No matter what he’s done in his music career, El Paso country singer-songwriter Abe Mac has gone head first, against the grain.
Mac has forged his own trail in country – whether it’s shunning Nashville convention, launching a career from this far off West Texas city hundreds of miles away from any country music hubs, or releasing an album that is more in tune with classic country rebels like Merle Haggard than the current pop country that dominates radio and the charts.
“Against The Wind,” Mac’s latest album with the Abe Mac Band, which was officially released on April 6 at the Adobe Horseshoe Theatre in San Elizario, is not pop country at all, Mac said.
“The idea is to make it traditional and honest and as real as possible, including the lyrics,” said Mac, a graduate of Socorro High School.
Born Abiel Macias, Mac got his stage name as a member of the University of Texas at El Paso football team from 2003-2007, when former coach Mike Price couldn’t pronounce his first name.
“He gave me all kinds of names, he called me Abigail,” the 38-year-old Mac recalled.
But Mac’s journey of pushing back against the dusty desert winds began before his days as a Miner, when he first began listening to country music on the radio.
“We grew up around Spanish music and I started playing mariachi music,” Mac said. “But when I heard ‘Seminole Wind,’ by Jon Anderson, I loved that fiddle. That similarity (to the strings in traditional mariachi music) is what got me.”
But there was pushback.
“You have people judging you, thinking (country) is white folks’ music,” Mac said. “But African-American music really influenced country. Before Hank Williams there was a lot of blues and gospel that inspired country music. So that makes me feel like, as a minority, we do have that connection.”
Mac has high hopes for the album and its first single, “Crazy,” which was recently released to Texas country radio. It’s a catchy two-stepper full of coy double-entendres and Mac’s full-bodied tenor.
“I’ve always heard the cliché that nobody ever went to El Paso to make it big – and that’s very true,” Mac said. “But I think the reason people follow us is that we could keep it real. I could give a rat’s ass about Nashville. Record labels tell you what to do, how to dress, how to sing. I went through that in 2016 (when Mac moved to Nashville). I’ve seen the un-organic way Nashville does country, and I don’t want to be a part of it.”
Fan, family ties
What Mac does want to do is stay true to himself and his fans, who come out multiple times a week to see him and his band perform at venues like The Dry River, The Hydrant and Speaking Rock on a regular basis.
Whether he’s performing acoustic tributes to greats like George Strait and Garth Brooks or with his own songs with the Abe Mac Band, it’s that connection that has made him a mainstay on stages from San Elizario to Downtown festivals.
“I think (El Pasoans) see my potential and that means a lot to me,” Mac said.
“It lets me know I’m doing my job as an entertainer,” he continued. “We help people get away from their problems or even address them. We help them get over heartbreak or loss. Maybe they come have a beer, listen to a song and just get it out. That’s what it’s about for me.”