Tristan Wilds has had his feet planted on both sides of the track—as a block-hugging B-more corner kid on HBO’s “The Wire” and a high school student in the ritziest zip in Beverly Hills on CW’s “90210.” When the dimple-faced actor isn’t busy hijacking Hollywood roles alongside the industry’s most acclaimed actors, he’s making musical cameos for artists like Lil Wayne, Alicia Keys, and the “Magna Carter” mogul himself, Jay-Z.
Making his musical mark as “Mack,” his childhood nickname, the New York-native is stepping out with a sexy, summer sizzler, “Own It,” and prepping for the fall release of his debut album, New York: A Love Story. The actor/singer is the first artist signed to hit-making producer, Salaam Remi’s new Sony imprint, Louder Than Life. With the help of Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter NeYo, Mack is plotting to revive the nostalgic sound of classic New York music.
VIBE Vixen sat down with the vocalist to get the scoop on everything from his music, relationship with Uncle Jay-Z, tips for Amanda Bynes, and when he can exhale from his hectic schedule, what kind of women catch his attention. Flip the page to check out what Mack had to say.
So, what are we calling you now—Mack or Tristan?
You can call me whatever you like. [laughs] The reason I changed the name is because I wanted to change the connotation of the actor side of me and really implement the real side of me. Mack is a family name, so since I have to be so personal with my music, I want everybody to come into my life as family.
Great. So I’m your sister?
Was singing always something you wanted to do or did it kind of fall into your lap?
Music always came first for me. I was a super duper music head, and it was always a staple in my everyday life. I saw my older brother on commercials and watched friends go on auditions, so I was like, ‘Hey, I can make a few extra dollars. Let me try acting.’
How was it working with NeYo and Salaam—two people that make nothing but classics—for “Own It”?
It was amazing. Neyo wrote the first verse to the track, and the chorus then Salaam threw it at me to test my singing. He sent it to [back to] NeYo, who liked it, and gave me his blessings to finish it; so I wrote the second verse, the bridge and the rest is history.
So are you here to save R&B? We need a hero.
[laughs] I can’t promise that I’ll save R&B but I’m trying to save the sound of New York City.
We can’t catch you in any R&B beefs, right? Do you have anything you want to say to anyone?
No not at all. I don’t have any beef with anything. I just think that whole thing is funny because we’re grown men. I’ll tell you this – if I ever have beef with someone, you’ll find out afterwards. I would have already done something to end it.
We’re used to you always channeling different characters. What will we learn about who you really are through your music?
[The album is] an in-depth look at the sound of New York City and the feelings of a young man growing up there—especially during the summer—dealing with love lost. I’m definitely a romantic at heart.
Who influences you musically?
Oh, my God, how long do you have? L-Boogie would be the top one. She’s showed me that you can blur the lines of hip hop and R&B.
Aren’t you forgetting Jay-Z? He’s always seemed to support and show love throughout your career. Has he offered any advice along the way?
Aw, man, Uncle Jay. Yeah, of course. I remember calling him up when I was doing “90210” needing advice. I can’t remember exactly what it was but he said, ‘If you love a person, you figure out what’s going on. If not, you let them hang themselves.’ He always has these one-liners that just stick.
Besides Lauryn Hill, what other female artists could see yourself working with?
It seems like right now is a great time for women as artists. Like Elle Varner is ill and Bridget Kelly. Honestly, anybody who’s willing to sit in the studio and make some art—I’m down.
At kind of woman gets your attention?
Honestly, confidence and intelligence are the biggest things. I love having a conversation and hearing how she thinks and where a woman is in her life. Confidence is key. And what she’s wearing, and what she’s not wearing…
I heard that you absolutely don’t drink at all. In order to keep sane with such a hectic schedule, you must have a vice. What is it?
You definitely do need a vice to keep sane. Right now, my vice is work. I’m a workaholic. I’ll drive myself crazy listening to the same song over wondering if I should go back into the studio to fix something. They have to literally snatch stuff out of my hand and say, ‘You’re done.’
What other projects are you working on?
I’m always seeking to learn and figure out more. So, in that quest for constant betterment, I’m going down every avenue that I possibly can. More art forms—directing movies, or fashion—I want to explore it all.
Any last minute advice for Amanda Bynes on breaking into the music industry?
I would have to ask her, ‘Do you accept Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior in your life?’
Check out Mack’s debut single “Own It.”
What do you think, Vixens? Does he “own it?”