The white beard suits Michael McDonald well this time of year.
He may not be Santa Claus, but with a third Christmas album — “This Christmas” — just out, the former Doobie Brothers member and Steely Dan cohort has become a fixture of the season.
“It’s always fun to do them,” says McDonald, 57, who launched a solo career in 1982 and has scored hits such as “I Keep Forgettin’,” “Sweet Freedom,” the Grammy Award-winning “Yah Mo B There” with James Ingram and the chart-topping “On My Own” with Patti Labelle, as well as a pair of Motown covers albums. “I started late in life doing Christmas albums, and I had a lot of fun doing them.
“It’s a pretty definite goal. You don’t really have to ponder too much; you get in there and it’s all about Christmas. Even with writing (new songs) it seems to go pretty quickly ’cause the subject matter’s already there. You don’t have to stress about it.”
“This Christmas” actually combines songs from McDonald’s first two holiday albums with a handful of new recordings, including a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me” a ukulele-driven version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and a treatment of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” with his 17-year-old daughter, Scarlett.
The new year, meanwhile, will bring McDonald back to several new projects he’s working on, including an album of original material, a ballads collection and a joint blues/R&B project with Robben Ford. He’s not sure when any of them will be completed and released, but McDonald says he’s happy to be busy.
“I’ve been more active in the last few years than I can remember,” he notes. “For stretches, it took me five years to do one record, but then the kids were little and there were all kinds of other things going on in my life.
“I’ve been allowed the luxury of just focusing on music and art again now that the kids are grown, and I have my own studio here in Nashville which has freed me up musically. So I think I’ll be doing a lot of work from here on out.”
Michael McDonald performs at 7 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 20) at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $29-65. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com. McDonald will also be featured on a new episode of PBS’ “Soundstage” that airs at midnight Friday (Dec. 18) and 7 a.m. Saturday (Dec. 19) on WTVS, Channel 56 in Detroit.
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