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By Robby McKittrick
Hometown Weekly Reporter
For many young musicians, making it in a band is only a dream.
However, for this one upcoming local country-rock band, it is making that dream into a reality.
25-year-old Westwood native Alec MacGillivray created a country-rock style band called The Ultra almost two years ago with a few friends from the area. The band includes MacGillivray, his longtime friend and 26-year-old former Westwood High School graduate Pat Lyons, 22-year-old Needham resident Sam August, and 28-year old Shaq Druyan.
“My senior year, I decided to do music full time, and I was down in Nashville,” explained MacGillivray, who was initially a college football player at Bentley University. “I had a decently successful country career in the area [but] I found out that I needed jaw surgery, so I moved back to Boston, and that’s when I formed this band.”
The band started playing country shows under MacGillivray’s old country name, but after a year, the group realized that “maybe it was a little bit more than just a country band.”
“We evolved into The Ultra over the last year or so and we put our debut EP in February, and it’s been kind of a roller coaster since then,” explained MacGillivray.The group officially began in February of 2018, debuting a couple of new songs and releasing their EP in one of the band members’ basement. They then contacted the well-known producer of the band Good Charlotte, Courtney Ballard, in LA, and Ballard loved their music.
“Shaq knew Courtney a little bit, and we reached out to him and sent him our stuff and he liked it,” said MacGillivray. “We are extremely lucky to be able to work with him. He is out-of-control gifted … The opportunity to work with him in that building has been an honor.”
The Ultra’s genre of music can best be described as country-rock. However, the group does not define their style in any specific way.
“Explaining it is pretty difficult in terms of pinpointing it,” explained MacGillivray. “We are trying to create a product that we like and that we believe in, and that’s the most important thing to us. How people categorize it is secondary, in our opinion.”
The band most recently played at Gillette Stadium, Nashville, Philadelphia and New York City. Over the past year, the group has played at a variety of distinctive music venues, from the Brighton Music Hall to the Paradise Rock Club to Foxwoods Resort Casino. Although the whole process has been a “blur,” the band explained that the concerts at Foxwoods and Brighton were two of the more memorable events.
“[Foxwoods] was incredible,” said MacGillivray. “It was just a really cool spot. Everybody who worked there was really, really nice … Honestly, I don’t even remember most of the shows.”
“It all becomes a blur,” added Lyons. “Brighton Music Hall [stood out] because that was … the first time [we had to coordinate] everything together, [such as] booking the venue, booking the other bands, so we [had] the full experience.”
So far, the band is constantly on the move - and its members are simply having the time of their lives.
“[We enjoy] all of it,” said Lyons. “We are getting really close. [During] these long travels … we have spent double-digit hours in cars with each other. It’s a blast.”
“We are kind of just riding the wave and doing our best to make sure we can put ourselves in the best position to succeed,” added MacGillivray. “We are having a really good time writing songs. We are having fun on the road. For some 20-something-year-olds, there is not much more else you can ask for than a chance so we are just lucky to have the opportunity to do what we are doing.”
After the group’s success in the first year, they hope to continue touring and creating new music in the upcoming months.
“Our number one goal is just writing more songs,” MacGillivray said. “We are just trying to write as many songs as we can and write the best songs that we can, and then next summer we just want to play them for everybody.
“It’s just been kind of a tidal wave of trying to hold on,” MacGillivray added. “The pace we are going at, none of us really expected. We are just trying to hold down the fort as best as we can and just keep the ride going.”
The band members are all young and having a great time, but they are also turning their love for music into a full-time career. They discussed the outstanding support they have had from their friends and family.
“It’s really amazing, and we are grateful for all of the support we have received,” said Lyons.
“My parents have been super supportive throughout my entire music life,” added MacGillivray. “We couldn’t ask for a better support system.”
With their initial success in such a difficult career, what advice do they have for other kids trying to follow their dreams?
“If there are any other kids … [that have this dream] that people may be doubting, just go for it,” said Lyons. “You know what you want more than anything else.”
“Our big [theme] is chase your dreams,” added MacGillivray. “If you have something you really want to do then nothing should be holding you back from it. Give yourself the opportunity to see what your made of. Any kids out there that are sitting at home on their guitar in their basement, there is a bigger world out there for you to find. Just keep practicing.”