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Michael McDonald at Sound Board, 5 Things To Know

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

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Michael McDonald is well aware that he's lived a charmed life in music.

He's had membership in two iconic bands, Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, written hits with (and for) Kenny Loggins and dueted with Patti LaBelle. He's won five Grammy Awards, and in this decade he's also collaborated with hip youngers such as Thundercat and Grizzly Bear.

These days McDonald is out promoting his latest album "Wide Open" -- his first new set in nine years and first of original material in 17. He also has a new holiday compilation, "Season of Peace," due out Oct. 12. Clearly the man who gave us "Minute By Minute" is putting his time to good use...

• Eleven months after the release of "Wide Open," McDonald, 66, is still pleased with the 12-song set. "I every much enjoy playing the stuff live," he says by phone. "I'm noticing, too, that people seem to be recognizing the stuff, so that's a good sign. With streaming these days there’s no way to track anything; You can only hope that people are downloading it and listening to it. But there's a certain part of the audience that seems to have some familiarity with the stuff, which makes it a little less awkward to play."

• Though primarily a keyboardist, McDonald has started playing more guitar in the wake of "Wide Open" release. "We do a couple things that I wrote on guitar. I probably would rather someone else be playing my guitar part, but I kind of hash it out, and people seem to be very gracious. I enjoy it, although I think if it wasn't my band I'd probably be fired (laughs), but in a kind of self-indulgent way I enjoy it. I played guitar in bands ever since I was a kid growing up in St. Louis, but when I moved to L.A. I kinda stayed on piano but still wrote on guitar. I'm not a big guitar player, but I'm at least utilitarian."

• The upcoming "Season of Peace," due out Oct. 12, compiles favorites from McDonald's three studio holiday albums with one new recording. "We've been fortunate to be given the chance to write some original Christmas stuff, so we kind of put stuff out semi-annually for that reason. I feel like if there's a way to put some of the original stuff out there just in case it ever caught on, we should. The funny thing with Christmas songs is they might not catch on the first year, but the second year people might notice it a little more and we have a couple songs that people seem to like to hear when we play a Christmas tour. So I thought we should put out another compilation to make it available to people again."

• After the long gaps between albums, McDonald -- who's also released two albums of Motown covers -- says that he's "hoping to do something quicker. I'm already in the studio recording things; So far they’ve been just kind of piano-voice but on some of the stuff I really want to use a band, and I'd probably (record) it again rather than hang on to the tracks I've already done. I'm just trying to keep myself within proximity of a studio anywhere I am these days so I don't get too taken up with, just, life in general."

• This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Doobie Brothers' "Minute By Minute," a three-time platinum smash that won four Grammy Awards and featured the McDonald-written title track and "What A Fool Believes." "We were really just trying to fill the void that was left when Tommy Johnston left the band, which opened up an opportunity for me to contribute a little more than I might have otherwise. A lot of people will say, 'You changed the Doobie Brothers!' but it was really the Doobie Brothers just trying to find their way collectively through a period where there was a tremendous void or vacancy to be filled. 'Minute By Minute' was a direct consequence and result of that situation more than any one person's goal. It was really a collective band kind of morphing -- and it wound up working really well, better than any of us could have expected."

Michael McDonald and Nick Fugedi perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15 at Sound Board in the MotorCity Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $48-$60. Call 1-866-782-9622 or visit soundboarddetroit.com.

Web Site: www.soundboarddetroit.com

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