Faces Behind the Screen: Mac Potts
Mac Potts is a musician and piano technician in Vancouver, WA. You may have seen him performing in various venues across the Pacific Northwest, or perhaps you recognize him from several Cut videos, like “Blind People Tell Us Which Questions Annoy Them the Most.”
His most recent adventure? Mac tried out for this season of American Idol, and he made it all the way to Hollywood Week! We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Mac’s musical career, and we have our fingers crossed that one day we’ll have the pleasure of watching him perform live.
Learn more about Mac in the latest Faces Behind the Screen story, where he shares how his passion for music came to be.
What was your childhood like?
MAC POTTS: I look back at my childhood and I really enjoyed being a 90’s kid. I loved playing with toys and friends. When I was little, I was interested in figuring out how things worked. I wasn’t much for building things, but I loved taking things apart and reassembling them. I loved books and read a lot with my family. I also liked listening to rock and roll and figuring out how to play my favorite tunes on the piano.
What are you passionate about?
MAC POTTS: I’m passionate about making others happy with my music. I play and sing for other people’s enjoyment and I take that seriously. I like being able to make people’s day with my talents and it’s awesome that I get to do that as my job and make a living by it. I’ve got a passion for restoring older pianos. There are a lot of pianos out there that, after a little work, sound better than some newer ones on the market. It’s good to know that I’m saving good instruments from going to the dump and instead I can save family heirlooms and/or hundreds of years of history. The pianos I save I either resell or donate to students or programs in my area. It’s cool because other people and kids will get to make music on them and hopefully my pianos can bring them joy. I also dig jamming with other musicians and rocking out.
Could you tell us more about your album?
MAC POTTS: Last November I recorded some Ed Sheeran songs as a birthday present for my wife. The songs I chose kinda told our journey together musically. I was going to do more with that CD and release it but I wanted to do more with the production and my piano. I was inspired by The Piano Guys and their production to layer piano tracks and then I took it a step farther and decided to use my piano bench for percussion tracks and some studio tricks to alter the sound created from my piano. Still going with the Ed Sheeran theme, I selected songs from his records to showcase this and my voice. I began this project around the same time my wife and I found out we were expecting a baby and that inspired the name for the album: Three. It’s to be released this month ( November 2018).
How did your career in music come to be and where can we hear you perform?
MAC POTTS: I just grew up playing the piano. I first tickled the ivories in a diaper, with my hands reaching above me to play the keys with songs like Mary Had A Little Lamb. I don’t remember any of it. I began taking classical lessons at 4 years old and learned everything by ear. This led me to begin playing my favorite songs off my radio which was a lot more rock and a lot less Bach. I would always sing but didn’t choose to until I was 16 years old. I sang back up vocals in a blues band I was apart of. In addition to piano, I play anything that has keys… except maybe the accordion…, saxophone, drums, and harmonica. I can play a little guitar and ukulele. I think my music making process is kinda just smashing it out. I put more emotion into it than that but if I’ve heard it, as long as it isn’t crazy classical, I can play it. Over time my arrangements develop as I continue to perform them. You can find me performing at Warehouse ’23 in Vancouver, WA., I play various venues all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond. I’m excited to release my album on digital platforms but until then, you can find my videos of me performing on YouTube and my Instagram @macpottsmusic.
What is one of your proudest moments?
MAC POTTS: One of my proudest moments is definitely becoming a dad and experiencing my wife become a mom. She’s been amazing all throughout the pregnancy and delivering our baby and then being a great mom now. It’s just awesome!
Do you identify as blind, vision impaired, or something else?
MAC POTTS: I’m blind because I have no vision to be impaired, ha! I don’t know how growing up without vision is any different, because I don’t know any different. I was born with undeveloped optic nerves and missing a retina.
What is your first memory of struggling to communicate or navigate in the world?
MAC POTTS: One of my first memories of struggling to communicate was when I rode the bus to the blind school with kids who attended the deaf school nearby… I was maybe 5 years old. I had to learn that most of them couldn’t verbally communicate and I couldn’t visually communicate with them. I felt lonely.
How does being blind affect you?
MAC POTTS: Being blind affects my ability to read emotional expressions visually and that makes it difficult to connect at times and not come off as impersonal or apathetic. It can make some social situations awkward.
What is the best and worst thing about being blind?
MAC POTTS: The best thing about being blind: I can function in the dark better than I would if I had vision. The worst thing about being blind: Not being able to be useful in a situation when I could’ve otherwise had been of help.
What’s a common mistake sighted people make when interacting with blind/low vision people?
MAC POTTS: A common mistake when interacting with people who are blind/VI is yelling directly at us like we’re hard of hearing.
Can you describe a moment when you felt discriminated against because of your vision loss?
MAC POTTS: One time I was in Hawaii swimming in the ocean with my family and the lifeguard kicked me out because I was blind. He asked one of my siblings if I was blind and then he kicked me out. I definitely felt discriminated against.
What do you wish sighted people could know about your experience?
MAC POTTS: Something I wish sighted people would know is that I want to properly understand their emotions and be given the opportunity to react to their emotions and connect with them. Sometimes sighted people don’t know how to communicate their feelings to blind people because they rely on their facial expressions instead of their words.
When it comes to technology what are some everyday issues you run into that sighted people might not?
MAC POTTS: There are random times when the voice on one of my Apple products (watch, iPad, iPhone) will just stop working. If I have any glitches with my audio or VoiceOver, I can’t access anything. If I’m in a really loud environment, sometimes it’s hard to hear my iPhone or reply to messages.
I feel very annoyed when I encounter inaccessible websites. Sometimes there are so many text embedded graphics… of I course don’t see how they are benefitting the website but they can really get in my way. Technology helps me navigate and communicate with the world with screen readers and voice activation; I can run businesses, communicate with friends, do almost anything that is… not visual. If it isn’t a visual thing, I can do it.
Unfortunately, there are some formats that aren’t accessible — DocuSign, online forms, Instagram to name a few. It can hurt my ability to communicate when homophonic errors occur and some words are spelled wrong and I can’t visually spell check what I write and I don’t think to check it if it sounds correct when read back to me. Ex. to, too, two and 2.
For movies? I don’t like descriptive video. Frankly, having never seen anything before, I don’t care what things look like and the AD distracts from the drama and suspense of the movie. I have friends who have lost their sight, however, and I know that they sometimes do like AD for movies. I like audio description for museum tours… it’s weird to have a robot speaking to me, but I roll with it.
For web creators, be careful with embedded text. If it can just be written out, at least have an accessible page or have the text available to read. I understand that there will be graphics and photos, but it’s hard when there’s so much text embedded into something like a photo or a box and isn’t accessible.
Faces Behind the Screen would like to thank Mac Potts for participating in our storytelling project. If you’re interested in sharing your story with us, fill out our nomination form.
Faces Behind the Screen is a storytelling project focusing on members of the Deaf and hard of hearing community.