so gigs do not get double booked. As far as arrangements, I have no idea. A lot of what I play is improvisational, but I have a good memory for structure. When I was little in the Suzuki method, everything was learned by ear and memory. I had to play every song I had learned in the books once a week to stay fresh. I guess that early mental practice has shaped the way I learn and retain information.

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SANDI: How many shows a year are you playing, and are they mostly local to Wisconsin, or do you get to travel some?

TIM: I play roughly 160 - 180 shows a year. A lot of them are in the Midwest, but I also get hired to play tours across the country. I've played anywhere from New York to Seattle, Wisconsin to Texas and Costa Rica

SANDI: Ohhh, Costa Rica. Very nice.

SANDI: Let's go a little in-depth about the band Feed the Dog. How long have you been in this band, and where is the band headed?

TIM: I founded the band in 2015. We all have a goal to make this our #1 project and to financially sustain ourselves with the band. The sky's the limit!  

SANDI: Where can people find some samples of your music?

TIM: We have a new album coming out soon. You can hear some samples on Sound Cloud

SANDI: Your band sounds great; I'm excited for you and the direction the band is headed.

SANDI: I know you have shared the stage with some pretty big names, Trampled by Turtles, Pert Near Sandstone, Infamous Stringdusters, Horseshoes, and Hand Grenades, Charlie Parr, Jeremy Messersmith, and the list goes on and on. Who was your favorite person and/or band(s) you shared the stage with, and why?

TIM: I had a really fun time playing with Twiddle. They are a pretty well-known Jam band throughout the world. I sat in with them to a crowd in the thousands in Costa Rica and then again to a sold-out show at the Majestic in Madison. I also really cherish my time sitting in with Dave Simonett. Trampled by Turtles was the first bluegrass band I ever got into, and when I first started playing live, I never imagined being a peer on the stage with him. I've played with him in Menasha, WI, and out in Oregon at the Northwest String Summit.

SANDI: I'll have to check them out.

SANDI: If you could collaborate with any musician, who would it be and why?

TIM: This question changes all the time, usually related to the direction I want to take my band. Right now, it would be awesome to collaborate with Wood Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, Trampled by Turtles, String Cheese Incident, and Railroad Earth. Not only would it be awesome because I love their music, but it would also bring more attention to my band, Feed the Dog, and help us grow.  

SANDI: Did you ever envision yourself to become a full-time musician?

TIM: Not until I started being a professional musician. When it started happening I loved every moment of it. 

Tim Mac 3

SANDI: If you weren't a musician, what would you have been doing right now?

TIM: Probably working a boring office job and busy being miserable.  

SANDI: Who was your first music teacher? What great advice did the instructor give you that really inspired you?

TIM: Everett Goodwin. He was very goofy and fun, perfect for me as a hyper A.D.D. child.

SANDI: What professional musical training have you had?

TIM: Bachelor in Violin Performance from UW-Oshkosh  

SANDI: Which famous musician do you admire and why?

TIM: Sam Bush. He is doing what he loves, played with nearly everyone, and has some very positive inspirational songs.

SANDI: Describe your first instrument.

TIM: It was a tool to teach me how to hold the instrument. A crackerjack box with a paint stick attached with rubber bands. I had a pizza cardboard circle with footprints drawn on it to keep me standing still and show me how to stand.

SANDI: (Laughs) That is a great story.

SANDI: Describe your first performance.

TIM: Probably a recital when I was 4 or 5. I don't remember. My first solo paid gig was playing Christmas songs at a craft fair where I made $40. I was stoked! I had a string quartet for many years before I started playing in bands.  

SANDI: When you were younger, did you play in any event, like your school or town event(s)?

TIM: I played in the Oshkosh Youth Symphony Orchestra, church, high school orchestra, lots of retirement homes, and special events that wanted classical music.  

SANDI: How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

TIM: Sometimes mistakes turn into great sounds! If it is a timing issue or intonation, I'll make a mental note never to do it again. It's all about your energy when playing a show and the audience usually never notices, so I don't sweat them.  

SANDI: How often and for how long do you practice?

TIM: I like playing with effect pedals; they're kind of like playing another instrument while playing the same instrument. You have to practice to get them to sound right. I'll practice a lot by myself after I buy a new one. I play with so many groups that solo practice isn't as much of a priority anymore. I'll practice with Feed the Dog once a week for three hours.  

SANDI: I can't remember are you a songwriter?

TIM: I am not a lyricist, but I do write instrumentals or songs for someone else to write lyrics.

SANDI: How long does it normally take you to finish a song?

TIM: Could be ten minutes, could be eight hours.  

SANDI: Where do you draw inspiration?

TIM: Random melodies that pop in my head.  

SANDI: What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue this career?

TIM: Never stop thinking about how you can improve yourself. Be mentally strong, stay away from drugs and alcohol, and act professionally at all times. You're selling yourself!  

SANDI: What education or training is required/recommended to succeed in this industry?

TIM: Training helps, but is not the end-all. As a professional musician, your job is to entertain. Do that in any way you can.  

SANDI: What are the typical mistakes people make when trying to pursue this career?

TIM: Playing in the same project too much in the same market, underselling yourself, and staying in unhealthy situations. Be kind and try to make a good impression on everyone you meet. The music scene is a lot smaller than it seems, and you need your peers and contacts to succeed.

SANDI: Yes, be kind; burning bridges won't do you any good because word gets around. Underselling yourself is great advice; don't be afraid to ask for the money. Tim, I'd like to take a minute to expand on this as a teaching moment. Some of the best advice a band can get is to start asking for the money and to refrain from taking the first gig that comes along. If you book a gig for $500 and someone offers you $2000 on the same date, then you are out of luck because you're already booked. Try not to be afraid of losing a gig because, in most cases, the price you ask for is just the beginning of the negotiation you may lose some gigs with a higher asking price, but in the long run, you'll make more money and work less if you do it correctly and remember there's always another show right around the corner.

SANDI: Is there growth in this field? How do things generally look for new musicians entering this field?

TIM: I feel there is growth, I've been finding a lot of very supportive people, festivals, communities, and venues dedicated to music. The longer I do it, the easier it gets.  

SANDI: What are your future plans as a musician?

TIM: Keep on Keeping on. Love what I play, and spread positive vibes while sustaining myself.  

SANDI: Any great road trip stories you want to leave us with?

TIM: I can't pick just one. I love being on the road, seeing the country, and playing music. Meeting so many kind and supportive people across the country while expressing yourself with your music is what it is all about.  

SANDI: Can you tell us the one about the Milwaukee Brewers?

TIM: When I was a kid, I was a huge Milwaukee Brewer fan. The Brewers needed a new stadium, or else they were going to leave Milwaukee. The stadium needed to be funded by the state, and it came down to a vote of state legislators. Leading up to the vote, it was not looking in favor of the new stadium.

My mother was a close acquaintance with one of the representatives and brought me to meet her in the parking lot of Robin's restaurant in Oshkosh. I couldn't have been older than eight years old and was dressed head to toe in my brew crew gear, including a mullet haircut that was styled after Brewers Hall of Famer Robin Yount. I played her "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on my violin and begged her to vote Yes for the new stadium. Long story short, she ended up changing her vote to yes, and Wisconsin can thank me for changing her mind. (Laughs)

SANDI: (Laughs) Wow! I love it! That is another great story. It is a good thing for Milwaukee baseball fans that you learned the fiddle! Hey Tim, Thanks so much for doing the interview. One more thing—this is sort of a new thing I am adding to the interviews for fun is stream-of-consciousness questions.

Stream of Conscious Questions

Answer the first thing that pops into your head.

SANDI: Fiddle
TIM: Violin

SANDI: Tenderloin
TIM: San Francisco neighborhood where there is an amazing studio but the streets are like day 3 of an EDM festival but without music.

SANDI: The Blue Opus
TIM: Great venue

SANDI: Oshkosh, WI
TIM: Hometown

SANDI: Potato Pancakes
TIM: Delicious  

For more information on Tim Mac Visit
Website: facebook.com/timfiddles
Email: timmcilreefiddle@gmail.com
Bookings: timmcilreefiddle@gmail.com

Special thanks to Tim Mac from Feed the Dog for taking the time to do this interview. Hope to see you "On the Road"! - Sandi Millar

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