Lurgan musician Zac Mac prepares to perform with original Thin Lizzy drummer

Ahead of performing with Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey and his band in the New Year, 15 year old musician Zac Mac chats to Sophie Clarke about being compared to Phil Lynott, releasing his debut album and performing at festivals...

Lurgan-born singer-songwriter Zac Mac has recently been making waves in the music industry with his unique sound and style. Being lauded as a real talent with many comparing him to late Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott.

At just 15 years old, Zac wrote, recorded and produced his own album, Supernatural, which was released in August.

“The album seems to have been really well received since it came out during the summer and people are still talking about it, which is great,” said the young musician.

In addition to guitar and vocals, Zac also plays drums, keyboard, and bass. His obsession with music started when he was four, with his dad, Stephen, teaching him how to play guitar and introducing him to bands such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.  

Zac’s passion and dedication to music is evident, practicing four hours a day, seven days a week. When he was 12, he became the first person in Ireland to pass grade 8 guitar exams with 95 per cent distinction.

“I didn’t find the grade 8 exams too bad, but I think that was because I’d learnt a lot of the stuff at school, so I was able to apply it and use it to my advantage,” Zac explained.

Since then, his career has gone from strength to strength, headlining his first concert at 13 and playing multiple festivals, such as the Master McGrath Festival in Lurgan, Hilden Beer Festival in Lisburn and rocking Falls Park during this year’s Féile an Phobail.

“I’ve played in the Limelight, Kelly’s in Portrush and I’ve done a few festivals as well, but I’d have to say that one of my favourite places is the Empire Music Hall in Belfast. It’s got a great atmosphere and always attracts a good crowd.”

Therefore, when Zac was asked to support Brian Downey’s Thin Lizzy band at the Empire Music Hall on January 5, he simply couldn’t say no.

“I believe that Brian Downey was the original drummer for Thin Lizzy, so to have the opportunity to back them up is really exciting and I’m really looking forward to it.”

However, this will not be the first time Zac has shared the stage with a Thin Lizzy icon, as in July, during the Sunday Life Spirit of NI awards, Thin Lizzy’s current frontman Ricky Warwick jumped on stage and joined the young star as he performed Dancing in the Moonlight for guests at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Co Down.

“Getting to perform with Ricky was surreal, I loved every second of it and after the performance he asked if I would back him up on tour.

“I haven’t heard anything yet but if/when he gets in contact, I’ll definitely be up for it,” said a very enthusiastic Zac.

Read more:

  • Original Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell is still rockin' at age 71
  • Arts Q&A: Michael Smiley on Thin Lizzy, dessert dilemmas and pesky journalists
  • Mother of legendary Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott was 'formidable and brilliant woman'

Continuing to follow in Thin Lizzy’s footsteps, Zac will also be performing at The Ulster Hall on December 28 where the band played in 1978.

Although this would potentially be many 15-year-olds' worst nightmare, Zac is decidedly calm about his upcoming gigs, armed with his own custom-made Emerald virtuo guitar from Emerald Guitars based in Co Donegal.

“I don’t really get nervous to be honest, I’m quite relaxed before I go on stage because I love performing.

“I’m also aware that I’m in a minority of young musicians and bands that are able to break through and get noticed, particularly at my age, so I don’t want to take that for granted, I’d rather just appreciate where I am and what I’m doing.

“As not many 15-year-olds can say they’ve done the things I’ve been doing lately.”

Listening to Zac’s album, you can hear how he’s been influenced by bands such as The Stone Roses, The Smiths and Oasis.

However, he does have an eclectic taste.

“When I was making the album, I was listening to a lot of The Jam, Oasis and The Stone Roses, but I also like Hip Hop, Rap and folk music.”

Despite his recent success, Zac says it has not made much of a difference to his peers.

“Some people come up and congratulate me and think it’s cool, but a lot of people just don’t take it seriously.

“I think that would be the same no matter where I was or what school I was going to, you’re always going to have people who don’t get it.”

But that will not stop him from doing what he loves. When asked what his plans are for the future, he said: “I haven’t given the future much thought. I think every musician wants to make it big, but as long as I’m performing and making music, I’ll be happy.”