Mick McMains grew up bouncing around Europe as part of a military family, and that peripatetic upbringing has had a tremendous influence on his musical career as well. The singer-songwriter-guitarist’s own tunes have been compared favorably to the Traveling Wilburys by major music critics, yet he has also toured Europe as a bassist for the punk band The Generators, spent two years as vocalist for Earl Slick’s band and another two years as guitarist for the British band The Records.
He was also involved with the art-music ensemble DJ Monkey, serving as their producer for two of their critically acclaimed albums, and landed his song “I Walk Alone” on the soundtrack of the Jason Bateman-Jennifer Aniston movie “The Switch.” But these days the longtime Altadena-based musician is focused on his own songs, including “Don’t Say Goodnight Tonight” (which was the most downloaded song on Airplay Express’ Top 40 chart this past December) and his latest CD, “American Soul.”
Backed by his brothers Jim and Moose in the band McMains, he will be performing in two big shows Saturday. From 2 to 4 p.m., they will be on the mainstage at the Sierra Madre Art Fair, while they play at 8 p.m. in the Roar Room in La Crescenta for the CD’s official release party. The night is the culmination of years of effort on the national indie music scene, and McMains is thrilled to be playing for his hometown friends and fans.
“I’ve always loved all kinds of music and as a youngster learned and fell in love with classical first,” explains McMains. “Then I loved musicals and later as a teenager discovered rock and roll. My brothers already had a band at 16, 17 years old, and since we grew up in all kinds of far-flung places but mostly Paris, I picked up on all kinds of music.
“When I came back to America, I played rock and roll because that’s what everyone did but never felt comfortable because I wasn’t into the lifestyle if you’re going to do it right. I gave it a shot but mostly was helping other people with their music, and then I started writing songs with Joey Alkes.”
Indeed, his musical partnership with Alkes — a longtime songwriter who was a key player in the creation of the 1980s alt-rock classic “A Million Miles Away” by The Plimsouls— has been a rich one. The lead single from “American Soul” is “Devil May Care,” a loping country-rocker with haunting, swooping guitar fills that is about “Devil” Hatfield of the legendary Hatfield clan involved in the famous feud with the McCoys.
“He saw a movie about ‘Devil’ Hatfield and said we have to write a song about this, and he couldn’t believe I was related to ‘Devil,’” McMains chuckles. “I said my grandma was Devil’s daughter, and we got it going with some grooves by me and lyrics by Joey, and everything came together when it was mixed by Rich Mouser at his Mouse House studio in Altadena.”
McMains’ live sound is also rich, developed in his decades of playing, in which no gig or town was too big or too small. He has particularly fond memories of Japan and the tiny town of Kalispell, Mont., “where everybody in town was thrilled because somebody came to play for them.” He also loves to play piano on the occasional ballad, including the affecting “Since I Started Loving You,” dedicated to his wife, whom he credits with transforming his life in a much better direction over their time together.
“I’d love to make a mark on the culture, and the best way is with a hit song,” McMains says. “But I love to travel and play music and they seem to go together, so I feel I’ve been successful most of my life.”
McMains plays from 2 to 4 p.m. Sat. at the Sierra Madre Art Festival at Memorial Park, 222 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Admission is free. They also play at 8 p.m. Saturday at Roar Room, 3645 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta. Admission is free. “American Soul” is available on Amazon and at Poo Bah Records, 2636 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Visit mickmcmains.com.