Acclaimed loop pedal vocalist and Indie-Pop A Capella songwriter Margot MacDonald, 25, is a DC area native who grew up in Arlington, Virginia. She has performed at several high-profile venues in the area – including: the 9:30 Club, the State Theatre, Ram’s Head Live, and New York venues like The Bitter End and Rockwood Music Hall.
MacDonald began her professional music career at age 10 as a member of the Washington National Opera Chorus, performing in Puccini’s La Boheme, under the direction of opera great Plácido Domingo. Nearly two decades and four albums (Canvas -2013, Walls – 2009, Torn – 2007, Rising – 2004) later, MacDonald has forged a unique path for herself, which began early in the second grade. As the story goes, her teacher noticed that MacDonald took to music in an organic way, so her parents were encouraged to sign her up for music lessons. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Keeping to her DC area roots, MacDonald studied classical voice for two years at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and even became an Artist in Residence as part of a highly selective program for up-and-coming artists at the Strathmore in Maryland.
MacDonald met her albums' first producer, Grammy-nominated John Jennings, at age 12 and her growth as an artist is evident with each new project.
MacDonald also somehow
makes time to contribute to charitable organizations in her hometown. Her work includes singing for cancer patients at DC’s Hard Rock Café, collaborating with the Ground Control Drunk Driving Prevention Campaign, the More Than Me Foundations, and America’s Fund for Afghan Children. According to an interview with MacDonald featured in the Washington Post from 2009, “It always meant a lot for [her] to support nonprofits through [her] music.”
What makes MacDonald stand out musically is the way she commands a room. When she’s not singing back-up vocals for special tribute shows, working on other band projects, or working the door at IOTA Club and Café in Arlington, she treats audiences to a show that exudes and personifies confidence. The coy yet poised songwriter is known for her live-looping skills – a technique she has honed since receiving a loop pedal in 2009, a gift from her parents. MacDonald got the inspiration for looping vocals after listening to Imogen Heap’s “Just for Now” and wanting to learn how to re-create the layered vocal lines. She has made that style a defining characteristic of her live shows and recording efforts.
In a 2013 interview with DC Metro Theater Arts, MacDonald admitted that people have started identifying her music as hypnotic due to the repetitive nature of the loop pedal. Each song MacDonald creates live in real-time has to be built one layer at time with the help of her beloved loop pedal, named Ella.
Each track includes, in no particular order: a melody line, bass line, driving beat, and harmonies layered upon harmonies. All created one by one as the audience takes in the show. MacDonald has evolved over the course of her career, having gone from solo performance on guitar or piano to playing with a full band to live-looping. By maintaining her self-professed “outside the box” vantage point on life and music, MacDonald has garnered praise from NPR Music as being one of their Favorite Discoveries from the 2013 CMJ Music Festival, has shared the stage with nationally touring performers like Josh Groban, Lionel Ritchie, and Cher, she’s raised $15,000 via IndieGogo for her fourth studio album, and has been featured on NPR, Voice of America, and TEDx.
There are many more places that MacDonald could hang her metaphorical hat and establish herself as a hard-working musician. Nashville, New York City, Los Angeles, and Austin would all be a good fit for a woman poised for life-long career in music. But MacDonald still calls the area home and it’s a pleasure to have her here.