In life when we are young, we dream of hitting the big time. Precious few make it, while the rest settle down to fantasize of what could have been. Every once in a while there is that one person that just never gives up. Mack Mullins is that person. Having played in your typical small bands in his youth all the way to a touring Ozzy Osbourne tribute band, these were more of something to do in his free time as by day he is a real life CEO. While sitting behind a desk, wearing a suit and running a company, he never gave up on his dream to be in a real band. As he and his band are Atlanta GA based, the same hometown as Sevendust, it was only a matter of time before he would cross path’s with one of the members. It was when his band was noticed by Vince Hornsby and his hook up with producer extraordinaire Elvis Baskette that Mack’s dream finally started to become a reality.
Splice Magazine had a chance to chat with Mack Mullins about his hot new band The CEO, that includes bassist Vince Hornsby as one of its members. Yes THAT Vince Hornsby, the bassist for hard rock royalty Sevendust. We talked all things The CEO, his life, the fact that he is a real life CEO, and of course how they were able to not only work with Vince Hornsby, but how they got him into their fold. The band is comprised of Mack Mullins on vocals, Vince Hornsby (Sevendust) on bass, Chase Brown and Beau Anderson on guitar and Joseph Herman on drums. Their debut album Redemption was recently released in June 25 via Rat Pak Records.
Splice Magazine: You’ve had an interesting life going from foster care to being adopted, moving to rural Virginia to getting an MBA in Atlanta. through all of this, did you ever envision a career in music?
Mack Mullins: You know, it’s one of those things when you were kid, you know, nobody ever grows up wanting to be a securities trader, it’s movie actors, rock stars and that kind of thing. And I was no different. I mean, I wanted to be a rock star. Because that’s what you tell your grade schoolteacher you’re going to be when you grow up. Then you start traveling down that path and you realize, okay, you know, I like to eat, I like to pay my rent. Maybe I should get like a regular job. You know, we’ll keep doing the music thing and the side and that’s gonna hit, you know. Fast forward 50 years, and then you’re like, Okay, it takes some time, it takes a while some guys get the big break at 20 and other guys can write you grind. You guys make plans, and it takes a little bit longer, like myself, so we should keep the grind.
SM: Growing in the rural community that you did; you would think country music be more dominant? How did you discover rock?
MM: It was funny, because, you know, when I got adopted, before that grew up in foster homes, a lot of music around put it that way. I mean, it was relatively sterile. And if you heard music, it was probably gospel, if anything. So, after I got adopted, you know, my first real proper Christmas, the first gift I was ever given was, KISS Alive II and that just blew me away. I mean, that from the packaging to the photos of those guys on stage and the live audience in the background, the bombs going off, and I don’t know, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, superheroes that play music, and whatever it is, I want to do it. So that’s how I got into, you know, the Hard Rock heavy metal type thing. And I loved it and everything about it.
SM: So, you kept trying to find all about that kind of music as you were growing up then.
MM: Yeah, well, it’s funny, because, you know, when I discovered Kiss, at that point, then I was obsessed with it. And, you know, it was my band, and there was no other band in the world. Everybody else sucked. Hey, try Zepplin or try this, nah everything else sucks. This is the only rock band in the world. And then eventually, my buddy slipped, you know, Van Halen into my Walkman. I’m like, okay, there is other music out there. I gotta hear it, I gotta hear all of it, to the point where I’m buying records, just because guys, on the cover of it had long hair, like, okay, it’s got long hair, and they must be cool. So, clearly, that wasn’t the case. But you can see the transition there.
SM: How would you able to manage a successful business career while you’re working in cover bands?
MM: Well, you know, I wasn’t married, no kids, you can imagine you get off of work and you got to have something to do with your time and your weekends. And you know, of course, being a musician, that wants to play was like, it was like, I don’t care. I’ll do cover bands and the opportunity to do Ozzy Osbourne tribute band came up. So, we did that, and that wound up the lasting like 12 years. It’s actually a really big road show and 20-person crew, and we played all over the country. What have you. So eventually, I just kind of ran its course and the guys that I was playing with in those bands, were all music writers anyway, so it was kind of like, okay, let’s, let’s take it back to where we originally started, which is writing our music. Let’s put together an album and see if it sucks or if it’s any good. I mean, and that’s, that’s really kind of the genesis of it right there. It was something to do, and it just kind of took a life unto itself.
SM: You had a 12-year career and a cover band. Did you ever envision yourself circling back to when you first started with that, or was it just the means to itself just to be able to play music?
MM: That’s it was a means to itself. I mean, I’m an Ozzy fan like anyone else. But it was just a way to, you know, keep playing be out there on the big stages, you know, do that kind of, you’ll be around a lot of really great musicians, kind of hone the stage craft, if you would, you know, it was, it was a means to end. But we always knew that, because we continue to write original music, that we would come back to it in a big way. And that’s what we did.
SM: It was always in the back of your mind that you’re going to be going into your own original band, it’s just that you’re honing yourself with the cover band.
MM: Exactly, you know, we started in original bands and then that’s what everyone was doing when we were in our 20s kind of thing. Then, you know, grunge music came in, and then it became like a nostalgia type of thing playing the old songs we used to like, it just kind of evolves Now, you know, the rock’n’roll, I love what people are putting out now. It’s really good stuff, and it’s just kind of just comes full circle. At least, that was my experience, you know, you start with the original. And we did cover thing for a little while to come back to the original.
SM: Do you think that your background in business and being a real-life CEO has helped you out in the music business?
MM: Probably not. It’s one of those things, you know, it’s a business unto itself. You walk into it thinking you know something, you’re gonna get your ass kicked. You know, it certainly helps having somebody like Vinnie Hornsby in the band who’s been there and done that, to kind of help us along the way, open up a few doors. It’s, it’s a tough business, you know, especially if you’re a nobody, especially if you’re 50. Then on top of it, you know, the guy wears a suit every day to work. Most of the people in the rock industry, you know, are not interested before they even hear the first note. So having somebody like that in the band, kind of breaks through some of those barriers. We show up, we keep our head down and keep our mouth shut, and we’re learning some things. So hopefully for album number two will have a little more experience behind us, and we can kind of grow our music business accurate.
SM: You don’t think the whole nine to five thing didn’t jive with anybody? Do you think that kind of hindered, you in away?
MM: I don’t know if it hurt us or helped us. I mean, obviously, it brings a certain amount of capital to the equation. I mean, a lot of rock bands out there, they’re living in vans and have shoestring budgets and trying to put together albums. So having, you know, a business background and you know, running a successful business, it just gives you some capital to kind of do some things a little nicer that you would have done if you were 25. I think it didn’t hurt, you know, but then again, I don’t think it really helped a lot either.
SM: So, you just you didn’t have to bother with doing the sweaty guys in the van thing, then?
MM: (Laughing)No, no, we’re fortunate. We get to bypass that. You know, I’m a little too old to be sleeping in the back of a Econoline van.
SM: I guess that’s just one of the perks of getting into it later in life.
MM: Exactly. I could have done it in my 20s, but I’m used to the king-sized bad these days. So, I’ll take that.
SM: How did you how did you hook up with Vince from Sevendust?
MM: Well, I mean, you can’t live in the south and not you know who they are. It’s kind of like a requirement to be a Sevendust fan. And we are. Of course, these guys are like rock royalty around here. So, you know, it’s a big town, but a small fraternity of musicians. There’s not a lot of back fighting or band rivalries, that kind of thing. Everyone kind of helps each other out and looks out for one another. I put together the first iteration of the band, we did this whole, for lack of a better word independent record. He came out to see us play. Now at the first album, release party, he said I like what you’re doing here, and I’m gonna send you down to a proper producer. And, you know, see how well you guys do in the big boys chair. We went down there and cut four songs. And before we even done, Elvis (Baskette) says not only is this good, but Vinnie you’re going to be in the band as the bass player, you’re gonna come out here, we’re gonna write a full album. That’s what we did. And I’m telling you that the guy is fun and funny and cool as he is talented. So, we get along great. And he’s been a major godsend for us.
SM: It sounds like he liked did what you did, and he wanted to give you a little bit of a test there to see if you guys were up to the task.
MM: You’re exactly right. I don’t think he was, you know, looking to get roped into doing anything. He has his own thing going on. He’s Got another little project that he works with John Connolly and it’s fantastic. Elvis calls you up and says hey this is good. I want you to get in on it. And he was like I like those boys are going, and the rest is history.
SM: What was it like working with Elvis Baskette? The guy has worked with Sevendust, Alter Bridge, and Incubus, among others.
MM: I mean, his resume speaks for himself. It can be intimidating when you think about it. You’re a bunch of nobody’s going into this studio where Slash was the week before and he’s texting Eddie VanHalen. I mean, that’s like, super intimidating. But I wasn’t there five minutes and it felt like hanging out with an old brother or someone from back in high school. Not only is he that talented, he’s that cool to hang around with. We were grilling steaks and hanging out by the pool. Like, we were best friends forever. It was fantastic.
SM: What did you learn from being in the studio with somebody like this?
MM: I think for us was it was important that you’re understand that he sees the song before you see the song. You wrote it, you know, you’re coming in, and he sees the whole production, how it’s going to sound he knows what it’s gonna look like before you do. So don’t buy a dog and then bark yourself. I mean, this guy if he says jump, you jump. If he says, change this, we change that. And we did. What came out was better than we heard it in our own life. That was like, geez, you know, it’s like, I love it. It’s great.
SM: With an album title like Redemption, it tends to have many layers. Were there any parts of that, that reflect on your life?
MM: There’s a lot of it that does. I think the song itself is more of a push back to social media or the national media, these groups that want to kind of sub divide us and kind of pit one group versus the next. Of course, you know, we’re in the middle of writing this and the race riots, and a political campaign, and it’s kind of felt like everyone’s at each other’s throats at this time. It was more of a, hey, look, we’re not going to take this, you’re not going to break us out. We’re not going to divide us, you know, we’re, we’re definitely got more in common than we do differences. So that was a pushback. But yeah, I mean, redemption, a lot of things to a lot of people and it means exactly what you think it means.
SM: Has your background and what’s happened in your life influenced any of your songwriting?
MM: Oh, yeah, how can it not. I’m not very good at writing, you know, fiction type songs, or the Iron Maiden storytellers. I love that stuff. You know, it’s fantastic. I just don’t have that kind of brain for it. My own personal experiences, you know, things that I’ve gone through, or things that I’m experiencing that time or maybe, you know, things that a friend or the world is going through. My sister committed suicide in the week we were going into the studio. So how can you not write about that experience and what was going on? I mean, it was right there with me the whole time and write a song like Casting Shadows, which is just a conversation piece between me and her. So, it absolutely had a material impact.
SM: I’m sorry to hear about that. My condolences.
MM: Thank you.
SM: When all that happened did that create a problem with the with the whole recording process? Did that interrupt anything? Or did it actually kind of help fuel you on?
MM: Well, you know, it’s funny, I got the news right before we were supposed to go into the studio. The COVID thing was just happening. It wasn’t like we could have a funeral. It’s like, Look, you can’t come. You can’t see your sister. She’s gone. It was like, Okay, then I guess we’ll just go to the studio and try to channel that emotion into the music. That’s kind of really the only thing I had to do was get away. Because it wouldn’t be good to sit at home upset about it. Let’s channel that energy into the songs, and that’s what we did.
SM: It was a was a cathartic experience for you then.
MM: It actually was you know, took me a little while to actually sit there and listen to the songs all the way through and not have an emotional type of response. Probably the first time we ever play it live it be very emotional for me if we do. It was, and it’s kind of a gift to her from me.
SM: Did you have a lot of songs or material written before you went into the studio? Or did you like go in there with a framework to have the Elvis help hone you in on where you wanted to go.
MM: Now, in fact, we had so many songs and we’re always sending probably way too much. He was overloaded before we showed up. He had the opportunity to listen to each one of them and pull out what he liked. He’s like, I like this song. I don’t like this song. I like this riff, I don’t like that riff, that kind of thing. So, we had a ton of material. And really no idea what would end up on the album. In fact, a song like Blackhearts. Initially that was it that was written for Nashville. The guys in the band that wrote it will also write country music songs for country music artists. They showed it to me, and I’m like, it’s a great country song. They were calling it The Stranger at the time. And I’m like, but you know, it’s not CEO. Thanks, but no thanks. Well, Elvis heard the song, he’s like, you’re going to cut it, we’re going to rock it up. And you’re gonna write all new lyrics to it, and it’s going to be a really cool track for The CEO. You know, I get a lot of feedback that people love that song. It’s one of the things that it’s kind of surprising to you until you hear the finished product. Then it’s not surprising.
SM: I guess that’s what having a great producer will help you do.
MM: Amen. Guys like that are worth every nickel that they get.
SM: So how are the songwriting duties handled?
MM: Because everybody in the band writes music, they get together and pitch ideas to each other and build off of it. Sometimes I’m in the room, sometimes I’m not in the room. Once they feel like, they’ve got something that’s cool, then they’ll send it to me, and I’ll start writing melodies and lyrics and that kind of thing to it. So, you know, it’s really just kind of a process.
SM: I know, you’ve got some younger guys in the band than yourself. What’s that? Like? I know age is just a number. But sometimes there is more to it. Because of the experience thing in life and the different viewpoint and different stages of life. How does that all work out?
MM: It’s actually really cool. Because I got to watch these guys grow up in their own little bands that they’re in and around town. They’re young, and the guitar sort of bigger than they are. And it’s really cute at the time. These guys, you know, they’re serious musicians. They’re serious songwriter. They’re growing up and becoming a little badass’s, and then they’re grown ass man at that point. They’re amazing musicians that I’ve known for a long period of time. But they bring something to the table that somebody like Vince or myself doesn’t necessarily have. That’s that influence that we missed out on. Of course, we’re bringing the stuff from the 70s, and the 80s, and that kind of thing. Then you’ve got somebody like our drummer, he really enjoys all these big modern heavy metal drummers and what they’re doing. So, he’s got that piece of it. The guitar players are bringing their own influences to it. So, it’s really kind of a cool process. I think there’s a lot of respect, you know, the older guys looked at the younger guys with a lot of respect. The younger guys do the same in reverse. So, we kind of come at each other kind of with eyes wide open, ears wide open type process. We didn’t experience not one time an ego on anything that we did. You know, it was all a matter of Cool, not cool, cool, not cool.
SM: The real mature sound to it, definitely not like it’s your first effort. Do you think that getting going later in life has played into this?
MM: Yeah, I mean, if you think about it, you know, you’re writing your debut album, 30 years or 40 years, after you started writing songs. Some guys get it right early. Other guys need a lot of practice. So, you know, I personally needed a lot of, you know, a lot of dogs in order to get to the point where I’m like, Okay, this this is good. The young guys in the band, I mean, they hit it early. It’s a cool dynamic for sure.
SM: With Vince from Sevendust playing bass for you guys, how’s this gonna affect your touring?
MM: Clearly you know, those guys are out on the road. There’s not a whole lot we can do until they’re off the road. We’ve talked about Vince pulling double duty if he needed to. For the most part, when, when they’ll go out, this is their job as professional musicians, they’ll do their thing. When they get home, then, you know, we’ll go out we’ll do our thing.
SM: Have you ever considered having Vince in the studio, and then maybe bring like a session bassist out on the road with you?
MM: We’ve never talked about that. I mean, let’s be honest, a lot of the interests in the band, especially in the beginning, is, the novelty of having a famous rock star in your band. People are curious, like what’s really doing with this project? What does that sound like? So, you know, I gotta admit, it helps from a PR standpoint, which is great. People are gonna want to see, this is amazing live, so people don’t want to see the CEO, Vinnie Hornsby. So that’s what we’re gonna give them.
SM: It must have been nice for a quick drive down from Atlanta to Orlando where you recorded.
MM: It was. it’s far enough away, you don’t feel like you’ve got the distractions of home. You know you’re away. Again, during the day, I’m still checking in on work that type of thing. But we really got to get away from all the distractions, and just work. You know, what it’s like with musicians, producers, rock bands, that kind of thing. You show up to work at 6pm. And you work all night. It was a cool thing and experience for sure.
SM: How was it juggling being in the studio, and running your business?
MM: Fortunately, for me, I had to do a lot of my day-to-day business remote. Especially with technology the way it is today. It was a little inconvenient. I kind of looked at it more of a vacation. A few weeks’ vacation type thing. Just make sure that the building’s not on fire, and trades being made, etc, etc. So, it was cool. It really didn’t affect us too much.
SM: So that’s gonna be problem when you go out on tour.
MM: Let’s hope not. I think obviously, we’ve got to make sure that all of our i’s are dotted T’s are crossed that kind of thing. But, you know, we think that we can make it work.
SM: As a new band, you’ve had to hold back to the new album because of the pandemic. Do you feel yourself already looking towards your next album, even though you have yet to perform this one live?
MM: That’s true. Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny, because, you know, I’ve heard the songs for a year now. Okay, that’s cool. We’re writing new stuff, and you get excited about the new songs you’re writing. Oh, that’s fantastic I love it. Then you’re, you’re going backwards looking at this stuff, with people who’ve never heard it. It’s kind of like, yeah, that’s right. You know, this is cool. Yeah, it feels good again, when you kind of just kind of maybe overdosed yourself on it for a while. And you’re really excited about your new stuff. So yeah, it’s a cool dynamic, for sure.
SM: Okay, now the world is coming back alive. What are your plans for the band?
MM: Well, I think for us right now is let’s get this album out. Hopefully, it does well enough that people are pleased, and they want to see us play live. That is definitely in the cards for us and continue to keep writing. So, you know, we don’t want to be a one and done. Let’s build off of what we created here. You know, it’s like this is the foundation, and we’ll build off of it. We will continue to do it. And if they don’t, then, you know, great. I’ve got a day job. I’ll go back to work.
SM: Well, the new album is great. I love it. The foundation is there. Now you just got to get out there and get it going. You’ve got the fuse lit and it just got to get it get going.
MM: You got that right, brother.
SM: Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it and good luck to you!
MM: The pleasure was all mine, and again, I really appreciate the support and getting the word out for us. It really means the world to me. Thank you.