Saturday, November 12, 2011


Songstress Margot MacDonald has already won over her live audience with impressive vocals, guitar skills and often piano by the time she points to an electronic device at her feet and explains: “This is my loop pedal…” Few musical instruments are so new and unfamiliar they need their own introductions--complete with a mini lecture on what is about to occur. What does happen as MacDonald throws herself into the arrangement still catches onlookers unprepared.

  The loop pedal concept is simple. As Margot explains, the device plays back whatever enters its attached microphone so that previous sounds join current ones on the house speakers--all in real time--as if performed by an army of Margots working the same groove together on stage. Absolutely nothing is pre-recorded. The arrangement might start with Margot doing "beat box" (vocal percussion) into the microphone and then thumping its pop screen with the palm of her hand to create an awesomely credible kick drum beat, all with MacDonald's wonderfully precise timing and ultra-refined sense of what works musically. The result is extremely cool and delicious, but the jaw-drop main course arrives when Margot opens her mouth to sing. Much has been written about this artist’s vocal prowess, range, and clear, mesmerizing tone, but the experience of hearing it first-hand is one that language finds itself inadequate to describe.
Yes, Margot’s voice really is that special, but something particularly magical happens when she layers it on top of itself from guttural growls to soaring soprano. It is this ability to provide these breathtaking Margot-on-Margot harmonies that assures the device she lovingly calls “Pete” (after a fan’s naming suggestion) worthy of occupying its essential role (along with "first love" piano and "George" her guitar) in her art. Exceptionally beautiful new song "To the Ground" actually finds MacDonald performing simultaneously on vocals, loop pedal, and guitar. Margot's race to experiment with new ideas and incorporate the results is relentless, with a pace that seems to accelerate rather than allow her to settle into a comfortable place. There always seems to be just one more new thing she can't wait to try.

  Margot received her original loop pedal as an early Christmas present, and she quickly put it to use in her live act, debuting it on Imogen Heap’s unconventional holiday song “Just for Now” (available for download from Margot here) for the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Although she described herself then as a loop pedal novice, her performance was extremely polished and impressive. In the nearly two years since passed, MacDonald has mastered the instrument, offering consistently accomplished and progressively more complex arrangements that include such odd, found instruments as partially-filled bottles of water. The excitement when Margot launches into a new loop pedal song is akin to that of a trapeze artist swinging out to perform some intricate maneuver high above our heads without a safety net. The thunderous applause punctuating her final note is as much a sympathetic sigh of relief at another safe landing, as a nod to both her technical accomplishment and awe-inspiring art.

  The very latest Margot MacDonald loop station creation is a groundbreaking cover of new Radiohead song "Lotus Flower" done completely a cappella for one of her Floor Sessions videos, where Margot solicits suggestions from fans each month in an announced category and then records one of them in her basement rehearsal space.

  What downside could there possibly be in this sonic utopia? An artist as creative and progressive as Margot MacDonald can grow and reinvent herself to a point where her existing body of work is no longer an adequate reflection of the breadth and quality of her current ability.
Although her previous albums are awesome and very much deserve a place in your iPod or CD player, Margot is now amazing in a new direction. Unfortunately, the hefty expense of recording her new music has caused that activity to lag her enormous ability to innovate and create. Margot sorely needs a new album that reflects her relatively recent looping skills and artistic direction. She’s working hard to correct the situation, balancing studio sessions with an IndieGoGo fan-funding campaign to finance them, but she can’t do everything alone. Margot explains in a video on the site ( how participants can help by donating for perks like autographed pictures and made-by-Margot jewelry, setting up corporate sponsorship, preordering the new music, or simply getting the word out. Help this unique rising superstar in as many ways as you can, but please hurry; the deadline to donate is less than two weeks away!

Margot's official IndieGoGo campaign photo by master photographer Francesco Sapienza. Other photos in this feature by Den Hollinden.

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