Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Andrew Macdonald's Musical Journey: From Business to Ballads


In the bustling corridors of the corporate world, Andrew Macdonald navigated a successful career, traveling globally, climbing the corporate ladder, and reaping the rewards of a fast-paced business life. His journey, spanning nearly four decades, was marked by significant professional achievements, the challenges of raising a family, and the pursuit of academic excellence through a Masters and then a Doctorate. Yet, amidst the cacophony of corporate achievements and personal responsibilities, a quiet melody played continuously in his mind – a melody of unfulfilled musical aspirations.

For years, Macdonald's love for music remained a distant dream, often relegated to the backburner as life's immediate priorities took center stage. The world of writing music and singing seemed incompatible with his fast-paced lifestyle. Yet, like a persistent whisper, songs continued to play in his head. Occasionally, he would pen down lyrics, holding onto the hope that maybe, someday, they would find their melody.

This 'someday' found its spark a few years back in an unexpected way. As his older sister approached her wedding day, Macdonald sought a unique and heartfelt gift to express his affection. He turned to his latent passion for music and wrote her a song. However, at that time, his musical abilities were limited to lyrics. He handed her the words with a promise to one day sing them, a promise that seemed more like a wishful thought than a tangible future reality.

Inspired by his older brother, who had begun piano lessons, Macdonald decided it was time to resurrect his musical dream. He took up guitar lessons, a challenging endeavor that rekindled memories of his childhood music lessons. It wasn't easy – far from the adage of 'like riding a bike' – but perseverance paid off. As he strummed more confidently and mastered chords, the possibility of setting his lyrics to music started becoming real.

His dedication culminated in transforming the lyrics written for his sister into a full-fledged song. This accomplishment marked a significant milestone in his life – he had created his first song. Yet, the thought of performing it himself was daunting. Seeking a professional touch, he explored local recording studios and discovered a world where engineers, singers, and musicians could help bring his vision to life.

At 65, Macdonald found himself in an almost surreal moment, walking the streets of Boston, surrounded by young musicians from the Berklee School of Music. This led him to a recording studio where he witnessed the birth of his first song, "To Have and to Hold," a beautiful tribute to his sister's wedding.

This experience was initially intended to be a singular venture, a fulfillment of a promise. However, the discovery of music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music opened his eyes to new possibilities. With minimal investment, his song was suddenly available worldwide. The emotional response of his sister and her husband, hearing the song on Apple Music, was a profound moment, signaling to Macdonald that it was time to delve deeper into his musical talents.

His first album, aptly titled "To Have and To Hold," was an exploration of lifelong love, inspired by his 34-year marriage. The album was a concept piece, narrating a personal journey that resonated with universal themes of love and commitment. His venture into music continued to evolve, leading him into the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) genre for his second album, and a third album titled "Purpose" on the horizon.

In just a year and a half, Macdonald has written about 15 songs, each marking a step in his ongoing artistic evolution. His story is not just about music but a testament to the idea that it's never too late to pursue one's passions. With the release of his new song, "You Believe in You," at the end of February, Macdonald sends a powerful message: belief in oneself is paramount.

Andrew Macdonald's journey is a vivid illustration that life's second acts can be as fulfilling as its first, and sometimes even more so. His story inspires others to follow their dreams, regardless of age or life's circumstances, reinforcing the idea that it's never too late to embrace your passions.

My interview with Andrew Macdonald delves into his journey from a business career to embracing his passion for music later in life.

Early Influences and Deferred Dreams: Macdonald grew up influenced by the Beatles, Dan Fogelberg, and other artists like America and Genesis. Despite his early love for music, he never considered it as a career path, focusing instead on his natural leadership skills in business. Interestingly, he occasionally wrote down song ideas, which he revisited years later, sparking his interest in recording his own music.

Balancing Life and Latent Talents: While fully engaged in his career, pursuing a doctorate, and raising a family, Macdonald kept his musical aspirations on hold. He admitted that had he been aware of the modern music world earlier, he might have pursued his musical interests sooner. Music remained a latent dream, occasionally mentioned in conversations.

The Catalyst of Change: Writing a song for his sister's wedding was a pivotal moment for Macdonald. He experienced a profound realization in combining lyrics with music, which reignited his passion for songwriting.

Learning and Relearning Music: Later in life, Macdonald relearned guitar, initially following traditional methods. Balancing this with his other responsibilities, he focused on learning chords and eventually composing his own music.

First Recording Experience at 65: At 65, Macdonald's first recording session in Boston was a surreal experience. He found the music industry welcoming and was exhilarated by the new environment and processes.

Embracing Modern Music Distribution: Navigating the modern music distribution landscape, Macdonald used DistroKid to distribute his music, marveling at the ease of getting music onto platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. His marketing background helped him in promoting his music.

The Emotional Impact of Your Music: The emotional response of his sister and her husband to his song on Apple Music deeply touched Macdonald and motivated him to continue with music.

Concept Behind 'To Have and To Hold': His first album, 'To Have and To Hold,' is a concept album exploring the journey of lifelong love, drawing from his own 34-year marriage.

Exploring New Genres and Future Projects: Macdonald ventured into the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) genre with his second album. His faith plays a significant role in his music, and he enjoys connecting with people through it.

Advice for Balancing Creative Pursuits with Life's Demands: Macdonald advises others to assess their time usage and to commit to their creative pursuits, even if it means working in the late hours.

Reflections on Success and Personal Growth: He measures his success as an artist by his personal and artistic growth, enjoying the journey and the connections made through music.

Message to Aspiring Musicians and Late Bloomers: In his upcoming song 'You Believe in You,' Macdonald encourages others to pursue their passions, regardless of age, viewing it as an asset.

Overall, Andrew Macdonald's story is an inspiring tale of rediscovering and pursuing one's passions later in life, balancing multiple roles, and embracing new opportunities in the modern music landscape.

 Interview with Andrew Macdonald

Early Influences and Deferred Dreams:

Andrew, can you take us back to those early days when music was a budding interest for you? What kind of music influenced you as a young person, and how did it feel to set aside this passion for a career in business?

My earliest memories of music were the Beatles.  They had a massive impact on me.  Their sound resonated with me at a very early age.  In my teens, the music from Dan Fogelberg had a profound impact.  The depth of his lyrics and breadth of his music, such as the use of orchestration opened my ears to the possibilities.  Other influences would have been America, James Taylor, Springsteen (I went to college in New Jersey), CSN, Genesis.

In those days, I never thought of pursuing music as a career.  Also, I had natural leadership abilities and at that time, business seemed to be the best way to utilize that.   Interestingly, through all the years, I’d have a song idea in my head and would write it down.  I almost forgot I did that until I stumbled on them last summer.  I’m pleased to say they were good.  I think it would be cool to record one and that’s my plan. . . bring the past to the future.

Balancing Life and Latent Talents:

Throughout your career and personal life, how did you manage the persistent call of music? Were there moments when it was particularly challenging to keep your musical aspirations on hold?

Overall, it was not difficult because the career which I was fully enjoying kept my life very full, then pursuing a doctorate, and having three kids and all that comes with raising a family.  The idea of making music did not seem possible.  Of course, I was not fully aware of the new world of music we now live in.  Had I been, I would likely have done something sooner. 

Funny thing was when people would ask me what I wanted to be if not a Business Executive, I would say “singer and songwriter.”  They would laugh, and a part of me would as well. . . but not the whole part.  

The Catalyst of Change – The Wedding Song for Your Sister:

The song you wrote for your sister’s wedding seems to have been a pivotal moment for you. Could you describe the emotions and thoughts that led you to finally bridge the gap between writing lyrics and actually composing music?

It was an amazing experience to begin to play songs and then play around with different chord combinations, but that moment when I realized I could put the two together was like someone unlocked a closet door full of, in this case, music, that had been there for years.   It is hard to describe how I felt when I first played that song for myself, but I could almost sense something new was happening in me.  

Learning and Relearning Music:

You mentioned taking up the guitar later in life, after a long hiatus. What was that learning process like for you, especially as you balanced other responsibilities?

Not knowing any better, I took the traditional of learning notes, then chords etc.   I had an old “how to learn” guitar course I had purchased years back for one my sons.   It was the only alternative that I knew of and since my job required traveling about 50% of the time, taking lessons on a regular basis was not an option.  So, I stumbled along slowly learning.  It was painful.  Then I realized I just wanted to be able to play a few songs.  I think I read about “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” that was basically three chords.   That changed everything.   I began to learn more and more chords and more and more songs, and then I began composing my own.   

In terms of balance with all else, I earned my Master and Doctorate while having a demanding job, traveling a tremendous amount, and raising a family.  This took my time management skills to another level.  Finishing my doctorate in 2016 freed up a chunk of time where I could focus on learning to play.  I think with something like music you need time to just explore and experiment.  

First Recording Experience at 65:

Walking into a recording studio at 65 must have been quite an experience. Can you share more about your feelings and thoughts during that first recording session in Boston?

It was surreal.  I still think about it.  Of course, I was by far the oldest one there, but the studio people were/are awesome.   Spending most of my life around business executives/professionals, this was so different, and I felt really comfortable from the start.  Thus far, I have found this industry to be very welcoming.     

Of course, everything for me was a new experience, from the modern methods of recording, to singing into a microphone with headphones on, to the people, the industry language, the whole scene.  I could not believe it was happening and I was so happy. 

As an aside, I had not told anyone about this; my wife, kids, friends knew absolutely nothing.  This was mine.  I needed to do this for me.

Embracing Modern Music Distribution:

How did you navigate the modern landscape of music streaming and distribution? What challenges and surprises did you encounter in getting your music onto platforms like Spotify and Apple Music?

Certainly, without a compass.  I knew nothing so I had to ask a lot of questions, especially to those in this new world and do research.  I’m a learner and I love to learn knew things, so this came very naturally to me.

After I recorded the song, I was talking with the engineer, a young guy in his mid 20’s.  My only intention was to give this one song to my sister.  I only knew of the traditional big recording companies.  So I asked him, what do people like me usually do.  He told me about this company called “DistroKid.”   That was a game changer. 

I went home, did my research, and within a few hours my song had been uploaded to a few dozen platforms.   I don’t think the word “surprise,” could do that experience justice.  I was blown away.  I’m still “surprised” at how easy it is to get your music out there.

But like any product, getting it out there, and getting people to listen is a whole other challenge.  No doubt that has been the biggest challenge, but I have a lot of marketing background, albeit in different industries.   Learning the process, how to, the streaming world of music and so on has been the biggest challenge, but I’m patient and I’m learning.   It was only recently that I learned about the “Indie” world and that has been a cool experience.  You realize you’re not alone.  It’s very inspiring . . . comforting.

The Emotional Impact of Your Music:

When your sister heard your song on Apple Music, what was that moment like for you? How did her reaction influence your decision to continue with music?

Her and her husband’s reaction was very special and the feeling that words which I wrote and music which I composed, could elicit that level of emotion really touched my heart.  I knew right then that I had to pursue this.  I knew that there were so many more words and melodies that could be written which could make a difference.  

Concept Behind 'To Have and To Hold':

Your first album 'To Have and To Hold' is described as a concept album. Could you elaborate on the themes and stories that you chose to explore in this album?

The second song I wrote after “To Have and to Hold, “called “Empty,” was about a long standing marriage ending.  I had two other songs in the making and began to see a story evolve.  That’s when I learned about “concept” albums.  So, I began to write about the journey of lifelong love.  The album begins with a song called “The Search,” which explores the experience of a young man looking for that one.  The second song is the follow up called “When You Know.”  So they meet, fall in love, grow together (Pretty Things), get engaged (“Love Is), experience happiness (Happy) get married (To Have and To Hold), experience the strain of careers/work and the need to spend time (Just a Moment), then separation (Empty), but in the end come together (Full).  

I’ve been married for 34 years so I was able to draw on a lot of my own experience and emotions which I found to be very helpful.  It made the music very real for me.

Exploring New Genres and Future Projects:

You mentioned venturing into the CCM genre with your second album and working on a third album titled 'Purpose.' What inspires you to explore different genres and themes in your music?

Purpose’ was to be my next album.  After completing ‘To Have and To Hold,’ I knew I did not want to write more love songs.  I wanted to use music as an extension of my personal mission to create a better world.   While this album was still an idea, I was asked to be part of a newly formed band at my church who were going to sing CCM music.  I joined and it opened my eyes and ears to this whole new genre.   I think I wrote my first CCM song, “Who Am I,” in less than an hour, that’s how natural it came to me.   On February 14, I’ll be releasing my fourth CCM song, “Coming Home,” which draws from the parable of the Prodigal Son.    My faith is a very big part of my life, and CCM gives me the opportunity to connect with people on a whole other level.  

Advice for Balancing Creative Pursuits with Life's Demands:

What advice would you give to individuals who are struggling to balance their creative pursuits with the demands of their careers and personal lives?

Assess how you’re using your time.  Consider how much time you’re wasting that could be spent on something that might change your life and others as well.  Put a plan together and make a commitment to not letting yourself down.  You may only have the late hours of the day, after work, after the kids go to bed, after everything.  Carve out the time and push yourself.  It will be hard, and at times may seem not worth the effort but push through.   The only real failure in life is not trying.  In that case you failed yourself.  You don’t want that.  If you’re a person of faith . . . pray.

Reflections on Success and Personal Growth:

Looking back on your journey so far, how do you measure your success as an artist? What personal growth have you experienced through this journey?

In terms of success, as long as I’m growing and developing as a person and artist, I’m good.  I’m mostly interested in communicating with people through music.  I do not know where this is going, and I have no idea how long it will take, but I am thoroughly enjoying the music, the journey, and people as well.   

Just this week I walked into our church to attend something only to hear one of my songs playing.  I’m not sure it gets much better than that.

From a personal standpoint, I have had an amazing career.  Traveled the world, had so many incredible experiences, but this has allowed me to become something I’ve always been, but never allowed out.  It’s like a new life.  It’s awesome.

Message to Aspiring Musicians and Late Bloomers:

With a song like 'You Believe in You' set to release, what message do you hope to convey to others who might be hesitating to pursue their passions, particularly later in life?

This song has a great story.  It was never supposed to happen, much like my songwriting career.  The message in this song says it all.

In terms of “later in life,” that shouldn’t matter if you still have the talent and desire.  In fact, the older you are the more you know.  Consider age to be your greatest asset.  It just comes down to using it, and not being afraid to fail.   When life is done, I want to look back and say “I left it all on the field . . . .the field of life.     


Lyric Review "You Believe in You"

The lyrics of "You Believe in You" convey a powerful message of self-belief and resilience in the face of loneliness and adversity. The repetition of "Yes you’re all alone / But you keep on goin / Yea, don’t give up" emphasizes the theme of perseverance. This repetition serves not just as an affirmation to the subject of the song but also as a mantra that listeners can internalize.

The transformation from acknowledging solitude ("Nobody there for you / And you seem so all alone") to an empowering belief in oneself ("Because you believe that dreams / Come true / And you believe that you / Can do / Impossible things") is particularly striking. It suggests a journey from a place of isolation to a position of strength and self-confidence.

The phrase "Because you believe, believe, believe / In you" reinforces the central theme of self-belief. It's a powerful reminder that faith in oneself can be a driving force in overcoming challenges and achieving what might seem impossible.

Overall, these lyrics are inspirational, offering a message of hope and strength. They speak to the universal experience of feeling alone but also the incredible power of self-belief in changing one's circumstances and making dreams a reality.

Fictional Story based on the lyrics  "The Light Within"

Created by Indie Mastered

Copyright 2024 Andrew Macdonald

In the small, picturesque town of Willow Creek, there lived a young artist named Emily. Emily was known for her vibrant paintings that often featured the serene landscapes of her hometown. However, beneath her calm exterior, Emily battled feelings of loneliness and self-doubt. Despite her talent, she struggled to believe in herself and her art, feeling overshadowed by the more successful artists in her community.

One cold winter evening, as Emily sat in her modest studio, she heard the soft melody of a song drifting through her window. The lyrics spoke of perseverance and believing in oneself despite being alone. The words, "Yes you’re all alone / But you keep on going / Yea, don’t give up," resonated deeply with her.

Inspired, Emily began a new project, pouring her emotions into a canvas that depicted a lone figure standing at the edge of a cliff, looking out into a vast, star-filled sky. The figure, though solitary, stood tall and confident, embodying the spirit of the song's message. As she painted, Emily found herself internalizing the lyrics, "Because you believe that dreams / Come true / And you believe that you / Can do / Impossible things."

Days turned into weeks, and Emily's painting evolved into a masterpiece that captured the essence of hope and self-belief. She decided to showcase it at the local art fair, a decision that took every ounce of her newfound courage.

On the day of the fair, Emily's painting, now titled "The Light Within," drew an awe-struck crowd. Viewers were captivated by the way the figure in the painting seemed to emanate an inner light, symbolizing the power of belief in oneself. Among the crowd was a renowned art critic who was deeply moved by Emily's work. He wrote a glowing review, praising her unique talent and the emotional depth of her painting.

Emily's life began to change after that. She received invitations to exhibit her work in larger cities, and her paintings started to sell. But more importantly, she had found her inner light. She realized that the loneliness she once felt had transformed into a source of strength and creativity.

"The Light Within" became not just the title of her painting, but a mantra for her life. Emily learned that believing in oneself could turn the impossible into reality, a lesson she shared through her art. And whenever she felt doubt creeping in, she would hum the song that changed her life, remembering always to believe, believe, believe in herself.

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