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Michael McDonald at Freedom Hill, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Besides being a platinum-selling, Grammy Award-winning artist, Michael McDonald is a musician’s musician.

The St. Louis native came to prominence with the Doobie Brothers after a tenure as part of Steely Dan, and his musical resume also includes collaborations with Kenny Loggins, Patti LaBelle, Toto, Patti LaBelle, Detroit’s Aretha Franklin and the Winans, and, recently Thundercat. He also recorded a pair of well-received Motown covers albums during the 00s and this year celebrates the 35th anniversary of his first solo album, “If That’s What It Takes”...

• McDonald, 65, is once again on the road with Boz Scaggs, which he says is one of his favorite touring situations. “I really enjoy touring with Boz,” he says by phone from Aspen, Colo. “Boz’s band is great; They’re just a world-class rhythm section band. And whenever we play with Boz we find it really kind of lifts our bar a little. And we always want to make sure that we’re doing the best show that we possibly can, because we know we’re gonna take the stage with those guys. And they just do such a great show pretty much all the time. Boz is a highly tuned professional, y’know, performer. He’s been doing it for so many years, and he always, in my experience, has had a stellar band, great musicians.”

• McDonald and Scaggs had career commercial peaks together during the late 70s, while McDonald was with the Doobie Brothers. “I was aware of Boz back in the days he was with Steve Miller. I was a huge fan,” McDonald recalls. “I remember hearing (Skaggs’) ‘Silk Degrees’ before it was released; (drummer) Jeff Porcaro and I were sitting in his apartment; We were friends from being in Steely Dan together and we were sitting around playing outtakes from the two projects we were both working on. He played me a couple of rough mixes from ‘Silk Degrees’ and I was blown away. I thought that stuff was killer. We were just sitting around on a Saturday morning, probably smoking a joint and enjoying that music.”

• McDonald and Scaggs were also together in the Dukes Of September with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, a group that toured in 2010 and 2012 but has been inactive since, especially in the wake of some unflattering comments Fagen made about the other two in his book “Eminent Hipsters.” “If you know Donald you don’t take that stuff too seriously; It’s just Donald,” McDonald says. “I don’t think it represented any lack of affection for me and Boz as much as it’s kind of Donald living in Donald’s world, and his perception of that world at any given moment. We had fun in that (band). What was most fun about doing that was playing songs that the three of us hadn’t’ performed since we were in our teens, and to be able to get up and perform them with a band of that caliber was kind of self-indulgent, but a dream come true in another way. But it ran its course and we all have our own bands and our own work we’re doing now.”

• On Sept. 15 McDonald will be releasing “Wide Open,” his first album of new material in nearly a decade. But McDonald says he hasn’t felt the passage of time himself. “Time seems to fly, especially as you get to be my age now,” he says. “But it has been awhile, and I started this record about eight years ago, largely in the form of just cutting demos, and in many cases some of the stuff I wasn’t necessarily writing for myself, or with myself in mind; I was just writing a song and thinking it could be a song for this artist or that artist. As a songwriter there’s always a sense of accomplishment having another artist do one of my songs, like Bonnie Raitt did a few years back with ‘Matters Of The Heart.’ But we finally had enough stuff together that it felt like the right time to do (an album) of my own again.”

• McDonald has also made a surprising association recently with Thundercat (Stephen Bruner), a Grammy Award-winning soul/jazz/funk/electronic fusion artist who’s worked with Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, Childish Gambino, Mac Miller and others. McDonald and Kenny Loggins guested on the track “Show Me The Way” from Thundercat’s latest album, “Drunk,” and performed with him at this year’s Coachella festival. “I’m a huge fan of his music and his musicality,” McDonald says. “As a young artist he just seems to bring so much to his music from traditional influences. And I love playing with his band, this small trio he has that covers so much ground as musicians. I don’t think we’ve played any of those songs the same way twice, and that’s a lot of fun.”

If You Go

• Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs

• 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 11.

• Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights.

• Tickets are $35-$99.50 pavilion, $29 lawn.

• Call 586-268-9700 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: palacenet.com

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