Interview: Mack Wilds talks working with Salaami Remi, Rico Love, and developing his music career
You may recognize the charming face of Mack Wilds, born Tristan Wilds from the hit shows 90210, The Wire and movies such as Red Tails and Secret Life of Bees. We introduced you to him in last year in our #Discovery Project as Tristan Wilds when he dropped his mixtape “Remember Remember” in to our discovery he’s getting quite the buzz around town. Billboard mentioned him recently in an article pointing out the release of his single “Own It” and his connection with Salaami Remi. The New York native is changing gears and putting his acting career on hold and debuting his first album “New York: A Love Story” coming this September. The R&B/hip-hop rookie dishes “Own It” written and produced by Ne-Yo and Salaami Remi and how he wants you to fall in love with the sound of New York City.
How did you get started in music?
I’ve always done music my whole life. I don’t remember a time breathing without singing, writing or hearing music in my head. I was always around music. I didn’t really grow up singing in the church. Although, I grew up very spiritual. My mother definitely put the fear of God in me. When I did sing in the choir it was only to impress a girl, but it didn’t impress her.
How did NY make you who you are today? Growing up in Staten Island?
New York was definitely a crazy place but umm even Staten Island, the projects. I love it so much because the values that it taught me and the hustle that it gave me. I don’t think threes a place in the world that you can learn hustle from better than a place that has to make something out of nothing. With that it just gave me a constant hunger for growth and constantly get better to have more and do better. I thank the guys who raised me for that.
The first song I ever heard from you was “That’s Hot” back in 2008. It was around the era of dance hip hop songs. How do you think your music has evolved from then to now?
I think back then working with so many people, everybody had so many ideas. I was young so I was impressionable. It was like “whatever you guys want, I just wanted to make music.” Now being a little older and having a sense of the music that people put out I have a better since of the industry as a whole. I think I have more of an identity now. I just want to let everybody know who I am, what I am and show them.
“Own It” gives off a feel of R&B tracks from the 90s. Can we expect more melodic soul music with edgy beats on the album?
Of course, definitely! I think its definitely a collection of New York sounds and samples. Its just a real raw, gritty very beautiful feeling to it. That’s the name “ New York: A Love Story.”
“Own it” was written and produced by Ne-yo and Salaam Remi. What was it like working with such influential people and heavy hitters in the industry?
Its definitely inspiring you know, to work with Ne-Yo and Salaam. Its definitely one of those moments when you step back and its like “holy crap, yo this is bananas.” Just being able to sing a song that Ne-Yo wrote, which of course he had to sing it first. They send it back to him and you hear back from him like “yo this is really good, alright cool I think we’re on to something. It was reaffirming and it was offstriken.
In a interview with Vibe Magazine you mentioned that the [music] game is missing a unique rawness. What makes your music different?
I feel like there is definitely a lack of the sound of the feeling of New York in music. There is a lot of characters that are played. Their definitely encompass the feeling of NY and have the mindset of NY like a ASAP or even Uncle Jay or 50 Cent. Anyone that’s from NY that has that mindset, its crazy because a lot of their music doesn’t necessarily sound like NY. And the people that do sound like NY you never hear them.
Who is an example of an artist that is bringing that unique aspect to the industry?
There is a couple of people definitely shaking up the marketplace. it’s the world in general. Kendrick Lamar is definitely one of them, the ideas that he has and the way that he portrays growing up in Compton, the life that he grew up having. Its amazing and I rock with him for that. Chance the rapper is pretty dope, Kanye, Jay , there’s a lot of people still pushing boundaries no matter how long they have been in the game. It feels like it’s a good moment for music right now.
Creatively do you work better with established producers and songwriters or those who are up in coming in the industry.
It doesn’t matter to me that much. For me I think its just like with anybody now , the market place has changed. Its not necessarily about established producers over under established producers. Its more so “who comes with the heat!” Who has the music that’s willing to support your ideas , your dream, the entire project. For this particular project because we went for the unique sound of NYC musicwho better to go to then the people that architected the actual sound of New York City.
Also on your album, Rico Love, Havoc, Method Man, Rakim. Any jokes throughout the process of recording the album?
We recorded it so fast we all had our jokes and everything. I’ve known Method Man since I was kid, like three. Same thing with RaeKwon, but you know just to have them on a track it definitely felt amazing. You know everybody is saying the same thing. Reminding me to just look out for the pitfalls of the industry. The game looks amazing, they throw a lot at you, but stay focused sticks with me most. A lot of people get sidetracked.
Transiting from acting to music. What are you most looking forward to about the music, the writing, the touring, the performing, or even appearances.
I think for me the main thing is when doing music is actually making the music. That part is the most fun to me. I think touring and doing shows will be a close second but for me its literally being in the studio and making music. Now that I’m done with the album I feel like I’m going to go through withdrawal. I’m like, ugh I need to get back in a studio type thing.
How did it feel when your friends and family called you to let you know they heard the single on the radio?
It was probably the craziest feeling I’ve ever felt. My older brother called me first and told me it was on Hot 97. So I was like who should I call first. I called my older brother back and he happened to be around all of my cousins , so I get on the phone and I’m like turn to Hot 97. Next thing I know everybody in the whole car is screaming , people are running around the street it sounds like chaos. It was crazy. It was like one of those moments where I got off the phone I had to look up and just say “Thank You God.”
So with your emerging music career, is acting taking a backseat right now?
For now. You know its definitely not out of the car its definitely taking a backseat. I feel with anything if you put your focus into something you need to devote all focus to it. Like when I was acting I was devoting all my focus to acting. I would do music hear and there but what I would mainly do was acting, that’s it. It was nothing else. I can’t be two places at once. Right now it’s the music’s turn , and its time to make it clap.
If you were able to collaborate with Kanye West how would you envision it to be like?
It would all depend on the feeling. Even with this album it was literally made out of a feeling. It was me and Salaam really reminiscing over the summertime’s in New York and that feeling whether you had a shorty or whether you didn’t. Its that whole emotion that it all encompasses. The whole album was born in that soul. Whatever I’m feeling and whatever Ye’ is feeling, we would just sit down and collab on something. I would pray that it would be on some like we really have to see where we meet up and where we are right then and there when we set down and make the music. Whatever that feeling is right then and there.
If you could dabble into another genre of music what would it be?
I’d probably go just a little alternative. I really like alternative music be it Daft Punk , N.E.R.D., or Samfra. There is a lot of artist I listen to and love. So I would just like to use ideas from different places. I would love that.
So what can fans expect from “New York: A Love Story?’
To be thrown into a place that I know as home. Its like I’m taking everybody home with me. For a summertime, its like you’re coming to chill with your cousin for the summer and you’re going to see what it feels like. And of course the love story. Each song and each music video that we shot builds out into a story. It starts with “Own it” you know trying to meet the girl. I don’t want to give the story away to much.
What would you say is your favorite song on the album?
Aww man, there’s a couple. My favorite joints that I’ve recorded would probably be the title track “New York: A Love Story, Stevie’s song. Its one of my favorites to record it just felt good. “Wild Things” the one with Method Man was amazing to record. “You Can Cry To Me,” yeah I can’t just choose one. I love the whole joint.
What artist are most played in your music library right now?
When I’m doing an album I usually have a play list that I listen to and just that play list. I don’t listen to anything else. So like right now I got to get out of the habit of the playlist now because I just finished up the album. On the play list is literally everything from : Bob James to WuTang, to my music, Jcole, Kendrick, my little brother Giz’s music, Kings of Leon, Pharrell, Daft Punk, Kanye, Frank Ocean, Jay Z, Lauryn Hill of course The Fugees, and Justin Timberlake. it’s a great list. It definitely kept me inspired to finish the project.
What are some of your inspirations?
I’m inspired by a bunch of different things. It depends, certain artist, certain songs definitely inspired by art. Heavily inspired by art. Just lifestyles. I like to have conversations with people and just listen and pick out little things that could build into a bigger story. To me that’s what song writing is. it’s the little things that happen in life that have so much more meaning, that people really don’t understand. To wrote those songs and stuff means a lot.
When you’re performing who are you thinking about?
It depends on the song. If it’s a love song I’m looking at a certain girl in the crowd and imagining her as my muse for the moment. If it’s a get hype song I’m imagining I’m on stage with all of my boys and we’re just getting hyped.
Sell to our readers in 3 minutes why they should buy your album.
If you want a project that sounds like the New York landscape, that feels like fire hydrants opening or that long kiss on a hot summer night. You know the parties that we go to , what that authentic feel of not even just NYC but a city and it just feels right, listen to this album. You’ll leave in love.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
More music, music videos, surprise visits, club appearances and a show or two. I just want people to listen and to feel it. Listening to it, it feels amazing it feels like love and you can be the judge for yourself. I’m in love with my music.