Earlier this year, just as Covid-19 shut down the nation, Jared MacEachern moved with his girlfriend into the home he just bought in the mountains of Santa Cruz, Calif. As the wildfires there forced them to evacuate just a few days ago, MacEachern sounded surprisingly calm as he spoke from a friend’s house in San Francisco.
“The air at the house, there are times when it’s clear and we can’t even tell, and there are other times it’s really smoky, it stinks, my throat gets really scratchy,” MacEachern said. “But luckily, the flames have stayed a good distance away, so we’re thankful for that.”
His outlook in the face of potential disaster perhaps stems from a greater life perspective.
MacEachern had moved to Western North Carolina in the early 2000s to study music at Brevard College. He thought he would likely carve a career in an orchestra, and he dropped out after three semesters to sing and play guitar in a rising metal band. But as recently as eight years ago, MacEachern was out of music altogether and living in Asheville, glazing windows and glass full-time to help support a young daughter.
“Having a daughter was one of those things that kinda put me on the spot,” he said. “It was just about making that sacrifice to try to take care of her.”
But then MacEachern learned about an open audition to play bass in one of the world’s premier metal bands. About 400 people submitted video tapes and MacEachern was one of eight flown in to personally audition with the band. Since 2013, through world tours and turmoil that nearly broke up the band, MacEachern has played bass in Machine Head.
“Of course I knew it would be life-changing,” he said. “I didn’t even really think that was gonna happen til I actually got the call from those guys. And that’s what it was—I could always say I gave it a try if it didn’t work out. And when they called me, they said ‘You’re gonna need to move to California,’ and it’s like ‘All right, that’s what I need to do.’”
MacEachern grew up in Virginia Beach, Vir., sang in youth choirs and played violin before gravitating to bass. By the time he enrolled at Brevard College, he had feet planted in both classical and metal music.
“It was never a conflict. It was all just music to me,” he said.
While at Brevard, he joined musicians still in high school in a band called Sanctity. MacEachern sang and played guitar. Sanctity signed a record contract, toured Europe in support of the band Trivium and, in 2007, opened a North American tour for Machine Head.
At the time he auditioned for Machine Head, MacEachern had been out of music for about four years. But the earlier connection with Machine Head paid off when MacEachern got a call from the band’s drummer, Dave McClain, urging him during his audition to focus more on his backing vocals than his bass playing. MacEachern’s choral and lead-singing experience paid off.
“I think I always knew, but it took me a while to realize I’m kind of an ass if I don’t have my music,” he said with a laugh. “It just really started creeping up on me that I was just really unhappy. I mean, I got divorced in that time and moved out.”
MacEachern has toured the world a few times over and recorded two studio albums with Machine Head. But a few years ago, it all nearly crumbled out from under him, when two of his bandmates jointly quit the band. The upheaval left MacEachern to ponder his future with band founder and centerpiece Robb Flynn.
“Robb would be the first person to admit he can be difficult to work with. He has his vision and it drives him fiercely, and there’s a lot of times he doesn’t compromise,” he said. “I’m OK with Robb being my boss and I’m actually still very satisfied with my involvement with Robb and Machine Head. Even with these circumstances (Covid and the wildfires), I’ll go as far as me and Robb can go with this.”
Though Machine Head hasn’t gathered for months during the Covid shutdown, MacEachern is still working with Flynn on new Machine Head music. And financially, he’s in a position he never would have imagined before winning the gig.
“Asheville was a really big part in getting me to where I am today,” he said. “I will always appreciate the camaraderie I got out of the Asheville music scene and the friends I have to this day because of it.”