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  • Writer's pictureLake Shore Dive

Spotlight On: Will Mackie-Jenkins, Singer-Songwriter

The poet-turned-songwriter reflects on his summer tour and shares insight into lyricism and his new single, “Heaven.”

Will Mackie-Jenkins’ purpose as an artist and songwriter is to relate to people through music. Picking up his first guitar at the age of 14, he considers music to be the “best part of life.”

“A sequence of seven different pitches can sound like sadness, or violence, or love. I love that,” he says.

After debuting his first EP “Cherries in Bloom” in the fall of 2015, Will has learned to embrace authenticity in his music. He strives to write what feels true to himself so that listeners can embody their own emotions. Whether it’s a full symphony creation or “stark-naked production,” Will’s sound has evolved along with his lyrical content as he’s grown more comfortable with himself as an artist.

Will’s “Two Versions of You” tour this past summer found him in a multitude of new places and cities. “My favorite venue was in Minneapolis,” he told us, “a three-story maze of an anarchist punk house on the south side of the city.” In Sioux City, Iowa, he was overwhelmed with the kindness of his fellow artists. Reminiscent of the creative scene right here in Chicago, Will loves the artistic community for its supportive and collaborative nature.

Poetry has a significant impact on Will’s songwriting. While pursuing an MFA in poetry, he was able to expand on his skills and storytelling which eventually translated over into his music. “I write lyrics similar to the way I write poems, in that the lyrics have to be strong enough to hold up as a work on their own.”

Will’s newest single, “Heaven,” has a different sound compared to the majority of his work. The incorporation of more instruments, including the introduction of drums, make this track unique. His first time experimenting with a pop structure and sound to his music produced a truly curated sound. Its “surface-level biblical themes” juxtaposed by its secular genre lend another layer of depth.

A new single is scheduled to drop in November and a currently untitled project is in the works. In the meantime, catch a performance at one of Will’s upcoming Chicago shows as he plays a few dates across the Midwest. Be sure to check his website and Facebook for more details.

Get to know Will below and check out his custom playlist on Spotify!

Favorite TV show?

“What’s TV? Do you mean Netflix?” (Actually, it's 'Mindhunter')

Favorite cocktail?

Old Style.

Favorite Chicago artist?

I’ve been very into the electronica trio Pixel Grip for the last few months. Innovative and fun. Honorable mentions go to Badwater Sound for the fusion of classic Americana Rock n Roll and DIY ethic, as well as Nicole Amine for her soulful, brilliant voice. Check ‘em out.

Favorite spot in Chicago?

First thing that came to mind is the Music Box Theatre. The films I’ve seen there have influenced my art-making as much as any education or interpersonal artistic relationships I’ve had. Plus, it’s incredibly cozy and romantic in the dead of Chicago winter.


"Spotlight On" is a weekly series highlighting Chicago creatives with a twist. We share a slice of their stories and what they love, hoping to inspire and connect.

Words by Jasmine Muldrow


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