Editor’s Note: Interview has been edited for clarity and length.Fate McAfee was destined for music. With nothing but a pawn shop guitar to keep him company, McAfee picked up odd jobs across the nation; from carpenter to valet, he did whatever he could, all the while soaking up the tales of experience he was told along the way. These stories would prove to become the backbone of McAfee’s music.
His debut song, “Stars of Tucumcari,” was released on January 25th. It was accompanied by the announcement of his new album Diesel Palomino, out March 1, on new Kentucky record label Slough Water Records. The album is full of personal anecdotes of tragedy and growth from McAfee’s teenage years and time wandering the Mid-South. The record is also heavily influenced by the early loss of Fate’s father, Eric McAfee. Eric, who was once a poet and war photographer, struggled with addiction and eventually passed after a battle with cancer. To commemorate his father and further personalize the record, Fate has included some of his father’s photographs in the album artwork.
In light of his recent album and tour announcement, I sat down with Fate to dive deeper into the stories behind his music.
Ariel Zedric: Could you talk a little about the inspiration behind your debut single, “Stars of Tucumcari?”
Fate McAfee: It was the summer and I was a bit itinerant, and I was working through some hard memories at a somewhat difficult time. I wanted to write a song that recalled the experiences of an old romance without giving myself over to those feelings of nostalgia or remorse. I had been listening to of Angel Olsen’s record My Woman around the time, as well, and I think in a way it was influenced sonically by that.
AZ: You also just announced the release of your new album, Diesel Palomino, out March 1st. Congratulations! What sort of vibes can listeners expect from your album? Will they be similar to your single?
FM: Thank you, I can’t wait! I believe in terms of arrangements, that one may be unique from the other songs. But I think they all fall around a central sound, and there are other tracks with similarities to “Stars”, such as the melodic bass lines from Adam Rader on “From a Silo,” or my electric guitar tone on “Late Summer Blues.”
AZ: Would you say your album has an overall message that you’d like your listeners to get out of it?
FM: I believe that you have to create your own momentum and find a way to persevere at your own pace.
AZ: Overall, how would you describe your genre of music to someone who has never heard it before?
FM: I would probably call it folk-rock. I have songs that are heavier and more instrumentally colorful than others, and some that are more roots-derived acoustic ballads.
AZ: You’ve had some odd jobs along the way, what really catapulted you into the music industry? Have you always had an affinity for music?
FM: I began playing guitar in high school, and I have always enjoyed creative writing. As I got older, I married the two and began to perform in public when I was 21. While my tastes have changed a bit, I’ve been lucky to always have a healthy stream of new music from my parents, sister and friends.
AZ: If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
FM: Probably carpentry, I’ve still got the tools!
AZ: You’ve chosen to include some of your father’s film photographs in the album artwork. Could you talk a little about your decision and the impact your father has had on your life?
FM: I thought that if I were speaking about his death and its impact on my life on the album, that it would make sense to incorporate his photos into the artwork. Once I began looking through them, I really liked the feelings they stirred collectively. I thought they suggested an ambivalence that’s expressed on the title track. My father was a paradox in his own way; he cared very much for other people, particularly the disenfranchised or persecuted, but never managed to extend that care to himself in a meaningful way.
AZ: What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to do or obstacle you’ve had to overcome in the music industry?
FM: Learning how to market yourself is a tricky thing. I understand its value, but it can be hard to look at yourself objectively and present that in a favorable light to the masses. Convincing venues to take a chance on you is hard if you don’t have a strong presence.
AZ: On the other hand, what moment in your career so far has left you the most satisfied or proud?
FM: I find the most joy thus far has come from when I approach the band (my backing band- Leonard the Band) with new songs, and they take them and make them their own. It becomes about something bigger than me or my guitar parts; we’re all creating something and everyone has equally important roles in doing so. Getting to share that is the best.
AZ: Where can people find more of your work / what can they follow you on?
AZ: If you could give young aspiring artists one piece of advice, what would it be?
FM: Don’t get caught up in the aesthetic of being a musician, just practice like you would for anything else you want to do.
AZ: Any last thoughts?
FM: Go listen to Leonard the Band and Melanie A. Davis! They will be on tour with me this spring and summer, and both are fantastic.
Tour dates are as follows:
1/25 The Smedley PADUCAH, KY
2/1 JP’s PADUCAH, KY
2/2 Hopkinsville Brewery HOPKINSVILLE, KY
2/7 Media Rerun MURFREESBORO, TN
2/8 Appalachian Brewing BOONE, NC
2/9 Static Records ASHEVILLE, NC
2/10 Brunch gig ASHEVILLE, NC
2/23 Terrapin Station (local release) MURRAY, KY
2/28 Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 NEW YORK CITY, NY
3/1 The Grape Room PHILADELPHIA, PA
3/9 Smith’s Olde Bar ATLANTA, GA
3/14 Flicker Bar ATHENS, GA
3/16 Lamasco’s EVANSVILLE, IN
3/21 The East Room NASHVILLE, TN
3/22 Star Spangled Brewing CLARKSVILLE, TN
Feature Image Courtesy of Fate McAfee