By Katie Crouch
“White boy, black soul. Aspiring world changer.”
This is what you see when you log onto Junior Mike McCabe, Jr.’s Reverbnation page. If you didn’t know his story, you might think this bio line to be a little big-headed–a little pretentious, even. But you’d be wrong.
McCabe is a self- proclaimed “white boy” from Varina, Va., a tiny town just east of Richmond, Va. His small town background shines through his music, and his smooth, “black soul” mentality and demeanor starts to make a little more sense when the tunes start.
McCabe has made himself known throughout campus through mass amounts of shameless self-promotion. His fliers for his debut album, “The little c, Big C EP” (named after the ‘”little” and “big” ‘Cs in his last name) are plastered all over campus: above almost every water fountain and all over the memo boards in academic buildings.
Even if the fliers did not persuade students to check him out, folks have found that there is no escaping the Mike McCabe Mayhem.
One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was walking through the Trible Plaza and was stopped by my friend, Junior Zac Griggs. He said a friend was putting on an impromptu performance and I’d regret it if I didn’t stick around. So I stayed. A few minutes later McCabe arrived, guitar in-tow, already sweating in the traditional 90+ degree Newport News-September heat. I didn’t really know what was going on, but next thing I knew, quiet Mike had jumped up on one of the wooden benches and started strumming.
The confident, rumbling voice that bellowed out of him shocked the crowd, myself included. Students came spilling out of academic buildings, and every single one of them craned their necks to see where that music was coming from. McCabe bellowed out song after song, while the sun beat down on him and the rest of us stared. The whole time I was trying to find an answer to the question burning in my head: Who the hell is this guy?
Last Thursday afternoon, I got a chance to find out.
Through an interview with McCabe in a quiet Einstein’s study room, McCabe’s deliberate and heart-felt responses had me slowly talking more and more quietly over the course of the 30 minutes we spent together.
He categories his music as “black soul.” Why? “Because there’s a lot of that blue-eyed soul, Robin Thicke kind of thing. Like, Michael Buble. I kinda wanted to do more Otis Redding, Sam Cooke-kinda soul, that not a lot of white people do.”
McCabe’s ultimate dream with his music is “to be the guy that everyone is always waiting for his record to come out; the guy that inspires people to do other great things, whether it’s musically or make them a better person. I really want to use my music to help the world.”
McCabe has been playing guitar since the seventh grade and piano on and off since childhood. “The little c, Big C EP” is the only professionally recorded music he has. It was recorded by recent CNU grad Ian Gardea, of Antetrust Records and is only available online “for now.”
McCabe describes the content of the EP as, “break-up-inspired, since I wrote pretty much all the songs, five of the six, April through May of last year when I was going through a break-up.”
McCabe also has a “world saving song” and a song titled “Sand and Waves” which “isn’t really about anything; It came out of me.” McCabe said. “I play to entertain people. To entertain and make people feel something that I’m feeling.”
He says his favorite song right now is “The Way Love Goes,” a soul-felt song with a bittersweet melody, “because I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve written. I think it captures pretty much what I wanted to say. It’s one of the main break-up songs on there.”
McCabe has played locally at Aroma’s open mic nights, at WCNU Radio’s fall acoustic series, AcousticFest, and, of course, during his performance in the Trible Plaza. He says that mid-afternoon performance came from a desire to “have as many people know about my music as possible. If that means being that guy that stands up on a bench when everyone is getting out of class, then that’s what it’s going to be right now.”
McCabe is anticipating an upcoming performance with his new band, Something Voodoo, Oct. 20 at 9:30 p.m. at Schooners, on East Campus.
Something Voodoo is comprised of McCabe on guitar, keyboard, and lead vocals, Junior Vincent Cuellar, lead guitarist, Junior Justin Probst on drums and Junior Jos O’Connel on bass.
“Jos O’Connel texted me over the summer that I should consider bringing down my electric guitar for the fall semester. Then Justin brought his drum set from home, and we were jamming pretty regularly,” Cuellar said. “Mike and I had talked before about playing music together but we hadn’t really made much effort until later, when Mike McCabe dropped his EP. After the first time playing together we thought we had a decent shot at writing at least one or two hit songs so we got to work on that.”
Of McCabe’s potential as an artist, Cuellar is very optimistic. “Mike’s future as an artist is limitless,” he said. “He’s got buckets of talent.”
McCabe has high hopes for the band. Right now the group is working on getting on regular schedules at local music venues.
“Then hopefully we’ll be giggin’ twice or three times a week,” McCabe said.
McCabe biggest supporters are, “obviously, my parents and my family. But other than that I think I have a bunch of friends who are really supportive,” McCabe said. “And my relationship with God. ‘I Still Have Love’ is pretty much a song about God.”
McCabe seems to know what he’s doing with his music and where he’s going. He’s definitely convinced not only myself but everyone else who’s had the opportunity to be exposed to his version of “black soul.”
As for me, I’m gong to keep this EP on repeat and wait impatiently for “that guy’s record to come out.” If you haven’t pulled up this “aspiring world changer’s” Reverbnation page yet, you are missing out on the chance to witness him before he gets big because it looks like it’s only a matter of time.