Chris Macy has been playing, studying, composing on and teaching piano for years. Singing, not as much. But last summer, he changed that.
“I went on a little mission, I started to write a couple albums of music starting in 2012 and I started writing lyrics,” he explained. “But I was never a singer and it was a great opportunity for me to start singing.”
So he created what he called his “2-by-21-Day Challenge,” where he endeavored to sing in front of audiences between May and August as much as possible to get used to doing so. It blossomed into more than 50 engagements during the warm weather, mostly open mic nights, a chance to play two or three songs, but also some featured slots and longer sets.
Macy’s lyric-driven pieces — instrumental offerings are more lush and impressionistic — fall easily into the singer-songwriter spectrum. He describes it as an amalgam of ragtime, honky tonk, blues and more, and there’s a strong Tom Waits-inspired approach to churning up all those influences, along with a little Billy Joel or Elton John in terms of earnestness and melody, respectively.
And, last summer, they began to find an audience.
“It turned out really well, people really engaged with the idea of, ‘This is it, in its infancy in front of God and everybody,’ ” Macy laughed.
But as much as it was a learning process, Macy is still a skilled musician even if he was learning a new skill in public. Getting out there, warts and all but allowing it to be “new and fresh” in front of people, is part of the fun, and mostly the point.
“The real beauty of being human is sharing our imperfections, our human-ness, together,” he noted.
Those shows turned out to be a turning point of sorts for his nascent band, Hookahmen!? The group, which was just Macy on his own for a while, now occasionally features a bassist, violin and guitar, the first round or so of musicians to filter into his camp.
Building a band, said Macy, has been steady but slow, but getting the right people in place is part of Macy’s goal for 2016. He’s kicking off the year with a performance at the Roadhouse Inn on Thursday, and plans to “commercialize” the band this year with more players, an album to sell, and a solid live show.
But the first two are just nuts and bolts. The live show — the interaction with an audience and shared experience of a performance — is really what Macy is chasing.
“Unity, the emotions that foster love, caring, inspiration and giving ourselves permission to be human,” he explained. “That’s what Hookahmen!?is all about as a concept.”
Hookahmen!? will perform at the Roadhouse Inn, 2200 New Falls Road in Levittown, on Jan. 14. For information, visit http://www.hookahmen.org.