Mack Wilds is the man.
But not in the prototypical, false-sense-of-masculinity way some would expect an R&B heartthrob with a fan base full of giddy 20-somethings to be. Not because he shot straight from a role in the Emmy Award-nominated The Wire to a Grammy Award-nominated solo debut album with New York: A Love Story. Not even because he can sell out entire shows on his New York home grounds for his very first concert appearance following the release of his sophomore studio project, AfterHours.
Mack Wilds is the man because as a singer joining an industry beside the likes of leading fellow R&B crooners such as Chris Brown and Trey Songz, Mack’s brand of R&B stands out in the most non-quintessential ways. Catering to the ladies is an objective that the genre has always lent itself to, but on tracks like the Tink-assisted “Senses” and “Couldthisbelove?,” the 27-year-old singer-songwriter-actor-producer unfolds targeted vulnerability. Despite his stage moniker, by no means is he “macking” on the ladies or using this vulnerability as a means to deceivingly play on women’s sympathy. He has a reverence for womanhood and its intersection with love, sex and relationships. This magnetizes his fan base.
Watching him bring this same attraction to the “Baby’s All Right” stage in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday (June 17), there wasn’t a single bandwagon fan in sight. The glossy-eyed girls dominating the crowd sung word-for-word to singles from his latest project all the way back to his early 2013 hits. As an industry talent with multi-faceted penchants for acting, singing, songwriting and producing, it’s no wonder his devout fans were so excited to catch him on a stage instead of in front of a television screen.
BET Digital sat down with Mack to figure out how he balances as a man of many talents and the man of the hour off the success of his triumphant AfterHours opus.
This is your very first concert appearance after dropping AfterHours. What's going through your head? Are you nervous, are you excited? A mix of both?
I'm definitely nervous. It's weird. AfterHours came at such a time where everything was going at once and now we're at a place where I'm actually doing a show for it. All of our hard work. It feels like the first time again. This feels like my first time on stage for New York: A Love Story. I'm nervous. I pray people come out. I pray people actually enjoy it. I don't know if anybody even knows the words [to songs of AfterHours.] I just want to go out there and have a really dope show, and make sure that if there's any person in here who was skeptic or didn't know they were a Mack Wilds fan, that they leave a Mack Wilds fan.
AfterHours really glows with the passion and vibes that draw true R&B fans close to the music. Tell me how you expect to bring that to the stage tonight for fans.
Honestly, as long as you stay really true and allow yourself to be free on that stage, the energy that comes out of you is the same energy from the studio. Like you're writing that song that you usually would keep in the cuff -- it's kind of the exact same thing. Just letting yourself be free to be in the moment and tell the truth. I'm just going to go up there, get free and tell my truth.
And the ladies of your fan base? Do you have any special ways that you connect with them?
It's funny -- I think part of it is that I'm a hopeless romantic. So, the stories that I have are just my trials and tribulations and my ups and downs when it comes to relationships, situation-ships -- all of that. I allow myself to purge myself of any feelings and be free enough to write about them. I guess ladies appreciate my honesty. [Laughs.]
Without thinking too hard -- shoot me the top three non-physical things you notice about a woman off the top of your head.
Her conversation. If you have a great conversation whether you're witty or joking or whatever, all of that grabs my attention. Fashion sense - I always look at fashion sense as well. I think everybody has some kind of fashion sense, but it just depends on how much effort they put into it. The effort means more. The effort means a lot. The last thing is that I like to look in eyes. I want to see in somebody's eyes and see as close as you possibly can to that person.
Speaking of effort, you balance songwriting, singing, planning, studio recording and still killing it on the acting scene. How do you find balance between all of those roles?
The biggest thing is God. I could literally be out here trying to sing and not sounding good. I could be out here being an Ice JJ Fish. I mean, no shade to my man, but...[Laughs.]
I was at an event, and I listened to Donald Glover talk. They asked him a similar question, like how does he do it with everything all at once. He said he chases the moment. Well, not just chases the moment, but he creates the moment. I feel like we're in the same place. I'm in a place where I like to make moments. After I had a conversation with my grandfather, he said, 'Yo, life is about moments. That's what your life is made up of. These little moments.' I like to make my own moments.
Those are admirable words of wisdom from your grandfather. What words of wisdom would you give someone aspiring to break into any of those industry roles and balance all of them?
First off, just stay at it. Progress is a slow process. Enough water droplets can break concrete. Just stay focused and stay forward. Keep going straight forward. Scheduling is a big thing. Make sure you have a great team because you won't be able to do it on your own. It takes a village to do anything, honestly. Don't listen to the naysayers. There's going to be millions and millions of people against you who feel like you shouldn't do this, or you should stay to one thing, or do something completely different than what your heart is actually desiring. Use that as fuel to show them proof.
Why does R&B need a Mack Wilds?
Because R&B doesn't have its Frank Sinatra yet. [winks.]
(Photo: Rebecca Smeyne/BET)