Fall 2017Frank Duran

Former Football Player Takes Country Music Field

Fall 2017Frank Duran
Former Football Player Takes Country Music Field

Abe Mac ’07

By Leonard Martinez

University of Texas at El Paso alumnus Abe Mac was used to the cheers of thousands of fans when he played football at the Sun Bowl a decade ago.

But on a summer day during UTEP’s football training camp in Socorro, N.M., he faced a different audience. He strapped on his acoustic guitar and played the song “Saturday Night Lights” — the first song he’d ever written — for his team.

“It was intense. I got up and sang, and everybody was just blown away,” Mac recalled.

After the performance, his teammates carried him off the field on their shoulders, hooting and hollering with pride. Who would have thought this young linebacker from Socorro High School was a budding country music star?

Mac, whose birth name is Abiel Macias (it was former football coach Mike Price who gave him the name “Abe Mac”), may never have found the inspiration to write his own songs, had it not been for classes he took to earn a communication degree in 2007.

Photo by J.R. Hernandez / University Communications

Photo by J.R. Hernandez / University Communications

“I have to give credit to Dr. (Barthy) Byrd — she was in the communication department — and Mr. (Louie) Saenz, as well,” Mac said. “Those two folks right there really inspired me … because when I took classes with them for communications, writing was key.”

Born Entertainer

Mac may have written his first song in college but he first picked up the guitar long before that when he was 9 years old, thanks to two uncles who were entertainers in Juarez, Mexico and hearing a song by “The Man in Black” – Johnny Cash.

Photo by J.R. Hernandez / University Communications

Photo by J.R. Hernandez / University Communications

“Being Hispanic, we listened to mariachis a lot and that song (‘Ring of Fire’) had mariachi trumpets,” Mac said. “I listened to it and found out who Johnny Cash was and that was it, man.”

“My older brother was taking (guitar) lessons and he got (mad) and threw the guitar and broke it,” Mac said. “I picked it up and saved it, fixed it. I just started messing with it. Curiosity kept me going.”

After graduating from UTEP, and a stint working for the El Paso Electric Co., Mac decided to pursue music full time. The journey led him to play in a jazz quartet in New York and applying and getting accepted to Julliard but not being able to attend because of the cost.

He also has become a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association, an organization where each member writes about 400 songs a year. It sounds like a daunting task but Mac says he’s always thinking of melodies or phrases that could become songs.

Inspiration comes from sentences in everyday conversations to his son saying something in a melodic way. During a break in a video interview, he turns the tables and asks the interviewer for a phrase that has been on his mind for the last month.

Mac immediately turns “Too Many Secrets” into a short, improv song on the spot, complete with guitar melody and lyrics.

Earlier this year, Mac released his third full-length album, “A Thousand Pieces,” produced by Grammy-award winning producer Rob Fraboni, who is known for producing albums for the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Bonnie Raitt, just to name a few.

“It was an amazing experience and Abe is incredibly, incredibly talented,” Fraboni said. “This guy is the real deal.”

One of the songs that shows Mac’s songwriting abilities is “Far Away from Home,” a song about members of the U.S. military fighting in a war overseas.

“That song had us all crying in the control room,” Fraboni said. “I had tears coming down, hitting the console. I've never done a recording session like that in my life. It was so potent and powerful and so amazing. He did such a great job of writing the song and then performing it. That’s just a second-to-none experience.”

The Future

In late spring 2017, Mac was selected as one of 55 out of hundreds of applicants to attend a special songwriters camp in July he was hoping would mark a new phase in his career.

Fabroni doesn’t have any doubts about where Mac’s talents could take him.

“He is amazing and his heart is big and his whole compassion about relating to people and all that stuff is so vital and powerful,” Fabroni said. “I know this guy will succeed. You just never know how long it will take.”

Mac is scheduled to release a folk-Americana-rock ’n’ roll album this fall, including the song “Little Boy Blue.” Mac is hoping he can get guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones to contribute to the album, with a little help from “six degrees of separation:”  Mac’s wife’s aunt, Patty Hansen, is married to Richards.

Mac also is planning to release a “very twang country” album in spring 2018.

Listen to Mac perform one of his songs and talk more about his career by watching the video below.