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Trail Mix – King Cardinal

Well he’s one of those who knows that life
Is just a leap of faith
Spread your arms and hold your breath
And always trust your cape

These are wise words from one of my favorite troubadours, the late, great Guy Clark, but they sure are tough to live by. Right or wrong, I am a creature of deliberation. Prior to making must about just about any major decision, I ask questions, do research, get my facts straight, and then make up my mind. Prudence is my creed.

Not so for Brennan Mackey, songwriter and front man for Denver based roots rock outfit King Cardinal. Mackey put his trust in his cape and went all in on a musical career when he ditched the rise and grind of the finance world in Chicago and moved to Denver. Finding the environment that stoked his musical fire in the Rocky Mountains, King Cardinal was born. After a couple EPs, Mackey and his mates released Great Lakes, produced by Ted Young, who has worked with both Israel Nash and Banditos, late in September.

I recently caught up with Mackey to chat about the new record and how his own leap of faith influenced his musical path.

BRO – I was just checking out the album cover. Jump first, ask questions later . . . . words to live by?

BM – I don’t if it’s a perfect motto for every situation, but it’s definitely done me well. Sometimes people can use being unprepared as an excuse for inaction. That can be a crutch that holds you back. For me, I spent most of my earlier years trying to find other people that had the same passion as me. I eventually said “screw it” and just tried to do it on my own. Once I made that leap, everything just fell into place.

BRO – How did the move from Chicago to Denver impact your songwriting?

BM – It was the first time I was in a place with absolutely no support system. I focused on writing and playing as many open mics as I could. At dive bars, where you wait around four hours to play three songs, is where I found the community of people that share that same passion. I also moved to town right when there was folk/Americana boom going on in Denver. The Lumineers had already moved on to better things. But being able to watch artists like Nathaniel Rateliff, Esme Patterson, and Sawmill Joe regularly was a huge inspiration.

BRO – I am a big fan of Ted Young’s work. How did working with him influence your recording?

BM – Ted likes to work live and really lets the recordings develop organically. Since we only had seven days in the studio, we were forced to work efficiently. Ted really pushed us to not overthink things.

BRO – We are featuring “Gasoline” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?

BM – “Gasoline” is about trying to improve but being stuck in the same patterns, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. You can change your surroundings, but you’re still the same person.

BRO – Best part about being a Denver band?

BM – The community. Denver is full of some of the most talented and supportive musicians of any city I have ever been to. On top of that, the radio stations, publications, and the city of Denver in general really supports the music.

Our Elevation Outdoors readers have a chance to catch King Cardinal this weekend at Mountain Sun Pub in Boulder. After that, the band’s tour schedule is quiet until mid-November, when they hit Minnesota, Illinois, and New York.

For more information on King Cardinal, the new record, or where the band will be playing near you, point your browser towards the band’s website.

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