Mackin Carroll finds comfort in the uncomfortable


Introducing Up and Coming Singer-songwriter from L.A., Mackin Carroll. he writes Music songs and stuff. He also  just released his second solo EP, Damascus which you can check out if you read this article and know how to use Soundcloud. Now this. 

By Sean Stroh

Mackin Carroll still remembers the bewildered look on the face of his patronizing second grade music teacher during the waning moments of an audition for a school piano recital.

After observing several of his peers perform rehearsed piano pieces out of music books, he figured it was time to let the class hear something they surely hadn’t heard before.

Without a hint of doubt, Carroll promptly raised his hand and informed the teacher he had an original song to perform, albeit a relatively rough one. The fact that he lacked even a single piano lesson under his belt didn’t deter him in the least bit.

“You mean your own composition?” Carroll’s teacher snidely replied back.

Despite never hearing such a word before or even maintaining the slightest understanding of what it meant, Carroll assured him that he would in fact play his own “cat’s competition.”

“I sat down at the piano with all my classmates watching and just went to town, slamming away at the keys. In retrospect, you could say it was an avant-garde, atonal punk-rock masterpiece that was certainly a lot more interesting than the stuff I write now,” Carroll jokingly recalled. “I bowed having been extremely proud of my ‘cat’s competition’ and knew from that day on that I’d write songs and play music forever.”

As Carroll’s childhood progressed, so did his musical taste. While his father and uncle fed him a strict diet of classic rock artists such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Creedence Clearwater Revival, it wasn’t until his older cousin moved in that he discovered a more contemporary inspiration.

“I would always be floored when he played The Postal Service,” Carroll said. “I got a copy of Give Up and it became my life.”

By the time he reached high school, Carroll’s potential in the world of music caught the eye of The Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammy Awards. Over the course of a 10-day camp held at USC’s Thornton School of Music, he learned the secrets behind the delicate art of songwriting. While it was a short experience, the music camp offered both an inspiring and intimidating glimpse of the most talented young musicians in the country.

“It felt good to get out of my comfort zone and start thinking entrepreneurially about a music career rather than just crossing my fingers and hoping something will happen,” Carroll said.

That shift in focus has led Carroll to where he is today, having released two solo EPs in the last few months. His most recent effort, Damascus, was recorded at New Monkey Studio, which served as Elliot Smith’s private studio in Los Angeles. For Carroll, the opportunity to record in the same space as his songwriting hero was too tempting to pass up.

“Man, it was unreal,” Carroll said. “I totally thought the engineer was going to be annoyed with me geeking out the whole time but he was so into it too.”

Though small and nondescript, the studio yielded an entirely distinctive experience for the rising singer-songwriter, who recorded his first EP, Projector, in a bedroom. Without the luxury of being able to record at a  more slower, drawn-out pace, Carroll performed entire takes of each song and ditched any idea of using a metronome or playing to a click track.

“There was so much more pressure because I couldn’t punch-in and redo a part. Sometimes it was frustrating because I’d be killing it and fuck up the last chord and we’d have to scrap it all,” Carroll said. “But most of the other stuff I’ve done has been recorded to a click and very polished so it was cool to try something new. Definitely scary, though it’s good to put yourself in those situations where you’re not comfortable. It yields good art.”

If anything, it’s been the uncomfortable experiences that have and continue to be the driving force behind Carroll’s music, whether it mean performing an original ‘cat’s competition’ in front of his amused classmates, or diving head first into the crowded music scene in Los Angeles.

“I did a ton of performing in high school and a lot of it was bad so I got very good at sucking in front of people. Shakespeare, improv comedy, lots of different things that didn’t always go over well, especially in front of apathetic high schoolers,” Carroll laughed. “There are a lot of incredible musicians in Orange County, and I’ve ironically met a lot more of them since I moved away, but they’re more few and far between. At first it was discouraging, though it’s ultimately inspiring being around so much creativity because it ups your game. It keeps you hungry and moving forward.”

Check out Mackin Carroll’s music and find links to his social media through his website (

His podcast, Happy Sad Talk Thing, can be heard here:

For More Information on Mackin Carroll:
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You can also check out the video for ‘Sleepwalking’:

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