Mac Walsh carries a guitar pick with him wherever he goes.
He still remembers the one thing that changed his life — a John Mayer concert film that his parents gave to him as an Easter gift. Strumming his guitar, he looks down with a slight, but earnest smile, as if he were holding a newborn baby. He’s a simple guy, and it’s quite clear upon first impression — Mac Walsh lives and breathes music.
Walsh, a sophomore majoring in music industry and English, is one of the many talented student artists who arrived at USC in pursuit of successful music career. But beyond his passion for music, one thing sets him apart from his peers — his uncanny ability to put his heart and emotions into music.
“It used to be all about the guitar, but songwriting has really grown on me,” he said.
The summer before his senior year of high school, the Kansas City native began to dabble in songwriting. He wrote his first song, “Monster,” as part of his audition for GRAMMY Camp, a five-day music industry camp for young artists. Walsh became one of the few students accepted into this highly selective program.
“The first song I ever wrote was terrible,” Walsh said, blushing as he recalled his first time writing music. “It was bluesy… but the lyrics were absolutely awful.”
Despite his reluctance to admit so, that first song became a catalyst for his growth as a musician. And since then, there has been no going back for Walsh.
Citing some of his inspirations as Bob Dylan, Ed Sheeran and Bon Iver, Walsh involves himself in the musical process everyday.
However, there is one particular artist that he hopes to emulate one day: John Mayer. Drawing inspiration from both his influences and favorite album Continuum, the singer-songwriter aims to reflect his idols not only in musical style, but also in his creative process.
“When I’m writing new songs, I take little bits and pieces from songs I really like at the time,” Walsh said. “I’m a guitar player first and foremost — I’m not that great of a singer, so I normally write the music out first and lyrics take me a while.”
With a budding career ahead of him, Walsh attributes his greatest learning experiences in the past three years to his friends, family and USC. Since arriving at the University, the singer-songwriter has worked on a variety of projects, including several EPs and a handful of performances — some at Ground Zero’s open mic nights; some with his peers and instructors; and some for his close friends.
Over the summer, Walsh and his band Williker produced a five-track EP called for good, which was released Nov. 22 on Soundcloud. Walsh cited some common themes in his project: heartbreak, having fun and coming of age. Beyond the bluesy and smooth rock feel of the songs, it became clear that his work was not just any music — it was a genuine reflection of his feelings, his words and his voice.
He knows he’s come a long way, but there is still more work to do. Every night, Walsh sits in bed with a small notebook, jotting down ideas and putting words together. Although he admits that not every piece he has written is perfect, the singer-songwriter still tries his best to write at least two songs a week.
For Walsh, the future seems slightly uncertain and unsettling. At times, it seems as if everything is transparent — he’ll continue to write music, perform with Williker and live his dream as a musician. Other times, the view is muddled and murky. But as an artist, he tries his best to remain optimistic while pursuing a career in the ever-changing music industry.
“The dream is to become a songwriter full-time,” Walsh said. “But other than that, I want to get into music publishing, working with songwriters, getting their songs out there and fitting them with artists so their great songs can be heard.”
With two years almost completed in Thornton’s music industry program, Walsh continues to find inspiration everyday from fellow artists and musicians at USC. Keeping his goals in mind, Walsh hopes that one day, these dreams will become a reality.
“Kansas City was great for me, but USC has really helped me grow in my songwriting and where I want to take my musical direction,” he said.
Though the future is still unclear for the young artist, Walsh will continue to do the things he loves most — strumming his guitar, writing music and playing with his friends. No matter what happens, as long as he has music, Walsh knows that he’ll live a happy life.
“There’s nothing else in my life that gives me as much purpose as much as music does,” Walsh said, with a wide grin on his face.