BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Vocalist Mack Mullins was slogging it out in various tribute bands and other cover acts for more than 12 years, traveling all over the southern United States before finally achieving the status of “Officially Burnt Out One.”
Noted for his vocal prowess and stage presence, “People would ask me, ‘Hey this tribute thing is cool, but do you write any original music?’” Mullins said. “I always answered that I write original music all the time. But it was just a matter of getting it out there and going in. It finally became time. I got the guys in my cover band. We got together and just started writing to see how it goes. So the rest, as they say, is history.”
The CEO, a nod to the MBA chief executive role Mullins holds by day, is gearing to release its next album, Redemption, via Rat Pak Records on June 25, 2021. In addition to Mullins, The CEO features Guitarists Chase Brown and Beau Anderson; Bassist Vince Hornsby (of Sevendust fame); and drummer Joseph Herman. (And no, Hornsby is not leaving Sevendust. He is currently preparing for a Fall tour with the band.)
The band previously released two songs from the upcoming album: the title track, “Redemption,” and “Behind These Eyes” to positive reviews.
“We love the fact that people have been taking notice ahead of the release of Redemption,” Mullins stated. “I can’t wait to see the feedback – good or bad. What do you like? What don’t you like? What works, what doesn’t work? Okay, let’s find out what that is and then build on it!”
MODERN MUSIC MEETS OLD SCHOOL ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
The band was originally founded in 2018 by Mullins and then-Guitarist Mike Dunn. The band released its eponymous debut, The CEO, in June 2019. Impressed with the music, renowned producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette invited the Georgia natives to his Florida studio to record the follow-up.
“Let me tell you something,” Mullins laughed. “The piece of this whole process that probably made me the most nervous was sitting in the room with a guy like him who has worked with so many greats…he’s ‘been there, done that.’ He’s got the resume to prove it. He was the coolest, nicest, most talented person and treated us like we belonged there, like we were one of his guys. It was phenomenal and that guy is worth every nickel he gets paid. He’s that fantastic.”
As the band’s name implies, Redemption is about “a lifetime of climbing mountains and finding one’s purpose that ultimately leads you to becoming ‘The CEO’ of your own life.”
“You know, there’s a lot of negativity in the world right now,” Mullins said, “whether you turn on the news or look at social media, it seems to be nothing but doom and gloom. Obviously, there’s tragic stuff going on in the world. But there’s still an opportunity to be happy, to be hopeful. To have real positive experiences and relationships. That’s where Redemption comes in. No matter where you’ve been, it doesn’t define where you’re going. No matter where you started, does it mean your ending is predetermined? So for me, it’s a redemption. It’s a hopeful record.”
The CEO describes itself as “Pantera and Godsmack meet Breaking Benjamin and Ozzy Osbourne” with a sound of “modern metal music with hook-laden melodies of the 70s groove rock bands.”
“If I had to describe The CEO, it’s a nod towards the past with a whole lot of modern, relevant rock music underneath,” Mullins simplified. “It’s a really cool blend of old school melody and vocal harmonies with modern drumming and signature guitars.”
And the guys are as equally diverse as their influences and come from many walks of life. Mullins himself spent the first seven years of his life growing up in foster homes before finding his forever family.
“My father and grandfather were musicians,” Mullins shared. “It’s one of those DNA things. And when I got adopted, my very first Christmas gift was a KISS record. I never saw anything or heard anything like this before and it totally changed my life forever. I was like, whatever this is, I want to do this.”
For Mullins, The CEO is more than just a band – it’s an attitude.
“It’s about being the boss of your own life, and it doesn’t matter what your lot in life is,” he opined. “You have to be honest about who you are. It’s like, look, this is who I am, who we are in real life. I might sit behind a mahogany desk Monday through Friday, trading securities. But some Friday and Saturday nights, I’m out rocking the clubs and arenas, watching my favorites.”
THE GUYS THAT JUST WANNA ROCK
As noted, The CEO is a really cool blend of different people from different backgrounds that have come together to produce some good, hard rock music. Mullins is hopeful that there will be something for everyone on Redemption.
“If you’re that 70s, 80s guy and you’re looking for a melody and a hook, I got something for you,” Mullins stated. “If you’re a guy that listens to only current modern, hard rock music, hey, I’ve got something for you, too. Even if you listen to a particular song and it’s not quite hitting you, I will bet there’s going to be something there that you absolutely love.”
While all 12 tracks are indeed rock-worthy, tracks such as “Dirty Tragic,” “Casting Shadows,” and “Bourbon Straight” truly showcase what The CEO has to offer musically.
“’Dirty Tragic’ was the first song we recorded at Baskette’s studio,” Mullins remembered. “A lot of the writing for it came from just sitting around in my home studio and playing with a groove. What is so unique about it is that I’ve got two guys in the band who are in their 20s; one who is in his 30s; and me and another guy who are in our early 50s. So you can imagine the different influences and artists that we brought into our backgrounds. We started vibing these things out and so the song definitely has a group feel to it.”
“Casting Shadows” is a poignant song about Mullins’ sister and her unfortunate death.
“My sister passed away last year, right before we went to the studio,” Mullins shared. “The guys had hit me with three new songs they had written last minute and I had to come out with some material, hence the song. That one was definitely tough. But obviously it was a good one to look back on as it was a tribute to her.”
And if The CEO needs a song to define itself, then it’s definitely “Bourbon Straight.”
“I love that song!” Mullins enthused. “Let’s be honest. I mean, I’ve been in rock bands like forever, but typically the business world, suited-up guys doesn’t necessarily translate well into the rock world. ‘Bourbon Straight’ is definitely the answer to ‘these guys…what are they about?’ It’s just kind of a tongue-in-cheek kind of play on. Just because we work 9-5 jobs doesn’t mean we’re not rock and rollers. We have been forever and we will be forever!”
The biggest challenge to any band right now is the state of the music industry and Mullins knows The CEO is not immune.
“In addition, we all have families and real jobs per se,” Mullins said. “So to take off two or three months off and hit the road, especially in this music climate, is going to be difficult. And despite me playing the circuits for all these years, The CEO is a new band. You still have to slug it out and make a name for yourself. It’s going to be hard for me to sleep in a van when you’re used to sleeping in a nice king-size bed,” he laughed, “but we gotta do what we gotta do! It’s a matter of taking the time and paying your dues.”