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Bill MacKay is a guitarist-composer-improviser based in Chicago.
MacKay is also a writer, soundtrack composer, emerging polyglot, activist and artist. So far 7 records feature his songs and he has appeared on another 15 recordings as an instrumentalist.
His recent releases, Altamira by MacKay’s band Darts & Arrows (ears&eyes), and Land of Plenty a duo recording with Ryley Walker (Whistler Records) bear the hallmarks of his sound: equally influenced by the folk of Appalachia and Britain, the hybrid rock & jazz of urban America, and the ragas of India.
Also In 2015, MacKay released Bill MacKay plays the songs of John Hulbert (Tomkins Square) and in 2016 he appeared on Sueñolas (Lake Paradise), a collaboration with Rob Frye (Bitchin’ Bajas) and Whitney Johnson (Matchess).
His records have received praise in reviews by the Chicago Reader, Mojo, The Ear, Uncut, Downbeat, and New City among other publications. In 2014, he was composer-in-residence at Ragdale Foundation, and awarded an Individual Artist grant by the Illinois Arts Council (IAC).
MacKay currently appears as a solo artist, with Darts & Arrows, and with partners including cellist Katinka Kleijn, multi-instrumentalists Rob Frye, Sam Wagster and LeRoy Bach, drummer Frank Rosaly, bassist Matt Lux, violist Renee Baker, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, drummer Charles Rumback, singer-poet Marvin Tate and guitarist Ryley Walker.
He has performed with Renee Baker’s Chicago Modern Orchestra (Creative Music Summit – Sunyata: Towards Absolute Emptiness) at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) , produced work on the soundtrack of the film Crying Earth Rise Up (Prairie Dust Films), and took part in Toby Summerfield’s Never Enough Hope recording & record release concert.
In 2016 MacKay played a solo set supporting set support Bonnie Prince Billie / Bitchin’ Bajas on their summer tour, performed at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival with Marvin Tate’s Weight of Rage, performed in a duo with Katinka Kleijn (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) at the Outer Ear festival at Experimental Sound Studios (ESS), appeared at Desert Daze festival in Joshua Tree, California with Ryley Walker, and supported Bill Callahan.
MacKay grew up in Pittsburgh and lived in several cities east and west before settling in Chicago in 1998.