Williams is the founder of Unity Health, and his wife, Mac, runs a music booking/management agency. They discussed similarities between the music industry and other businesses they’ve run.
Learn what it was like for them to open up for Sting in front of 40,000 fans in New Zealand, and listen to them perform two singles during the podcast.
Nothing’s Sacred: Episode 7 Transcript
Nad Elias: [00:00:00] Hey guys, welcome to recruitAbility’s podcast, Nothing’s Sacred. I’m here with my co-host, Nick Schenck. Nick, how you doing?
Nick Schenck: [00:00:06] I’m doing great. We’re actually recording this from a special location at the rooftop of Inn Cahoots in East Austin. So this is a special episode.
Nad Elias: [00:00:14] Yeah, it is. This place is great. This rooftop has got some view of downtown. It’s pretty neat. We’ve got some special guests today, some close personal friends of, uh, of mine and, um, uh, love to introduce Rod Williams and Shelley Mac. Rod, Shelley, how are you guys?
Shelley Mac: [00:00:30] Fabulous.
Rod Williams: [00:00:31] Good morning.
Shelley Mac: [00:00:34] It is good morning.
Nad Elias: [00:00:35] It is a morning. We like to do these sometimes in the afternoons because we pull out the drinks. Uh, Rod’s got a coffee. I don’t know what’s in it.
Rod Williams: [00:00:43] They wouldn’t serve me Jameson this morning.
Nad Elias: [00:00:45] It’s too early. It’s too early. I first met, uh, Rod probably – what has it been, Rod, probably about seven, eight years ago now, eight years ago, maybe?
Rod Williams: [00:00:53] Yeah.
Nad Elias: [00:00:54] And then Shelley, uh, probably very quickly after at a happy hour, but we were both in, uh, the Entrepreneurs Organization, which is a global organization for business owners, um, where we create a forum-type setting to talk about the challenges in our lives and our businesses that we really can’t share with anybody else.
So we became quick and fast friends and I wanted to have them on this podcast so he and Shelley can really share their story. There’s a lot of connections that Rod shared with me over the years, between being a musician, a singer-songwriter, and, and running a business and being an entrepreneur and the challenges and the similarities.
So I wanted to give you guys a chance to really share your story, and we’re gonna, we’re gonna do a couple of songs while we’re at it, too. Shelley, you’ve got a release out, right?
Shelley Mac: [00:01:48] I have a brand spanking new song called, “If It Wasn’t For You,” which I can play a little for you in a little bit later on.
Nad Elias: [00:01:55] We’re gonna get a chance to hear that, too.
Nick Schenck: [00:01:56] It’ll be like the VH1 storytellers, right? Where the artists talk about the song and the meaning behind it before they play. So I’m looking forward to that.
Rod Williams: [00:02:04] Totally.
Nad Elias: [00:02:04] Well, well, let’s start at, you know, tell us a story. I mean, we’d love to do the story of how y’all met, because I know that’s a good one, but, but you guys spent a lot of time on the road and then obviously made that transition into, uh, into business as well and, and are still musicians today. So kick that off for us.
Rod Williams: [00:02:21] I think you started off with how we met. It was my show, but…
Shelley Mac: [00:02:24] It was your show. Um, I was traveling actually passing through Austin from New Zealand on my way to New Orleans to record an album.
And the very first night, my girlfriend took me to a show and Rod Williams was on the stage. And I ended up on stage that night with him, didn’t know each other at all. And, um, let’s just say the chemistry, um, was instant.
Rod Williams: [00:02:50] She stole my crowd. I mean, that’s, let’s tell the truth here. She played three songs and, you know, a thousand people. She got more attention. So I made her stay on stage and stand behind me and sing backup on a few more songs.
Shelley Mac: [00:03:06] I wanted to check your butt out.
Rod Williams: [00:03:08] That’s what it was.
Nick Schenck: [00:03:08] Well, was it love at first sight?
Rod Williams: [00:03:10] It was for her.
Shelley Mac: [00:03:12] Oh, listen to you
Rod Williams: [00:03:15] Well, let’s go dive a little further. So before I handed her the guitar, she had these bracelets and she handed them to me and she says, I don’t want to scratch your guitar. And I didn’t think it was a leave-behind at the time. Right? But after I finished playing and she had already gone off stage, I had those bracelets in my guitar.
My guitarist didn’t know where she was. Couldn’t find our drummer, finally found her and the drummer’s back there talking to her and, you know, they’re having drinks. And I said, thanks a lot, you know, what do you say to a beautiful girl, voice of an angel, an accent, everything, you know, that stole your show? So I immediately walked up to her and I said, it was nice to meet you. Here’s your bracelets. Next time you’re in town, give me a call. We’ll play a show. And I left.
Shelley Mac: [00:04:01] Yeah.
Rod Williams: [00:04:02] Drop the mic.
Shelley Mac: [00:04:04] And it worked, actually. I was then very interested all of a sudden and thinking, “Oh, okay. That doesn’t, that’s not really how it usually plays out, but all right then.” And, uh, you want to continue the story?
Nad Elias: [00:04:18] Was it a strategic move or an accidental move to leave the bracelets?
Shelley Mac: [00:04:21] Well, ask the man himself.
Rod Williams: [00:04:24] I think it was a leave-behind. I have no idea how that deal works.
Shelley Mac: [00:04:29] It actually worked out for me. Right?
Rod Williams: [00:04:33] Here she is today, 11 years in May later.
Shelley Mac: [00:04:38] Yes.
Nick Schenck: [00:04:39] That’s awesome. So you continued on to New Orleans? Or you were like, all right, I’m staying in Austin?
Shelley Mac: [00:04:45] No, I had to get myself to New Orleans. I had, you know, a record to record and, uh, the plan was to head to Europe after that. And, uh, during that, I think it was six weeks that I was in the studio, um, Rod and I spoke nearly every day, and we did it the old fashioned…
Rod Williams: [00:05:02] 20 hours a week on the phone. That’s all. Courtship.
Shelley Mac: [00:05:05] So we kind of got to know each other over the phone, which was really lovely. Um, and I was staying actually at my brother’s property, which was way out in the sticks. So trying to get reception was challenging. So I’d be walking out in the middle of a field trying to, you know, make that phone work. Um, but anyway, during that conversation, uh, Rod asked me one day said, “Look, before you head to Europe, why don’t you come back to Austin just for a week? Let’s hang out, you know, just physically hang out.”
And I said, yeah, okay. I can do that.
Rod Williams: [00:05:37] So I booked seven shows.
Shelley Mac: [00:05:42] You put me to work straight away, but I changed my plans. And let’s just say, I didn’t really make it to Europe in the way that I was supposed to, um, I did have to leave eventually to, uh, because I had a visitors visa, so I needed to leave the country.
So I was a good girl and headed over to London for a few weeks and, um, yeah, missed him terribly and came straight back to Austin and then eventually had to go back home to New Zealand to promote the new record. And so, uh, went back home without Rod. And, uh, I think not for nine weeks, I was back home and then Rod joined me for a three-month tour of my own country.
He got to know my family, my people, my culture. It was the most amazing time in our lives. We were free and we also got to open for Sting and that was something that was probably the most special part of that entire trip. Right?
Rod Williams: [00:06:39] It was all special, but that was definitely icing on the cake.
Shelley Mac: [00:06:43] Right. For sure. Yeah.
Nad Elias: [00:06:44] What an experience, and that was all over New Zealand?
Shelley Mac: [00:06:48] Yes. Yep. From top to bottom.
Rod Williams: [00:06:50] We have some hilarious stories there. We ran out of gas before a show. We got to a gas station. They had no fuel. So we had to call the guy that owns the hotel. He came and picked us up.
Nick Schenck: [00:07:00] So how did that show with Sting materialize?
Shelley Mac: [00:07:04] Well, so we were in Wellington, uh, recording a single and, um, I had already pitched for Rod and I to open for Sting and, um, I guess it, you know, they went through however many people that had pitched to him and, uh, eventually I got that phone call saying, “Hey, you know, what are you doing February 6? They want you.” And I went really? Oh my gosh. Um, okay. Might have to make a few changes to the old schedule, but I think we can fit that in.
So, uh, we did, we had to change flights and what have you. And, uh, we flew into Napier and I had my old band there and, uh, we rehearsed for several days. And then there we were in front of 40,000 people slightly inebriated.
Um, it was at a winery mission estate.
Rod Williams: [00:07:57] Not us, the people.
Shelley Mac: [00:07:58] Not us, no. Although, afterwards after we finished the performance, but, uh, I think the biggest moment was meeting Sting and hanging out with him backstage and, um, you know, wanting to actually thank him in person and say, you know, thank you so much for letting us open for you.
And he said, “Oh, no, Shelley, thank you for letting me close for you.”
Nad Elias: [00:08:23] I love it. How smooth is that. Rod, you can’t compete with that. Not that night.
Rod Williams: [00:08:30] That guy was so sexy. I loved him. My man crush.
Shelley Mac: [00:08:33] He was a bright light.
Rod Williams: [00:08:35] A very bright light. He met the New Zealand Orchestra 60 piece, and he shook everyone’s hand and said their names.
Shelley Mac: [00:08:46] Yeah. He was a very engaging, just laid back human being. I really was impressed.
Rod Williams: [00:08:53] Really neat guy.
Shelley Mac: [00:08:54] Yeah.
Nad Elias: [00:08:55] That’s a lesson that, that, that, you know, I teach my kids right. Just…
Rod Williams: [00:08:58] Hang out with Sting?
Nad Elias: [00:09:01] Well that, too, but how you look somebody in the eye, and it’s something that, you know, it’s those types of lessons and experiences that, um, that create just natural born leaders, right? People that have those types of skills and, and can develop them, um, uh, you know, the firm handshake, or maybe these days, it’s the fist pump. Uh, look them in the eyes and say the name back. Right.
Rod Williams: [00:09:26] Yeah, we did that last night with, with Jesse. He said he couldn’t remember some girl’s name he talked to and we said, say it back to them say, “Well, my name’s Jesse, yours is Lisa.” That was the girl’s name.
Nad Elias: [00:09:38] Yeah, it works. It works. What a pivot, though, to, uh, uh, to get to the show and, uh, and then open up for Sting, I think, uh, uh, that’s something that, I know Rod, you’ve shared with me, just some of the pivots in your life, and Shelley, we were talking just before we opened up this recording that, uh, uh, that we’ve had a lot of pivots over the last year.
Shelley Mac: [00:10:00] Absolutely.
Nad Elias: [00:10:01] Rod, why don’t you tell us a bit about your entrepreneurial journey. Because I love the connection between, you know, I have zero musical abilities. I’ve never been in a band. Actually, I was in a band. It was second grade. I was in a band. We played for my parents and my aunts and uncles.
It was a big show.
Shelley Mac: [00:10:22] The Spoons?
Nad Elias: [00:10:25] But the connection between, you know, how being a business owner and an entrepreneur, the connection between that and, you know, the lifestyle that you all both lived before at one time, there’s a real powerful connection there that I love hearing about whenever Rod shared it with me.
Rod Williams: [00:10:44] Well, you know, I grew up, my dad was an entrepreneur. Um, so I kind of grew up always working, you know, in that mindset where you have an owner’s point of view and where, you know, people matter, things like that. So I’d always been an entrepreneur and, you know, pulled the plug on many and had some and sold them.
And, you know, so the typical entrepreneur, you know, zig-zag, trying things out. But, you know, I, I think that I learned the most. Going out, you know, I’d come out of the, you know, finance world from a company I had, and the technology, and I just decided, oh my gosh, I got to do something I enjoy. So I picked up my guitar.
I hadn’t touched it since college and I treated it like a 9-to-5 job and I just, played from 9-to-5 and just worked on my craft and had a buddy of mine, Brennan Nace. He’s a pretty well-known jazz guitarist. And so was his father, Mike Nace. And, uh, I just started hanging out with him all the time and playing music and really just, that was a hundred percent my focus.
You know, and a few years later, I was performing and selling out shows on a label and all that stuff. But you know what I compare it to in entrepreneurship – because some people come up and they say, “Oh, musician. Oh, that’s a whole different type of business.” And I’d say, “No, it’s not, it’s not.” You got a new product you release every year or 18 months, and you go out and promote it.
You know? You’ve got to constantly keep people engaged. So just like music, you’ve got to engage the audience, just like business. You’ve got to engage your audience, especially now. And you got to leave people wanting more after you play that last song. You got to leave people wanting more after you produce that last product.
You, um, you know, as far as the band goes, there’s somebody in the office that’s always keeping everything in rhythm. That’s the operations guy, you know, there’s the glue that holds it together, and that could be the bass. That could be, you know, keyboards, something that glues all the notes together. But all those things work in concert, no pun intended, together in an office and everybody has a part, and you got to own that part.
And I used to tell salespeople, we’d go through and they’ve got a presentation and they’d say, “Okay, any more advice?” And I’d say, just rock. They look at me like what? And I go, just rock, period. That’s it.Go in there, and if you own the material, don’t read it, own it, own it. Practice is the work. Playing, you know, presenting, whatever it is, is the joy.
Because as much energy as you throw into it, it’ll come back to you, especially if you don’t suck, you know? And, um, and I find that a lot. And then the other thing that I learned. You know, as a, as a starting musician, or a current musician, whatever, you know, when you start off, you’re the CEO, the CFO, the CTO, the head of HR, the bookkeeper, head of marketing, you build your website, um, you know, you’re everything.
And so, you know, the more people you bring on – even band members, you bring on one person that’s toxic, look what that can do to an office. Right? It does the same thing. It’s all chemistry, right? How somebody is just toxic for the band or for the office. And so there’s so many parallels that I find. And the, um, the other thing that I think we all know as entrepreneurs is cashflow, right?
If you’re going to play and you’ve got to make, you got to look at what your budget is and say, okay, I’m getting a hundred dollars a night. Well, your bills are $350 a week. Well, it looks like you’re playing five nights a week or six or seven, or doing two shows a day, whatever it is. And so you kind of have to build that out.
And this goes back to when we got married and decided to have children, we had to play 48 weeks a year to be on the level of where we want to build savings and have a lifestyle that we enjoy. And, um, I think a lot of musicians understand that, especially after the pandemic, because their cashflow went from, you know, something they were used to to zero.
Nick Schenck: [00:15:29] Yeah. Have you seen talented musicians in your career where maybe they thought it was just going to be all fun and games? They didn’t treat it like a profession. And their careers sort of waned or declined because of it? Is that a common thing you see?
Rod Williams: [00:15:48] Similar to that, but maybe would you say they take it for granted, you know, royalties changed when Napster and all that came. So you actually, music was made. Um, the money cashflow, uh, was done in music and television or movies, and then the other is touring and merchandise, but I’m trying to think of somebody that possibly, um, I’ve, I don’t think I’ve had an experience because all the musicians I’ve ever worked with are all hard working.
There’s no ego with, I can’t really think of anybody that I worked with.
Nad Elias: [00:16:23] There’s a perfect storm between sort of talent and you know, practice or preparation. Right. We hear, we hear that a lot in sports, right? I mean…
Rod Williams: [00:16:33] Exactly, that’s exactly right.
Nad Elias: [00:16:35] You can have crazy talented quarterbacks or basketball players that never worked on their talent.
And that’s how you become, you know, in that world, Michael Jordan, right. Or I would imagine it’s the same in music, too. I mean, there’s a certain talent you need to have and then how much you work on it can show what you can become.
Rod Williams: [00:16:59] How you perform. I find that most successful musicians, even their given talent, that they’re all perfectionists in some way, not to where it becomes procrastination, but to where it gets at an acceptable ability where they’ve achieved something new, possibly, or they’re being their best that they can be. Would you agree with that?
Shelley Mac: [00:17:21] Absolutely, but you would be surprised that behind the scenes, everybody, really anyone that I’ve ever come into contact with – musician or, or singer-songwriter or whatever, they all work extremely hard on their craft to be the best that they can be.
Nad Elias: [00:17:37] And there’s a team behind them. Right? I think that’s something that, you know, Rod, you just said just rock when you’re telling somebody to make a presentation, you know, in a musician’s world, the finished product is the song, but there’s so much that goes into that.
And there’s so many people involved in that and they’ve got to work. I would imagine they’ve got to work in function as a team just like a football team, a basketball team or our team at our company, or Nick your team at your company. I mean, everything has to function to create that finished product. Right?
Rod Williams: [00:18:12] I agree.
Nad Elias: [00:18:12] And I think there’s, there’s a, there’s an interesting correlation. I can do a lot of sports analogies, because I know that world, like my man crush is Tom Brady.
Rod Williams: [00:18:20] Mine too. I love Tom Brady. What a great leader.
Nad Elias: [00:18:24] What he’s done with his craft is amazing, and how he continues to work on it at 43.
Shelley Mac: [00:18:28] It’s impressive.
Rod Williams: [00:18:30] Yeah, you know, my business partner said yesterday exactly what you’re saying. And he said, if you look, and he’s an athlete, and he said, if you look, athletes have so much respect for musicians, because in a lot of ways they have a craft, it may be different, but they respect the ability that somebody brings all of it to the table. When it’s time, showtime, they bring it and you look at it.
And I thought it was a great analogy and it makes a lot of sense because think of the preparation it takes in sports, all the rehearsals.
Nad Elias: [00:18:58] I don’t know if I hear it as much in music because I’m not around it as much, but you always hear athletes say, man, that guy had so much talent and he didn’t do anything with it, or he didn’t do enough with it.
You hear those stories and that’s because they just respected the talent, but not the work ethic and the grit behind it, right?
Rod Williams: [00:19:19] Yeah. We don’t have auto-catch, which we have auto-tune in music.
Nad Elias: [00:19:25] Oh man. Rod and I have been on some trips together, and Shelley, you’ll find this funny, but he told me about auto-tune for the first time. And I was like, this isn’t a real thing. And I started listing musicians. I was like, Chris Stapleton. And he’s like, nope, no auto-tune, that dude’s legit. Then when I said Taylor Swift, you said it was all auto-tune, uh, at least at that time, whatever we were talking about at that time.
Rod Williams: [00:19:50] Sting’s sound man did her big tour before we were out with Sting – Howard Page – and he said he had auto-tune on everything. And he did the U2 before that. Now that doesn’t mean they can’t sing, but if they’re a little pitchy – which can happen to anybody, especially, um, you know, a developing artist, um, it catches that, it catches it. If you hear it blip, they were really out, but it’ll catch just, uh, you know, in-between the note just barely off of it.
Shelley Mac: [00:20:24] But you know, that does come in handy in a live situation, because depending on what you can hear through your ear monitors, um, you know, you can sound a little bit pitchy, um, when you’re trying to sing louder.
Because you can’t hear yourself, but of course that’s all communicating with the guy that’s on the soundboard in front of house. So, you know, I I’ve had those challenges in the past where I didn’t really have the luxury though, of, of auto-tune, but yeah, just making sure you got those levels right.
Rod Williams: [00:20:53] We just, you know, bit our tongue
Nad Elias: [00:20:56] You’re giving the secrets of the trade out now.
Rod Williams: [00:21:02] Inside baseball.
Nick Schenck: [00:21:03] So from performing with Sting to getting married what was the first business venture outside of music that you guys took on together or individually?
Rod Williams: [00:21:14] Well, uh, I would say I, I started a business, oil was going crazy and, and I wanted to do something and I’d been booking forever and I’d owned a business before, and I started a company booking hotel rooms for oil field folks, and crews, and the average booking is 26 doubles and they’d stay for six months.
Shelley Mac: [00:21:39] But how did it come about though? It was like somebody had asked you, “Hey, do you want to help with our man camp?
Rod Williams: [00:21:44] My best friend was building these workforce lodges. They called them man camps back then, but workforce lodges, and they were really nice.
And he was kind of, well, not kind of, he was the pioneer kind of, of that, and, uh, was very successful in it. And he says, “Hey, you want to come book some rooms for me?” And I said, no, how about if I book your rooms where your location is and I’ll book them in hotels. And, uh, then I walked in with my long hair and put my hair up in my hat and walked into Weatherford down in San Antonio, a big oil field company.
And, uh, I said, yeah, I’m looking for the person that books your main camps and hotels. And the lady says, “Oh, do you have man camps?” I said, I do. I have all of them. And here’s the thing, I built a website. Are there was one competitor out there and later she told me, we thought you were this huge company, and I’m laughing. Shelley and I lived in a 600-square foot garage apartment, and I was, a phone would ring for me, it was Halliburton called. I said just answer the phone, say you’ll transfer, put it on hold, I was driving, working 90 hours a week, meeting with the hotels, booking the rooms all on the phone while I was driving. And I was seven months pregnant. Really, really needing to nest.
Yeah. So some sacrifice.
Nick Schenck: [00:23:09] Was that exciting and fun or was it stressful?
Rod Williams: [00:23:12] Both. I mean, it was exciting and fun and then stressful. And then you bring on, you know, bad choices, bad hires or bad, uh, partners or whatever, you know, it can be, uh, that’s not the part that’s fun, but there’s more learned through tears than laughter.
Nad Elias: [00:23:33] That’s what I always tell, uh, tell my team all the time. I said, you’re going to fail your way to success.
Rod Williams: [00:23:39] Fail fast and fail forward.
Nad Elias: [00:23:40] Exactly. Just the quicker you can fail and learn from it, the better you’re going to be, right? And you’ve just had, you’ve had this amazing ability to, uh, again, the theme seems to be pivoting a lot.
Right. We can talk about 2020 and the pivots that we made, uh, all of us made, but, um, Uh, you know, Rod, you pivoted again, because, you know, oil went to shit and, and there was a pandemic and people weren’t booking hotels.
Rod Williams: [00:24:06] That is true. I built software and spent some time doing that for three years after I sold that last company, and February 19, I’m heading out on the road.
I’m going to go back and do this new software, make everything else obsolete. Pulled the plug March 23. Oil went to negative 47, 60 days later. That was a storage issue, but, um, pulled the plug, and April 3, I started a new business and Shelley supported me on doing that. And, uh, and it, you know, it’s carried us through the year.
I can’t say it’s all been stress-free, but, um, you know, it is what it is, but fortunately we’re making a difference and doing it every day.
Nad Elias: [00:24:50] It’s PPE-based? It’s a PPE business, right?
Rod Williams: [00:24:52] Yeah. We’re in disinfectant chemicals and we’ve got some new stuff coming out. We’re working with the Biden administration right now on, um, we’ve got, uh, a bid to it, basically it’s a system through Powertron Global and Aeris, um, out of Australia and it’s a product that you put it down, there’s one Aeris Active and it has a seven day kill time, or up to 200 touches. So it’s you put it down and it kills for seven days.
Nick Schenck: [00:25:24] Wow.
Shelley Mac: [00:25:25] You spray it on stuff?
Rod Williams: [00:25:26] Spray it. Yeah. Spray it or electrostatic guns or things like that. And then we have one for the HVAC system. It’s EPA approved.
It goes in, and it does the same thing in an HVAC system because you gotta think everything you’re breathing in, in buildings, it’s coming back in from inside the building, a very small percentage of that is, is coming in from the outside. And that’s a big part is the aerosol. And so we’ve got that.
And then we’ve got a filter cleaner that you spray it on the filter and it lasts for the life of the filter, which is typically 90 days on a commercial filter. And so they’re talking with, uh, with us about doing all of the K-12 schools in the U.S. So we got an RFQ on it. So. It’s it’s a pretty, pretty amazing deal.
And plus we’re doing chemicals and different stuff that we sell to a lot of big retailers and things like that. We bottle it. We do disinfectant wipes are all EPA approved, but it’s, it’s been painful, you know? We had deliveries that were two and a half months late.
Nad Elias: [00:26:29] Because of the demand?
Rod Williams: [00:26:32] Slightly. Yeah. Some demand, some bad suppliers.
Nick Schenck: [00:26:38] Yeah. It’s Unity Health is the company, right?
Rod Williams: [00:26:40] Unity Health.
Nick Schenck: [00:26:41] Okay.
Nad Elias: [00:26:42] I think the, again, the pandemic accelerated a lot of things, I think, but, uh, uh, cleanliness and hygiene, even after all this, it’s not going away. It’s something people are going to be more aware of.
We flew to Cabo in December and I was on a plane and I told my wife. I said, this is how flying should always have been. Why did it take a pandemic to realize that you need to wipe down, somebody should wipe down the seats and the tray tables between flights, you know, all the different things that they now do as normal probably should – you shouldn’t have to sit on a seat in a plane and see a bunch of cookie crumbs from the person that was on the plane before you, right. That’s stuff that they should figure out. And I think going forward, it’ll be more normal.
Rod Williams: [00:27:29] Well, they do in Japan. They always have, if you get on those bullet trains, right?
Nad Elias: [00:27:33] They’re always nice and clean?
Shelley Mac: [00:27:34] Oh my gosh. They’re just overkill when it comes to clean. Yeah.
Rod Williams: [00:27:38] It’s like they were all potty trained at gunpoint. That’s part of their Shogun training, you know? Shelly speaks fluent Japanese by the way.
Shelley Mac: [00:27:45] Oh, used to, it’s been a hot minute.
Nad Elias: [00:27:48] I want to do a couple of songs, but Shelley, I think you’ve got an interesting story from being an entertainer and then being a mom and then being a mom and an entertainer. Right. And how your, how has, how has your story sort of evolved? Because I know you told me that the music had evolved a bit, right? Just kind of how you, how you come up with songs now.
Shelley Mac: [00:28:13] Sure. Well, funnily enough, you know, becoming a mum, I really wanted to focus on doing a good job there.
So I decided to put music completely to the side. And, um, and I’m grateful I did because I was a little burnt out, too. I had been touring for so long and, uh, I really just wanted to have the energy for my son, and it made me miss being on stage. Um, even just the writing process, getting the guitar out and playing it’s amazing to me actually, when you decide to take a break and how that really was a break. I don’t think I pulled the guitar out for a good year.
Rod Williams: [00:28:51] You did enjoy writing on your own without having business partners as well. That was a big – let’s go to the emotional part. Let’s dive in.
Shelley Mac: [00:29:00] That’s true. And finding new inspiration, too, you know, um, becoming a mom and the challenges with that, too, being a slightly older mother, um, having Rod, uh, traveling a lot. So being there by myself. Um, but yeah, the, the whole music – I guess – deal for me was that I suddenly didn’t want to be out there so much. And then I started to think about how can I make a difference or help others to learn this craft from my experience and what I’ve done over the years. So I started to mentor young ones, uh, which very quickly, um, um, I grew that, and, uh, I was very busy with that for a while.
And thoroughly enjoyed being able to see that, oh, okay, so everything that I have done in the past is now actually coming full circle and I’m able to help these young kids find their voice, which is still to this day just the best feeling in the whole world.
Rod Williams: [00:30:01] Yeah.
Shelley Mac: [00:30:02] Um, so yeah, helping others and then finally getting approached by other musicians here in Austin, just saying, “Hey, when are you going to come back out? When are you gonna come back out? You want to come play? You want to come play?” And so eventually I was like, okay, alright, I’m going to start playing again and started working on a very new album, which started two years ago. So this wasn’t something that just, you know, happened overnight. Um, I had a few songs that I’d written even longer. Gosh, I’m trying to think about 10 years ago. But it just felt like the right time to bring all that material together. And my awesome producer, he used to be Rod’s producer, John Glover, came to town and, uh, we ended up actually recording my vocals in our kitchen. It was the best spot in our place at the time.
It’s kind of nice to be able to wake up in the morning and, you know, help yourself to your, your coffee and stuff. And then start warming up for the vocal part and then work till one o’clock in the morning and just go straight to bed, you know, just fall into bed and feel like you got the absolute best out of a good, full day.
In fact, I highly recommend it doing it from home. I think from now on that’s the way I’m going to do it.
Nad Elias: [00:31:17] We do a lot from home these days.
Rod Williams: [00:31:19] We’ve kind of been forced to do that.
Shelley Mac: [00:31:20] Well, that’s true. That’s true.
Rod Williams: [00:31:22] Super mom.
Shelley Mac: [00:31:24] So, yeah. So I’ve been working on an album and, uh, last year, right at the beginning, I think it was January. I released my first single and it was a cover of Blondie’s 1978 Heart Of Glass. And we took a very different approach and made it more darker, sort of cinematic approach. And I was very excited to get that out there. And then of course, COVID happened. And, um, and then just to add salt to the wound, uh, you know, all touring, everything ceased. I was going to release the album later in 2020 and be touring in ’21. In fact, I should be on the road right now.
Rod Williams: [00:32:02] Yeah. We were supposed to be in New Zealand.
Shelley Mac: [00:32:05] So that all suddenly changed. And, um, but to add salt to the wound, uh, I lost my voice. I lost my mid and high range for several months, so I couldn’t even sing if I wanted to. So again, I was forced to really take a break and just sort of sit back and rethink, okay, how am I going to do this when hopefully things get back to normal. And honestly, in the last few weeks, I’ve, I’ve just noticed that my voice is starting to get back to where it was. So, uh, very excited to now just I’m on a mission. I’m a woman on a mission to release some singles and then release my album by the summer.
Nick Schenck: [00:32:42] How does that happen by the way, with your voice? Do you just wake up one morning and you notice some difference? Or is there pain, or what?
Shelley Mac: [00:32:49] I thought I might’ve developed polyps on my vocal chords because I suddenly was experiencing a sensitivity in my ears. And, um, just, you could hear something that was rattling in my throat and I wasn’t sure if it was allergies or – so I got that all checked out and everything was clear.
I think it was more just a hormonal shift or change in, in my entire body and, uh, yeah, it’s just very, very strange to wake up and suddenly not have that power that you’re so used to, you know, just having that oomph.
Rod Williams: [00:33:21] That was your super power, as Nad would say.
Nad Elias: [00:33:25] I believe everybody has a super power, which is something that they’re, uh, that they’re the best at that they might not necessarily know they’re the best at.
So I think that, I don’t know. I don’t know if singing is that for you because you know you’re good at and other people know you’re good at it. It’s something – we did this exercise in our annual planning session with our staff and I made everybody go around the room and tell what everybody else’s super power is.
Shelley Mac: [00:33:52] Right. Right.
Nad Elias: [00:33:53] So what do I think Rod’s superpower is – not what Rod thinks his superpower is. And it’s, it’s a real interesting exercise. We took what everybody said and we have it on their, uh, on their desks. So, this is what everybody thinks your superpower is right. Now what do you think it is?
It’s a pretty neat exercise. It’s one of those feel good. It’s one of those feel good, you know, power, positivity type exercises, right? Yeah. And it’s amazing what people will say about you that you don’t even know about you. Right?
Shelley Mac: [00:34:24] Right. Well, that superpower I took for granted, and it wasn’t until I kind of lost it that I thought, Oh shit, what am I going to do?
Like really, just to be able to just sing at any at a drop of a hat normally without effort. And now suddenly I’m warming up and still nothing. And going through all the vocal exercises that I teach my students.
Rod Williams: [00:34:48] I mean we had some signs. There was times when we were playing a couple of songs and all of a sudden her voice would crack and I’d go, what the hell was that? Did someone stickc an ice pick in your back or something? It was like, what was that? And no one else heard it, but I knew this perfect voice. And that was, it was something in the works. But, um, thank God you’re better. She played a show Friday night for two hours and it was flawless.
Nad Elias: [00:35:16] Are you playing live shows now?
Shelley Mac: [00:35:18] So yeah, just gently easing my way back out there. Um, I’ve got a beautiful friend who owns a design bar called Joel’s Design Bar in, um, Bee Cave. And, uh, you know, I didn’t even advertise the fact. I just felt like it’d be nice way to start. Let’s let’s just blow away the cobwebs.
And, um, I was thrilled with the fact that I managed to get through two hours without stopping.
Nad Elias: [00:35:43] I love hearing that. I know y’all did a couple of Zoom shows last year.
Rod Williams: [00:35:48] We did them in March. I didn’t think about this, but when you look at it, we were the first group that we knew of that went out and did that before the end of March.
Shelley Mac: [00:35:56] Well, you know, and last year, talk about pivot yet again, um, so I was losing my voice. Um, you know, a lot of places, places had closed down anyway. So, you know, that was just something you couldn’t do.
But then they started reopening like wineries and the breweries and distilleries, very favorite spot that I like to go to every now and then. And, uh, I had a lot of musician friends that were wanting to get back out and work. And, um, I suddenly found myself utilizing skills that I had acquired over the last two decades on and off stage and helping them get back to work.
And, um, it felt really good. So I’ve actually now started a new venture, uh, doing just that, getting, um, really talented local artists back out there at, um, a booking management agency. Hey, why not?
Nad Elias: [00:36:47] We need it. We need it to come back, right?
Rod Williams: [00:36:50] Yeah. So that’s the new, that’s a new venture Mac Wilco, Mac Williams Company. Mac Wilko.
Nick Schenck: [00:36:56] Okay.
Nad Elias: [00:36:57] It’s catchy. It’s catchy.
Nick Schenck: [00:36:59] Should we play some music now? You think?
Shelley Mac: [00:37:00] Yeah, let’s do that. It’s what at least 11 o’clock now? Normally, Rod doesn’t like want to sing until I at least…
Rod Williams: [00:37:10] I recorded a whole record. We stayed in the studio one day and tried to record and I just said, man, I’m not capturing it. Can we go have a drink somewhere?
And we went out for about three hours and came in at seven o’clock and I did the whole record in one take.
Shelley Mac: [00:37:25] That I cannot do. Like, I’m, I’m a bit of a – I guess a nerd when it comes to recording, I am fully focused on that. I can’t have anything. .
Nad Elias: [00:37:38] I’ll tell this story while Rod’s doing this. Uh, this is this, this is how I gave Rod inspiration. He was working on a new song along with another friend of ours, uh, uh, Kirk Ashy and, again, I’m the first to admit I don’t have a lot of creativity when it comes to this stuff. So I said, all right, it’s about two in the morning. You guys are working on this amazing song.
Rod’s got his guitar out. He’s just adlibbing these songs. It’s amazing to watch. I was the runner. So I ran drinks back and forth to them, because I wanted to keep that inspiration flowing. I mean, it’s two in the morning, right? That’s when most amazing ideas are created. So. I think I negotiated 8% royalties of the song.
Rod Williams: [00:38:22] That wasn’t Abacus Islands. It was a different trip. It was in Costa Rica.
Shelley Mac: [00:38:27] That’s when you need to push the record button on your phone too, because you’d never remember the next day.
Nad Elias: [00:38:36] We did. We did. He had his phone, whatever software you had on your phone at the time that was doing all that. Anyways.
Shelley Mac: [00:38:43] So tell us a little bit about the song.
Rod Williams: [00:38:49] Well, let’s see, we wrote this over dinner. I wrote it, um, I don’t know, a few years ago. And it was for a movie with Alicia Silverstone called Angels and Stardust. Anyhow, it was on the movie. And, um, I don’t know, this, something that just came to us. Her mom was cooking for us in Bee Cave and I don’t know, the song came and played it. And tried it out and we’ve got a, I don’t know, I call it a demo online of it on RodWilliams.com.
Shelley Mac: [00:39:23] We’ve yet to record it.
Rod Williams: [00:39:25] It’ll be a “Sweetness and the Storyteller” release. That’s us, obviously I’m sweetness.
Shelley Mac: [00:39:30] Of course you are sweetheart.
Rod Williams: [00:39:33] So this song is called “2,000 Miles.”
Nick Schenck: [00:43:31] Awesome. Y’all’s voices play really well off each other. You know, just, you have this raspiness to your voice and voice like an angel, as Rod said. That was great.
Shelley Mac: [00:43:42] Thank you. Thank you so much.
Nad Elias: [00:43:44] Before you sang the song, you said “Sweetness and the Storyteller” – when you guys perform together and as you’ve recorded them, this is something Rod you’ve talked to me about.
Just how, how, how, how much fun you’re having, being able to do, you know, music with, with, with your wife, and Shelly, you haven’t said that to me, but I would imagine it’s probably the same thing.
Shelley Mac: [00:44:02] Well, you know what, it’s funny, but I think that’s where we’re at our best is when we sing together and very, very early on in our relationship, whenever we used to sing together, people used to just rave about the blend and how it just naturally just sounds like one voice. It’s just so you know, really, really suits each other.
Rod Williams: [00:44:22] Not like siblings.
Nad Elias: [00:44:23] That’s right.
Shelley Mac: [00:44:25] Definitely.
Rod Williams: [00:44:26] I want to clear that up.
Shelley Mac: [00:44:28] But I miss it too when I’m on my own. I mean, I, I love singing, you know, my own original music, but I do get a lot more joy and satisfaction when we are singing together, and our son now, um, chimes in too. He knows all of our songs and he likes to get up and sing with dad and likes to sing with mom. And then, uh, every now and then…
Rod Williams: [00:44:49] Yeah, he sang Saturday with me the other night. And during the middle of it, instead of saying Saturday, I was saying Dadurday. We had fun.
Nad Elias: [00:44:59] He’s got a voice, too. You realize at an early age.
Rod Williams: [00:45:04] He’s already reading and writing piano. He’s playing piano. And that’s the best thing of COVID. You know, he locked down, he’s out of school at noon, or not out of school, he’s done with his schoolwork, and Sergeant Shelley takes over and it’s math and piano and everything else.
Shelley Mac: [00:45:20] Well, piano is supposed to help with math. So I was like, I’m on this.
Rod Williams: [00:45:25] He was real glad that he started school in September. I assure you that.
Shelley Mac: [00:45:28] So was mama.
Nick Schenck: [00:45:29] How old is he now?
Rod Williams: [00:45:30] He’s seven.
Nick Schenck: [00:45:31] Yeah, I have a seven-year-old, too.
Rod Williams: [00:45:34] Yeah. Little Jay Mac and J Money.
Shelley Mac: [00:45:36] I’m going to push the pause button because he’s just so beautiful at this age.
Nad Elias: [00:45:40] Yeah. It’s a fun age for boys. I mean, it’s a fun age for, for, for both boys and girls, boys – my daughter’s a bit older now, but boys, they start, they just do weird stuff at that age. It’s just, I think they’re just trying to figure out what they can get away with. There’s just a little…
Shelley Mac: [00:45:54] Oh yeah. Pushing the boundary for sure.
Nick Schenck: [00:45:58] Is there any other songs you want to play?
Shelley Mac: [00:46:01] Well, we can talk about the new single, right?
Rod Williams: [00:46:03] Yeah, the new release.
Shelley Mac: [00:46:05] “If It Wasn’t For You,” which, um, it’s funny when you start writing a song, sometimes, you know, you’ve sung it one way for a long, long time, and then you put it down, you don’t do anything with it. And then one day you want to ressurect it, but then you want to change it. Like it evolves.
And this particular tune, um, I had written it about a previous relationship and how, um, after, you know, I invested a lot in that relationship, it’s really hard to call it a day, walk away from something where you’ve invested so much time. And, and you still love that person essentially, but you’ve just you’ve grown apart, and it’s time to make the change. And so that’s what the song was originally about. And then I meet Rod here and, um, I don’t know, it’s funny. But meeting him probably was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me at that time in my life. And he really helped me overcome some challenges.
And I think through very early on, we, I don’t know, we were a powerful couple together, but he helped me find the real me. He allowed me to be me.
Rod Williams: [00:47:10] I would have to say the same thing.
Nick Schenck: [00:47:12] Good job, Rod.
Rod Williams: [00:47:13] Yeah. Not about what I did, but I would say yes, that’s exactly right.
Nad Elias: [00:47:18] I would agree.
Rod Williams: [00:47:18] I would agree. No, I, uh, I can’t really have a comment on that because that’s her deal.
But I’d say that she did the same thing for me. Um, you know, it definitely empowered my life and turned it in the right direction. You know, I was really good at making bad choices. She helped me see the light.
Nad Elias: [00:47:41] You failed your way through to Shelley.
Rod Williams: [00:47:42] Oh God, yeah. Major failures on that side.
Shelley Mac: [00:47:47] Anyway, but I thought maybe, you know, it’s nice to talk about what the song is about, but also just listening to it in its absolute, um, you know, basic form, uh, just guitar and voice. I thought I’d sing a little bit of it and then maybe you could, uh, play the actual recording, because that’s one of the things that I absolutely love as a recording artist is starting with just the raw material and then going into the studio and hearing it come to life with all of the instrumentation and, you know, there’s so many different directions you can go in.
So sometimes it’s hard to just, go, okay, this is as good as it’s going to get, or, you know…
Rod Williams: [00:48:26] This is what her and Glover did in the, you know, when I came in from the office and, and I knew the song, and then all of a sudden it takes this different turn and they’re playing it together and I just went, “Holy shit. That is fantastic.” And then I was infatuated with the song and I still am. Right. But, uh, where it went with Glover, um, and Shelley was just miraculous, I think when you hear the recorded version, yes. But this is what I heard when I came home from the office that day.
Shelley Mac: [00:48:56] Right. But before I play, um, I just want to add that, uh, the musicians that came on board were just phenomenal.
We had, uh, on drums, you know, I think in a past life, I wish I could play drums. I really would love to play drums, it’s such a sexy beast of a thing to play, right. And Jess is showing signs. Our son’s showing signs of wanting to play, he is naturally, you know, gifted rhythm-wise. And I think that’d be something that’d be nice to encourage. After he learned the piano, of course, completely.
Rod Williams: [00:49:28] But, uh, yeah, Ramy…
Nad Elias: [00:49:30] Drummers are a lot cooler than pianists, though.
Rod Williams: [00:49:31] Well, Rami is really cool. Ramy is an entrepreneur. He owns A&F Drum, which is probably the top boutique drums in the world. He was Seal’s drummer. You probably heard of Seal for 16 years.
Nad Elias: [00:49:42] Yeah.
Rod Williams: [00:49:42] Um, he’s just an amazing guy. And then my old bass player makes basses now, Brady Muckelroy, he makes the Muck bass. So we had two manufacturer entrepreneurs in our system.
Nick Schenck: [00:49:56] That’s cool
Rod Williams: [00:49:57] You know, in the, in the studio. And then, uh, John Glover, of course.
Shelley Mac: [00:50:02] The secret, the magic weapon. Yeah, for sure. I mean, he’s like a brother to me, too. We have a lot of fun and that’s something also that you need to have element of fun and chemistry.
You’re lucky that I met you first then. Huh?
Rod Williams: [00:50:16] You didn’t leave me for Sting.
Nick Schenck: [00:50:23] What’s the name of the song again?
Shelley Mac: [00:50:24] So this is called, “If It Wasn’t For You.” And it’s a very, very quiet version of it right now.
Shelley Mac: [00:52:04] And then I’m just going to stop right there because I actually went to the wrong lyric, but hey, that’s a little bit of a, a little bit of the acoustic version. And then you can play that he’s into the full.
Rod Williams: [00:52:16] It’s a killer song.
Nad Elias: [00:52:17] Yeah.
Rod Williams: [00:52:18] And you know, Nad, when we finished this record, when she finished it, not we, but when she finished it, um, we, me and Nad, and Elizabeth, were in – were we in an Uber? No, we were in your car. Yeah. And we cranked it up, coming from downtown and going to their house.
Nad Elias: [00:52:35] That’s right. Right when it finished, we had it on, and then, uh,
Rod Williams: [00:52:40] American road trip.
Nad Elias: [00:52:42] I love that. I love that song.
Shelley Mac: [00:52:44] Yeah, I’m looking forward to releasing that, too.
Nad Elias: [00:52:46] Yeah, that’s a good one.
Nick Schenck: [00:52:47] That’s awesome. I’m curious, you guys have played in front of huge audiences, obviously 40,000 plus fans. Have you ever found anything outside of music that matches that feeling of whether – I don’t know, I’ve never done it, so I imagine that adrenaline, excitement, and just like you’re in this zone, right?
Shelley Mac: [00:53:09] Nothing honestly can match that feeling.
Rod Williams: [00:53:12] That’s a good question.
Shelley Mac: [00:53:12] That is a great question. It’s one that doesn’t get asked very often, but I couldn’t match…
Rod Williams: [00:53:18] The euphoria and the adrenaline.
Shelley Mac: [00:53:21] I mean, I’ve been very lucky. I have to say, uh, after I released an album with my band back home in New Zealand a few, few years ago, um, we were very lucky to have a concert promoter at our launch – album launch. And he just loved the way that we sounded, our energy and thought, wow, you’d be great to open for Elton John, who we’re bringing out to New Zealand.
Rod Williams: [00:53:43] I’ve heard of him.
Shelley Mac: [00:53:44] You might have heard of him. And that was scary as you know what – I’m standing in front of not only his crowd, but then watching him walk on stage being side stage and watching him sit at the piano and, you know, rock on what was that song. What was the first song? It was Bennie And The Jets. Um, I sat at his piano and, um, yeah, I mean, I had to, and it was a piano that got flown in from Australia. That piano goes everywhere with him.
Nad Elias: [00:54:14] Really?
Shelley Mac: [00:54:14] Yeah. Yeah, it does. So that, that was a pretty surreal moment. And, uh, with your face planted all over a massive screen, my mum’s out in the audience, just like, “That’s my daughter, that’s my daughter. She belongs to me.” But, uh, and Eric Clapton was another one. And I remember him standing side stage watching me play the guitar. You know how like intimidating, intimidating, I’m thinking Shelley don’t stuff it up. Don’t stuff it up. Come on. You can do this. And, uh, he was taking shots of the audience as well as what was going on on stage and, um, those moments, yeah, you can’t match that.
Nick Schenck: [00:54:50] And when you, I mean, once you start playing, does that, do you block everything out or is it when you started playing, you still noticed Eric Clapton?
Shelley Mac: [00:54:58] Oh, um, you know, it’s funny, everything’s heightened. You notice everything.
Rod Williams: [00:55:03] You can read every emotion in the crowd.
Shelley Mac: [00:55:06] You do, you do. It’s funny. And you know, yeah, it’s, it is quite amazing where you’re looking at that particular moment.
You look inside a stage. Why would I be doing that, well…
Rod Williams: [00:55:17] But when God is standing to your right, it’s kind of hard to not notice them. I mean…
Shelley Mac: [00:55:21] Did you say Rod is standing to the right of us?
Rod Williams: [00:55:25] This is a family show.
Nad Elias: [00:55:29] Rod tell the story as we, as we’re going to wrap up here in a bit, but, uh, the story of Daughtry. Oh, it cracks me up because he used to open for you, right?
Rod Williams: [00:55:38] Yeah. So, so we used to pick the songs for Daughtry. Um, we had the same management and we’d call in and get on the phone and some other lead singers and we’d pick the songs.
And then he got off of, uh, American Idol and he came and we started doing some shows together. And, and I remember in Houston, I opened the door and the crowd, just, you know, it was 1,500 people there, the crowd, hey, you know, they raise their hands and everything. And he looks out that door and the whole thing, the whole crowd just moved towards the door.
And I looked at him and I said, I don’t think you’re going to be opening for me very much longer. But after that show, I got a phone call. “Hey Rod, uh, can you let Daughtry close?” I went, of course. Who can argue with 30 million voters that voted him.
Shelley Mac: [00:56:33] That’s what I love about you. Zero ego. You were like, absolutely.
Rod Williams: [00:56:36] I was proud of him because he is amazing and he’s a great human being.
I don’t know how much I could have mentored him. He was so talented, but I certainly befriended him and I was very proud of him.
Nad Elias: [00:56:47] It’s hard to compete with Simon Cowell when it comes to mentoring.
Rod Williams: [00:56:50] Yeah, exactly.
Nad Elias: [00:56:51] Let’s be honest.
Rod Williams: [00:56:52] Yeah. All I did with him was have fun. You know, I got to perform on stage with him and Bucky Covington.
And, you know, we just had fun, you know, just it’s kindred spirits among musicians, you know, you play together and respect each other for different talents and, um, but lovely guy and amazing talent, songwriter, singer, guitarist. I mean, he’s just, he’s he deserves every bit of success that he has, and he has.
Nad Elias: [00:57:20] That’s great.
Nick Schenck: [00:57:20] Yeah.
Nad Elias: [00:57:22] Well, we appreciate you guys coming on. This has been a lot of fun.
Shelley Mac: [00:57:25] Oh, thanks for having us.
Rod Williams: [00:57:27] Thanks for letting us, what did Sting say? Close for you?
Nad Elias: [00:57:34] It’s just amazing to me that, uh, and I hope, uh, our listeners got, uh, you know, some of these lessons, but just the, the correlation and, and, you know, between what you all have done in music and now in business and then business and music, right? Just the, the analogies of life. It’s fascinating to me. So I’m glad you guys were able to share that with us.